Meet at the Cafe: Fintech Bloodbaths, Brand Building, and Adulting in Financial Services

Meet at the Cafe: Fintech Bloodbaths, Brand Building, and Adulting in Financial Services

What is the state of fintech midway through 2023? I caught up with our Meet at the Cafe analysts to hear their thoughts on the trends and tensions that are driving fintech today. My conversations featured Chris Skinner, author and CEO of the; Richard Neve, Executive Creative Director, Cognito Media; and Suraya Randawa, Head of Omnichannel Experience, Curinos.

Join our upcoming Meet at the Cafe conversation featuring myself and Finovate Senior Research Analyst Julie Muhn, at FinovateSpring on Wednesday May 24th.

Chris Skinner: On Crypto Winters and Fintech Bloodbaths

For Chris Skinner, the circumstances for cryptocurrencies in specific and fintech in general are dire. Referring to our current moment as “the crypto winter and fintech bloodbath,” the CEO of The Finanser and frequent Finovate keynote speaker sees the crisis in crypto and the current challenges to fintech as part of the fallout from the overinvestment, overvaluation, and over-enthusiasm of the COVID era. He explained that we are now seeing those valuations plunge as the overhyping of all things digital becomes corrected post-pandemic. Skinner’s recent blog post “The 7 Deadly Sins of Startups” underscores the ways many would-be innovators of our time have, in too many instances, brought misfortune down upon themselves.

Fortunately, Skinner noted, the underlying systems that have made Bitcoin and digital assets possible – and continue to make fintech innovation possible – remain intact. In this, he sees a period for startups not unlike the era of retrenchment. It will be a “rocky road” in Skinner’s estimation, but perhaps not as long a journey as we might fear. He suspects we could start to see new business cases in crypto and digital assets as soon as the next two years.

What should we look for to know when the crypto winter is starting to turn toward spring? Skinner suggests not just watching for a recovery in venture capital and private equity spending, but also noticing what they are investing in. He’s on the lookout for strong B2B use cases, as well as companies solving real customer problems in retail and banking. Lastly, he points to the leaders – the Nubanks, the Klarnas, the Stripes. If fintech rebounds, then companies like these should have long coattails for a new round of startups to chase.

Richard Neve: Make Profits and Invest in Your Brand

For Richard Neve, the days when all that mattered were growth, top line gains, market share – the idea of getting big first and making money later – are gone. Now that fintechs are increasingly graded based on their profitability – or lack thereof – there are few things more important than showing potential investors and partners that you have a clear pathway to a strong bottom line.

“Now it’s about return on equity,” Neve said. “Companies need to think about their product – which customers do – not just the number of customers they have.”

But profitability isn’t easy. Not the least of which is because, as Neve, puts it plainly: “financial services is an expensive business.” A significant portion of that expense, he notes, is the result of meeting regulatory obligations consistently and accurately, which drives costs in a notoriously “people-intensive” industry like financial services.

The key to profitability, Neve explained, is volume, and the path toward greater volume for fintechs is via distribution. “If you’re a fintech, you need to grow in order to keep up with the HSBCs, the larger players,” he said. Fortunately, there are multiple ways for fintechs to grow and what works for one fintech may not work for another. In some instances, partnering with a larger player is preferable. The larger partner may be a bank, of course, but partnerships with Big Tech and Big Retail – and even Big Social – could all provide opportunities for fintechs to reach more customers. More intimately, M&A and joint ventures with other fintechs will also be routes startups will pursue to achieve greater scale and profitability. “The smart entrepreneur will scout out any opportunity available,” Neve said. “In a larger constellation, (they) will always be stronger than they will be on their own.”

Lastly, Neve wanted to make a point about the importance of brand in financial services – especially when it comes to attracting partners. “People want to do business with people they know,” he said. “If people don’t have a narrative about you, (then) they don’t want to partner with you or invest in you. The fintech that will win is the one that continues to invest in its brand.”

Suraya Randawa: Adulting in the World of Banking

The importance of making money as a financial services organization – bank or fintech – is a major issue from Suraya Randawa’s perspective, as well. “Investors are patient,” Randawa said, “but at the end of the day, you need to turn a profit.” She recalled the meme in recent years that “balance sheet banking was dead” – not so much, it seems, as the recent spate of bank failures attests.

Randawa is sympathetic to the challenges that fintechs face, and she is clear on their strengths, as well. “Fintechs are good at targeting segments, designing interfaces, and then delivering excellent user experiences – if not excellent customer experiences,” she said. “Fintechs are great for discovery. (They) are the place for innovation and failure. That’s why banks are attracted to them.”

