CMFG Ventures Director Elizabeth McCluskey on Fintech Funding, Valuations, and What’s Next

CMFG Ventures Director Elizabeth McCluskey on Fintech Funding, Valuations, and What’s Next

There have been plenty of discussions surrounding fintech valuations this year. Rumors of a bubble have plagued fintech for a few years, and high valuations combined with seemingly endless funding rounds have analysts raising their eyebrows.

We spoke with CMFG Director of Discovery Fund Elizabeth McCluskey to get her take on fintech investment, M&A activity, and industry trends.

How is this year trending so far when it comes to investing? What are the funding numbers and volume as compared to years past?

Elizabeth McCluskey: Fintech startups raised $28.8 billion in funding during Q1 2022. Despite being down 18% from the previous quarter, this marked the fourth-largest funding quarter on record. And this represents a large share of all venture capital activity; fintech startups raised 1 out of every 5 VC dollars in Q1, indicating that the sector is still immensely popular for investors. CMFG Ventures is no exception—we’re on pace for our busiest and biggest year to-date since the inception of our funds. Transactions have been strong across all stages of companies.

Our two funds serve distinct purposes but share the same goal of fostering innovation between financial institutions and fintechs. Our main fund supports Series A companies and beyond, investing in fintechs focused on lending, banking technology, financial wellness, challenger banks, and insurtech. It has supported and validated nearly 50 fintechs. In 2021, we launched the Discovery Fund to support underrepresented entrepreneurs, who are building solutions for financial inclusion. It has funded 12 early- stage companies led by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women founders.

Some have talked of a funding slowdown. Do you expect 2022 to finish with lower funding totals than last year? Or will it build on the momentum?

McCluskey: Fintech continues to be a space for disruption and growth, presenting the industry with many opportunities to fund new solutions. The biggest fintech IPO of 2021 was Coinbase, which today has a market cap around $16bn. That seems like a large number, but it’s less than 5% of the market cap of the largest bank in the U.S., JP Morgan. Clearly, there is valuable market share still to be gained by fintechs. By capitalizing relevant and scalable companies, VCs can give fintechs the agility they need to compete in an increasingly active space.  

2022 will build on several years of momentum – regardless of whether the final funding numbers are higher or lower than 2021. There is still a lot to do to keep pace with the rapid digitization of finance. Consumers expect Amazon-like speeds of interactions and a hyper-personalized, predictive experience. And businesses want their trusted financial institutions to deliver quick, frictionless decisions and client service. Financial services technology is primed for a future of tremendous growth for years to come.

Are we currently experiencing a fintech bubble? Do you think fintechs are overvalued?

McCluskey: It’s easy to get caught up in bubble talk, and there are certainly some frothy valuations in the private market in particular. However, there are many underlying opportunities for disruption and innovation, which leads me to believe the industry isn’t experiencing a bubble. What I do think we are seeing is fintech startups maturing to the point where they are being treated more like their “established” peers, and that is a good thing. While private markets may value potential in the form of user growth or even revenue generation, the public market wants to see profits. 

Fintech companies that went public in 2021 have performed quite poorly vs the S&P, despite displaying strong revenue growth that in many cases exceeded expectations. The reason for this has been big misses on their earnings per share (EPS) results. For example, Robinhood’s user growth has been over 50% in the last year, and revenue nearly doubled. Yet they are down over 75% from their IPO price after disappointing from an earnings perspective. I don’t think we’ve seen a correction to the same extent in private markets yet, because companies are typically only resetting their price 1-2x per year when they raise a new round. So I expect private valuations to be a bit more tempered going forward.

What trends are you looking to invest in this year? Are there any specific trends you’re following?

McCluskey: As the Director of the Discovery Fund, I’m interested in fintechs focused on financial inclusion, specifically how we can make financial services more affordable and accessible to everyday Americans. This need only will grow in importance as people adjust to rising interest rates. Millennials and Gen Z have never experienced a sustained rising rate environment. Savers will be able to earn more, but borrowers will be impacted by higher rates for auto loans, mortgages, and personal loans. Our investments in portfolio companies like Climb, Line, and Zirtue will help them manage these uncharted waters.

I’m also interested in non-crypto applications of blockchain and distributed ledger tech, particularly in the mortgage industry. Use of these technologies has the potential to revolutionize the process of homebuying, as well as the secondary market for mortgages. A portfolio company of ours, Home Lending Pal, is working with IBM to make this process more seamless for both first time buyers and the financial institutions lending to them.

And lastly, I’m on the lookout for fintech solutions focused on the Latinx consumer. The GDP of this segment is growing 57% faster than the U.S.’s, according to a 2021 LDC U.S. Latino GDP report. Despite its size, the demographic continues to be an underserved market. Companies like Listo are building solutions to provide credit to Latinx consumers who are credit invisible yet display strong creditworthiness.

