We have a Financial Services Club meeting this Thursday with a panel previewing what we will be talking about at SIBOS. Therefore, I thought I would conclude my background on this to say that it will be all the usual stuff: regulations, regulations and regulations, as discussed in my last post.
Looking at the SIBOS website, it’s clearly going to be the main agenda, as per every SIBOS, but there are some other major nuances outside this agenda that are worth noting.
For example, Bill Gates is the closing plenary speaker on the Thursday. What is Bill talking about? Poverty and financial inclusion. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has supported a comprehensive and ongoing analysis into this area: Gateway Financial Innovations for Savings (GAFIS).
The analysis ran as a four year project between 2010 and 2013 which will be the subject of the other plenary session on the final SIBOS conference day, and the resultant 47 page report concluded that “banks must be at the heart of any solution to the potentially destabilizing trend of social and economic inequality”.
It will be an interesting session and discussion, as most banks do not see any profitability from the unbanked and underbanked markets. That is not the case however. Just look at the case of M-PESA, the mobile payments service, in Kenya. When the service started, it was viewed with suspicion by banks. As it became successful, it was actively lobbied against by the banking community who claimed its many operators and agents could easily be open to fraud. Once it was clear it was here to stay, the banks discovered that M-PESA actually created opportunity. In fact, as the whole of the country’s population moved to mobile payments, they gained credit histories and trust. For example, in 2007 when M-PESA launched around three million people had some form of banking account service. Today, over 15 million people have deposit accounts.
Equally, the GAFIS Project finds that innovation can create profitable microfinance accounts and, for this reason, Bill Gates predicts that there will be no poverty in the world by 2035. His speech will be interesting.
On another disruptive note, SIBOS will focus upon Occupy Wall Street (#ows), bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. I put the three together as I call bitcoin the wikimoney for the Wikileaks generation, supported by the likes of anonymous and the #ows movement. According to the SIBOS media pages, the conference gives bankers “an opportunity to demonstrate willingness to listen to the concerns of our customers, and work on rebuilding trust by improving processes and transparency, and supporting the communities we serve” by addressing the Occupy movement’s concerns. Considering that it was just two years ago that I was almost thrown out of the SIBOS party for wearing an anonymous mask, how time’s change.
In that context, bitcoin has been tracked by the Innotribe stream for at least three years, and this year the temperature gauge is raised even higher to focus specifically on the virtual money themes. From my opening plenary with Udayan Goyal of Anthemis on the Monday morning, Inntoribe spends all of the opening day looking at the regulation, disruption, innovation and opportunity for banks from cryptocurrencies and virtual money. It is also worth noting the Innotribe Start-up Challenge, the culmination of three regional competitions in America, Asia and Europe earlier this year, weaning 100s of start-up firms in fintech to just 15 in the final. The grand finale takes place through the Wednesday afternoon, and will be a highlight of the week.
A final theme worth noting is cybersecurity. Again, a plenary session focus, the cybersecurity theme is more and more important, as banks face breaches every day. The average bank gets over 111 million cyberattacks a year, of which 87 would be mission critical. That’s 300,000 attacks a day, and tracking and tracing those that could bring down the bank is becoming an everyday challenge.
In summary, apart from the regulatory stuff, there’s an awful lot more to checkout at SIBOS this year. See you there.