Written by Ben Cossor • Published 11th June 2019 • 4 minute read

This time last week I hopped on the 06:00 easyJet flight from London Gatwick to Amsterdam, bound for Money20/20, Europe’s largest fintech event, hosted at the impressive RAI Amsterdam just outside the city centre.

Starling Bank CEO Anne Boden announced that “Everybody is here and every year it’s getting bigger and bigger” – so really, what choice did I have?

It’s an event we’ve wanted to attend for a while, and this year felt like the perfect time to support the fast growth and development of our fintech division within the Technology team.

After the world’s most expensive taxi from the airport (must have been the suit), over two days I met with 16 fintech companies with whom we’d arranged meetings in advance, and spent time discussing their growth plans and how PR could positively impact each of their businesses respectively.

In the end, it didn’t matter that my Outlook calendar failed to take the new time zone into account…each meeting ran smoothly, just an hour later than scheduled…

The brilliant thing about Money20/20 is the caliber of the businesses there…though still relatively early on in their respective journeys, the whole start-up community is punching well above its weight, fitting in naturally among the mammoth interactive booths belonging to Mastercard, PayPal and Huawei.

16 meetings and 60,000 steps later, here are 5 things I learnt from my two days rubbing shoulders with Europe’s fintech elite.

  • The Netherlands is a burgeoning fintech hub

In 2018 there were over 400 Dutch fintech companies – the Netherlands is a global frontrunner in successful fintech innovation, and the start-up scene is thriving. Home to industry leaders such as Ohpen and Adyen, the Dutch capital was a natural choice for this year’s conference, where jobs in the sector have grown by 35% since 2017.

One of the biggest talking points in financial services is the integration of technology to disrupt notoriously traditional approach to industries such as banking and insurance. Large banks across the Netherlands are actively embracing the innovation and transparency afforded by the fintech start-up scene and actively support it. The sheer mix and variety of traditional banks and fintech start-ups sharing the floor at Money20/20 this year was evidence enough of this collaboration.

  • Open Banking was the dominant theme

There were over 10 individual talks/seminars covering open banking – it was very much the buzzphrase of this year’s conference, and rightly so. It’s now just a matter of weeks until PSD2’s Regulatory Technical Standard (RTS) deadline on 14th September, bringing new requirements for authenticating online payments to address security concerns related to Europe’s move to a digital economy. So, EU merchants and banks have a decision to make when it comes to fintech collaboration.

As well as ensuring compliance with new regulations, banks are also being challenged to compete and stay relevant when faced with fast-moving competitors. This is where fintech partnerships are key, supported by data from PwC which revealed 82% of banks will look to increase the number of partnerships they have with fintech companies over the next three-five years.

  • Fintech is all about the customer

Fintechs are setting new standards when it comes to customer experience. It became apparent when speaking to a variety of start-ups and challenger brands shaking up traditional industries that a customer-centric approach is what they are focusing on, with the financial element coming later. By their very nature, fintechs are tech-first companies; they complement and support the banking industry but are able to win customers at a faster rate because of their customer-centric approach. They prioritise a seamless, enjoyable end-to-end customer experience before they seek to solve the actual banking layer.

  • You get what you pay for

Money20/20 was the most enjoyable and worthwhile event I’ve been to since working at PHA. Aside from the obvious benefit of unlimited food and drink (no less than 10 global cuisines under one roof!) it was exciting, educational and just by being there you felt part of a global community.

It’s not the cheapest event in the world, but the exciting businesses I met, the quality of the speakers on show, and the packed schedule over three days meant that the event oozed quality and you felt you were getting real value for money.

When seeking to meet people, grow your network and hone your knowledge, there’s no substitute for being ‘on the ground’ and in amongst the action – and we’ll certainly look to do it again next year with another 12 months of fintech growth under our belt.

  • A smoothie is a great ice breaker

I’ve never seen so many smoothie bars in one place. It was as though a smoothie was the universal mechanic for starting a meeting – and it really worked. As one of the 5 Star Sponsors, ACI Worldwide ran the main smoothie bar which completely dominated one of the exhibition halls. It was packed every day, and I received a couple of calendar invitations with, simply, “smoothie”, as the location – it became one of the key meeting hubs for people keen to talk while hitting their 5-a-day.

For those who wanted to jump on the smoothie hype, many stands had their own blenders and coffee machines, and it does make you naturally gravitate towards them, or catch the CEO-cum-barista’s eye, which often leads to a quick chat or exchange of business cards.

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