Just like the 1500+ companies and over 400 speakers who sparked discussions at Money20/20 last week, it’s been a busy period for the Valitor team! Whether we were talking to customers and prospects in the exhibition, running speaker slots or engaging with the panel debates taking place up and down the venue, we couldn’t have been in a better place to keep our finger on the pulse of the fast-changing world of fintech. Yet, amongst the many discussions being had there was one common thread that underpinned everything else – what this all means for the customer.
Customer-centricity is key
It became clear from the speaker sessions that embedding a positive customer experience within everything a company does, is non-negotiable. The smart use of data is going to be pivotal to making positive steps in this direction, yet as Ann Cairns, Vice Chairman of Mastercard suggested in her session ‘Finding our voice – the future of conversational commerce’, the people behind the technological infrastructure don’t represent the customer demographic. She stated that 85% of purchase decisions are made by women yet the majority of payment software is designed by men. Fintechs must therefore address this gap to ensure they are meeting their customers’ needs. Our own CMO, Christine Bailey, went on to suggest that “as a marketer who is passionate about customer insight […] companies need to listen to their customers not their engineers (or we need more female engineers)!” This is a real problem that the industry has to address if it is to truly become customer-centric.
One step that we have taken as a company to improve the customer experience and make buying and selling easy is our newly announced partnership with Visa Direct. As a result, we will be offering customers and partners access to instant deposits and settlements. This integration will allow merchants to receive payments in real-time, therefore improving on settlement days after the transaction and transforming domestic and cross-border settlement times for merchants, removing cash flow problems. Such partnerships are going to be essential if the industry is to continue to meet the rapidly changing needs of its customers.
Technology takes the lead
Another debate reverberating around the venue centred around the future role of the big banks, in the face of the challenge posed by FinTechs. This tech-first attitude has made its mark in Asia, where the term FinTech has changed into the term ‘TechFin’. Indeed today, technology is steering the financial sector, rather than the financial sector influencing the future of technology. Amy Parsons, Senior Vice President at Global Acceptance, also touched on this point, arguing that if you can imagine what the payments sector will look like, then the technology can build it. This rapid progress, in particular within AI, means technology is no longer a barrier to realising the future of finance. It is a tool that can be utilised however businesses see fit.
The next frontier
So what’s next? If technology has no boundaries, what will the future of fintech look like? The finance sector must look at the next generation of customers for the answers. As we become reliant on voice recognition, businesses must use AI capabilities wisely to adapt their offering for a new age of communication.
This technological progress is not exclusive to FinTechs however. Many traditional banks are already making positive steps towards competing in the market of the future. Dr. Leda Glyptis, Chief Innovation Officer at Qatar National Bank made the point in her keynote “Money is not a dirty word”, that ultimately banks exist to make money. In order to keep making money, they need to change but this doesn’t mean their future role is redundant. In contrast, Nikolay Storonsky, CEO & Founder of Revolut, argued in his session “Big banks: You’re not laughing now”, that businesses should be offering acquiring for free. The future of traditional banks and fintechs are both tangible, albeit both kinds of businesses are getting there through different approaches.
Money20/20 sparked numerous insights into the future of fintech, but the strong undercurrent throughout the conference was the power of the customer. In order for businesses to survive in the future, they must listen to their customers and their needs. After all, it’s the customer that is driving the future of fintech, not the businesses.