Mariano Belinky joined Santander Innoventures from McKinsey & Co. where he spent six years advising global banks and asset managers on strategy. Now he runs the Spanish bank's $100 million venture fund to lead a financial services digital revolution.
See Mariano speak at the upcoming Finextra Future Money event, April 21-22, London where he will be speaking on ‘The Innovation drive at Banks’ panel.
Are accelerator labs the right medium for fostering real innovation?
There’s so much capital around today that if you have a decent idea it will get funded. With that in mind, a programme should give you more than just a powerpoint deck on how to get funded.
Those plain vanilla skills, like how to be a good CFO, UX, acquisition skills, while important, won’t in themselves cut it. There’s more to it than that - in fintech you need to have a good view of how a product will fit in the regulatory space, the compliance space and if will it scale at a banks level.
Ask yourself if it can also operate like a core banking system? A product needs the size, the reach, traceability and reliability. You can’t have systems going down in banking - customers don't like being away from their money.
Why should a startup hire an expensive legal counsel to understand and comply with regulation when the bank has an army of people dealing with it?
A good value programme is one that gives access to those resources that help companies solve those problems, without the need of reinventing the wheel and allowing them to focus on the truly disruptive ideas.
So you’re not a fan of incubator programmes or accelerator labs?
Incubators can offer a real service to some growing companies, but equally some people are cynical about what they can offer. People think ‘you don’t need to be a company that graduates from Y Combinator to be successful, Facebook didn’t.’
With fintech, I agree, you should have the drive to be recognised on your own merits but also you need access to the bank’s resources.
What we need is a model where banks can open up and provide those resources to a startup.
What’s your opinion on startups that are disrupting traditional economies?
It’s not the new, high-buzz companies that will cause disruption but established, global companies like Facebook and Alibaba.
Think of how many people use Facebook every day. That is incredible customer reach. Alibaba helps people to sell more efficiently - so could they then capture the lending side? I think so.
I heard someone say Apple Pay isn’t really disruption - what do you think?
Apple pay doesn’t change the way payments happen. But it’s the blockchain-like technologies and the decentralised ledger - that will be source of real innovation.
And bitcoin, too?
Bitcoin has the wrong set of advocates and affiliates. Evangelists highlighting the anonymous, untraceable nature of the technology have tarnished its reputation - a bank won’t get involved with bitcoin if there’s a perception it has links to money laundering or terrorism.
I’m excited about Stellar, Ethereum, Ripple - the same technology but coming from a completely different angle - making payments more efficient for the financial industry.
And new models, like Uber?
That experience of enabling frictionless payments, that’s innovative. Having an application that merely transfers the credit card experience to your phone doesn't really save any time - but having an experience where the payment is invisible - I think those kind of experiences will really change things.
What’s keeping you busy?
We are close to announcing our first three investments, I can’t say much but they’re in the payments, mobile and banking infrastructure verticals.
Watch Mariano speak at Finextra Future Money, 21-22 April, East Winter Garden, Canary Wharf, London. Register here.
With support from the UK Government's Trade and Investment body, leading innovators from across the European banking and venture capital industry will gather at Finextra Future Money to lead the debate and discussion around the evolution of fintech.