But as the popularity of the fintech’s solution grows, and the number of users grows, new challenges appear. Some users will be content with a company’s initial offerings. Yet the sheer volume of these individuals can become an issue as startups realize the importance – and cost – of the less glamorous aspects of running a customer-facing business. These issues include things like dispute management, or customer service at a time of social panic (like a global pandemic or a systemic financial crisis or a terrorist attack).

Other users will bring new demands, a phenomenon we’ve seen – at its most powerful – help an online bookstore become The Greatest Retailer on Earth and turn a teen dancing app into a major international social marketing tool. Randawa talked about fintechs that have successfully expanded their offerings over time, companies like Monzo, Revolut, Chime, and SoFi. “They were strong with their initial segments, and then successfully grew,” Randawa said. Asked how much of this ability to scale – and even transform – is customer-driven and how much is powered by the vision of company leaders, Randawa suggests both factors are likely at work.

Given all the attention on the lifecycle of companies, Randawa reminds us that the customers have a lifecycle, too. And as customers get older and their lives become more complicated, so will their financial needs. “Customers are adulting and maturing along with your company,” Randawa said. The customer who only needed a savings account and a debit card today may be seeking financial advice – let alone a car loan, a mortgage, or a college savings fund (or two) – sooner than anyone thinks. As such, Randawa believes that successful fintechs will keep this in mind and come up with innovative ways to respond to these needs as they arise. “The successful fintech,” she said, “puts the customer at the center, at the heart of their service and innovation.”

FinovateEurope Talks: How Trulioo Helps Banks with Identity Verification

FinovateEurope Talks: How Trulioo Helps Banks with Identity Verification

Last month at FinovateEurope, we spoke with Trulioo Chief Product Officer Michael Ramsbacker to gain some insight on how financial services institutions can overcome challenges related to identity verification.

Tune in to this four-minute video to hear what Ramsbacker has to say about fraud, challenges in identity verification, and Trulioo’s global digital platform.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

FinovateEurope Talks: Founders’ Stories

FinovateEurope Talks: Founders’ Stories

We see founders from across all fintech sectors at every Finovate event, and FinovateEurope 2023 was no different. At last month’s event, we gave five fintech founders a microphone to answer five questions.

In the four-minute video below, you’ll hear from Katalin Kauzli, Co-Founder and Business Development Director of Partner Hub; Gonzalo de la Peña, Founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Openfinance; Alexander Lempka, Co-Founder and CEO at Connect Earth; Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO at AZA Finance; and Anandhi Dhukaram, CEO and Founder at Esdha.

Each of these experts talks about their struggles, advice for running a company, what they wish they knew sooner, and who they could not operate without.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

FinovateEurope Talks: Open Banking and Open Finance

FinovateEurope Talks: Open Banking and Open Finance

Europe is a leading region in open banking and open finance, and the region’s fintech experts have a lot to say about both topics. While we were at FinovateEurope in London last month, our team set out to gather thoughts on the open banking and open finance environment in Europe and beyond.

In this five-minute video, we feature nine industry leaders who talk about the overall purpose of open banking and open finance, why they are important, and monetization strategies. The clip also addresses customer sentiment– are end users really on board?

Photo by Jill Burrow

eMagazine: Disruption Ahead: What Are the Key Trends Dominating Fintech This Year?

eMagazine: Disruption Ahead: What Are the Key Trends Dominating Fintech This Year?

The past few years have been turbulent, and there’s reason to believe more turbulence is on its way. Technological innovation might be the answer to challenges that arise in the finance industry, but it’s important to take a moment to talk about the human side of this industry. Ultimately, everything in fintech is for the benefit of the people using our products, and right now that thought needs to be at the forefront of everything we do.

The companies that will succeed in this time of uncertainty are the ones that excel at understanding their customers, and who give them good experiences, and, of course, help them lead richer, more productive financial lives.

Download this Finovate eMagazine and get an overview of the upcoming challenges of 2023. Find out more about:

  • Generative AI, the metaverse in the finance sector, and other technology trends emerging in 2023
  • Exclusive interviews from FinovateEurope addressing the challenges of the fintech landscape, the future of customer experience, and coopetition in the industry and how to turn it into successful partnerships
  • The evolution of fintech in the last 20 years

Get access now >

FinovateEurope Talks: Payments

FinovateEurope Talks: Payments

It’s impossible for anyone to avoid payments. And it’s impossible for banks to avoid payments technology. That’s why our team spent time at FinovateEurope last month interviewing industry experts on the topic of payments.

