“What happened? It was supposed to be Grexit, not Brexit!”
These words, spoken by an Athens taxi driver, as I made way to a hackathon in Greece, the day after the UK voted to leave the European Union. I shrugged. My twitter feed was in meltdown by people who were simultaneously ‘shocked’ and ‘scared’ and ‘sad’ by
a vote that they saw as not a referendum on membership to a 23 year old political organisation, but on Europe as a whole and Britain’s relationship with it.
London has acted as a global trading hub for over 500 years. The Roman Empire once extended to it. FinTech had found a cosy headquarters in a city that had access to all that FinTech needed to make it prosper – traditional financial services, innovative
tech talent, progressive regulatory powers, a seat at the European and global table. It seemed to many that the ‘Brexit’ vote was a vote that threw all of that away. As people who worked in FinTech, as those who made their lives in London, what did this vote
mean for the future of our businesses, and the lives of our friends?
I spent the weekend in warm and sunny Athens, with people from Slovenia, Bulgaria and Greece, who snacked on an endless supply of ice cream, while working to build 17 FinTech applications as part of the Beyond Hackathon sponsored by Eurobank. And I felt
Now, this is going to sound way over the top, but I felt much the same way I did on September 12, 2001 when I flew on a Cathy Pacific flight from London to Hong Kong (yes, I did). Strange, perplexing, scary things happen every day at various degrees of seriousness,
but life and humanity tends to go on. People get up in the morning and brush their teeth and get on planes or organise a hackathon in order to be part of the global FinTech community. Despite our best efforts, as humans, to sabotage progress, we find small
ways to fight back.
Eurobank, along with Found.ation and the cube (and Startupbootcamp FinTech), ran this first regional FinTech hackathon in Greece in order to promote innovation at traditional banks and to try and make financial services that little bit better for everyone.
Good natured jokes were made about the UK and Brexit – but it made no difference to the outcome of the hackathon. Technology has no border and FinTech does not live in London (or New York or Singapore) only. It lives in Athens, and Cardiff and Cleveland. FinTech
is global – and a small hackathon in Athens this weekend proved it.
The three prizes for the hackathon went to:
- First Prize – Counterfactual – an app that lets you ‘life hack’ savings and financial goals.
- Second Prize – Xbot – Taki the robot – a ‘chatbot’ for personal financial management çKeep a look out for more chatbots in the future.
- Third Prize – Imperia Mobile – a retail banking mobile app that was elegant and easy to use. Its UX should set up as an example to every retail bank who looks to design mobile apps for people instead of products.