Opinion - Global players seek out fintech partners


By Mark Fordree

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This month’s London Finovate conference showcased the best innovations in banking and financial technology via a fast-paced, seven-minute apiece, demo-only format.

That’s 72 companies over two days, requiring some serious concentration, as after a while they meld into a huge innovation talkathon, with every new speaker proclaiming their product or service as the next big thing.

The sold-out conference attracted 1500 attendees and it was evident the major institutions were in attendance in large numbers, searching for insight on the origin of the next big disruption.

Finovate has been hosting cutting-edge banking and technology conferences since 2007; to date over 700 fintech companies have taken to Finovate stages in New York, San Francisco and London.

This time, I sensed the institutions have a much higher level of interest in exploring opportunities to partner with fintechs to circumnavigate the challenges of risk, cost and lead times involved in attempting in-house technology solutions.

Bankers, asset managers, insurers and global accounting firms also filled a sizable number of seats, with KPMG as the event’s major sponsor. Financial professionals are clearly embracing the future as fintech rapidly moves the control away from the ‘lenders’ and firmly into the hands of the consumer.

Real-time comparison sites with effective interest rates and financial outcomes, combined with a stricter disclosure regime, drew a few pale facial expressions from some attendees in this sector of the audience.

Over the course of the two days a number of strong themes became evident, the first being innovation solutions for process intelligence, automated business process discovery, big data analytics and data mining. Data analytics continues to have a huge impact across everything, especially when combined with predictive behaviour and targeted marketing applications.

Many presenters spoke about the second key theme of personalised banking solutions incorporating predictive behaviour, with automated geolocation currency adjustments and real-time data analytics.

The final key topic was of great interest to me in my current role - robo-advice solutions were big news at Finovate, mostly targeted at digital-savvy investors and offering plug-and-play solutions, investment strategies and reporting solutions.

At the United States Finovate conference I attended in early 2015, peer-to-peer lending and payday-type loans were in focus, whereas the London event highlighted the theme of access to real-time data and banking functions, such as payments to empower the customer.

Security and fraud had their fair share of presenters too, which, combined with banking and especially payments systems, demonstrated how quickly this landscape is changing.

Comparing the energy and enthusiasm for fintech in London versus Sydney and Melbourne, it was clear the United Kingdom’s capital was really going hard to become a centre of excellence and actively looking to encourage fintechs to relocate. There are government and private organisations only too willing to hear your story and look for synergistic introductions.

This is significantly advanced on what is happening in Australia, and Australian fintech was noticeably absent from the proceedings.

As an Australian fintech company, it was heartening to see such a strong interest in this growing industry from large and small institutions around the world. While the local market still has further to go, it’s clear fintech has reached critical mass globally and emerging companies are being recognised for the fresh approach they can bring to existing institutions’ innovation projects.

Mark Fordree is chief executive of Australian automated investment company Ignition Wealth.

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