In the six-minute video below, Starling Bank CEO Sam Everington shared his view on why banks are in the technology business. Other panelists share payments sector trends– including embedded finance and super apps– pain points, and what to expect in the future. The video also addresses CBDCs and the role of crypto and digital assets and explores the role of banks.

Photo by Kampus Production

How bunq is Building a Global Neobank for the World’s Digital Nomads

How bunq is Building a Global Neobank for the World’s Digital Nomads

FinovateEurope in London was a veritable bonfire of fireside chats! And now, courtesy of Finovate TV, you can check out many of the conversations we had with leading fintech entrepreneurs and technologists.

Here’s our Fireside Chat conversation with Bianca Zwart, Chief of Staff to the CEO of Dutch neobank bunq. We talked about the innovative fintech’s origins in the wake of the financial crisis, the challenge and opportunity of “borderlessness” in Europe, and bunq’s goal of being the “global neobank for digital nomads and international people and businesses.”

On the origins of bunq

Zwart: We were founded just after the financial crisis of 2008. Our founder and CEO Ali Niknam looked around and he saw a lot of people hurt by what was happening. A lot of his friends couldn’t get a mortgage. They were forced to sell their houses – or they couldn’t get a loan as an entrepreneur. He looked around and he saw that people were just pointing fingers, blaming each other and nobody was actually fixing the problem.

On the uniqueness of bunq’s business model

Zwart: We were completely self-funded by our founder for nearly a decade, which gave us the independence to focus on what we wanted to focus on: building a product that people love to use, to bring a service model back to the banking industry. We were the first to introduce a subscription-based model because we were convinced that if you build a product that people love to use, they are willing to pay a fair price for it. By doing so, your commercial reality is directly linked to user happiness.

On the challenge of Europe’s borderless Millennial and Gen Z consumers

Zwart: We all look at Europe as a continent, but it’s just a mixture of so many different countries. Banking is super personal, super cultural. Consider the difference, for example, between the Netherlands and Germany in terms of how we look at money, how we deal with money payment infrastructure. It’s a completely different ballgame and we want our users to have access to financial services wherever they go without having to worry about that.

Photo by Pixabay

FinovateEurope 2023 in Pictures

FinovateEurope 2023 in Pictures

Whether you attended FinovateEurope last week or were taking it all in via Twitter, there was a lot to glean from the event. With an agenda packed full of demos, panel conversations, fireside chats, and keynote presentations, attendees were able to catch up on the very latest in fintech and banking news and trends. They also had the opportunity to foster old relationships with fintech friends and make new connections.

For a bite-sized way to re-live the memories from FinovateEurope, look no further. We’ve distilled the event into a handful of highlights that help summarize the event via pictures. If you’re looking for a content summary, check out our top three takeaways from earlier this week.

Demetrio Migliorati, Head of Innovation at Banca Mediolanum, during his Keynote Address: Industry Transformation: Tokenisation & Digital Assets

Investor All Stars Panel: Where Is The Smart Money Investing In Fintech? Featuring: Triin Linamagi, Founding Partner at Sie Ventures; Luis Valdich, Managing Director at Fintech Investing at Citi Ventures; Hélène Falchier, Partner at Portage; and Kevin Chong, Co-Head & Partner at Outward VC.

Martin Hyde, EMEA Payment Partnerships Lead at J.P. Morgan Payments, at his Keynote: How Embedded Payments Will Change The Future Of Financial Services.

Prasangi Unantenne, Head of Implementation at Wise Platform, during her session: Landing Your First Bank Customer

Zil Bareisis, Head of Retail Banking at Celent, during his session: Analyst All Stars: How Financial Services Have Been Changed Forever

FinovateEurope 2023 Best of Show winners: 10x Banking, FinTech Insights by Scientia, NayaOne, TAZI AI, and Your Juno.

Book signing with Leda Glyptis, Author of Bankers Like Us.

Women in Fintech Breakfast Briefing featuring panelists Magdalena Kron, Global Head of Rise Digital Innovation & CTO Group Innovation at Barclays Bank (Moderator); Nitzan Solomon, Head of Transaction Monitoring, AML & Fraud at Revolut; Chantal Swainston, Founder of The Heard; Veronique Steiner, Head of High Growth Tech & Head of Technology, Media and Telecom for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) at J.P. Morgan; Angela Yore, Managing Director at SkyParlour (European Women Payments Network).

You can view the entire photo album on Finovate’s Flickr page.


Three Takeaways from FinovateEurope 2023

Three Takeaways from FinovateEurope 2023

There is a challenge when it comes to writing about an event like FinovateEurope when you’re busy covering live demos, hosting on-stage fireside chats, and conducting off-stage video interviews. On the one hand, there’s a lot you’re going to hear and see. On the other hand, however, there’s a lot you’re going to miss, as well.

