Fintech IQ or the unbundling of FinTech skills

The abundance of FinTech sources makes very complicated to separate noise from substance.

The number of ‘experts‘ in this space is as puzzling as the proliferation of “Top XXX Fintech” where XXX equals Influencers, Experts, People to Watch and the criteria to put together these “who’s who” are to say the least subjective. (the only “objective” one are based on social media influence, but this again is fuzzy, because it does not capture the “quality” of the network – hear me, CityAM).

What is required (or suitable) to be meaningful in this super hyped space ? (my absolutely challengeable opinion of course) :

1- deep understanding of how financial services actually work. The ACTUAL financial services, which are given 98% by banks or financial institutions (yes, even the alternative lending is actually a fraction of the traditional one). As trivial at it may sounds, a decade in a bank is not enough to claim this. Not even two. Simply because the multiple businesses of financial institutions have reached a complexity that very few people can claim to have faced.

2- be a tech savvy, enough to evaluate the replicability of the technology you are facing at given time. To be more clear and to give the simplest example, in the era of Internet, it’s all about scale. Countless startups have failed because the architecture of their great idea did not scale fast enough or was not robust enough even in the AWS (if you dont know what that is you are not passing point 2, btw) era. Do not forget that integration with existing systems is the biggest challenge a startup willing to sell to banks has to face. You can outsource these assessments, of course, it s what we called an expensive due diligence, but here again – you need to know who you work with and here is number….

3-  have a solid, multi-dimensional (tech, business development, sales, financial structuring, security, entrepreneurs, investors, bankers) network that you can pull when you need at the fastest possible speed. This is a VERY delicate point, as some people confuse the number of LinkedIn connections with the opportunity to reach out to as many of these guys as possible at any given time. I have extensively spoke about being a Connector in another post, and this is not the same, although the WAY your network  will help you is certainly influenced by the mindset with which you have developed it

4- (still not optional) figure out where the capital is and how to reach it and have some experience in how to deploy it. It’s obviously easier if you are a FinTech investor, but if you are not, understanding if and when is a good time to ask for how much money to do what is a real asset. You would say – I hear you – that this is not a FinTech expertise, but a generic investor skill. Well, point is FinTech needs capital by definition, whether is to fund a start-up or to convince a large bank to concept-proof a new idea and make the link from the ideas to the funding in the best possible way is invaluable. This comes back to point 3 again, there are Ways and ways to “connect” to investors, but you get that by now.

5- (optional but extremely compelling if added to the previous four) : have a vertical expertise in the new FinTech frontiers that only a (business) blind can’t see : Insurance, IOT (again, failing point 2 if i have to explain the acronym), Distributed Ledgers, Financial Inclusion, combined with the right pinch of business acumen to get the best out of being the (amongst the) first mover.

6- (optional and often the one that is the most visible, but compelling and lasting only when the previous ones are also at play) be a FinTech opinion leader or a successful CEO/Founder (the latter by definition implying most of the other assets). I am the first one witnessing that keep talking at conferences without deepening your expertise won’t make you compelling long enough, as substance will lack, sooner or later.

Supposing we all agree with this hypothesis, it would interesting now to figure what are the best combinations of these skills serving which community, as – of course – is kind of hard to be all of it at the same time.

Thoughts welcome, of course !


Stay tuned



The largest the bank, the less they (should, would, will) care ?

Despite the fact that I have some 23 hours plane on my way to Sydney, this post will be a short one, because in the meantime I posted another one. Plus now I am beyond busy finalising FinTechStage.
It’s just a conversation I had recently with someone I do consider very highly and respect a lot.

As I partner in a venture fund, a billion dollar exit would be considered a success, no doubts. Well, it’s reasonable to think a fund like the one I am managing with Mircea would still hold some low 2-digit stake in the exited company. So we could make at least our limited partners recover their money and by all means accomplished a very important part of our mission : not to loose money.
Usually, the timing for such an exit would be somewhere between 5 and 7 years from the build up of the investment vehicle.

Now, look at is with another angle : “I am a global bank and my NET profit, yearly, IS in Billions.”
Therefore, the risk associated with a disruptive start-up aiming to have a billion dollar exit is it worth the danger of being fined, the  reputation loss, the technological risk (not applicable to all ideas, but mostly on the most “disruptive”).

Every innovation movement has its own internal and external detractors. We observe Fintech funds associated to financial institutions not an exception.
Make money obviously cannot be the ONLY reason to invest in start-ups if we look at it with the eyes of a big player, even if there are a couple of funds claiming the financial return their sole objective. It does not seem to be impactful enough.

The fine balance – in my humble opinion – is to have a self-sustained financial vehicle that make a wise mix between what can allow the fund to keep existing, what can really change the bank and what has the potential to change the world.

