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Money 20/20 Asia 2018 recap

#FinTech

This week, more than 15,000 financial and IT professionals from all over the world gathered in Singapore for the Money 20/20 Asia conference. This was the first time the event has been held in Asia.

Billed as being the event “that everyone shaping the future of money” attends, the show focuses primarily on payments and the growing disruption of the fintech industry as a whole.

Here are some of the most important themes from this year’s event along with highlights from thought leaders and experts in the financial and tech industries.

Processing, Instant Payments, and Open Platforms

It’s no secret that the banking and payments industry is being disrupted on an almost daily basis. New technologies and hot young startups are obliterating old ways of currency exchange and catering to a new generation of mobile users who have never stepped foot inside a brick-and-mortar bank.

In an opening session on Tuesday entitled, “Competing in a New Financial Services Playing Field,” Piyush Gupta of DBS Group talked about how platforms with massive customer bases like Amazon and Facebook are a threat to banks in the long run. “The cost of customer acquisition is the key to fintech success,” Gupta stated. “We need to figure out a way that we can continue to be relevant to the consumer in this paradigm and not just wind up disappearing as a piece of woodwork,” he added.

Financial Service Playing

If banks and financial institutions begin acting more like big tech giants, will that help them become and stay more relevant? That was the question BBVA’s Derek White discussed in his talk about who will own banking in the future: banks or big tech?

White stated that many banks and traditional financial institutions have not reached the digital tipping point into today’s DIY-everything world. By not adapting, he predicted that the 20,000 banks worldwide will shrink down to a few thousand over the next few years and even down to just a “dozen” or so in the future.

One of the things White stressed was the importance of interactions. Tech companies may have a lot more interactions with a customer, but banks have higher value transactions. A “like” on a social media post is not nearly as valuable as an in-person meeting, a handshake or a phone call. This type of interaction builds trust, and a lot of consumers are wary of the amounts of data that big tech is collecting from them.

When it comes to the importance of focusing more on personalized customer experiences, Grace Yin of WeChat Pay, summed it up best when she said, “Payments used to signify the end of a customer relationship. Now it marks the beginning.”

Bank (R)evolution

What does innovation look like in the modern financial services industry? Will new fintech startups kill traditional banking as we know it?

One way that traditional banks can behave more like startups is by engaging with customers much earlier on in the buying process. DBS Group CEO Piyush Gupta calls this his “make banking invisible” theory. He suggests that if you start connecting with and offering value to the customer six-months before they are ready to buy a house, you can become part of their journey. The “loan” just becomes part of the experience.

In his presentation, “Embedding Financial Services into Consumers’ Everyday Life Experience,” ICICI Bank’s Chief Technology Officer Madhivanan Balakrishnan discussed the difference between the online and in-person banking experience. “The branch will play the relationship role and the practical role will be played by the digital channel,” Balakrishnan said to the audience. “Branches are still where people go to for advice.”

Bits & Blocks: Coins & Ledgers

Blockchain and cryptocurrency were definitely among the most popular topics at this year’s Money 20/20 Asia show.

“Blockchain is more than just playing with cryptocurrencies,” said Cheng Li of Ant Financial. The company is using blockchain for smart contracts and to bring transparency and trust to charitable donations and supply chains. “Could we do what we do without blockchain?” Li asked. “Yes! But it’s not an elegant solution without it.”

Chen Li

The company is also using artificial intelligence to reduce payment risk and increase customer service and inquiry response time.

In a chat about “A New Payments System for the Digital Age,” Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse talked about why he believes blockchain-powered solutions are better than the current system.

“SWIFT’s published error rate is six percent,” said Garlinghouse. “Imagine if six percent of your emails didn’t go through without additional human intervention.”

When it comes to cryptocurrency, Garlinghouse announced Ripple’s plans to invest in startups that can provide alternatives uses for its own XRP cryptocurrency. In an interview with TechCrunch during the show, he stated, “We will stay focused on solving that institutional use case, but we would certainly partner with companies that are looking to use XRP in lots of different ways.”

More promising announcements came from Monaco Card - a company working on a cryptocurrency wallet app paired with a prepaid ATM card that would increase cryptocurrency adoption. They've presented their app that's about to go live, and shared plans in this interview.

Next Gen Retail & Commerce

An entirely new generation of consumers are making payments and transfers from their mobile phones. Most of them have never written a check and they rarely carry cash. Rather than swiping a card, they’re using their thumbprint to activate their Apple or Google Pay at the checkout.

What does the future hold for these already advanced buyers? Warren Hayashi of Adyen Payments has a plan. The company presented its “3 Rules for the Future of Retail,” which are…

1.    Make them love the brand.

2.    Offer convenience and personalization.

3.    Provide a low-cost infrastructure.

Hayashi also talked about how consumers want to shop in brick and mortar stores, but have little patience for standing on long lines to check out at terminals. They would rather be able to pay in a contactless or biometric manner.

Speaking of the role of biometrics in payments, MasterCard showcased a new biometric payment card that works with your thumbprint. The company also demonstrated how it is utilizing QR codes to process payments for vendors who may not have a payment terminal or to speed up the in-store payment process. Through a mobile phone app, MasterCard customers can simply scan a printed QR code at a vendor location and process the payment. No card and no cash required.

Financial Inclusion

There are currently more than 2 billion people in the world that are unbanked.

That’s how the panel entitled “Bringing the World Equal Opportunities: Building an Open TechFin Platform” began. With all the latest advancements in technology and payments in general, it’s hard to grasp the fact that so many people still have to go to a physical location and stand on a line in order to make a simple financial transaction.

During the panel, Cheng Li of Ant Financial talked about how they are building a platform for greater financial inclusiveness and leveling the playing field for merchants and businesses of all sizes and in all locations around the world. He used the example of a herdsman and a small merchant located at the foot of Mount Everest and explained how technology is making it possible for such communities to have access to financial services that were once unavailable to people like them. Ant Financial is on a mission to reshape microloan services and make them more accessible and inclusive than ever before.

“We are co-shaping the future with our partners,” Li said.

Startup Pitch @ Money20/20

Money 20/20’s Startup Pitch is a competition that gives 15 startups in the AI, wealth management, biometrics, and payments space the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of VC judges.

Startup-pitch-Money-Asia-2020

This year’s winner was Chekk, a solution that provides a built-in digital identity ecosystem for consumers to decide what personal information should be shared with companies.

The other two semi finalists included Brankas – a money management app for consumers and small businesses, and Moin - a blockchain-based international money transfer solution.

Conclusion

Attendees of the 2018 Money20/20 Asia event are walking away with a ton of knowledge when it comes to the future of the payments and financial industry as a whole. The key takeaway from most of the sessions and speakers is pretty simple: if you’re not ready (and eagerly) willing to adapt to all the changes and disruption that technology continues to bring to the banking sector, you will soon be extinct.

In summing up this year’s event, we believe that Vinayak Prasad of Verifone said it best:

”Disruption in payments is a myth. We only evolve.”

Image credit: @bravenewcoin, @HerbertRSim, @feedzai

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