2021 was a record-making year for exits. Will we see increased M&A and IPO activity this year or are you expecting things to slow down?

McCluskey: M&A and IPO activity skyrocketed in 2021, yet the landscape may look a little different this year. Interest rates will play a factor in M&A, as borrowing money to fund acquisitions is expected to become more expensive. That said, if economic growth slows, then acquisitions are one way to bolster profits and growth.

Given the expected volatility in the public markets, I believe many companies will continue to raise VC dollars rather than following the IPO route, even if private market valuations take a hit. And we will continue to see the emergence of platforms for secondary transactions of private companies, which will enable employees to get liquidity even without an IPO.

Photo by Jeremy Levin

Fintech’s Role in Retail Investing’s Knowledge Gap

Fintech’s Role in Retail Investing’s Knowledge Gap

In a world full of inequalities, it is no surprise to see an imbalance when it comes to finances, and investing in particular.

For more insight into this industry conundrum, we spoke with Rukayyat Kolawole, CFA. Kolawole is familiar with inequities in the financial world, given her role as Founder and CEO of PaceUP Invest, a new platform launching on May 15th that offers e-learning, financial coaching, investment strategy, and execution for women and underrepresented groups.

Our conversation below highlights not only tips on bridging the knowledge gap, but also on building diversity and her view on the future of the retail investing industry.

When it comes to retail investing, there is a significant knowledge gap. What are some practical ways the fintech industry can bridge this gap and ultimately increase the number of investors?

Rukayyat Kolawole: The fintech industry can bridge this gap by incorporating financial literacy into its solution. The main reason people, especially women and those from underrepresented communities, do not invest is because of the lack of knowledge and being underserved by the finance industry. Many robo-advisors stop the process if the client indicates they are a novice to investing. Even though they include information and definitions of financial terms on their platform, this is not provided with the aim of increasing financial literacy overall, irrespective of the product they sell.

This represents a missed opportunity by the current robo-advisors to provide learning products and improve financial knowledge. At PaceUP Invest, we provide a hybrid, jargon-free financial literacy and investment platform to bridge the gap, and we have seen the impact on different communities. Incorporating behavioral science is also key to helping educate and increase the participation of potential retail investors.

How does the industry stand to benefit when the number and diversity of investors increases?

Kolawole: The industry will benefit immensely from a retail investor’s perspective because we will start to see a lot of gaps. For example, we’ll see a pension gap, retirement gap, and racial wealth gap gradually narrowing. Policies are still needed to ensure all these gaps are narrowed. Underrepresented communities and minorities will be greatly impacted by making a financial decision that will increase not only the number but also the average financial assets that they will hold. The economic benefit for society would be even larger.

When we look at capital allocators, it is still very much the old boys’ club of white and male. Very little is going towards women and people of color. The only way that people can get funding to solve real problems affecting their communities is if more women and people of color are writing the cheques. Otherwise, it’s going to be the same boys’ club.

How has the state of retail investing and retirement planning changed from how it was just five years ago?

Kolawole: Across the globe, we saw a spike in retail investing due to easy-to-use investing and trading apps. 2020 was called the year of retail investors, and the pandemic has no doubt contributed to the spike in retail trading. People became more empowered than ever. Retail trading has taken off more in the U.S. than in Europe. Retail investing in Europe makes only around 5% to 7% of total investments in Europe, compared to 25% in the U.S. and 60% in China.

With the large pension gap in Europe still not changing much in the past five years, low-interest rates, and new online brokerages being built could help to propel enough momentum to increase participation in the capital markets to solve these problems. Retail investing is here to stay!

However, we need to make it more inclusive for women and underrepresented communities.

When you think about what the industry will look like 10 years from now, what do you think will be different? What role will decentralized finance play?

Kolawole: People will have more choices and be in more control of their finances. More people will be financially independent and empowered via choices of products that solve their problems. Fintech will revolutionize and help to reduce a lot of gaps we currently have when it comes to money and wealth.

Banks will have their place in the future financial system, requiring more flexibility and a customer-centric approach by partnering with fintech companies to solve real-life solutions.

However, our financial world will probably not become that decentralized due to regulations and governments wanting to retain monetary power.

Photo by meo

Talking Best of Show with Greg Palmer and the Finovate Podcast – On Video!

Talking Best of Show with Greg Palmer and the Finovate Podcast – On Video!

Join Finovate VP and Host of the Finovate Podcast Greg Palmer as he shares his video conversations with Finovate Best of Show winning companies.

Greg Palmer talks with Irfan Khan, CEO, and James Goodwin, Director of Business Development, with mmob. FinovateEurope 2022 Best of Show winner. Demo video.

“What mmob does is solve the pain points on two sides of an ecosystem. On one side for third party product providers and service providers, we integrate all of their products and services onto our network. Then we also make that seamlessly accessible through to larger distribution channels so their products and services can be integrated natively.”

