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 !