Money20/20 Day Two: The trade-off between banking innovation and financial security

Money20/20 Day Two: The trade-off between banking innovation and financial security

Feedzai CEO Nuno Sebastião opened day two of Money20/20 in Las Vegas with an educated discussion about emerging technology, financial crime and how banking executives are changing their attitude towards fraud.

After discussing the sophisticated nature of organised crime rings, Sebastião said that artificial intelligence and machine learning had revolutionised fraud prevention and anti-money laundering programmes. This has left disruptors questioning whether we are entering a revolution in which reducing costs will be less of a priority than automation.

While automation of services and banking innovation is becoming more of a trend, Sebastião suggested that fintech startups should grow and mature as independent entities, without being acquired and provide their AI and ML ready services directly to the banks.

In a later session on cybersecurity risk, Coinbase’s Philip Martin offered anecdotes and advice about the best way to prevent breaches, drawing from his own experiences in the cryptocurrency industry. “The best teacher in the world is your attacker,” Martin said.

HackerOne CEO Mårten Mickos added to Martin’s sentiment and said bankers should “stop sweating because not everyone will be attacked, but everyone is at risk. Live everyday as if you could be hacked. You cannot be fully impenetrable.”

With hackers gaining control of financial assets using phone-porting or even two factor authentication, for example, Martin remarked that financial professionals need to be one step ahead of intruders and be aware of new forms of attack.

He later stated that “the bug bounty is not a panacea” with Mickos adding that “if you are not listening to what is happening in the outside world, you are just plain stupid or negligent.”

Expanding upon this point, both Martin and Mickos highlighted that hacks cannot be ignored, as they had been in the past, and prevention can be achieved with a ‘see it, say it’ attitude towards vulnerabilities.

Bug bounty programmes have fully taken off - JPMorgan, for instance, is the latest to take this approach - and while hackers are paid for alerting developers, this is also beneficial because of the shortage of talent that continues to burden the financial sector, as Mickos explained.

“There is an endless supply of young, smart and digitally native people who know the systems that we as digital immigrants are unaware of.”

Alongside exploring the mitigation of risk, today’s sessions also questioned how much of a threat technology giants are for legacy banks and if entities like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Alibaba and Tencent, could become major players in the financial sector.

Offering a parallel perspective to that of Feedzai’s Nuno Sebastião, Vanessa Colella from Citigroup remarked that the only way for a bank to succeed is to form partnerships with technology startups and larger companies in the space.

Colella also returned to the subject of talent and advised the audience to not “work like entrepreneurs, but work with them because there is a culture change and a mindset shift.

“It is not just about tech, it is about what customers want and what you are doing to exceed expectations. We should be thinking ahead and about the capability shift because it is important who we bring into the bank, because they will be the next generation of leaders.”

BBVA’s Derek White added that as well as putting the client at the centre, human behaviour should be understood and bankers should “fulfill customer need in a beautiful and amazing way and then, cost will take care of itself.

“The average person visits a bank branch 10 times a year but goes on their mobile banking app 300 times a year.”

Colella later went on to make an interesting point about how the financial and technology industries are still separate, despite sectors such as fintech being established. “Successful companies do not think in these artificial barriers, but think about what the customer needs and soon it will become hard to classify companies as finance or technology.”

Anand Sanwal from CB Insights was next to take to the Revolution Stage and he provided an overview of how fast the financial technology industry was growing, revealing data that showed how startups like Venmo, Robinhood and Coinbase had experienced accelerated growth.

Now that financial institutions have an empirical way of thinking, competitive lines are being drawn and in reality, incumbents needs to be wary of how successful new players are becoming a trend which is likely to continue as the cost of starting a new tech company decreases.

If banks fail to respond to consumer needs, companies can disappear, warns Sanwal because “suddenly comes quickly” alluding to the demise of Blackberry. It is clear that startups are coming after legacy players. "While all this talk about collaboration is nice, it is not realistic.

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