Greg Palmer catches up with Hal Lonas, Chief Technology Officer with Trulioo. FinovateEurope 2022 Best of Show winner. Demo video.

“(Identity verification) is very challenging, especially when you look at it as a global problem. Every region, every geography has a little bit of a twist. People may not have consistent addresses in some countries, or may not have a track record with a financial institution or a utility compared to some other places. So identity verification is very, very difficult and made much more complicated if you operate in a lot of countries or incorporate a lot of data sources.”

Greg Palmer talks with Sylvain Forté, CEO and co-founder of SeSAMm, which won Best of Show honors at FinovateEurope 2022. Demo video.

“We are an AI company focused on analyzing billions of articles and messages from the web in real -time using a technology called Natural Language Processing (NLP). We basically process text data and we derive insights that are consumed by financial professionals and corporates. We have the ability to screen an enormous, 20 billion articles and messages and to detect things like environmental, social, and governance risks; early warnings; analyzing competitors; measuring sentiment on companies and on concept.”

Greg Palmer chats with Tamás Braun, International Sales Director with FinovateEurope 2022 Best of Show winner, Finshape. Demo video.

“Finshape is a new brand in the digital banking market. It has come about with the merger of two companies: BSC (Banking Software Company) and W.UP. With the combined force of these two companies, Finshape now has about 700 people with a hundred banking clients across the globe as clients and partners across four continents. We’re very proud to have built this digital powerhouse and we’re looking to do a lot more in shaping the future of digital banking.”

Stay tuned for more videos from Greg Palmer and the Finovate Podcast’s Conversations with Best of Show winners.

Photo by Donald Tong

The Impact of Biden’s Crypto Executive Order on Banks

The Impact of Biden’s Crypto Executive Order on Banks

Last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on ensuring responsible development of digital assets. The order, which comes at a time of rising interest in digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, seeks to protect consumers, financial stability, national security, and reduce climate risks.

We recently spoke with Peter Torrente, National Leader of KPMG’s Banking and Capital Markets practice, to gain some insight on how the executive order may impact banks and fintechs. With more than 30 years of experience, Torrente primarily works with global financial services companies.

What are the highlights of the executive order?

Peter Torrente: The U.S. has an interest in responsible financial innovation including the continued modernization of public payment systems. This executive order details the country’s first comprehensive government strategy for exploring digital assets. It outlines steps to reduce risks that digital assets could pose to consumers, investors, and businesses. It also addresses other important considerations such as financial stability and financial system integrity; combatting and preventing crime and illicit finance; national security; U.S. leadership in the global financial system and economic competitiveness; financial inclusion and equity; and climate change and pollution. Finally, it also explores a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) by placing urgency on research and development of a potential digital version of the dollar.

What are the major implications for banks and fintechs?

Torrente: The executive order seeks to ensure that the largest financial regulators, including banking regulators in the United States, make coordinated plans to oversee the blockchain industry. I see this order as a good signal for a comprehensive set of regulations for the digital asset industry. First, the new laws and regulations will require banks and fintech companies involved in the digital asset industry to enhance their governance and control frameworks related to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) / Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) processes. Second, this executive order indicated that the federal government sees digital assets as an important part of the economy and society; it creates opportunities for traditional banks take another look at their digital asset strategy. Lastly, it explores a U.S. CBDC, which would significantly impact domestic and international wire transfer processes. I also see this order as an encouraging signal for banks and fintech companies to push forward with financial innovations associated with the digital asset industry.

Will the executive order benefit end consumers? Or make them worse off? How?

Torrente: Yes, it has the potential to benefit end consumers. First, the initial set of regulations will focus on establishing the baseline rules to protect investors and consumers from fraudulent activities. It can create transparency for end consumers and help them make informed decisions. Second, this executive order promotes building innovative financial platforms. End consumers may benefit from improvements in business performance, efficiency, and enhanced financial inclusion through these innovations. Given digital assets have the potential to increase the speed of payments, it can vastly improve access to financial services, especially for low-income Americans often left out of the traditional banking system. Lastly, new policies and laws for the digital asset industry could potentially help reduce excessive price volatility and improve market stability as cryptocurrency becomes a mainstream financial technology.

Do you envision further regulations around ESG in the future?

Torrente: The pace of proposed rules and regulations related to ESG risk identification, measurement and disclosure has clearly accelerated over recent months. But when we take a step back, these regulatory actions are largely the result of growing interest from a variety of stakeholders – investors, analysts, community groups, and government leaders – who may have been focused on sustainability and ESG for years. There is a widespread desire among stakeholders for enhanced consistency and comparability across ESG targets and metrics. Standardized disclosure requirements are viewed as important to advancing the broader ESG agenda. Stakeholders’ expectations of companies’ ESG strategies, commitments and disclosures are only increasing, which may lead to additional regulatory guidance and focus.

