It was standing room only in HSBC’s headquarters in Canary Wharf for a special breakfast event during the inaugural UK FinTech Week in London. Hosted in partnership with the TECHTalents Society, Strategic Investments and Partnership in FinTech, offered insights into the journey of a bank. Raman Bhatia, Head of the HSBC Digital Bank in the UK, opened up the event, which also offered lessons of resilience from May Michelson, Head of Business Development Europe at PayKey and saw a spirited debate the trials and tribulations of raising capital from a panel of investors.
While the focus was on strategic partnerships and investments, Bhatia started the morning off with a fireside chat examining the journey the bank needed to take, internally, before they embarked on partnering with innovative new FinTech entrants.
When Bhatia started at HSBC four years ago, he sought to examine not only how products and solutions were developed inhouse, but also started to ask fundamental questions about banking itself and how those services best supported their customers. Bhatia told a tale familiar to many with intimate knowledge of incumbent banks. A re-examining of product workflow development to incorporate a more agile and iterative process and a determination to eliminate product silos, inside the bank, in order to allow a more personalised and tailored bank offerings to customers. Bhatia predicts that most product silos will disappear at HSBC within “18 months.”
In a move that echoes some of the financial literacy aspirations of the more well-known ‘challenger banks’, Bhatia expressed an ambition to have HSBC play a more personal and tailored role in the financial well-being of its customer base. Instead of maintaining a ‘product-led’ approach to development, such as offering loans, Bhatia suggested that a truly digital and customer-led approach would determine which loans were best suited to each person, or even if a loan was a prudent choice at all.
However, “tailored digital banking solutions are still at their infancy,” said Bhatia.
The morning continued with a sit down with PayKey’s Michelson and Adizah Tejani, Senior Digital Innovation Manager, HSBC UK. The bank’s first direct subsidiary teamed up with social payments startup PayKey to let customers send money to friends from within apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger earlier this year. Within the vast universe of FinTech companies, many firms are actively looking to partner and work with incumbent banks. According to Michelson, the key to enabling a successful relationship with any large financial institution is one that will be familiar to most growth companies. The team and the firm need to maintain patience and resilience. The importance of FinTech partnerships curated by the likes of the Accenture Innovation Lab were also mentioned as this was the origin of the relationship. The importance of working together, and adapting your product to best meet the needs of the group that you are working with are essential to a successful B2B partnership.
The morning capped off with a panel discussion looking at investment – from both HSBC’s internal fund and outside venture capital investors. The panel included Tim Levene, Chief Executive Officer at Augmentum VC, Anne Ravanona, Founder and CEO at Global Invest Her, Stefania Ponzo, Venture Capitalist at Downing Ventures, Asif Faruque, Head of Content at Level39 Technology Accelerator, and Thomas Bussey, Investment Manager, Strategic Innovation Investments at HSBC.
The panellists were in agreement for most of the discussion emphasising the care and diligence most investors employ when determining where to place their next round of investments. “We look for customer-centric FinTech solutions solving a real problem,” said Ponzo of Downing Ventures.
Every session during the morning spent at HSBC stressed the importance of time. Whether that be the time it takes for a large, global bank like HSBC to grow and change, illustrated by Bhatia, or the time and patience needed by a growth FinTech companies, such as PayKey, when negotiating partnerships. Time was also on the mind of the investors during the final panel. Ponzo stressed the importance of giving clear and direct feedback to prospective companies, that might not be ready for VC funding.
Level 39’s Faruque pointed out the importance of time and urged startup companies to create a network of trust. He advised that FinTech companies should not shy away from working together even with their competitors. This type of ecosystem building behaviour is critical to building and maintaining that trust – sort of like entrepreneurial karma. “Compared to investors, entrepreneurs get one shot. So, find your safety net, have supportive peers, do your due diligence. Build that trust because it is incredibly important,” says Faruque.
The main takeaway from HSBC’s Strategic Investments and Partnerships in FinTech breakfast was that our ever- evolving community of banks, financial institutions and FinTech companies create an ecosystem that is learning from itself how best to tackle digital transformation – whether that be a large bank, a startup or a savvy investor.
Ponzo summed up the world if FinTech in 2019: “The word of the year, so far, has been collaboration.”
The next gathering of the TECHTalents Society will be held on July 11th at Somerset House in London. How do you solve a problem like SME Banking? Register your interest now.