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What We Learned at Empire Startups Toronto FinTech Conference

After our amazing experience attending Empire Startups New York FinTech Conference, we were excited to be sponsoring their Toronto conference — practically in our backyard.

As always, this conference promised to bring together the bleeding edge of FinTech innovators and financial companies wanting to be a part of the discussion on where the next big thing would be coming from. With an excellent series of panels, speakers and thought leaders, it was a profound opportunity to gain some insight into the financial technology community.

Continuing their commitment to showcasing the future of FinTech, this Empire event featured a diverse speaker list, 50% of whom were women, including the excellent keynote speaker, Marla Blow from FS Card.

There was a lot to learn, but some of it stood out as particularly important. Here’s what we took away from Empire Startups Toronto FinTech Conference:

Artificial Intelligence is The Real Deal

With all the hype around certain buzzwords, it can be hard to parse out what is really making waves, and what’s just fun to tweet about. Artificial intelligence is without a doubt one of the most talked about concepts in the financial industry now, and the reason is pretty simple — it’s about to change the way finances work forever.

Almost every panel, no matter how seemingly removed from AI, still discussed it in some capacity. But the “Rise of the Machines” panel, focused directly on artificial intelligence and machine learning, really got into the nitty gritty.

Digital transformation is reshaping the way customers interact with their banks. And AI is quickly becoming the engine of change for many financial institutions. Whether they’re simply “playing with it” or actively seeking to implement it, it’s top of mind for all banks and tech companies working with them.

The Give and Take of Working With Venture Capitalists

The stereotypical relationship between a VC and a tech firm is a tale as old as, well, Silicon Valley. But like every aspect of FinTech, the relationships between VCs and tech companies is evolving and becoming more dynamic than ever.

Not every startup is going to be a fit for every VC, and not every VC is a good fit for every startup. Finding the perfect organization to work with is the real struggle. In the panel on venture capitalism, we learned that startups should ask themselves a series of questions before approaching a VC: Does the firm invest at the stage you’re at? Does the firm invest in your industry?Do they have expertise that help you solve your growth challenges? If the answer is yes — you may have found the right kind of investment.

With Great Power Comes Great Opportunity

Many banks are torn between two options — in-house innovation or partnerships with existing FinTech. One of the more compelling discussions at Empire Startups Toronto FinTech Conference centered around just this issue.

In short — banks should look to partner with tech companies to accelerate innovation. Naturally, this is the kind of sentiment you’d expect to hear at a conference centred around FinTech startups, but in this case we listened to Kashmera Self from INTERAC reiterate those same sentiments. INTERAC, a leading tech innovator, swears by their partnerships which help move the needle.

On the tech side, companies should brace themselves for the security and compliance demands of working with a major bank. Chuck Doerr, a panelist from OpenFin, spoke of the 150 page IT security manual they reference for a four person startup. If that’s the way banks want to work — you’re gonna have to work with them.

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All in all, Empire Startups lead another fantastic event in Toronto. We were proud to sponsor it, have our very own Adam Nanjee, SVP Digital Banking moderate a panel, and of course simply be in attendance.


About Zafin

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 Smith

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

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