Photo by Kanchanara on Unsplash

Digital Pioneer Inma Martinez On a Human-Centered Approach to AI-Driven Services

Digital Pioneer Inma Martinez On a Human-Centered Approach to AI-Driven Services

Humanizing AI has been a challenge ever since humans created AI. At FinovateEurope last month, digital pioneer, AI scientist, and author of The Fifth Industrial Revolution Inma Martinez shed her wisdom on how firms can create a human-centric approach to AI innovations.

Martinez has been developing with AI since the year 2000, when she and her team built the first AI to power original mobile internet services. Since then she has been working in other sectors that have digitized, including music, video, and smart cities.

In her conversation with Finovate’s David Penn at FinovateEurope, she discussed how retail banks and fintechs can create a human-centered approach to technology. The first step is to consider the needs that the user at the other end will have, Martinez explained. She added that organizations must take into consideration that, at the end of the day, they have to service the needs of the person.

As a second point on humanizing AI, Martinez advised firms to not only better manage their data, but also make the data available to all parties in the organization who may need access to the data. This reduces the friction of calling data back from the lake or needing to contact data services.

In her interview, Martinez also compares the usage of AI in the financial services industry with other sectors and offers advice on how firms can prepare for future disruption.

Check out the interview in the video above or on Finovate’s YouTube channel.

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

Conversations from FinovateEurope: Embedded Finance and Banking with Celent’s Zilvinas Bareisis

Conversations from FinovateEurope: Embedded Finance and Banking with Celent’s Zilvinas Bareisis

Zilvinas Bareisis is Head of Retail Banking at Celent. Based in London, Bareisis specializes in consumer and card-based payments, as well as identity and authentication. He is especially interested in payments innovation, and what he calls “the perfect storm” of competitive, regulatory, and technology developments that are shaping the present and future of consumer payments.

We sat down with him at FinovateEurope in London to discuss his thoughts on current fintech trends and what we should expect in the “new normal” of banking in 2022.

On banking priorities for 2022

Embracing the open ecosystem is a really big topic right now – from open banking to embedded finance. How do you innovate around products and how do you differentiate yourself? Banks are starting to talk about their purpose, how they embrace different communities they may be serving, and how they tailor their products to those communities. Even things like crypto (are important). Twelve months ago I didn’t think retail banks should be interested in crypto, and here we are talking about that now.

On the role of enabling technologies in financial services

You really need to have the right set of technology tools – and those tools are diversifying. It’s easier now to have composable building blocks that might be coming from different parties, platforms like low code and no code that do not require much IT capability so that business users can start developing applications and, of course, the cloud. A lot of our clients are looking into how to migrate to the cloud and how fast.

On the promise and potential of embedded finance

At the heart of embedded finance is the idea that customers are out there, doing their own things and, as they do those things, they realize that there might be a need for a financial services product, which is something they can acquire right there and then. The idea itself is not new; you and I have probably bought car insurance at the same time we bought our car at the dealership. What’s changing is that there are nice, big, sophisticated digital experiences, first of all, and it’s easier now for financial services to plug into those experiences because now the technology is catching up.

Check out the rest of our conversation with Zilvinas Bareisis from FinovateEurope 2022 on what’s next in the “new normal” in fintech and financial services.

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych

Data Fueled Decision Making : Our Women’s History Month Conversation with SmartAsset’s Meghan Lapides

Data Fueled Decision Making : Our Women’s History Month Conversation with SmartAsset’s Meghan Lapides

Finovate’s celebration of Women’s History Month continues with this conversation with Meghan Lapides, who recently became Chief People Officer for SmartAsset.

Founded in 2012, SmartAsset is an online hub for consumer-focused financial information and advice. The company reaches approximately 75 million people each month via its educational content, personalized financial calculators, and other tools. SmartAsset also powers SmartAdvisor, a nationwide marketplace that helps connect consumers with financial advisors.

We caught up with Ms. Lapides to discuss her goals as Chief People Officer, the evolution of human resources and talent management in the tech industry, and how a smart “People strategy” can help companies grow.

Why did you decide to take the opportunity to be Chief People Officer for SmartAsset?

Meghan Lapides: SmartAsset’s mission of helping people get better financial advice really spoke to me. Planning for your future is incredibly important and many people start late. Being part of a company that helps people think smartly and early about financial planning is something that aligns with my personal mission of helping people. When I met the leadership team and members of the People team, I knew this was the place for me. Their passion and intelligence combined with our CEO’s vision was the right combination of factors that confirmed my decision to join SmartAsset.

Is SmartAsset your first fintech? Is there anything unique about building a People strategy in fintech compared to other tech companies you have worked for?

