FINTECH IN FOCUS: Driving towards the future of banking and payments: Takeaways from Money20/20

October 30, 2017

- Tylor Tourville

Well, another Money20/20 is in the books. From its humble beginnings in 2012, this was the conference’s biggest year yet, both in attendance (11,000+ attendees) and the energy and excitement about the future of banking and payments. I had the pleasure of representing BackBay Communications at the conference and had the opportunity to meet and talk with so many wonderful people who are passionate about their work in improving financial services through technology. As I sit here on the plane back to Boston with a few hours to kill, I thought I’d share a couple takeaways from the 4-day event held in Las Vegas.

It is clear the industry is moving towards a more salubrious future, making financial services more efficient for all parties involved.

The next wave of innovative technologies like AI and blockchain are coming, but how soon is still TBD

I won’t spend too much time on this, as there are people far smarter than me that can talk the nuts and bolts of Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, but these were two of the key areas of innovation that held everyone’s attention during the conference.

Day 1 featured an “AI Deep Dive,” with Money20/20 bringing out major names such as Ray Kurzweil and Steve Wozniak to give their thoughts on the prospects of AI in financial services. While this was exciting and generated interest in the topic, it seems like we really aren’t there yet.

Day 3 of the conference had a whole content track dedicated to blockchain, covering everything from ICOs, to examining Bitcoin’s role in China, to prognosticating about global regulation. Similar to AI, not too much substance here, other than maybe Mastercard’s announcement of their blockchain-based business-to-business (B2B) payments offering.

In the end, it seems like we may have to wait a year (or three) before real life, impactful applications start to take form. However, as one person I talked to pointed out, there is still a knowledge gap that exists when it comes to AI and blockchain, and so all of this attention actually served an important purpose in bringing the right folks together to come to a common understanding of the subject matter and their applications. And that will go a long way in accelerating the process from ideas to action.

The future will be driven by the customer

The collective mindset of the industry is moving towards a customer-centric approach. Rather than focus on products and services that a customer may want, banks, payment providers, card issuers and fintechs alike are flipping that notion on its head and increasingly asking, “How can we serve our customers holistically?”

Financial wellness and inclusion were two important components of this that were discussed frequently. PayPal CEO Dan Schulman was especially emphatic about this in his talk, calling for financial institutions to not only do right by their existing customers, but pushing them to pursue financial inclusion and expand their reach to the 70 million people in the US that are not part of the financial services system.

Intuit’s announcement of the merger between TurboTax and Mint (into Turbo) was a tangible of example of this transformation in motion. The merger brings together TurboTax’s massive repository of relevant tax data, into Mint’s daily/weekly/monthly financial planning and optimization tool to help the consumer chart a path towards a better financial future.

It was announcements like this, as well as talks from influential folks such as Schulman, that really stuck with conference attendees, including myself, and hopefully inspired the financial institutions and technology players to follow suit and explore areas for strategic partnerships.

Implications for Marketing and PR

As a public relation and marketing professional focused on financial services and financial technology, the conference overall gave me optimism about the future of banking and payments. There is an energy you could feel in the venue, from the chatter going on in the sessions and panels, to the networking in the exhibition hall. Between news about new products, services or partnerships, it is clear the industry is moving towards a more salubrious future, making financial services more efficient for all parties involved. My hope is that this optimism will serve as a reminder of the importance of an integrated communications strategy in ensuring the great stories of these firms are told, and more importantly, heard by the pertinent industry participants.