Brand new Fintech startups are being daily created in some part of the world. The business is booming and our people at AdviseOnly are well aware of it.
The number of Fintech conferences, competitions and networking events is so big that you would need to be ubiquitous to attend them all. Unfortunately I consider a good part of them to be mere speculation on the startuppers dreams of glory.
However this was not the case of the Fintech Forum on Tour, held on September 25th in London. Michael Mellinghoff, one of the most prominent voices of European Fintech, sent us last summer the application for the event and we decided to file in, since it was the only event dedicated to Invest Tech.
We do not attend many events, but we really appreciated the idea behind the Fintech Forum, being this time the focus on startups within Continental Europe, with the stress on digital investment.
We are all very used to hear the glimmering stories about the startups of Silicon Valley.
In Old Europe we have relevant experience and startups offering services that cannot be compared to the Anglo-Saxon ones. European startups show the creativity and determination of those who fight to survive in a harsher environment, where culture is less open to innovation and where the magnanimous venture capital funds are just a dream.
So we diligently filled in our application, and by mid-August, when all the Italians already lied on the beach, we got the good news: AdviseOnly had been selected, as the only Italian startup.
A few weeks went by, and here we are, on the morning of September 25th , on the 20th floor of the brand new building of Ernst & Young in Canary Wharf, the only Italians but with at least a countryman in the audience, Mr. Roberto Ferrari, General Manager of CheBanca!, one of the few truly digital banks in Italy.
The building is ultramodern and shining, the sun enlightens the canals of Canary Wharf. Everything looks perfect and exciting, unfortunately the wi-fi does not work (it is just incredible, but it happens in most Fintech events!). The event starts at 10 a.m. with an outstanding keynote speaker: Mrs. Anna Wallace, head of FCA Innovation Hub.
Her speech is very interesting and really impressive for the Italian audience. The UK regulator has created a dedicated team and represents a valid contact for innovative business. The intention is to support the business, providing understanding of the regulatory framework and rules of application, while offering assistance as to the preparation and development, from the application to the authorization. The Innovation Hub is meant to identify areas where the regulatory framework needs to adapt and enables further innovation in the interest of the consumer.
Our reaction ranges from incredulity to constructive envy. It is not difficult to understand why London has become fintech world capital.
At the end of the keynote speech it is our turn: AdviseOnly is the first of 20 startups to go on stage.
— Michael Mellinghoff (@Mellinghoff) 25 Settembre 2015
It is up to us to emphasize the value of our business in 7 minutes (with the threatening audible alarm of Mr. Samarth Shekar, who is ready to warn the speaker that 6 minutes have elapsed, silencing the speaker after 7!) I have to admit that speaking to an international audience like the one sitting in front of me is a bit thrilling, but in the end, my 7 minutes run smoothly. The audience reaction seems to be positive. What a relief!
Many other startups followed us, with enticing stories of passion and enthusiasm, like ours. Most of the attending firms focused on automating investment and asset management (the so-called “robo-advisors”). We particularly liked two startups from Germany, the firms Vaamo and Scalable Capital. Some were promising companies from the booming sector of big data, like Prophis or Scaled Risk. A few of them presented real original business, like Valutico from Austria, guaranteeing a simple and affordable business evaluation.
The event closes with the final panel “InvestTech Startups: Threat, Partner, or Talent pool for incumbents?” moderated by Mrs. Anna Irrera (Trading & Technology Reporter, Financial News / Dow Jones) with different points of view from the financial industry, venture capital funds and startups. Our time in London has been really intense, among speeches, interesting chats at coffee breaks and two well deserved glasses of red wine, before rushing to the airport.
Even among the finance industry that is commonly considered conservatory and self-referential, a big change is taking place, despite the resistance from some insiders. Fintech is currently the buzzword of the financial industry: googling for the keyword “Fintech” shows skyrocketing results!
The current trend seems irreversible to me, not because of the rampant startups striving to become the next unicorns (i.e. privately held firms worth a $1 billion or more, founded solely through fundraising and the generosity and faith of venture capitalists), but due to the fact that consumer habits and ways of interaction, that looks revolutionary for the finance world, are already common practice for most of the clients.
Do you remember what happened to travel agencies about 15 years ago? The founders of Expedia, Tripadvisor and AirBnB, are now billionaires. It is true that many startups of the travel sector have not been successful, all big players who have not been able to cope with change have shut down and now we all travel differently.