Lapides: Yes, SmartAsset represents my first professional experience in the fintech space! One of the things I love about Human Resources is that when you change companies you get the opportunity to learn an entirely new industry. I love what I do, so I find it exciting to be doing what I love and applying my expertise in a completely new environment. I’ve been lucky to work in multiple different industries, including enterprise SAAS, consumer, and professional services, as well as different fields, such as advertising, public relations, technology, and fashion, so I’ve embraced these opportunities to learn something new. When I was considering my next move, I was interested in companies that were in the fintech space and also mission driven – SmartAsset was both of those things! I also wanted another professional opportunity to be a part of building something great, impactful, and meaningful. I’m thrilled that SmartAsset checked all of those boxes and honored that they selected me to oversee and scale their People department.

How has talent acquisition and management changed over the years that you have been involved in human resources?

Lapides: It’s wild to think about it now, but in my first recruiting coordinator role, we didn’t have an Applicant Tracking System. We used paper files to track candidates and I typed the labels for those files on a typewriter! We went from antiquated processes like that to new intelligent systems that help source great candidates and mitigate bias while offering data collection and analysis to iterate and improve on processes that make the most impact. “Data Fuels Our Decisions” is one of SmartAsset’s core values, and I’m happy that today’s HR systems allow us to make informed decisions in an efficient and timely manner.

When I was thinking of going into HR after studying to be a Marriage & Family Counselor in college, I spoke to a family friend who was the COO of a huge company about whether or not it was the right move. He told me that “Personnel was not for me. I was too creative for that.” We still joke that I have spent the last 20 years proving him wrong.

I’ve been lucky to work for progessive, people-centric organizations, but I’ve seen a huge increase in flexibility and creativity when it comes to managing talent. But more than that, especially post-pandemic, the People team not only has a seat at the table, but also we are key influencers in setting the strategy for the company’s most valuable resource: its people. The intersection of the business and our people is where our team sits and the two can’t be successful without the other. Highly engaged, happy and healthy employees build strong businesses. Businesses that allow people to make an impact internally and externally are the ones that attract the best talent. I am energized by being able to spend my time focusing on building a strong business and a culture that gives our Assets the best chance of success and allows our employees to grow.

What is most important to you in terms of leadership development within a company?

Lapides: Openness and shared vision. We all know how important mission, vision, and values are in building culture – but it’s very important for leadership to have a shared vision on what leadership looks like and how you can support each other to be successful from both the top down and the bottom up. I also think in order for a company to be truly successful – and have a highly engaged workforce – you need to have the openness to create a place where people can come as they are, lead as they are, and celebrate diversity in all forms.

What role can diversity and inclusion policies play to help drive growth and expansion?

Lapides: When you are creating products and services for the world, you need to look like the world you are creating it for. Studies show that the more diverse companies are, typically the more successful they are. But DEI is way more important than financial success. It helps DEI and company expansion to remove barriers to entry, reduce bias, open your recruiting pipeline, and create a safe, open, and equitable culture. When it comes to retaining your best talent, companies must ensure that their workplace allows people to be themselves, engage in real world events and issues, and also create a culture of belonging.

SmartAsset made the decision to remain a remote-first company. This helps our DEI strategy because it removes geographical barriers and helps us to be more accommodating of diverse work styles. Being a remote-first company further allows us to hire talent more quickly to support our rapid expansion given the fact that there are fewer geographic barriers.

What are some of the challenges a People strategy faces as businesses get bigger? How do companies overcome or manage them?

Lapides: Scaling a company is a huge challenge. Processes that worked at 50, 100, or 200 employees don’t always hold up at 500, 1,000, or 2,000. People teams also tend to run lean at a startup, so it’s really important to put talent behind that team – especially as you scale – to ensure the needs of your employees are met and you can get ahead of big projects and initiatives.

Are there any other issues you think might be worth highlighting about your new role?

Lapides: SmartAsset is a remote-first company, which is incredibly exciting because it allows us to hire the best talent wherever they are in the country. However, that comes with challenges as well. We are looking for opportunities to focus on asynchronous workflows to allow people to do their best work in their own time zones, but also have the ability to collaborate across different teams. We are focused on allowing the flexibility for both independent work and cross collaboration, and creating an environment that allows people to build relationships, focus on what is important, further build our culture, and continue to do great work.

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Nimbus Platform CEO Alex Lemberg on the Intersection of TradFi and DeFi

Nimbus Platform CEO Alex Lemberg on the Intersection of TradFi and DeFi

The metaverse, decentralized finance (DeFi), and crypto are rising up to become some of the hottest themes in fintech this year, taking the place of AI, digitization, and customer experience.

So how should firms in the traditional finance (TradFi) realm prepare for the road ahead? We spoke with Nimbus Platform CEO Alex Lemberg to get his thoughts on the intersection of DeFi and TradFi.

What changes will we see in crypto and DeFi this year in comparison to years past?

