The most sought goal in alchemy is turning metal into gold. Our colleagues at Money 20/20 Europe chose this as the apt theme for this year’s event. What better way exists, other than alchemy, to describe a congregation of pretty much everyone that matters in the financial community, experimenting with propositions, skills and technologies, catalysed by their unwavering dedication, to determine the right mix that creates that metaphor? A symbolic representation of a continually evolving and innovating financial ecosystem that will yield a golden age of solutions for financial services. As I witnessed this event, numerous inspirational people spoke about different aspects, goals and aspirations of such an evolving ecosystem, hopefully grounded in adequate regulations that don’t stifle innovation.

Various sessions described the ongoing architectural paradigm shift in the ecosystem towards cloud-based platforms for acquiring, banking, issuer processing and digital wallet solutions, which enable existing and new players, including airline operators and retailers, to enter the market to provide financial services to their customer base with relatively less capital and operational expenses.  These platforms are built using microservices, which allow for various functions to be developed and deployed in a modular fashion with minimal impact to existing services. Such a paradigm allows a banking system, for instance, to easily scale to the demand as required, whilst being resilient in an agile manner to changing product requirements and needs of their stakeholders including regulatory authorities.

There was also a focus on highlighting the benefits of collaboration and partnerships at various levels to innovate and to fight crime, whilst ensuring fair competition amongst existing and new players.  Partnerships between BigTech and FinTech companies provide the required resources, including the right talent to maximise the use of latest technologies and access to various data sources, to build innovative value propositions and commercial models that deliver enhanced and personalised financial services that meet customer needs. 

The concept of being open has featured heavily in various sessions throughout the event.  Of course, this included the Open Banking track, brilliantly chaired by our own global ambassador, Dave Birch, where the current state of the matter was discussed, along with the opportunities and challenges that Open Banking has presented.  However, the concept of openness extended beyond that, with panellists at the Financial Crime Summit calling for open collaboration, amongst financial institutions and regulatory authorities, to efficiently share AML and KYC data to combat financial crime, particularly to reduce identity theft, fraud and money laundering. This was reiterated when discussing real-time payments which could benefit from access to different data sources and techniques for detecting fraud in real-time and, as a minimum, keeping one step ahead in this adversarial game with fraudsters.  Speakers sanctioned the idea of open communication, with an aim of unifying the ecosystem through standardisation, to circumvent challenges, break down barriers and plug vulnerabilities that fragmentation brings about.

The future of commerce was discussed, including the role of data along with ubiquitous and reliable connectivity, made possible through 5G. They will be key in providing personalised customer experience and engagement. I was thrilled to see innovative on-demand insurance models from WeFox and Lemonade, leveraging Machine Learning (ML) and IoT, to dynamically tailor their products to their consumers. It was only a couple of years ago that Consult Hyperion started discussing the possibility of pay-as-you-go commercial models revolutionised by technologies like IoT and ML. In fact, Dave Birch has even highlighted these predictions in our Live 5 this year, including the need to understand the risks these models incur.

The correct use of AI was an interesting panel discussion covering various points. They pointed out the need to leverage and operate technologies, like ML, in a transparent and accountable manner, addressing issues like ensuring customers know when they are dealing with an AI agent or a human and, addressing potential data bias by ensuring proper breadth and depth of data being sourced to fuel ML algorithms.

Various speakers emphasised the importance of placing the consumer at the centre of this evolving ecosystem. It is the key factor that ensures we design consumer-centric, personalised services, which help improve their quality of life, whilst protecting them and rewarding them for their loyalty. This was corroborated by OVO when they presented the incredible work they accomplished, in Indonesia, by deploying innovative mobile-based, instant credit and lending solutions to aid businesses and help boost the developing economy.

In an era of fake news causing a reputation crisis, digital identity and authentication schemes warranted a whole track, which was insightfully chaired by our COO, and resident Identity expert, Steve Pannifer. Various speakers and panellists discussed the importance of such schemes to enable data security and privacy controls in line with increasingly demanding privacy regulations.

Ultimately, I was glad to have come across various sessions promoting the need for diversity and equal opportunity in this financial ecosystem, so that we can capitalise on skills from a talent pool, without regard to gender, race or age, and better reflect the society that we serve.

Indeed, Money 20/20 have enabled dialogue and championed collaboration amongst different players in the financial ecosystem for the betterment of financial services. Therefore, in the spirit of this year’s theme, aim to be an alchemist and surround yourself with ones at the next event, and maybe you too can experience the magic! As Consult Hyperion, we are proud to have taken part in this dialogue, shared our knowledge and experience, and will continue with our hard work in helping various clients evolve along with the financial ecosystem. 

P.S. If you missed out on the winner announcement of the wacky payments race around the world between cash, crypto, card and mobile. I am glad to report that Team #mobile emerged victorious, revealing that Seattle, home of some of the big tech companies, was ironically the most challenging location in accepting mobile payments. Team #crypto found it the most difficult – the fact that the value of a crypto coin changed every five minutes probably didn’t help! 😊

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