In the next 18 months, we will have another 10 funds and roughly another 2 Billion USD, set up by banks or insurances, my crystal ball is telling me. It will be extremely interesting to see how their construct and scope evolve.

Stay tuned


Fintech Women – Batch Three

Let’s continue my sharing of the Fintech world, this time with the – not enough represented, in my opinion – list of Fintech Women I came across in my recent past.


This is a mix of Investors, Bankers, Entrepreneurs and (one) journalist, I could have added many PR experts, focusing on FinTech, but I rather choose not to, reason being the following people evolve in a typically male-crowded environment, and the only thought that comes to mind is that I would love to know more of them.

Claire Calmejane

Claire has one of the most lovely French accents with a perfect English. Beside trying to make English people pronouncing correctly her family name (‘Call me Jane’ is her last option, when it becomes too difficult), Claire is leading with the most open innovation approach the R&D and Innovation department of a very ‘traditional’ UK bank, way more involved in digital and forward thinking than anybody could suspect. We share the advisory board of Bootcamp, and when it comes to start-ups she knows stuff. A lot.


Mariela Atanassova, alias ‘sister’ (to me).

Innotribe co-founder, left SWIFT an year ago and – truly – on of the most brilliant minds I know. She has her moments, a very hard time to say ‘no’ to new engagements even if that means no sleep for few following nights, but she gets it so fast that I always forgive her, no matter what. She is also my impresario, meaning the prefect soundboard for new things. We now designed FinTechStage agenda together, in the middle of a dozen of other commitments she has. I have never introduced Mela to anybody and get a negative (even slightly) feedback.


Shivani Siroya

CEO and co-founder of Inventure, we met for the first time at Sibos last year and again in Money2020 in Vegas. The only representative of a start-up advising the Gates Foundation, extremely knowledgeable in Financial Inclusion matters, and very sharp. Deeply admire her mission and focus.


Roberta Profeta

Italian soul blended in a multi-cultural life, representing the innovation arm of the largest Italian bank in London. Very well connected and experienced in banking, and precious asset for any start-up who wants to deal with the bank she works for. Also in Bootcamp advisory board, not a tech-savvy (she says) but a business-driven mind, and – as well – a dear friend.


Leda Glyptis

Leda personifies the Greek energy with an English allure powered by an incredible fast brain. She is the innovation sparkle (I just introduced her this way in an email and loved it) of the UK operations of a very large US bank. Great start-up mentor, knows payments and securities inside out, and this not even begins to describe how compelling her business sense is.


Anna Irrera

Anna is the only journalist of this list, but impossible not to mention her when we talk about FinTech. She defines herself a Fintech Geek, since she interrupted her holidays for a day to attend a very important fintech event (ooops, sorry, secret revealed). I am amazed how quickly she became a point of reference in the investors, start-ups and banks eco-systems in such a short period of time. She is from Turin, and no Italian city suits her better: it s the home of the ‘coolness’ and the ‘silent forces’ in Italy, and she totally fits in


Jilliene Helman

Jilliene is CEO and founder of Realty Mogul. Must say, when I first met her pitching at Innotribe (one of the winners) I immediately spot her business sharpness and acumen, it s the kind of CEO you would want in any start-up, and rightly disrupting the real estate crowd-funding market. Great speaker, assertive, vocal, shameless, everything I love.


Melissa Guzy

I just met Melissa in Hong Kong, the only female founding partner of a Fintech Fund (whom I know of) , focussing on Asia-based start-ups. Silicon Valley mind, tons of companies vetted, fast mind, strong opinions, and I am sure (and I hope) we will do business together soon. Melissa’s global view of the Fintech start-up market is an invaluable asset for the Investors crowd.


Vanessa Colella

Vanessa is a key executive of the Venture arm of a global US bank, one of the first (if not THE first one) to build a proper Venture structure. I had the honour to sit in a panel with her at Sibos last year. What I love in a ‘banker’ like Vanessa is that she understands totally the world of start-ups (and beyond) and very effectively navigates between the strategic and the return aspect of the investments, which is the dilemma (or the dichotomy) of may bank-driven funds.


Samantha Ghiotti

Sam is the co-founder of Anthemis Edge, and it might be due to the Italian chromosomes but in the past two months only many people I get in touch to, in organizing FinTechStage, referred me to her. Samantha is a blended mix of entrepreneurship, strategic advisor and start-up mentor, with a great sense of where the money should go, when it comes to invest. Not to mention she has a great approach to life as well, carefully balancing her career with the family, and I really respect her for this. We stepped into each other in various cities already, and I am glad she is coming to Milan as well.


