Raf de Kimpe – CEO Fintech Week London
Collaboration and reorganisation: how fintech is weathering the storm
Raf De Kimpe, CEO of Fintech Week London, offers a unique perspective on the inner workings of financial services (FS) industry. He regularly meets with those leading the organisations that are shaping the future of the industry.
Next month, Fintech Week London hosts its annual event at Tottenham Hotspur’s magnificent stadium in North London. Raf met with our MD Chris Hopwood to share his views on the critical issues facing the FS industry and provide an overview of the highly anticipated event in June.
How are the plans for the event shaping up, Raf?
We’re aware that the global economy is going through a tough time right now and marketing budgets are under pressure. Our concern was that the number of sponsors and attendees could be down from last year, but we haven’t seen that at all. There are actually more sponsors than last year and there’s a huge willingness to showcase their propositions. However we do see that most sponsors are working with tighter budgets and we must accommodate to support the industry.
In fact, the number of attendees is higher than where we were at this point in 2022. Our event is not the most expensive, so we attract a large number of people over the week.
(you can read more about the event below)
You’ve obviously had a chance to talk to sponsors and speakers over the last few months. What do you see as critical trends for decision-makers in fintech right now? From your perspective, what are the common themes you hear about?
There’s certainly a threat to all businesses at present due to the state of the world economy. That’s obviously shaping each and every decision that people make in fintech too. People also feel the rise in cost of living at home, and take this with them to the office when making decisions.
However, I believe there has been a positive shift on the investment side. Historically, decisions were driven by valuation and growth, but now you see investors making decisions based on actual revenue and recurring revenue. The analysis is centred on existing products and market fit rather than future potential.
So, in terms of investment, I see this shift as a positive trend that encourages a more realistic and grounded approach.
Aside from the investment trends, what other changes are you seeing?
There is a movement towards more collaboration, and we are witnessing an increased number of partnerships forming between organisations. This feels logical, especially in a year of consolidation. It creates an excellent breeding ground for creativity and updating outdated ways of working. When businesses have to consider their revenues and business models, there are opportunities to take advantage of other people’s established networks and routes to market with their products and services.
So, I’m definitely seeing more partnerships and collaborations.
The drive for better consumer experience has always been there but the focus has sharpened significantly over the last year. That’s where fintech has a big advantage over established players in financial services. There is a real emphasis on customer-centric propositions and this trend continues to gather momentum, whether that’s B2B or B2C.
Artificial intelligence is an emerging area that will shape all industries, and the finance industry will be no different. Expect fintech and AI businesses to join forces and create even more innovation. The amount of investment pouring into AI is staggering:
“Artificial intelligence startups raise over $50 billion venture capital funding in 2022” – GlobalData ‘23
“We expect the market at a 32% CAGR to reach $98.1 billion by 2026” – PitchBook March ’23
“Venture capitalists race to land next AI deal on Big Tech’s turf.” – Reuters ‘23
Finally, sustainability continues to get talked about. This isn’t just greenwashing to tick a box; there is a genuine drive to develop sustainable products and business models that consider ESG requirements. I think that’s a trend where you will see fintech lead the way in coming years.
(We agree with this – over the next month we’ll have an article focusing on the key trends in ESG after recent interviews with fintech companies achieving B-Corp status)
Are there any specific trends that you think are having a negative affect or will be major factor in shaping the sector in the future?
Funding is clearly an issue right now. According to CB Insights report on global fintech funding;
- Q4 2021 saw $38 billion funding 1,428 deals
- Q4 2022 saw $10 billion funding 972 deals
I think regulation will become a more serious consideration. I wouldn’t call it detrimental, but I think regulation has a big impact on the sector and it’s both positive and negative. In the early years of fintech, regulators appeared to have an attitude of ‘let’s see how this can improve the industry’. The main idea in fintech was to do something good for the consumer, so the regulator wasn’t overly intrusive.
However, in other areas such as the crypto world and Web 3.0, the goal wasn’t necessarily about protecting or helping the consumer. It felt different, with more risk and inadequate controls. But regulators are getting more and more involved which I think is a good thing as long as they create rules that don’t supresses innovation. If regulation stifles innovation, we’ll be left with convoluted processes that could set us back years without benefiting the consumer.
Anyone working in financial services felt that fintech could act as a positive force for change for consumers. Do you feel that it has achieved that aim and is there more to come?
I don’t think we’re there yet. Improving the consumer experience was one of the original objectives, as the incumbents were moving far too slowly. The established players weren’t really listening to what the consumer needed, and the experience was delivered on archaic technology.
