We recently traveled to London (ExCeL London to be exact) for one of the UK’s largest fintech conferences, with over 6,000+ attendees representing over 80 countries. Conference speakers and panels aligned with six key event themes: digital engagement, digital re-engineering, blockchain, regtech and security, payments and a fintech founder’s forum. 

My Masterclass: Innovation Starts with CultureI had the pleasure and honor of presenting on the Masterclass Stage on the topic, “Innovation Starts With Culture.” I focused on how enterprises of any size can drive innovation, and how attendees can create culture-based initiatives that foster creative problem solving for today’s workforce.

While I’ve spoken on this topic a few times, this was my first time doing it silent-disco style with attendees listening with headphones on. This was certainly a new experience for me presenting, which made this a personal standout in my book. 

What topics stood out?

Customer experience and personalization win the day

Almost every session we attended – even ones that were more technical on the surface – came back to the importance of customer experience and personalization. At a high level, consumers’ priorities are changing in all sorts of ways:

  1. Shifting from goods to experiences
  2. Shifting from ownership to access
  3. Placing greater emphasis on ethical and healthy lifestyles 

While consumers want to be smart when it comes to budgeting, they’re investing more when it comes to premium, personalized services. And beyond that, there are new buyers and more dollars spent in the market, particularly from Asia as a result of increased inbound tourism and travel.

As consumer behavior and priorities evolve, so does spending – leading to impacts on payments. Many conversations focused on the customer’s ease of access to products and services, as well as how AI is impacting their experience through chatbots, conversational AI and automated decision-making.

Easing cross-border payment pain is a priority

Given the European alignment of the conference, it made sense that there were a host of panels, speakers, and companies talking specifically about cross-border payments. Put simply, cross-border payment is the ability to pay people in difference currencies across different jurisdictions.

Noted in a recent article on PYMNTS.com, “Cross-border payments are expected to surge over the next few years as the economy becomes increasingly global and interconnected. These transactions reached $144 billion in value in 2014 and could hit $240 billion by 2024.”1 Discussions on this topic — and the broader payments ecosystem — also incorporated an emphasis on reducing friction and increasing transparency in the overall payment experience. 

How AI and automation are impacting SaaS and API 

Identity management, AML, and KYC are becoming increasingly important components of fully outsourced solutions, SaaS-based offerings or API-enabled solutions. In fact, most solutions we saw throughout the conference included some form of artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify and enhance current capabilities offered in the market. 

Open banking and digital banking are top of mind 

Digital banking and open banking are important for banks and consumers alike, especially following PSD2. PSD2 is the second Payment Services Directive, designed by countries of the EU. It brings new laws into the picture to help increase online security, boost payment safety and improve consumers’ rights when it comes to data.

Payments are not just about the money involved; payments also involve information sharing. We witnessed several interesting discussions around how data will be used in the future, including ideas for helping to establish trust with consumers when it comes to their data, and how banks will work to provide holistic value to their customers in the future. Of note, we listened in on sessions about items that have already been addressed in the U.S. markets, since aggregation has been in play for quite some time and to some extent has been commoditized in the U.S. market. Consumer acceptance and holistic views of one’s total financial picture has become the norm.

Diversity in startups and scale-ups

Diversity in fintech startups panelDiversity was also of high interest at the conference, with a number of speakers and panels presenting on the topic. As part of the Founders Forum, several panels stressed the importance of baking in diversity from the start to ensure high performing teams, innovation, growth, and authentic engagement with the clients they serve. I had the honor to take part in a panel session, “Addressing the Glass Ceiling in Fintech.” We discussed the importance of making a conscious effort around gender diversity in the fintech space – for founders, funders, startups or incumbents.

Moderated by Shefali Roy (COO/CCO at TrueLayer), the panel included fantastic insights from Daljit Bamford (Chief Customer Officer, UKI at Salesforce), Marta Krupinska (Head of Google for Startups UK), Eoin Greene (CTO at CurrencyFair.com), and Catherine Wines (Director & Co-Founder at WorldRemit Ltd). We covered a variety of interesting – and some shocking – statistics and studies throughout our discussion. A few that came up in our Q&A:

  • Only 12% of U.S. VC funds to go to teams with at least one female founder.2
  • Only 11% of decision makers* at U.S. VC firms are women.2
  • According to this Harvard Business Review study, female and male entrepreneurs are often asked different questions in meetings with VCs, and it impacts total funding the receive.
  • Companies with a female founder performed 63% better than our investments with all-male founding teams.3

Noteworthy speakers and panels

  • Driving the next generation of payments, meeting customer expectations
    Nick Kerigan, Managing Director – Future Payments, Barclaycard
  • High performing teams and diversity
    Georgina Smallwood, Chief Product Officer, N26
  • How to transform an incumbent business model
    Emma Huntington, Director of Innovation & Venturing, Nationwide
    Magdalena Krön, Head of Rise, Barclays
    Mohamad Zaraket, EMEA Digital Lead, BNY Mellon
    Goncalo Santos, Head of Digital Platforms, BNI Europe
    Fahd Rachidy, CEO & Founder, ABAKA Holdings Ltd

Legal Note

(1) https://www.pymnts.com/news/cross-border-commerce/2019/global-payments-growth-challenges/
(2) AllRaise.org. Numbers reflect firms with >$25m assets under management; excludes healthcare firms and corporate VCs. *Decision makers defined as partners, GPs, and MDs with check-writing abilities.
(3) http://10years.firstround.com/

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SEI Ventures team: Russ Kliman and Jennifer Ciotti