Even though we could not be physically with our friends at the Fintech Talents Festival last week in London, we were still able to partake in many of the sessions virtually. If there is one word that we could use to describe last week’s fintech fanfare, it will be exhilarating.
We could clearly feel the vibes coming through the attendees on the floor and from the energy and ideas of those on the multitude of stages.
Change is in the air
It is really impossible to summarize the key themes of the conference, as there was so much covered. It is like browsing through a Lego catalog — there is a bit of everything, from identity, open finance, and embedded finance, to ESG, digital currency, and innovation. Depending on your interest, there was a brick set for everyone and a shared excitement to start building.
There is also an acknowledgement that things are changing; an air of optimism that contrasts with the stresses and sense of loss that our collective communities have gone through the past two years.
Perhaps David Cunningham summarized it best: The leaders curating platforms that facilitate the movement of money will not be bankers, they will be community leaders.
“The fintech industry we thought we knew has changed, forever.”
Change is hard
Of course, by no means, would this imply that change is easy. Quite the contrary, change is immensely difficult, especially for an industry as old and established as financial services.
An attendee rightfully compared the mortgage industry to heart surgery, in the sense that while the research into heart surgery is typically done by younger people with no bias and inquisitive minds, surgery is traditionally performed by more seasoned professionals who are likely jaded.
But just because it is hard doesn’t mean we stay with the status quo. Technology for the most part, has leveled the playing field. The world around us is changing; COVID has accelerated digital transformation and changed consumers’ behavior (yes, we know you have heard that a lot).
While fintech and AI startups have raised record funding, there is much more we can do, and need to do. From data ownership and AI ethics to digital identity and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), we are still at the beginning of a long and evolving journey. Along with the growing effect of climate change, humanity is being challenged like never before. Where do we even begin?
But if there is anything we have learned from the COVID crisis, humans are resilient. As Leon Saunders Calvert from Refinitiv commented on the ESG panel, “The problem (in front of us) is hard, and we need to get to work quickly. But there is no reason to be doom and gloom; optimism is a requirement.”
Change is possible — and necessary
Empathy is at the center of innovation. Empathy empowers us to look at a set of unmet needs of people beyond our current customers. It prompts us to ask ourselves: How do we serve our customers better and how do we serve more people, more communities, more diverse needs?
As Steven Habbi from HSBC pointed out, “It is crucial that we see the world through other people’s senses. When you make something more accessible for one group — you are making it better for a wider demographic.”
Our good friend, Hannah Duncan, wrote a fabulous post on everything she learned around embedded finance at FinTech Talents. You can read about that here. We found her summary of what is embedded finance (and frankly, why do we care) being especially on point:
“(Embedded finance) is about collecting and harvesting data in a safe and ethical way. It’s about using technology to benefit underserved and unbanked communities. It’s about being inclusive.”
We have a chance to use data for good, to deploy technology to meet the needs of those who are marginalized. Behind every digit — every dollar sign — is a human story, an aspiration, and a dream. As service providers, it is our collective responsibility to help them get there. That is our raison d’être.
We are our actions.
Written by Theo Lau, Founder, Unconventional Ventures