Exclusive Insights: The FinTech Revolution Conference in California

Let’s Talk Payments is where The New Global FinTech is and yesterday we followed #FinTech at Silicon Valley Forum’s (SVForum’s) fall conference, The FinTech Revolution: Banking on the Future. The conference was held at GSV Labs in Redwood City, California on September 24th, 2015. The conference attracted many investors interested in investing in the FinTech industry, innovators from the banking industry, startups and select press. The conference also featured a startup showcase. The conference was a good mix of several panels of speakers, lightning talks by leaders trying to disrupt the industry, networking breaks and a fireside chat with Anwar Haneef, Partner, Watson Global Industry Leader - InsurTech and Banking, IBM Watson.

It wasn’t a very big event like Dreamforce or TechCrunch Disrupt. However, it was an exclusive one with really great sessions and speakers. The cost of the ticket was surprisingly affordable and press passes were free as usual. The ambience was pleasant. Beginning from the entrance, there was an alley of demo tables, the seating arrangement for guests and on to the stage. Food and hospitality was well taken care of. Few of the demo tables really seemed to have a real potential to disrupt the industry. DocuSign, an e-signature platform pitched about bringing their platform to the banking industry. They shared a number of use cases with us, which they have already implemented with banks like SVB. There was a startup, which is trying to become the ‘Venmo’ for bitcoins. Yodlee Interactive, TipGenie, ZeroDB, Jory and few others were also a part of the showcase.

SVForum’s The FinTech Revolution: Banking on the Future covered all the important and emerging areas of FinTech. There was a panel of speakers including Zac Townsend from Standard Treasury, Ankur Arya from Braintree, Jami Armistead from Bank of the West, Mike Dinsdale from DocuSign and Dean Nicolacakis from PwC. There was an interesting discussion around future of money and digitization of banking from this panel. The discussion on how banks are trying to innovate went on and on. Dean Nicolacakis from PwC commented that 90% of the banks have a Chief Innovation Office today. Around security, Jami Armistead said, Banks have focussed on security since decades but retailers haven’t.

The panel discussion on mobile money and digital wallets had great insights from Bill Gajda, Head of Global Strategic Partnerships at Visa Inc. Gajda said, Visa loves digital wallets. He also emphasized the importance of tokenization in the long run during the discussion.

The most interesting panel discussion was ‘Entering the Cryptozone’, the one around blockchain and bitcoin. This was led by Adam Draper from Boost VC, Aldo Carrascoso from Align Commerce, Brock Pierce from Blockchain Capital, Catheryne Nicholson from Blockcypher and moderated by Marco Santori from Pillsbury Law. The audience asked a lot of questions during this panel discussion. During the blockchain talks, Adam Draper from Boost VC mentioned twice that Wall Street loves blockchain while Catheryne, CEO of Blockcypher compared blockchain to TCP IP layer. There were a lot of discussion on bitcoin too. However, a lot of weightage was given to blockchain over bitcoin. During bitcoin discussions, Marco Santori from Pillsbury Law said, Bitcoin is still an experiment.

A great lightning talk on the growing importance of consumer lending was delivered by Sasha Orloff, CEO of Lendup. In this presentation, Orloff presented some graphs that demonstrated the growth of consumer lending. One interesting data point he threw was that for the first time ever in Q1 of 2015, banks didn’t lead personal loans origination. When we had a chance to chat with Orloff, he mentioned that Lendup is going to make some big announcements in Money20/20 in Las Vegas. Let’s Talk Payments looks forward to covering it.

The conference ended with a fireside chat with Anwar Haneef from IBM Watson as interviewed by Neil Jacobstein from Singularity U. The chat shed some light on how IBM Watson functions internally and what Watson’s APIs are meant for. Haneef who is also responsible for Watson’s go-to-market strategy announced that IBM Watson is opening their secondary headquarters in San Francisco soon to attract startups and entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley.

Overall, the event was valuable and informative for anyone in the FinTech industry. Topics like NFC, contactless payments and biometrics in payments could also have been covered. However with the time constraints, only the advertised topics were given emphasis. Almost all the panel discussions had at least one woman in the panel, which was great! We look forward to attending more of such events. Look out for us in the next FinTech event you will attend!