The Fintech2020 Financial Technology Summit saw industry leaders from across the finance and technology sectors come together to share insights into this year’s trends. The conference reflected on a turbulent year for the fintech sector – the impact of Covid-19 and the resilience shown by companies in the face of the pandemic.
The speakers also turned their sights on 2021, exploring the long-term effects of the virus and how the industry will recover. The importance of collaboration, diversity and inclusion were common themes throughout the day’s four sessions.
The first of the day’s sessions saw FinTech Scotland CEO Stephen Ingledew joined by Burnmark CEO Devie Mohan, Rubrik Vice President & Enterprise CTO James Hughes, and Head of Engineering Workforce Transformation at NatWest Wincie Wong – together, they discussed the rapidly changing fintech landscape.
The talks started off on a positive note as we heard how, despite the many challenges this year has presented, Scottish fintechs have risen to the occasion and shown signs of growth.
On the subject of collaboration, Mohan pointed to how fintech companies, big and small are partnering with each other, either to scale up before going to market, or to offer new products. Mohan believes this is a trend we will likely see continue into 2021.
Wong, meanwhile, touched on the importance of diversity and the economic gains it offers as an example of the value of inclusion to companies. She noted that working from home has provided a boon to many groups, as unconscious biases were minimised when working remotely.
However, working remotely has brought about the resurgence of outsourcing, Hughes noted. Before Covid, companies were putting more focus on automation. Now, companies are making outsourcing part of their strategies again. The panellists also touched on how remote working makes it difficult to create an effective workplace culture. They discussed the importance of taking extra steps to reinforce company cultures so that people carry it with them wherever they work.
In the second session of Fintech2020, Bank of England Senior Analyst David Baumslag, Innovation Manager at Lloyds Banking Group David McLeay, and the former CEO of 11:FS Foundry, Leda Glyptis were joined by Ben Barbanel, Head of Debt Finance at OakNorth to look at how the industry has responded to the coronavirus.
With the coronavirus pandemic making old ways of working impractical or outright impossible, companies have had to adapt rapidly in order to survive. In many ways, it was the smaller startups that proved they had the agility needed to innovate, providing products or blueprints to help others cope with the virus.
Baumslag discussed how the Bank of England, almost by definition a slow and conservative institution, is nurturing startups to help develop innovation and competition.
Lloyds is another established group looking at how to adapt, with McLeay saying that the market is ripe for disruption. He touched on the company’s new partnership with Fintech Scotland, which will see Lloyds work with 12 startups over 12 weeks, as a way to nurture new talent and ideas.
However, Glyptis noted that taking advantage of all the opportunities presented by the coronavirus will require work, work that could have been taken care of before the pandemic.
The panellists touched on how real innovation is often hard to implement, since it requires deep structural changes to established frameworks. The danger is that we will see ‘innovation theatre’ in the coming months rather than companies investing the time and energy needed to truly adapt.
After lunch, a panel of experts consisting of Simon Lyons, Open Banking Head of Ecosystem, DirectID CEO James Varga, Director of Open Banking at HSBC, Hetal Popat and Data Governance & Privacy and Sorcha Lorimer, Founder at Trace discussed the evolution of Open Banking.
Open banking offers a range of benefits for consumers and has revolutionised personal banking. With transparent and aggregated data, customers can use their personal information in ways that benefit themselves and companies can reduce costs on accreditation and checks.
With privacy such an important issue, even during the pandemic, open banking provides a way to ensure that people have greater control over their data. With greater transparency too comes greater trust, the foundation of banking and finance.
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However, the panellists warned that there is always the danger of people oversharing or giving away vital data. Ensuring that contracts, such as terms and conditions, are clearly and concisely written, rather than unreadable sprawls, was cited as one development that is needed in the future.
Ultimately, all four touched on the thread of collaboration that ran throughout the day – the more people who join open banking, the more data that is available to everyone. More information leads to better decisions and transparency leads to greater trust.
The final session saw Tide CTO Guy Duncan, MD of Software Engineering at JP Morgan Chase Marnie McCormack, and ING COO & Chief Transformation Officer for C&G Markets Otti Vogt talk about how technology will drive the transformation of the fintech sector.
In a more philosophical session, they examined some of the technical challenges of delivering financial technology and how to effectively manage people in a post-Covid world.
Duncan noted that it was the shift to digital platforms that helped make companies agile enough to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. However, this agility will bring additional benefits in future – it will help reduce lead times and get products to market faster.
Speed and agility were on the agenda in McCormack’s talk, as she looked at code as infrastructure. This practice helps teams spend less time worrying about the infrastructure their code will be deployed on and instead focus more on their core projects.
In Vogt’s talk, he linked into many of the narratives around inclusion and cooperation by reminding us that, despite the day’s focus on technology, finance has human beings at its centre. Many companies, he noted, seek agility and growth for their own sake, not out of any genuine need for them. This can cause many companies to lose sight of their workers’ and customers’ needs.
The panellists all touched on this as they discussed the ways of motivating people beyond money. With the rise of tech for good startups, people are looking for opportunities beyond wealth – to make a difference and to be innovative, creative, disruptive.