Alex Lemberg: A month ago my answer to this question would have been slightly different than today. We still believe that a great deal of capital inflows will come more and more from financial and institutional organizations. This will cover the gambit from high net worth individuals to hedge funds and family / PE offices alike. We are now also witnessing major use cases related to regions in conflict and faced with sanctions. Also the advent of SWIFT as a new means of restrictions will make sovereign groups look closer to crypto markets as well in the future.

How can traditional financial institutions prepare themselves for these changes?

Lemberg: Financial institutions are extremely well prepared to handle both client activities in the space as well as their own. The main precursor is better understanding of filing and reporting requirements to regulators. I strongly believe that even though most of the innovations we are seeing do come from private markets, the largest impact will come from institutions beginning this year.

The U.S. recently issued a discussion paper on a government-issued CBDC. What do you envision the role of TradFi will be if the U.S. government issues a CBDC?

Lemberg: It is too early to discuss impact, as too many things are still in discussion regarding structure. It could eventually provide some upheavals in the payments space and user data controls which are both quite ripe for it.

Does the recent rise in DeFi indicate an end to paper and coin currency?

Lemberg: Absolutely not in the immediate future, nor do I believe would it be the case for quite some time. That said, let us remind ourselves that 90% of the world’s currency is digital and has been for some time. Yes, this will add to that digital transactional landscape, but certainly as an addition and not a replacement of any meaningful sort.

Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels

Women and FinovateEurope: Delivering the Message of Fintech Innovation

Women and FinovateEurope: Delivering the Message of Fintech Innovation

From the very first FinovateEurope, women have led and helped lead live demonstrations of how companies were using new technologies to tackle the financial challenges faced by businesses, families, and communities. As part of that inaugural event in 2012, women from Cardlytics, ETRONIKA, Figlo, Ixaris Systems, Kabbage, Liqpay, Mootwin, Striata, and ValidSoft were on stage delivering the message of fintech innovation.

As Women’s History Month gets underway – and with International Women’s Day, March 8, right around the corner – we wanted to highlight some of the women who will be demoing their company’s latest fintech innovations this month at FinovateEurope 2022. Catch all of our FinovateEurope demoes during our Digital Kickoff on March 15, and on March 22 and March 23 for the live event in London.

Liron Diamant

Fintech Executive, Anodot. A payments expert with more than ten years’ experience in fintech startups, Diamant has a focus on building payments platforms and managing relationships with international banks and payments companies.

Daria Dubinina

CEO and Co-founder, Crassula. A strategist and entrepreneur as well as a CEO and founder, Dubinina has spent more than ten years specializing in payments, e-commerce, and business development.

Patrycja Karwat

IT Security Specialist, BNP Paribas Poland. Presenting in partnership with Secfense, Karwat has more than five years of experience in cybersecurity and banking. Previously, she spent more than four years in various technical roles with Deloitte including as Senior Analyst and Quality Assurance Tester.

Katalin Kauzli

Co-founder, Business Development Director, Partner HUB. With experience on both the principal and advisor side of business operations, Kauzli has 10+ years experience in a variety of roles, including assisting startups seeking equity in Hungary and managing corporate finance assignments.

Mariam Malwand

Product Owner, Topicus.Finance. Educated at Amsterdam’s Hotelschool Den Haag, Malwand brings founding and managing director experience to her work as Product Owner at Topicus Finance.

Yasmina Siadatan

Sales and Marketing Director, Dynamic Planner. With knowledge and experience across core marketing areas from analysis and communication to digital content and sales, Siadatan has helped drive awareness of Dynamic Planner and its brand throughout the retail investment industry.

Ana Luísa Silva

Head of Marketing, ebankIT. Silva brings more than seven years of experience in marketing and communications to her role at Finovate Best of Show winner ebankIT. She holds advanced degrees from the EAE Business School and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

FinovateEurope 2022 is only a few weeks away. If you are an innovative fintech company with new technology to show, then there’s no better time than now and no better forum than FinovateEurope. To learn more about how to demo your latest innovation at FinovateEurope 2022 in London, March 22 and 23, visit our FinovateEurope hub today!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

FinovateEurope’s Digital Kick Off Previews Upcoming In-Person Event

FinovateEurope’s Digital Kick Off Previews Upcoming In-Person Event

A week before FinovateEurope’s in-person event begins on March 22nd, our annual Europe-based fintech conference will feature a special Digital Kick Off. This afternoon session on March 15 is accessible from anywhere and 100% virtual. The day will feature a mastermind keynote, a fireside chat, a set of digital demos from fintech innovators, and a power panel on the future of fintech.

Here, we will introduce two of our Digital Kick Off speakers – Zennon Kapron, founder and director, Kapronasia; and Malin Lignell, VP of Digitalization & Innovation, Handelsbanken. For more information on FinovateEurope, including both the Digital Kick Off on March 15 and the in-person event on March 22 and 23, visit our FinovateEurope hub.

