Nowhere is the intersection of finance and technology more profound than in New York City, and that’s precisely where Empire Startups FinTech Conference took place this week.
The best, brightest and most innovative FinTechs and financial institutions met up discuss the latest products and the hottest startups. We were thrilled to be at Empire Startups FinTech Conference — not only to watch and learn, but to have our very own Adam Nanjee, SVP of Digital Banking, there to present and moderate for the Hot Startups demo portion.
With dozens of presenters and panelists (half of whom were women — a major stride towards equality in a traditionally male-dominated industry), there was a lot to learn. But there were a few main points that came up over and over again. Here are the three key takeaways we got from Empire Startups FinTech conference 2018.
1. FinTechs Face Unique Challenges Compared to Other Tech Startups
Things in Silicon Valley move so fast that previously revolutionary technology becomes outdated every year. And consumers love it — paradigm shifts in tech have become the norm and an expectation.
But things don’t move so fast in the financial world. As the keynote speaker put it, when it comes to money, we’re dealing with a consumer’s “prized possession.” People are a little more cautious when it comes to letting their money be handled by an up-and-comer with little track record of success. And with banking so tightly regulated, moving the innovation needle can take far longer than in other industries.
One of the challenges FinTechs face is the difficulty of creating and deploying an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). In the agile world of startups, MVPs are typical, and a great way to showcase value without an enormous development budget. But when it comes to finance, “minimum” rarely cuts it.
We learned that FinTech startups have to have all their ducks in a row before taking their product to market. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t make it impossible — several of the panelists acknowledged they took risks getting their business in front of their target market. The consensus was, if it’s truly good enough to improve the financial lives of banks or customers, its value will speak for itself, and regulators will work with it.
2. Banks Are Looking for Ways to Speed Up Processes With FinTech
As we stated above, banks don’t like to assume a lot of risk, and bringing in a fast-moving startup can ruffle their feathers a bit too much. That’s why traditional partnerships are — well — glacial in pace.
For FinTechs, this can be frustrating. While other technology companies can get up and running in very little time, deploying financial technology can take months (and sometimes years.)
But it’s not just bothersome for FinTech companies. We heard from ex-bankers and lawyers who noted partnering with FinTech companies was becoming increasingly important as competition arises from big tech companies, new digital banks, and other disruptors.
While they can only assume so much risk, it’s evident that it’s just as important for banks to refine the compliance and regulation processes to cope with the shift in the industry. One proposed solution we heard at Empire was this: FinTechs need to be razor focused with their solutions so things don’t get muddled when talking to banks. Offering a well defined, minimally complicated product that solves a problem for a bank is a good way to get things moving quickly.
3. The Number One Focus Should Be on Improving Financial Wellness For Customers
It doesn’t matter if your business is selling to consumers or to banks — at the end of the day your product is going to impact the financial lives of the people who use it directly, or bank with an institution that has deployed it.
Right now, up-and-coming bank customers are facing heretofore unfaced financial challenges. Millenials are carrying more debt with less resources to pay it back than previous generations, and the old ways of doing business just aren’t cutting it for them.
FinTechs are developing new solutions to appeal to this market. At Empire, we saw new credit cards that helped people track their spending, and digital banks with built in budgets. But it’s not just consumer facing products. Even B2B companies like Zafin offer banks the ability to personalize product bundles and customize rates and fees to offer a tailored experience that fits the individual.
With the end users financial wellness in mind, established FinTechs and startups alike can appeal to customers while making their financial journey better, and fostering their loyalty with financial institutions.
Final Thoughts on Empire Startups FinTech Conference 2018
Of all the takeaways and lessons learned at this year’s conference perhaps the most profound was this — there’s a real spirit of collaboration in the industry, and a sincere dedication to improving the world of finance.
We had a great time at the conference, and look forward to our continued partnership with Empire Startups.
Looking to find out more about Zafin and the products we sell to make banking better? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Zafin (@zafin) is a leading financial technology provider that enables banks to form richer, more personalized client relationships. Built from the ground up for financial services, its platform empowers banks to enhance revenue and operational efficiency. Founded in 2002, Zafin sits among North America’s top FinTech companies, and is trusted by retail and corporate units at some of the largest banks worldwide. Headquartered in Toronto with global offices, Zafin has a proven track record with a 100 percent client retention rate as validation.
Cam is the Digital Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Zafin. With a background in journalism and a passion for blogging, Cam strives to tell compelling digital stories. At Zafin he will share the latest trends and news in the FinTech world, and share Zafin’s role as leader in the industry. Follow him on Twitter @CamSmoth