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Expert opinion

Dave Birch on Money 20/20, 2018 edition - confessions of a happy attendee

Tuesday 12 June 2018 | 01:43 PM CET

Industry`s most influential thinkers from around the globe have joined Money20/20 Europe on stage to share their exclusive insights into the trends shaping financial services.

The Paypers has sat down with Dave Birch, author, advisor and commentator at Consult Hyperion, to find out what where his thoughts on this year’s edition and his main takeaways from the event. Of course, all wrapped up in Dave’s humorous style, which we all love and got accustomed to. Enjoy your reading!

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To be completely honest, it felt like a bit of a chore heading off to Money 20/20 Europe on a sunny Sunday afternoon as part of the Consult Hyperion team for the event at its new home in Amsterdam. I’d been in the Netherlands for a conference the week before and had a million other things to do so I can’t say that there was a spring in my step as we headed out to Terminal 5 and on to the Holiday Inn at the RAI.

Yet when I stumbled back through Terminal 5 four days later, so tired that I could hardly stand up, I still had a smile on my face. The event ticked all of the boxes that you would hope a business event would tick. It was bigger than last year's event in Copenhagen but it didn’t seem overwhelming and the layout of the RAI conference centre made for efficiency and serendipity in equal measure. It had a nice mixture of panels ranging from the serious and intellectual to the more frivolous but still educational. It had keynote speakers that you would want to see. It had a great mixture of established businesses and newer players all setting out their stalls on the conference floor.

Yes, the event had all of those things. But it was also fun. In the lead up to the event I didn’t really pay attention to the circus theme that they were creating for it. Yet it worked. Big time. The Money 20/20 team had created such an interesting atmosphere! As soon as you walked in in the morning you felt good about being there and the circus shtick was just simply fun.

I’m not afraid to admit it, even to my Finance Director. We had fun! We met clients and prospective clients but we also met friends old and new. We spent long days in and out of meetings then we went to a street party until all hours. We had client events in nightclubs and parks. I’m already looking forward to going again next year and there really aren’t that many events you can say that about.

When we were talking about the key themes from the event afterwards, I said that I thought that there were quite a few and that there were no standout dominant memes stalking the arena floor. Looking back on it, however, I think that there were three things that stood out from me as key opportunities and challenges enabled by continuing technological change.

The first of these was, obviously, identity. The identity deep dive session on Wednesday morning was absolutely round. I mean, rammed, standing room only, jam-packed full. I genuinely hadn’t anticipated this thinking that getting a full room on the final day for any topic would be something of a challenge, despite the fact that I had a great panel (Emma Lindley from Visa, Katryna Dow from Meeco, Jacoba Sieders from ABN Amro and Roger Haenni from Datum) and practical case studies from ForgeRock to finish the session.

Identity permeated throughout other discussions and debates as well. I think that may have to add a whole Identity 2020 day next time! Everyone understood just how pressing the need for mass market solutions to deliver identification, authentication and authorisation services to support transactions and there were plenty of talks about biometrics, blockchains and bots implementing digital identity for our new online world.

The second of these was open banking and the regulatory shaping of the financial services sector. My Consult Hyperion colleague Tim Richards ran the workshop on Open Banking on the final day, helping organisations to think through their competitive strategies in the face of the PSD2-inspired asymmetric warfare between banks and competitors. (Asymmetric because retailers and others will have access to the banks’ customer data but the banks have no reciprocal right.)

The relationship between PSD2, GDPR and bank strategies in the face of competition from internet giants and the Asian players is complex and fascinating and I heard many different scenarios from different perspectives over coffee and drinks. A commonly heard view was that the number of banks in Europe will shrink significantly over the next 5-10 years as will the number of payment card transactions. I came away certain that the long-term impact of open banking is far greater than many people think.

The final, and I think in the long run most important, meme was artificial intelligence. AI, and in particular machine learning (which is good for the incumbents because they have the massive quantities of data need to fuel it). As several speakers noted at different points in the event, AI is coming and it’s coming pretty quickly. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine what the impact will be because bots selling financial services to bots while being regulated by bots takes us into a new world. While there was plenty of talk about jobs going, there was a surprising amount of optimism around as well. I suspect that many of the delegates are fundamentally optimistic people anyway, but hearing the legend (an overused term, but wholly appropriate in this case) Steve Wozniak talk positively about building ethics into machines would certainly have helped them look away from Terminator-style dystopias.

I had the good fortune to chair the AI “bulls and bears” session, where experts Clara Durodie from Cognitive Finance, Terry Cordeiro from Lloyds Banking, Emma Stromfelt from Swedbank and Prof. Markos Zachariadis from Warwick Business School set out competing visions for AI in financial services and has the audience vote for the winner (which was Emma, as it happened).

I really don’t know how they do it. In few short years Money 20/20 has become a destination event for a great many people working across the world of financial services technology. Each year it raises expectations and then meets them and this year in Amsterdam continued this admirable tradition.

About Dave Birch

David G.W Birch is an author, advisor and commentator on digital financial services. He is a Global Ambassador at Consult Hyperion (the secure electronic transactions consultancy that he helped to found), Technology Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (the London-based think tank), a Visiting Professor at the University of Surrey Business School and holds a number of board-level advisory roles. Before helping to found Consult Hyperion (one of the very first companies on the Surrey University Business Park) in 1986, he spent several years working as a consultant in Europe, the Far East and North America.

About Consult Hyperion

Consult Hyperion is an independent strategic and technical consultancy, based in the UK and US, specialising in secure electronic transactions. We help organisations around the world exploit new technologies to secure electronic payments and identity transaction services. From mobile payments and chip & PIN, to contactless ticketing and smart identity cards, we deliver value to our clients by supporting them in delivering their strategy. We define, develop, design and deliver.

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