Zennon Kapron

Founder and Director of Kapronasia, Zennon Kapron will lead a Mastermind Keynote on our Digital Kick Off day titled The Trends & Opportunities Shaping Fintech in Asia. Kapronasia provides research and consulting services with a focus on financial and blockchain technology.

Previous to Kapronasia, Kapron was Intel’s Global Banking Industry Manager and, before that, CIO for Citigroup Portugal. He has extensive experience with fintech and Asia, currently serving as an instructor in fintech at the Singapore Management University, an ambassador with the Emerging Payments Association of Asia, and founder and director of China Fintech, which works with startups, financial institutions, and investors to build an ecosystem that develops innovative solutions for China’s financial industry.

Kapron is also the author of Chomping at the Bitcoin: The History and Future of Bitcoin in China. He earned a B.S. in Computer Science from Syracuse and an MBA from INSEAD.

Malin Lignell

Vice President of Digitalization & Innovation with Sweden’s Handelsbanken, Lignell will provide a Fireside Chat as part of our Digital Kick Off event on March 15th. A 20+ year veteran of the Swedish bank – the oldest company on the Swedish stock exchange – Lignell has served in leadership roles, including as Deputy Branch Manager, for more than half of her tenure at Handelsbanken. She joined the Digitalization and Innovation team at the bank in the fall of 2019, where she works at both the strategic and operational level to help drive the institution toward greater innovation as it pursues its digitization objectives.

With a special focus on the way that emerging technologies shape and change customer behavior and business models, Lignell has spoken frequently on the challenges that financial institutions face as they undertake digitization. She has noted that while behavioral changes are often the most difficult component of technological transformation, often the forces that help propel change (for example, the global pandemic) nevertheless serve as a powerful and effective incentives to solve new problems in new and creative ways.

Lignell is an alum of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where she received a diploma in Accounting and Finance. She also earned a Master of Science in International Business Studies and Economics from Ekonomihögskolan i Växjö, and a degree in Business Administration and Economics from The University of Graz.

Photo by David Jakab from Pexels

LastPass VP on the Bare Minimum of Password Security for Banks

LastPass VP on the Bare Minimum of Password Security for Banks

Passwords are as frustrating as they are essential, especially in financial services. We chatted with LastPass VP of Product Management Dan DeMichele to get an idea of how banks and fintechs can protect themselves, what the future of passwords looks like, and how digital identity is dictating changes.

In his role at LastPass, a password manager that offers secure password storage for millions of users, DeMichele is responsible for leading LastPass’ overall product and strategy teams. We caught up with him to get some insight on the intersection of banking, cybersecurity, passwords, and digital identity.

How are cyber threats impacting the banking industry? Is the situation improving or worsening?

Dan DeMichele: Cyber threats are decisively impacting the banking industry as attackers are constantly eyeing sensitive information. It’s a heavily targeted industry given the volume of highly sensitive data being produced and stored within it and the insider vulnerabilities that plague it. Made worse by the growing population accessing banking networks, the industry is seeing an increase in touchpoints that give hackers more opportunities to attack.

Knowing attacks have been made easier by the digitization of the sector, which was fast-tracked by the pandemic, it’s clear the situation is worsening. A recent LastPass report revealed that while 68% of individuals would create stronger passwords for financial accounts, 8% believe a password shouldn’t have ties to personal information. This means most users are creating passwords with ties to potentially public details, making it easier for hackers to access their information. To take it a step further, these credentials are being leaked on other websites through which bad actors then attempt credential stuffing, particularly into financial networks.

What are easy steps banks can take to mitigate these threats?

DeMichele: It’s critical that private banks, wealth managers, and clients themselves protect online banking sign-on and practice proper password hygiene to minimize attacks that are on the rise. The industry can work to combat threats in a number of ways, including requiring multi-factor authentication (MFA) during the login process, setting up dark web monitoring alerts, addressing general password hygiene needs and implementing password management tools, installing solutions such as anti-phishing web browsing software, and implementing policies for location and devices staff can log in from and the type of access allowed.

Beyond these basic protection measures, what should banks do to fully protect themselves?

DeMichele: The private banking and finance sectors need to focus on how they store and share sensitive data and information. By identifying weak spots and knowing how to reduce risks, banks can make attacks more difficult to accomplish and essentially less attractive to potential hackers in the first place. Cybersecurity also needs to be a concern beyond the IT department. Staff with network access need to be properly informed and trained in their role in keeping the organization secure against attacks. Organizations should also weigh the option of implementing automated solutions. With the rise of the digitization of the sector, tools that automate cybersecurity and compliance are now available to help mitigate risk.

Do you envision we’ll ever see a world without passwords as we know them today? What would that look like?

