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Fintech Islands – a great experience for both business and pleasure!

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Over the past few years, I’ve been to many fintech events around the world, from London to Las Vegas; Sydney to Singapore; Kigali to Karachi; but last week was a first, for me, Fintech Islands in Barbados. Well yes, someone had to go I guess and so, when asked, how could I resist?

The conference targets the whole Caribbean community although it intrigued me as I met attendees from Uruguay, Canada, Ghana and many other countries. In its third year, it’s early days, but there was a good vibe and the organisers – including good friend Andrew Morris, who previously did a lot to build the Money2020 brand, and Ali Paterson of Fintech Finance fame  – got a good balance of conference, networking and entertainment.

For example, there was a nice reggae evening and even one of the keynotes was related to Bob Marley, his son Rohan Marley! He was an interesting and cool choice as a speaker, as he’s not really a fintech guy but a coffee guy, but he is an investor and entrepreneur and his conversation about how he looks at work, life and his family’s legacy – his father died at just 36 years leaving a $30 million estate – was fascinating.

Equally fascinating is to think about the Caribbean, which is a diverse group of uniquely individual countries. For example, the Bahamas was the first place anywhere to roll out a national digital currency (CBDC). On 20 October 2020, the Central Bank of the Bahamas introduced the "Sand Dollar" as a digital legal currency equivalent to the traditional Bahamian dollar.

This was followed by a CBDC currency union in the Eastern Caribbean called DCash. Originally that began in March 2021 in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia. It subsequently rolled out the CBDC to the rest of the Eastern Caribbean States, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Montserrat and Anguilla. Effectively DCash is the first CBDC to be introduced in a currency union.

Jamaica launched its own CBDC – the "Jam-Dex" – and, in July 2022, its central bank recognised the Jam-Dex as legal tender, making it the first country in the world to legalise a CBDC.

Fascinating region of innovation and collaboration, and a great part of the world to visit for a conference obviously.

Something noteworthy for other conference organises is that Fintech Islands organised a great variety of exploration events during the three days too, from a Catamaran sunset ride on the last day to a visit to the Mount Gay rum distillery on the middle afternoon. If you aren’t aware, Mount Gay is the longest running rum distillery in the world, established in 1703. As we walked around and tried out all sorts of age weathered nectar, it made me think of the Pirates of the Caribbean … but maybe now it’s more the Financiers of the Caribbean that are more relevant today.

Anyways, yo-ho-ho and a barrel of CBDCs, here’s to next year!

Meantime, if you want to see what we talked about, the agenda is here –  I spoke at 10:10 on Day 2 – with MasterCard, IBM and WiPay most visible as sponsors and hosts (for me anyway).

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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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