Duena Blomstrom

Duena is a Fintech entrepreneur, with many jobs at the same time, the main one as a CMO of Meniga, a well funded PFM start-up. Also in the board of several companies, NextBank conference agenda planner, and with no doubts very well connected in our world. She is a Misfit in the most glorious way, in this world.


Claire Cockerton

I have met Claire since her beginnings in Level39, when Innotribe became one of its first tenants. Claire is now heading one of the most visible London Fintech Initiatives, Innovate Finance, and very well connected to the several initiatives of the city with regards of this world



Let me know if you find valuable this sharing, especially done it in such an ‘informal’ way… again, this is not a ranking, is not a who’s who list, and it s done in the sole purpose of giving visibility to the people I think are moving and shaking the Fintech world as I see it.


If you want to take this opportunity to let me know who else I should (have) put in this post, feel free as well.


Stay Tuned





Fintech people, Batch Two – January 2015

Looks like my previous post  of this kind was not only understood, but well read. Again, the purpose is not to make any ranking or who’s who type of list, but see people through their challenges, the context we met or talked, and simply share.
The month of January has started with abnormal amount of miles, setting up FintechStage at the same time, closing a couple of more deals, and obviously invited in the board meetings of our portfolio.
Yet, I manage to bump into some new and really interesting people,this month alone, and I would like to write about them.

– Mariano Belinky

Mariano is an exception to a rule I thought I had: partners from big 5 consulting companies have pretty much a corporate profile, wear a suit all the time and tend to think more than do. Mariano has the very big challenge to bring a 360 degrees FinTech investment strategy in one of the largest banking groups, with a global footprint. We met in the very cool Second Home hub in London Shoreditch, a place that all of us fintech lovers would instinctively like. I am amazed how much he managed to do since he joined the bank, only few weeks ago. I Love zero bullshit, smart, pragmatic and fast people. He is one of them.

– Guillaume Dubray

Guillaume is a young partner in a Swiss fund, happen to have invested in an early stage  startup we then lead the Series A of. What I like about talking to him is the “be independent” strong life motivation. We always have a very straightforward chat of the Fintech VC world, with no fringe discussions. He s younger than me,  and a very good advisor.

– Roberto Ferrari

General Manager of a very innovative Italian bank, and unlike many executives in his position, very aware of what his bank needs to do to stand out in terms of Innovation practices from the rest of the crowd. “Openness” would be one of his strongest assets, and to me is extremely valuable for a today’s bank. It gives agility, fast learning and customer focus. Working a lot with the Italian start-up eco-system as well, and smartly looking on ho two build synergies abroad.

– Mario Costantini

Mario as well has the challenge to manage many aspects of innovation. Start-up engagement and investment issues for the biggest Italian bank player, with obviously an established international presence. What is incredible is how we manage not to meet before, since we were born in the same town, studied at the same university and have a lot of good friends in common, so we didn’t need much time to connect.
He has all the good sides of being an intrapreneur, which is fundamental to accomplish the mission he has, and it must be the same background but conversation has nothing of a “just met” person

– Leticia Romero

Leticia is a very nice surprise, connected on LinkedIn from a while but only recently met. Why a surprise? Because I was searching for a while to understand better the innovation and most importantly the start-up engagement of this very large French bank and finally I managed to catch the right person. Integrating startups, finding the right counterparts inside the banks and screen fast what s compelling from the noise is a job I understand well, and Leticia is pragmatically good at it.

– Moshe Tamir 

Global Chief Innovation officer of a very large insurance group. Now, funnily enough two different contacts of mine both mentioned my name to him in the same week, so it was destiny I guess we were meant to talk. Insurance business is what I would call a Fintech vertical, with a huge potential for innovation, and looks to me like the banking industry few years back. The upside in this case is that what insurance groups need for real innovation became available not long go, in terms of technology, and not every insurance group has settled the right Organizational changes to cope with it. Moshe s background and challenges resonate a lot to my own story, and I value a lot “out of the comfort zone” people. Add a quick mind and a very good understand of technology and you get why he is where he is. Look forward to work more with him.

– Patrick Meisberger

I waited until today before finishing this post as I had a call planned with Patrick, and did not regret it. Patrick is one of the two partners of a newly created Fintech Venture Fund, built by ne of the largest german banks. He comes from the VC world, and this call was a real moment of serendipity. Same challenges, excitement and motivation that made me switch to the Venture Capital Fintech business, and i believe we will hear a lot about this team. Interesting how a while ago was very difficult to find people who’s job is to deal with start-ups within a banking environment, and now the collaboration and openness in this network becomes very tangible.
I need to find a way to write about all the amazing people I have met in the past seven Fintech years…most of the ones i like the most are not working. They are on a mission.
Both them and the mission are worth to share.

For the moment, let me gratefully celebrate this January new connections.

The picture is from Home town…a bit of a saudade I guess …

Stay tuned