DeMichele: Over the next year, I anticipate a simplification of the tool set for administrators and the end user experience that enables efficient password hygiene. Today’s password solutions were built for the more tech-savvy crowd, but looking ahead, password management will become more intuitive for end users. In addition, within the next five years or so, VPNs will likely be obsolete and replaced by zero trust. It offers a different perspective on how devices are connecting to networks, which is critical as organizations remain remote or shift to a hybrid workforce. There will likely be one vendor that comes to market and makes it simple to implement, which is when every company will look to adopt it. I also see passwordless authentication with strong security standards such as FIDO 2.0 being adopted and triggering a slow phasing out of traditional passwords. It will be a long journey to get to that point, and password management solutions that are tackling both challenges will help users keep secure profiles.

What role does digital identity play in all of this?

DeMichele: We’re in the midst of a revolution of how individuals interact online as a result of digital identities. Unfortunately, the more we digitize ourselves without the proper protections in place, the easier it becomes for cyber criminals to learn about us and use our digital identities to their advantage. With the rise of digital wallets, vaccine codes, digital driver’s licenses, biometrics and credentials, connected homes, smart airports and much more, we’re likely going to experience more calls for supervision of these digital ID systems along with more global ID initiatives in the future. With more access to the internet via mobile, a pandemic-induced accelerated shift to all things digital-first, and an increase in demand for security, digital identity is definitely a feature of modernization processes to come.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Look Who’s Making Their Finovate Debuts Next Month in London at FinovateEurope

Look Who’s Making Their Finovate Debuts Next Month in London at FinovateEurope

In addition to many of the familiar faces who will be returning to London next month for FinovateEurope, this year’s conference also will feature a sizable number of newcomers to the Finovate stage. Here’s a brief introduction and welcome to these FinovateEurope speakers to whet your appetite for what we have in store on both our Digital Kick Off Day of March 15th and during the conference proper on March 22nd and 23rd.

With more than 20 years of experience in advisory services within Swedish bank Handelsbanken, Malin Lignell currently works with the company’s Digitalization and Innovation team to enable greater innovation and focus on the bank’s digitalization journey. Having a keen eye on the way emerging technologies influence customer behavior and drive new business models, Lignell will lead a Fireside Chat as part of FinovateEurope’s Digital Kick Off event on March 15.

Author of The Fifth Industrial Revolution, Inma Martinez will provide FinovateEurope’s Keynote Address on Wednesday, March 23rd. Martinez is a digital pioneer and AI scientist, as well as a member of the Expert Group at The Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), an AI-based initiative sponsored by the OECD and G7. An advisor to business and government leaders on how to turn digital transformation into competitive advantage and contribute to social progress, Martinez will share her insights on creating an exceptional customer experience via UX-led design. Borrowing from the successful experience of technology giants, Martinez will explain how financial institutions can pivot away from a product focus to a customer focus by “unlocking data” and enhancing customer engagement.

Here are some of the other newcomers who will be joining FinovateEurope as part of our Power Panels, roundtables, and Executive Boardroom sessions.

  • Radboud Vlaar. Founder and Managing Partner at Finch Capital, Vlaar will join our Future of Fintech power panel on our Digital Kick Off, Tuesday, March 15.

Our Executive Boardroom on Financial Inclusion on Tuesday, March 22 will feature five fintech experts, all of whom are newcomers to the Finovate roster.

  • Anette Broloes. Fintech analyst with Broloes Consult.
  • Natalie Ledward. Head of Vulnerable Customers, Monzo
  • Sanghamitra Karra. EMEA Head of Multicultural Client Strategy & Multicultural Innovation Lab at Morgan Stanley
  • Neha Mehta. Founder of FemTech Partners
  • Ahmed Karsli. Founder and CEO of Papara

Tuesday will also feature an Executive Boardroom on Financial Crime. Among the new faces on this panel are Jane Barber, Regulatory and Trade Association Lead, NatWest Group; and Nitzan Solomon, Head of Surveillance & Financial Crime Technology EMEA, Nomura.

Wednesday morning will feature a pair of Power Panels with a number of guests who will be appearing on the Finovate stage for the first time. Our panel on achieving digital acceleration includes newcomers Christoffer Malmer, Head of SEBx at SE; Gunter Uytterhoeven, Chief Customer & Innovation Officer at AXA Next; and Carol Hamilton, Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at Provenir. Making their Finovate debuts as part of our panel on fintech collaboration and partnerships are Janine Hirt, CEO of Innovate Finance, and Thea Loch, Head of Strategic Design with Lloyds Banking Group.

FinovateEurope 2022 is right around the corner. If you are an innovative fintech company with new technology to show, then there’s no better time than now and no better forum than FinovateEurope. To learn more about how to demo your latest innovation at FinovateEurope 2022 in London, March 22-23, visit our FinovateEurope hub today!

Photo by Peter Spencer from Pexels