Fintech Meetup made its live debut this March after a couple of years connecting fintech aficionados via pandemic-era video chat and, I'll be honest, I wasn't sure how it would translate. Take 600 1:1 discussions and have them start simultaneously in the same grand ballroom - chaos must ensue, right? While a skeptic at first, it somehow really worked.
Speed dating for fintechs, as it's dubbed. While on the surface, it has the makings of a typical conference - a packed exhibitor hall, coffee stations at every turn and the over-perfumed corridors of a Las Vegas hotel - I would challenge you to find a more efficient conference to make authentic connections (24, to be exact).
There's something truly unique about a time-boxed conversation: 15 minutes to make your case, test a few talk tracks, learn about someone or something new and find a "there" there. Nearly no time at all was devoted to the weather.
When the conference came to a close, a few themes stood out to me.
1. The bank whose name shall not be spoken.
Underneath the surface, while not named in any of the programming (likely because of its recency and the lead time that goes into planning a large scale conference), the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was in the subtext of nearly every discussion. SVB, the bank of many longstanding technology companies and VCs, was widely entangled within the fintech ecosystem. It would have been dishonest to have a meaningful discussion without some reference to SVB, even if veiled in euphemisms of the state of the market. What it all means for the future of VC money as the lifeblood of many sprouting (and sprouted?) technology companies and the fear of a potential canary in the coalmine brought a certain feeling of uncertainty across the week. Yet, we carried on.
2. Embedded Finance is the future of customer retention.
Embedded finance and banking-as-a-service had its own track on Monday morning, showcasing the way financial services are delivered through brands to provide services such as payments, credit and insurance without having to build their own systems. The march toward every company becoming a fintech company was founded on a few basic ideas: (1) brands have the consumer intelligence to offer the right financial product at the right time (2) open banking and technology infrastructure can seamlessly embed into any digital experience and (3) vertical integration with financial services is viewed as a value add, both for the consumer (as an added convenience) and the brand (as a new revenue source).
While perhaps only a nuanced change, embedded finance is more and more being viewed from the lens of customer retention and customer (re)engagement for brands. Brands can more deeply interact with customers with greater access to data and more of an ability to cross-sell other products. The takeaway being that brands are finding the real value of embedded finance may be in expanding customer CLV.
3. Midsize banks will prioritize finding the right fintech partnership fit.
Midsize banks will focus more on finding the right technology partner to grow and fortify their business. Traditionally, these institutions have built their business on fostering trust and deep relationships with clients by focusing on customer service, satisfaction and higher NPS scores. But with the recent flight of deposits and the sudden uncertainty of standing in the market, it will be important to adopt and partner with fintechs that can quickly ramp-up the utility provided to clients.
Adopting the right technology (and fintech partnerships) will play a crucial role in restarting the flywheel of customer satisfaction, thus deepening the relationships by affording faster access to accounts, credit products and payment capabilities. The larger banks have doubled down on technology in recent years, and now midsize banks are looking to follow suit.
And now I have 24 new friends.
I'm looking forward to next year's meetup and would certainly recommend attending. It's a great way to meet new folks across the industry and reconnect with a friendly face or two.