Three shifts in fintech [Tel Aviv]

 

The Fintech-Aviv annual summit kicked off a week of high-energy events that brought leaders of finance, regulation and technology from around the world. More than 800 professionals filled the Barclays Rise floors in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv, on Sunday, February 9. Strong content and solid networking were the hallmarks of the day.

New on the Horizon

I was honored to judge Fintech-Aviv’s startup competition alongside fellow judges Piotr WidackiRobby Hilkowitz, and Nir Netzer. Nine competitors from Israel, Europe and North America competed for free All-Access passes to LendIt Fintech USA 2020, which takes place this year in New York on May 13-14. After spirited debate, the judges granted blue ribbons to three companies: bsurance of Austria, which uses parametric data to provide better a insurance product; TeleMessage of USA, which provides fully-compliant text messaging to financial institutions; and Facetrom of Israel, which uses facial feature analysis for risk assessment (yes, you heard that right).  Each of companies — and more — were well-deserving to stand in the winners circle. Other noteworthy competitors included JustWallet, Brandefender, Fincom, Stratyfy, Robin and BeeEye. Special thanks to Nir and Tal Sharon of Equitech for inviting me to participate.

After the Fintech-Aviv festivities, we held the 16th edition of our renowned Fintech Roundtable, where we gathered twenty leaders in financial services innovation, including investors, bankers and fintech CEOs. Topics ranged from finance and technology trends to politics. Here I learned the Hebrew term “dugri,” which means roughly “straight talk.” That is, straight enough to sting, but said from the heart, without rudeness, and with only good intent. This is exactly the kind of thing we look for in a roundtable. We aim to get hyggeligt and speak dugri.
packed house

Of Regulation and Dystopia

At Fintech Week TLV I was delighted to moderate a panel that included the esteemed, soft spoken regulator Marius Jurgilas, along with Shahar Friedman of Visa Innovation Studio, William Samengo-Turner of Allen & Overy, and Sarah Millerton of the Copenhagen Fintech Association. It was an excellent panel that probed the depths of both dystopian and utopian views of the future. In Orwellian fashion, it was difficult to tell where Utopia ended and Dystopia began. Special thanks to Jonny Paul for inviting me to moderate.
I also listening to the Financial Conduct Authority’s new Director of Innovation, Nick Cook, who stated “we [the FCA] must be ambitious and bold.” Ah, sweet music! They are not stopping at a regulatory sandbox, but are now building a digital data sandbox for fintechs to play in, to test their developments against massive piles of clean, high quality data. To quote my Israeli friend, “the data, that is the solid one!” Further to the FCA’s credit, in order to effectively regulate the 60,000 entities under its umbrella, the organization is actively seeking to deploy advanced technologies to assist their Yeoman, but merely human, efforts.  I have regulator envy.

Three Trends in Fintech

So here they are, the three trends I saw in Tel Aviv that have implications industry-wide:
  1. We are making the move from The Great Unbundling to re-bundling financial services.  Apparently there are only two ways to make money: unbundle and do one niche better, or rebundle and make it easier to do all the things.
  2. In the future, everyone becomes a fintech. At LendIt Fintech we call this embedded finance, and it plays a starring role in our content agendas at each of our major conferences.
  3. Behavioral science is more noticeably penetrating financial services, and is helping consumers to make better financial choices.

Strike that chord again

A final note, striking the chord that I strummed in the above video: Israel is by no means perfect, but it is a special place, and the fintech community is doing special things. They are experiencing a virtuous cycle specific to itself. To take advantage of this dynamic, come to Israel and extend your commercial friendship. If you behave with integrity and forthrightness, you will find warmth and willingness in return. In Israel, to be an ally is to be family. I encourage you to come make family in Israel.

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