Finextra Future Money provokes strong views on fintech innovation

Finextra Future Money provokes strong views on fintech innovation

Fraud is good, Pingit is rubbish and Swift will be dead within three years. There was no shortage of controversial and provocative views at a lively Finextra Future Money conference this week at Canary Wharf's Level39.

More than 400 people from the fintech world signed up for the conference and the vast majority battled tube strikes, fog and even a bomb scare to get to One Canada Square to explore the new wave of innovation sweeping across the financial services sector.

Alessandro Hatami, digital payments and innovations director at Lloyds Banking Group kicked things off. He used his keynote to unleash an impressive battery of stats, revealing that, just three years after the bank launched an app, 30% of logins are now mobile.

In a wide-ranging talk, Hatami gave enthusiastic backing to the use of big data, cautious support to crypto-currencies and mobile NFC payments and, perhaps most surprisingly, a warm welcome to fraud...albeit only as a tool for forcing bankers to innovate.

Fintech may have captured the zeitgeist but, if the Future Money audience is any guide, it is still a niche area with huge room for growth. Throughout the event, delegates were asked: have they signed up for Paym, have they used mobile NFC payments, have they got a bitcoin wallet, have they used crowdfunding platforms?

Despite the nerdy demographic, in each instance only a handful of people raised their hands.

The area of fintech with the firmest grip on the zeitgeist is bitcoin. IBM's Richard Brown says that the emergence of crypto-currencies is similar to the rise of the Web and the graphical browser because it destroys islands and creates an open network. By removing the need for intermediaries such as banks, it will revolutionise how we pay and have a huge impact on costs.

Regulators are certainly now beginning to take the matter seriously. Ven Currency founder Stan Stalnaker informed delegates that at a recent meeting with US watchdogs he was told that FinCen and Treasury experts expect bitcoin to be one of the world's top 20 currencies within 20 years.

In a later panel, investor Udayan Goyal made the boldest prediction of the day: that crypto-currencies will kill Swift within three years. To back up his claim, Goyal used the example of Fidor Bank, which now uses Ripple to move money between three countries without even touching Swift.

Inevitably at an event in the heart of London's financial services centre, there was much soul searching at Future Money from banks trying to work out how they can harness the new wave of fintech innovation.

Some attendees voiced scepticism about the recent rush from big banks to embrace 'innovation', with tools such as Barclays Pingit derided as marketing gimmicks that do little to change the way people interact with their money.

The popularity of labs, accelerators and incubators was also questioned. Are financial services firms attaching themselves to these projects to tick an easy box, for cheap PR? As we sat in the Level39 lab, Accenture's Samad Masood cut to the chase, refuting the idea but adding "who cares" if PR is involved? As long as it promotes innovation, it's a good thing.

For more detail, check out our liveblogs from day one and from day two.

Comments: (5)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 May, 2014, 12:361 like 1 like

"To back up his claim, Goyal used the example of Fidor Bank, which now uses Ripple to move money between three countries without even touching Swift."

Nobody is "moving money" these days. It's about database records reconciliation and user authentication, you don't need crypto-currencies for that (besides, they only cover the former part of equation). Besides, one needs to compare apples to apples: Swift is not a crypto-currency.

When it comes to the real world, we will be relying on fiat currencies for years to come (for the reasons too numerous to be listed here). That means "fiat" players are not going to disappear: whom are you gonna call when your £5m "crypto-currency" payment goes missing?..


Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 04 May, 2014, 17:341 like 1 like

For a fintech company, "disruption" is a great story to attract VC funding and sell out after a couple of years. If it manages to get customers and generate revenues in the process, that's a bonus. Making profits seems to be nowhere on the radar. By this yardstick, I predict a very bright future for the next "SWIFT-Killer" startup.

Jan-Olof Brunila
Jan-Olof Brunila - Swedbank - Stockholm 05 May, 2014, 07:51Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Dear Sirs, Cleaning out my office when our head office moves, I found a Forrester report published in 2003 with the title New Payment Systems Survival Guide and found that much of the reasoning in it is still valid. The two cornerstones - Create a compelling product for the user and Drive diffusion, seems to be overlooked by many contenders in the market place...

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 May, 2014, 09:20Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The technology to make a faster and cheaper SWIFT is here. The problem is that both the banks and SWIFT find it more profitable to stick with the status quo. The banking giants like their closed system and SWIFT has no motivation to cut themselves out of their man in the middle role. It is no wonder that disruption in this space is completely bypassing the banks.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 05 May, 2014, 09:481 like 1 like

As they say, the only way to surpass Google is by making search irrelevant and not by making a faster-better-cheaper search engine. The same perhaps applies for SWIFT. On second thoughts, may be not: Havala and a few other forms of cross-border money transfers have been around for ages. They bypass banks and SWIFT but have still not managed to disintermediate banks and SWIFT in this business. Maybe there's something in the nature of money that secures a place for banks in the value chain - by statute or otherwise.