With that in mind, my apologies if I overlooked your favorite demo or keynote presentation in this “day-after” review of what I found most memorable at FinovateEurope. Better still, drop us a line and let us know just what kind of magic moment you had at our annual European fintech conference in London last week. We’d love to hear what you think!

Bringing the “E” the “S” and the “G” to the ESG Party

The maturation of the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) movement in fintech and financial services was on display as early as rehearsal day (the day before FinovateEurope officially opens when demoing companies practice their presentations on stage). It was impressive to see the number of companies that were offering solutions to make it easier for banks and FIs to leverage technology to better track their – and their customers’ – carbon footprint. Innovators like Connect Earth were among the most prominent. But companies like Storied Data, Topicus/Fyndoo, and OpenFinance also made it a point to show how their technologies gave institutions often granular insights into not just their environmental impact, but also into ways to minimize it.

From the main stage, ESG was also a theme that speakers returned to – often emphasizing the importance of connecting the “S” or “social” component of ESG with the “E” or “environmental” component. Sanghamitra Karra, who runs the Inclusive Ventures Lab at Morgan Stanley, reminded attendees during her Wednesday morning Fireside Chat that those who live in the most economically and socially underserved conditions in society are often those who are the most vulnerable to the challenges of climate change.

And in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) crisis, it is easy to see how “G” or “governance” has become an increasingly important issue for those who work for and rely on fintechs and financial services organizations. While some critics were busy trying to blame SVB’s woes on “wokeness”, or an inappropriately intense focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, other more astute observers noted that Silicon Valley Bank, for example, did not have a Chief Risk Officer for much of 2022.

Crypto Still Out in the Cold

As the crypto winter slowly metastasizes into what FinovateEurope 2023 keynote speaker Steven Van Belleghem referred to as a “crypto ice age,” it was probably no surprise that the number of demoing companies boasting their cryptocurrency bonafides at FinovateEurope this year was low.

That doesn’t mean that there was zero discussion of cryptocurrencies at FinovateEurope this year. But what it does mean is that there has been a reckoning during which it looks as if digital assets like Bitcoin and ethereum will have to take a backseat while those innovating with the underlying blockchain technology search for better use cases.

Fortunately, there is a precedent for the path cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology may be forced to pursue over the next 5-10 years. In the same way that it took almost a decade for the promises of the era to be realized, so too may a few dark years for crypto be just what the industry needs in order to figure out how its technology can be best used in order to solve real world challenges. Beware of solutions in search of a problem, Van Belleghem warned from the FinovateEurope stage last week. And while he was talking about enabling technologies writ large – from embedded finance to the metaverse – those innovating in the cryptocurrency/blockchain space would do well to heed his advice.

CX as the Killer App

Whether the task was right-sizing the responsibilities that financial institutions have to ESG concerns, or understanding that building new products alone is not enough to help people solve problems, the solution offered was both consistent and clear: focus on the customer.

Want to improve your carbon footprint – or help your customers do so? Make it easier for customers to access the data and insights they need in order to make the changes they are often eager to make? Want to see more innovative technologies in the hands of more consumers? Make interfaces more intuitive, more seamless, and with greater interconnectivity and interoperability. Think more fintechs should be using your tools and platforms? Leverage low- and no-code building blocks to enable innovators with more modest technical resources to be as creative as larger, better resourced firms.

It has been a cliche in fintech and financial services that “every year is the year of the customer.” But at this moment of retrenchment – with fintech funding down, crypto crashing, and new enabling technologies still en route to proving their true utility – keeping the customer’s needs top of mind might be the best strategy for weathering the current storm and emerging unscathed when the clouds finally do part.

Fintech 2023: Don’t Call it a Comeback

From the crypto crash and subsequent crypto ice age to the Silicon Valley Bank crisis, there has been a headline sense that fintech may be entering a slowdown period. Very little of this was in evidence at FinovateEurope this year. Chris Skinner reminded us that great things often emerge from the rubble of dashed dreams. Hundreds of fintech and financial services professionals braved the turbulent winds at Heathrow airport (as well as a tube strike) to mix, mingle, and talk shop as our return to live events continues.

The desire to innovate in our industry remains strong. And with a focus on improving the lives of everyday customers – from individuals and families to businesses small and large – we are optimistic that fintech’s best, most productive days, are still to come.

Photo by Drew Powell

FinovateEurope 2023 Best of Show Winners Announced

FinovateEurope 2023 Best of Show Winners Announced

Winds of more than 60 mph tossing 787s around like paper planes. A wave of multi-industry strikes sending parents, patients, and passengers scrambling to reroute plans and rearrange schedules. There is no doubt that the attendees of FinovateEurope 2023 have had more than their fair share of challenges to make it to the Intercontinental O2 this year.