However, the challenger banks, or neo banks as you may call them, are actually putting the needs of the consumer first and building solutions on highly flexible platforms. As with any new initiatives, there’s been a lot of learning along the way. Some have tried and not been as successful as they hoped, while others have succeeded but are now facing new issues due to the economy. And you definitely see the impact on the incumbents as well, who have done a huge effort to deliver client needs and better customer experiences.
So, I don’t believe we’ve reached the goal yet, but fintech and new entrants have changed the outlook of the industry. They are more customer-centric and are creating propositions that challenge the status quo.
Is there anything else in terms of impact that may be slowing down the development or delivery that the industry had hoped to achieve?
I don’t like to focus on the negative, but we can’t ignore some of the bad press. A significant trend that can’t be ignored, is bad practice. There are quite a few big names, especially in the Web 3.0 world, that were either overvalued or using risky tactics. The crypto boom and decline have definitely had an impact, and it will shape the landscape for years to come. The original idea of ‘giving more power to the people’ has clearly at times not been the end goal for some of the industry players and they took advantage of a new trend and a regulator that couldn’t keep up at the time.
The hope was that fintech companies would be more trustworthy and defenders of consumers. News about crashes and unprotected individuals losing their investments does a lot of damage to the industry. It positions us all together in the financial services industry, rather than a separate group trying to do things differently.
So, regaining trust will be a challenge for the whole industry, and it should be done in collaboration with regulators.
We agree about being positive. Our founders worked during the .com boom and you can see very similar patterns. When the boom ended, lots of people thought it was a flash in the pan. But the boom just laid the foundations.
The change and innovation that followed was slower but more effective. Let’s talk about the reasons to be positive then. How do you see fintech progressing over the medium to long term?
I call what we’re going through at present a ‘reconciliation’ rather than a crisis or a bubble. The industry is trying to test the limits and challenge the boundaries. We’re truly coming of age and the industry still has tremendous capacity to reshape financial services.
The FS industry is huge and remains one of the largest in the world. We haven’t suddenly come to a halt. The market is still there and I believe the customer experience has always been substandard. Historically, people had to go to a bank and wait for hours in line or endure painfully long and dysfunctional online experiences. Fortunately, these things are becoming a thing of the past and it’s driven by our industry. Established players are being forced to up their game.
Innovators can build on this change and create better services and enhanced ways for individuals and businesses to manage their finances.
Embedded finance will evolve and become widely adopted and used. I know it’s talked about a lot but there is much more to come. Especially for investors, it remains an interesting opportunity. During COVID, the infrastructure and systems for all the assets, open banking, open finance, and embedded finance were built. Most of it is already available in the market.
So, if you have a good idea and want to develop it, around 90% of what you need is probably already out there. By utilising existing platform that exists and forming partnerships, you can quickly build something that can make a difference.
There is a sense of collaboration and willingness within the industry. As I mentioned earlier, the partnerships happening now can sustain the momentum and drive further innovation.
Who do you think will be the winners and losers? What characteristics do you think will contribute to success versus those that could face difficulties?
The reconciliation we are experiencing will rebalance the industry and provide a platform for advancement. We were probably overstretching by looking only at valuations and rapid growth. We need sustainable business models.
The firms that will struggle are probably those with a cash burn stretching beyond two years or those that lack an actual product that effectively serves current needs now.
I also believe that companies that have spent a lot of time changing personnel in the c-suite, hoping that fresh blood will provide answers to direction and plans, may face challenges if the strategy hasn’t been consistent or clear.
On the other hand, if companies have maintained a consistent strategy, actively see uptake of their products and services, and have a small but profitable business model, they will be able to navigate through and continue their journey. However, decision-makers need to keep moving forward and not rest on their laurels. Standing still will allow other innovators to overtake and disappear into the distance.
Although it’s harder now, and there is less funding, stopping the innovation cycle will quickly make a company outdated and eliminate its reason to exist.
Lastly, let’s return to collaboration. Companies that are open to collaboration and are generally open-minded will find success in the future. This work can’t be done in isolation.
Finally, Raf. Why would attending Fintech Week London be a wise decision for people in the industry?
There are two essential aspects that we combine.
Firstly, attendees will have the opportunity to access highly knowledgeable speakers who provide the latest thinking in the industry, contributing to personal development. Secondly, we have a significant number of attendees, providing a chance to meet key industry people. As mentioned, collaboration is crucial for future success.
Our event features great names and experienced individuals on stage. We have a very experienced content board to ensure you will absorb a lot of information that challenges your thinking and prepares you for the future.
Furthermore, we have the right people in the room. 70 per cent of our attendees are decision makers. While I’ve mentioned partnerships several times, I believe we’re the perfect event for fintechs, incumbents or investors, to attend and meet other industry leaders.
Fintech Week London is taking place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – 19-20 June 2023
If you’d like to learn more about Fintech Week London visit the website here:
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