• Sricharan Sanakkayala

On FinTech: Reflections on Future of Finance 2021 Conference

Sricharan Sanakkayala reflects on Future of Finance 2021 Conference's FinTech Panel.


Hosted by 6 of the LARGEST careers societies from leading global universities, Future of Finance 2021 was organised by UCL FinTech Society, LSE SU FinTech Society, LSE PRIS, Imperial Finance Society, Warwick Entrepreneurs Society & King's Business Club.


The speakers


Nicole Sandler, Head of Digital Policy, Barclays


Nicole Sandler is currently the Head of Digital Policy at Barclay’s Bank. In 2019 she earned the title of FinTech Influencer of the year, as well as, Most Influential Women in FinTech Regulation. She was also in the Top 100 Women in FinTech by Lattice80 in 2018.


Mark Watson, CTO, WorldRemit


Mark Watson joined WorldRemit in 2018 as Chief Technology Officer. Prior to joining WorldRemit, Mark worked at IBM, Causata Inc. and Tivoli Systems. He also co-founded Volantis Systems and Skipjaq, where in each case he served as both CTO and CEO. Mark holds a BA in Politics from the University of Nottingham.


The panel


The 2021 Future of Finance FinTech panel hosted two speakers: Nicole Sandler and Mark Watson. Sandler brought in years of banking experience as the Head of Digital Policy at Barclays, while Watson brought his expertise of entrepreneurship as the CTO at WorldRemit. Together they made the perfect Finance-Technology combo for the panel as they discussed topics ranging from the importance of regulation to the impact of digitalization.

Regulation is Wanted


Watson begins this section by talking about the current state of WorldRemit. The company is one of the first online money-transfer startups to focus on mobile transactions, and its ideal customer is an immigrant “sending money back home to friends and family”. The running goal has always been to create a system that is easy to use and compliant with regulatory bodies. Watson claims that of all challenges, “regulation is the biggest issue” followed by security and interoperability, but it is also quite important. In agreement with Watson, Sandler adds that startups should not “ask for forgiveness, [but should] ask for permission” to save time and resources. “Regulation is good. It’s nice to know what you can and can’t do”, she later adds. At the end of the day, regulation acts as the rule book for the game which everyone wants to play.


Future of FinTech


In this part of the discussion, Watson begins off claiming that more people are moving towards digital currency. However, globalization is dropping due to Brexit but is cushioned by COVID-19. He mentions that the current trends are simply driven by trying to stay afloat in the current COVID-19 and Brexit era. Still, the prospects of innovation are quite high as the vaccines roll out. As Sandler agrees with Watson, she provides the example of the current healthcare trend. “Sharing healthcare data is the riskiest thing to do pre-COVID, but now it’s done so frequently”, she explains. Still, this trend too might change. Watson explains that one of the main trends right now is digitalization. Since, there is less outside spending, “more money is sent electronically”. This trend exposes the people who do not believe in digitalization to explore it for the first time. Two of the main strategies to enable such exploration are marketing the product well and “mak[ing] it as easy as possible and comforting as possible” to transition. To this comment, Sandler explains that another approach to digitalization is to rethink our understanding of FinTech. “Fintech has been happening for hundreds of years, it's the evolution of the finance industry”, she explains. Technically, the ATM was considered FinTech, so it is just the matter of educating customers and increasing trust to enable another wave of digitization.


Verdict


It was interesting to see a first-hand account of companies wanting to be regulated. Unlike what the media claims, companies are not organizations that always want to be self-governed. Additionally, it was unique to see members of two industry leading companies discuss their views on digitalization. We were able to get a glimpse of the conversations that take place within the companies. After a closer look, we see that Watson’s two strategies for fostering digitalization are just the templates of his company's goals. Following Watson’s explanation, Sandler’s unconventional way to represent FinTech made me realize the diverse perspectives on the meaning of FinTech.


To learn more about Nicole, read her exclusive pre-Conference interview with FTR here.


To learn more about Mark, read his exclusive pre-Conference interview with FTR here.


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