Finovate in 2018: a search for fintech’s frontier
One of the most common questions I hear debated at Finovate events is, predictably, “what is the future of fintech?”. It is a question that has spawned countless tweets, blog posts, and hours of discussion among our community.
At Finovate, we’ve been implicitly asking ourselves and our attendees some version of this question for years now, and it’s been amazing watching peoples’ answers come in the form of innovative product demos, post-show recaps, conversations on site, and more. Lately, though, I’ve been asking myself a different question: where is the future of fintech?
It’s no secret that Finovate has aggressively expanded over the past few years. With the addition of FinovateMiddleEast earlier this year and FinovateAfrica coming up in November, we are now active in more markets than ever before. This is partly a response to the fact that our shows have always pulled people in from all over the world, but it’s also a recognition that it’s increasingly possible to argue that the true bleeding edge of fintech is no longer in Europe or North America.
The reality, of course, is that there is no single “frontier” in fintech nor one particular region that is “winning.” Fintech looks and feels very different in different regions (as we’ve already seen between our shows in London, Dubai, and Silicon Valley so far this year), and exploring these differences (while finding common threads and themes) has always been fascinating to me. That’s why I’m so excited for this fall, when, for the first time ever, we’ll have shows on three different continents in a space of just 10 weeks.
FinovateFall, our flagship New York show, kicks things off in September, and we’re already seeing a strong applicant pool full of innovators working on solutions that will have a huge impact on global finance. There is still a full month left in the application window, but we’re seeing very promising technology in fields like customer engagement, financial inclusion, lending, investing, and more. In New York, fintech’s “frontier” is full of exciting possibilities involving the world’s largest concentration of established financial institutions and an incredibly friendly environment for innovators and entrepreneurs.
FinovateFall will be quickly followed by FinovateAsia in Hong Kong in October (now a part of Hong Kong’s Fintech Week), where we’ll see a very different type of market and a different type of “frontier.” The sheer size of the markets in Hong Kong and China (not to mention the surrounding area) is staggering, and the concentration of individual users who have adopted fintech solutions and use them on a daily basis is mind-boggling. Nowhere else in the world can you find that level of adoption or the sheer number of end users.
And that brings us FinovateAfrica our first ever event in Cape Town this November. There are gigantic challenges facing financial institutions across Africa, and there are a huge number of people who are currently excluded from basic financial services altogether. While the challenges are great, so too is the opportunity for innovation. The lack of existing core-banking systems and brick-and-mortar banking makes true innovation possible in a way that is difficult to imagine anywhere else. And with so many people in dire need, Africa is also where fintech has the power to truly change people’s lives for the better.
So where is fintech’s frontier? Is it where the biggest established players come together to push each other forward, using institutional advantages to do amazing things? Is it where fintech is normalized and used on a daily basis by the largest number of people? Is it where the present is full of challenges but the future is full of unprecedented possibilities?
The answer is yes to all three. It’s going to be an amazing ten weeks.