But make it they have – and we are all the better for it. Now, with the votes tallied from those undaunted delegates, we are happy to reveal the names of the companies that have earned Finovate’s most coveted prize: Best of Show.

10x Banking for its technology that enables banks to move from monolithic to next-generation core banking solutions with its cloud native SaaS core banking platform Supercore. Demo.

FinTech Insights by Scientia for its competitive analysis tool for banks and fintechs that offers all the data companies need to outsmart the competition. Demo.

NayaOne for its technology that enables institutions to 10x their digital transformation with single-key access to 200+ fintechs to discover, evaluate, and scale new solutions to production. Demo.

TAZI AI for its technology that empowers experts and data scientists to create, update, and deploy ML models with a no-code platform, making smart decisions in dynamic environments. Demo.

Your Juno for its solution that engages more than 50,000 users around financial education. Demo.

We congratulate this year’s winners – as well as all of our demoing companies – for taking to the Finovate stage to show us their latest fintech innovations. And, of course, a hearty thanks to our sponsors, our partners, and – perhaps most of all – our attendees whose attention, participation, and appreciation make our annual European fintech conference such a joy to host. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Notes on methodology:
1. Only audience members NOT associated with demoing companies were eligible to vote. Finovate employees did not vote.
2. Attendees were encouraged to note their favorites during each day. At the end of the last demo, they chose their three favorites.
3. The exact written instructions given to attendees: “Please rate (the companies) on the basis of demo quality and potential impact of the innovation demoed.”
4. The five companies appearing on the highest percentage of submitted ballots were named “Best of Show.”
5. Go here for a list of previous Best of Show winners through 2014. Best of Show winners from our 2015 through 2022 conferences are below:
FinovateEurope 2015
FinovateSpring 2015
FinovateFall 2015
FinovateEurope 2016
FinovateSpring 2016
FinovateFall 2016
FinovateAsia 2016
FinovateEurope 2017
FinovateSpring 2017
FinovateFall 2017
FinovateAsia 2017
FinovateMiddleEast 2018
FinovateEurope 2018
FinovateSpring 2018
FinovateFall 2018
FinovateAsia 2018
FinovateAfrica 2018
FinovateEurope 2019
FinovateSpring 2019
FinovateFall 2019
FinovateAsia 2019
FinovateMiddleEast 2019
FinovateEurope 2020
FinovateFall 2020
FinovateWest 2020
FinovateEurope 2021
FinovateSpring 2021
FinovateFall 2021
FinovateEurope 2022
FinovateSpring 2022
FinovateFall 2022

Showcasing FinovateEurope’s Center Stage Speakers on International Women’s Day

Showcasing FinovateEurope’s Center Stage Speakers on International Women’s Day

Last week, to kick off Women’s History Month, we highlighted the women who will be representing their companies on Day One at FinovateEurope on March 14 next week in London.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we would like to introduce you to the women who will be taking center stage with keynote addresses, fireside chats, and more on Day Two of FinovateEurope.

Suraya Randawa

Head of Omnichannel Experience at Curinos, Panelist. Meet at the Cafe.

Ouliana Smith

Senior Research Analyst at Omdia. Panelist. Analyst All-Stars.

Bianca Zwart

Chief of Staff to the CEO at bunq. Guest. Fireside Chat.

Louise Smith

Chair of the Board at Innovate Finance. Moderator. Power Panel on the Fintech Ecosystem and Strategic Partnerships.

Katharina Lueth

Chief Client Officer and Managing Director at Raisin. Panelist. Power Panel on the Fintech Ecosystem and Strategic Partnerships.

Elise Bohan

Senior Research Fellow, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Guest. Out of the Box Fireside Chat on Transhumanism.

Sanghamitra Karra

EMEA Head of Multicultural Strategy and Multicultural Innovation Lab, Morgan Stanley. Guest. Fireside Chat: Why Diversity Matters.

Thea Loch

Head of Change Optimization at Lloyds Banking Group. Panelist. Power Panel on Digital Transformation.

Dhaksha Vivekanandan

Founder at Daylight Robbery. Speaker. Quick Fire Keynote on Bitcoin and Digital Assets.

Triin Linamagi

Founding Partner at Sie Ventures. Moderator. Investor All-Stars.

Hélène Falchier

Partner at Portage. Panelist. Investor All-Stars.

Tickets for FinovateEurope are still on sale. Visit our FinovateEurope hub and save your spot today.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk