Fintech Talents North America 2021 was an action-packed day of content, conversation and high energy virtual fintech. Our growing community of credit unions, community banks, financial institutions of all shapes and sizes and fintechs from across North America (and beyond) came together to discuss the experiences of the past year and to look ahead to the future of financial services innovation. From the Industry and Impact Stages to the fantastic comments and commentary from the chat, we covered a lot of ground but there were definitely some key themes that emerged.
The Great Acceleration
The opening panel did a fantastic job of helping set the scene for the day. The past year presented a great number of challenges but one thing was clear – digital acceleration was a key feature across all aspects of financial institutions. From how they quickly switched to remote ways of working (where possible) to how they met fast changing customer needs as the realities of lockdowns and the need to ensure all stakeholders were well protected kicked in. The speakers addressed how their organisations sped up particular digital transformation plans, occasionally had to put others on hold and addressed new challenges that had come to the fore.
Of course where you started had an impact on how quickly you were able to respond and technology plays a key role in that success. Curt Queyrouze, President, TAB Bank spoke to the 1300 APIs built in house at Tab and their ability to ‘spin up an API’. But they were, in fact, stymied in the first round of PPP when the rules were announced that ‘no APIs allowed’. The need for government led relief and stimulus programmes to be dispersed quickly to consumers and businesses in need was in itself a technology challenge. There were fantastic examples as to how that need to speed was met by institutions across the day and how partnerships helped financial services providers respond quickly.
But technology can only go so far in some cases and the need to bring the customer along on what for some was an unfamiliar digital journey. The vast majority of Navy Federal Credit Union customers were not digital only. As Pam Piligian, SVP, Navy Federal Credit Union said, their approach can be summed up by ‘know me, show me and maybe do it for me’. ‘A year of sprinting’ rather than a marathon is a great way to sum up how many speakers throughout the day reflected on a year of rapid and accelerating change.
Understanding Evolving Customer Needs
This leads on nicely to another important theme across the day which may seems obvious but is no simple task – understanding evolving customer needs. Jill Castilla, CEO & President of the Citizens Bank of Edmond noted their role as ‘economic first responders’, perfectly encapsulating how access to capital and financial services more broadly made a crucial difference in ameliorating some of the effects of the pandemic. Access to desperately needed PPP loans gave rise to an impactful partnerships not just at the Citizens Bank of Edmond but also for a number of institutions represented. I am also going to take this opportunity to share another favorite quote from Castilla – ‘We are the MacGyver of Banking’ because it can’t be shared enough.
Understanding the community you serve and also seeking out those communities that are not well served in ways that go beyond geography were also addressed in numerous sessions on both the Industry and Impact stages. Designing Digital for All really went to the heart of the ways in which insight and understanding feed into design that not only looks great but works great for customers. There may be tensions to address between high degrees of personalisation and privacy but those can be balanced out by protection and the positive outcomes delivered. Rob Curtis, CEO & Co-founder of Daylight really brought that to life when highlighting the ways in which the LBGTQ community that they aim to serve had not just been let down by other providers but actually, in some cases, exposed to harm.
The Future of Work Affects Everyone
There was a fascinating panel looking at the future of work but it was also a topic/theme that was discussed across the day. Whilst the pandemic has meant a shift to remote working for many that was by no means a universal experience. Some institutions kept in person access available but there is no doubt that there many people who were working from home. Many speakers noted the behavioral and cultural changes that came with that and how their own thinking had evolved. Whilst the majority agreed that the future was hybrid, they also noted the slow return to the office would begin. It was also interesting to note that concerns around employee well-being topped the list of concerns/challenges for many.
North America is more than Coastal Cities
As someone who hails from one of those coastal cities, one of the highlights for me was the sheer diversity and number of financial institutions addressing the needs of communities from across North America. Looking at the number of community banks, credit unions, small banks, big banks, fintechs of all types, it is a fascinating insight into the varying needs of people and businesses across the continent. Whilst we didn’t cover every country and community, we did get a view into the powerful and growing fintech community in Mexico, Canada and, yes, across the US.
Communities may differ in the economic structure, levels of digital access and the way in which they are served by providers. However there is so much to learn from how they responded to a crisis and how that crisis impacted on their future direction in some profound ways.
There is no way to cover everything in one blog post
The bad news is that I can’t share all the great observations from the day here. The good news is that the content will be made available on demand from next week. There is absolutely no need to miss out on a thing.
Our partners were key to the success of Fintech Talents North America
Our partners helped make the day with fantastic contributions to the content, conversation and technology nous on show throughout the day. The final words of this post are for them – Treasury Prime, Invest Northern Ireland, Fafnir, VGS (Very Good Security), Vidyard and Boss Insights – many thanks for helping make the experience so informative and enjoyable!
See you all again for the next edition of Fintech Talents North America on March 30, 2022.