Fincoder Conference: the voices of the Digital Age
iFinance was present at the Fincoder Conference where experts from different areas shared their insights into the way technology is disrupting the way business is done and financial services are provided.
This week, aside from Brexit, tech is the star subject in the British capital with several events taking place for the London Tech Week. The Fincoder Conference, organized by Fintech WorldWide and hosted at Aviva’s Digital Garage, brought together leading international experts who discussed the role of technology in the evolution of business. Several speakers emphasised the importance of customer experience in financial innovation and the responsibilities that technologists should embrace in managerial and corporate environments.
THE STATE OF THE ART
Pete Marsden, Digital CIO at Aviva, opened the discussion with his views on the relevance of fintech for big businesses. He pointed out that so far technologists have been “reluctant heroes” with a tendency to wait to be called on to fix issues rather than take initiatives. Marsden stressed the fact that technologists need to take more responsibilities to help shape businesses and allowing big players to stay up to speed with more agile, younger companies.
Ian Dowson, Principal at Willam Garrety Associates, then gave a very insightful overview of the state of the fintech industry based on his study of 4,800 fintech companies around the world. His research highlighted the fast progress of China in the terms of investment size. The three main areas of investment are currently loans, P2P and payments. Downson also identified the key drivers of the digital revolution in terms of technology (AR, cloud, deep learning) and human capital.
Following this, a very international group of fintech developers shared their deepest fears and struggles. The panel was composed of: Rafal Zawadzki, CTO at Opportunity Network; Mirko Puliafito, CTO at Eudata; Rohan Douglas, CEO at Quantifi, and moderated by UCL professor Donald Lawrence. Three key issues were identified: finding a balance between security and usability, improving positioning in a dynamic market and integrating innovation in big corporations. Regarding the question of Brexit, the panellists all agreed that a remain vote would be more beneficial for their businesses.
from the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business presented the China Start Programme organized by the school to help Western entrepreneurs understand and enter the Chinese market. The programme promises to offer knowledge and insights about the market, funding opportunities and networking activities with Chinese players.
Another group discussion was held, this time around the themes of IT recruitment, diversity optimization and talent retention within tech teams. Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First Girls, and Steve Brown, from Emperic, shared their insights to help companies achieve greater diversity and especially a better gender balance within IT teams. For instance, increasing girls’ exposure to tech at a younger age was proposed as a solution. James Hounslow from Harrington Star also shared his experience in the IT recruitment sector advising that companies spend more energy on building better talent retention strategies rather than only focusing on recruitment strategies.
Celyn Armstrong, counsel at Linklaters gave an overview of the FCA’s Project Innovate which includes the recently launched Regulatory Sandbox and the RegTech platform. These initiatives should hopefully facilitate sustainable and relevant fintech progress.
BUZZ WORDS AND REALITY
Of course the trendy topics of IoT, AI and blockchain were discussed. Lior Nabat, CEO at Tradency; Pritam Basu, from Bank in a Box; and Luis Carranza, from iiota, talked about the potential of robo-advisory and AI which are driving technological forces in the disruption of banking and other common financial activities. However, they also warned about the limited applications of AIs to finance as these rely on past events and models, and are therefore not powerful enough to predict stock values for instance. Calegero Scibetta, from Everledger, and Kartik Natarajan, from Applied Blockchain, tried to demystify the buzz word “blockchain” by explaining that it is not a solution for everything but rather it can provide very efficient solutions for real life, specific problems. For instance, it could have very beneficial applications in trading and insurance as well as provide cheaper and safer authentication methods for banks. If things go as expected, blockchain and DLT will soon be integrated seamlessly into most financial activities without people even noticing.
Last but not least, Nikita Tchesnokov from Digital Space Ventures shared some final words of wisdom directed at CTOs, reminding them that if the product or tech they are producing is too complicated for the users to understand, then it needs to be simplified.