Thanks to the cosy world of ‘FinTech Influencers’, I learned that August 1st was ‘World FinTech Day’ (thank you, Dave Birch). Whether or not Hallmark is aware of this date in the calendar was less interesting to me than the reason the date was chosen. Back in 1464, Cosimo Medici, father of modern banking and founder of the first bank, shuffled off his mortal coil on the first of August and some clever clog decided this was as good enough reason as any to create ‘World FinTech Day’.
Tracing ‘FinTech’ back to 1464 warms my world-weary financial technology heart. One of my favourite infographics on the ‘History of FinTech’ starts at 1109. There are chronicles of our industry that point to 1865 with Giovanni Caselli’s signature verification system Pantelegraph, others cite 1918, when the US Federal Reserve Bank launched Fedwire, while a quick Google search will also give you 1934 when Frederick Lincoln Fuller created the IBM 801 Bank Proof cash machine as the beginning of FinTech. Basically, if your view of our industry is so narrow that you can not see past 2008, then don’t sit by me.
It is this look into the past that has made me consider what FinTech is at the present. My own FinTech journey started in 1994 when I started as a reporter covering the real-time market data industry at investment banks. My first ‘FinTech’ conference was in 1995 in New York – where giants such as Reuters, Bloomberg, and IBM sat on the exhibition floor beside smaller companies that dealt with market intelligence or helped transfer data to traders yelling deals into turrets all over the world.
I am more likely to see a demonstration of a consumer neo bank, an analytical decision support tool aided by AI or a financial wellness app these days that get a look at a dealer board – but the tone is still the same. How is our industry – financial services – using technology and innovative business models to improve their services, meet users needs and create efficiencies?
What matters is not what ‘FinTech was …’ but what ‘FinTech is …’. It doesn’t matter when you first met me or any other well-known name at some legacy FinTech event that is no longer fit for purpose. The conference I first went to in 1995 used to be over several floors at New York Hilton. Fast forward several years, advances in electronic trading and a global banking collapse and that event is a much smaller affair (even in non-pandemic years).
There are plenty of organisations, conferences, meetups, and even companies, which were once where innovation happened, and interesting people gathered. But what about now?
What purpose does a post tagging when you first met so and so, in a far away country, at a random event – if it doesn’t offer promise for what we as an industry and a society are going through right now?
That was the idea behind ‘FinTech is …’ A quite, subtle campaign we started on Twitter and LinkedIn a few weeks ago. Just an image and an idea and a hashtag. FinTech is …
2020 is a year when we are dealing with great change. From COVID-19, to uncertainty around the economy and massive cultural and political unrest – this is the year of the now. 2020 is not the year of the great reset, but the year we all have been forced to live in the present, as we are all trying to figure out how to survive.
We don’t have time to mourn the loss of how we travelled, how we built companies, and how we networked in the past. We need to look at the current reality and engage in the best way we know how. We do not have the resources to offer our budgets and attention on events that were, frankly, trading on their name before a global pandemic shut down half the world.
We are now living in a world of ‘is’. And the only way forward is to consider, work towards and build what ‘FinTech is …’ today.
With consideration, collaboration and our visions fixed on the horizon let us all continue this long and storied journey of financial innovation and embrace 2020 and create what ‘FinTech is …’
What’s your FinTech is … ? We’ll mock it up and tag you in it! Ya know we’re good at social 😉