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The diversity of financial technologies

I was listening to questions at a meeting this week where one of the audience asked if I needed to adjust what I say on my travels, to suit the culture of different countries. I thought about it for a second, and realised that I don’t. I do adjust the humour, the timbre of my voice, the speed at which I talk and more, but I rarely change the content.

Sometimes I play up a little to the country I’m in. I’ll make a stronger point about how innovative things are in the region or in that specific province. But I generally end up with a view that I repeat around the world:

  • Europe and America are legacy economies;
  • China is leading the new world;
  • India, African nations, South American nations and a few others are showing major new thinking; and
  • the Southern Hemisphere is where the action is at.

FinTech is doing amazing things in the EU and USA but, when I dig underneath the surface, 99% of what we’re doing in Europe and America is taking the old world of banking products and services and making them cheaper, faster and better with technology. We’re not really rethinking anything.

China is the new nation of power, with Big Tech giants that are more formidable than the American giants because they are superapps. Imagine Facebook and Amazon merge, then sprinkle in the creation of a payments system that bridges the social-commercial divide. That’s what Tencent and Alibaba have achieved and, in doing so, have completely rethought the nature and purpose of saving, lending, investing and paying.

Meantime, there’s a lot of visionary work being done in many other nations around the world, from Colombia and Mexico to Kenya and Tanzania to Indonesia and the Philippines. Over the years, I’ve been building a library of innovative case studies, too many to recount in my usual presentations. As a result, I’ll usually pick a few from the area of the world I’m visiting. Bear in mind there are over 12,000 FinTech start-ups worldwide and there’s always plenty to choose from.

I guess therefore that I don’t change my speeches much to tailor to different country audiences, but I do take notice of my audience. In fact, the harder part is to know your audience. Are they commercial banks or retail banks? What about if you’re talking to insurance people and asset managers? And if you have people who aren’t in financial services but in corporations and treasury operations? What’s important for them?

This is where I find the most challenge as financial services is not a consistent singular theme, but a multi-stranded complex web of relationships, services and specialistions. Amongst those specialisations, it’s hard for many to be an expert in all. By way of example, my background began in insurance. I was an expert in life and general insurances, and could talk the talk as well as the detail of their processes and operations. A specialist London firm then hired me to head up their Fund Management practice, as I was an expert in insurances. However, consumer and corporate insurance is completely different to pension funds and fund management. Hence, ti took me quite a while to learn the nuances of the buy-side funds and their market making broker and investment bank friends that had little to do with insurance.

Anyways, just a reflection on how and what you think about when you present. For different countries, you think more about how you present; for different specialisations, you think more about what you present.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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