Money2020 Digest Day #1

Money20/20 Europe, the region’s largest FinTech event, kicked off yesterday with a host of circus-themed theatrics. Hosted for the first time in Amsterdam, the three-day conference brings together thousands of business leaders from across Europe to discuss the trends, ideas and innovations shaping the future of money.

Featuring brands from across the ecosystem, including challenger brands and start-ups alongside well-established giants, the event promises to bring plenty of drama, discussion and debate – and as the exclusive communication partner, FleishmanHillard is here to cover all the action.

“The future of banking is digital, experience-led and purpose-driven”

Setting the tone for the next few days, ING CEO Ralph Hamerr kicked off proceedings with a lively keynote speech on the future of banking and the impact digital devices and smart phones are having on the way we engage with financial brands. Tellingly he noted that today about a fifth of ING’s customers have never interacted with ING other than through a mobile device – and in many countries they have no branch presence whatsoever.

In a world where we expect personal, instant, relevant and seamless interactions, he argued that the only way for brands to truly differentiate is through experience and service – and banks now face the challenge of becoming platforms, connecting with customers in the same way they live their everyday lives. Through mobile. However, for banks to achieve success and retain credibility they must foster a culture of innovation and embrace a purpose-led approach to empower people to stay ahead.

“Platforms, payments and partnerships”

Later in the day, Li Wang, Head of EMEA at Alipay joined Florence Diss, Head of EMEA Commerce Partnerships Google, Viktor Kim, VP Global Service Samsung Electronics, and Elias Yazbeck MEA Head Financial Services and Payments Facebook to discuss the ongoing trend of non-traditional financial companies entering the industry.

The panel started by discussing the benefits of new players entering the market, focusing on the fact that companies like Google, Facebook and Samsung focus on the customer experience at their core, allowing them to build services putting the end-user first. Li Wang noted that while Alipay is the world’s largest FinTech – with 650million active users – at its heart it is a technology company that solves problems for consumers.

However, new players on the market are bringing new challenges. The panel highlighted the difficulties of operating in the highly-fragmented European market. The hope is that established institutions in the financial system can work better together with major tech companies via open platforms – all for the benefit of the consumer.

The Woz, AI and the future of everything

Thousands of people packed into Money20/20 Europe’s Big Top to hear the ‘father of the personal computer’ and a true industry giant, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, talk about, quite literally, the future of everything – including the rise of machines and where AI is headed.

In his view while AI is becoming more and more human-like, it still has a long way to go before it will look or behave like a human. Simply put, it’s very hard for AI to connect and communicate in the same way we do as it hasn’t been exposed to the same experiences or lived a creative life like we have, the Woz surmised. But as AI becomes smarter, thanks to input from humans, it can learn by piecing together aspects of real life. It will take time, but it will come.

Wozniak also touched on the ethics of AI and the challenges that occur around data privacy – particularly topical given the recent introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Second Payments Services Directive (PSD2). He believes regulation is not stifling development, instead it is a fundamental need to prevent the abuse of power and protect the consumer. And in the same vein we need to think about how we can programme ethics into machines.

On blockchain, Wozniak thinks it is a great innovation that will do great things for humanity but we are in a similar place as .com back in 2003 – it might be a bubble but it’s on the right path, it will just take time. Similarly on cryptocurrency, he thinks there is potential for us to operate with a science fiction like decentralised currency in the future.

Finally, when it comes to Apple – who knows whether Apple will ever become a bank. But we’re certainly seeing it move into territory normally reserved for the banking giants.

That’s all for Day 1! Look out for another round up of the next two days.