Ok, I will admit: I’m highly OCD about terms AND I have a very low tolerance for what can only be called BS, which leaves me with having to get something off my chest about the term “FinTech/s”.
I wrote about this before and that was ages ago in FinTech years -2015!- and at the time I was mildly annoyed not highly irritated as I am now.
Let me be blunt: our industry is brimming with neophytes -and let’s just say that is not the first term that came to mind-. One can tell we’re in the middle of peak FinTech by how London cabbies nonchalantly go “ah ok, that’s big these days” when you tell them you’re “in FinTech”.
This wave of neophytes comes with a sleuth of opinions which is intrinsically good and necessary in a “new blood”sort of way, but some are majorly dogmatic and shockingly loud when it comes to who can call themselves “FinTech”, and even more infuriating, who definitely can not.
Now here’s my take as not the FinTech-est around but surely someone who is FinTech-er than the neophytes (see what I did there? made it an adjective, neer neer!):
FinTech is a very broad term that refers to all Financial Technology and you can not go on and on about how it can only ever describe small, nimble, innovative StartUps, get over it.
To be fair, this is a selfless PSA for the industry and it will work against my newly found guilty pleasure that allowed me, over the past few months, to be at various industry events whether a conference, a posh dinner or an awards gala and revel in the indignation of various parties when I calmly rejected their arguments to support the above.
Most conversations would go like this:
“But you must agree Duena, not every company in the industry is FinTech, only the startups are, they need to stop using this term!”
“Nope, not the apanage of start-ups. All Financial Technology”
“Oh come on, not like the big, big ones!”
“Yup, as long as they thought about and/or built, and/or implemented Financial Technology. It’s not about size.”
“No, I mean like FIS, or Temenos or such”
“Yup, FinTech companies”
“It’s not, in fact it’s not only FinTech but good stuff too these days, check out what most of these big guys have in their portfolio or what they show at Finovate, etc”
“Ok well nevermind, maybe they are catching up, maybe they are becoming FinTech now”
“Nope, been in FinTech all along. Long before most of anyone else”
“Fine, those are tech product companies what about the consultancies calling themselves FinTech?”
“Yup, them too”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, they had a late start in “getting it” and I am not claiming they are necessarily selling valuable FinTech advice but it’s FinTech nonetheless”
“OK this is absurd, next you’ll claim banks are FinTech”
“The OGs of FinTech. Who do you think built the first back-end and front-end of any digital proposition?”
“What? I thought you hated banks!”
“You thought wrong. I love banks so much that I want them to do well. Which is why I cut the BS when I point out where they are currently failing.”
“What are *we* then?!?”
And on and on ad nausea. Now that I’ll publish this, I am likely going to get less entertainment and (even) more sideways looks, but it’s worth it to try and stop the “FinTech is start-ups only” dogma one side of the industry has.
Which brings me to another point. The “sides”. The “us” versus “them” mentality between providers and banks must be unique to Financial Services. Name me another industry where the innovation in technology that the customers expect, has happened mainly externally from the incumbents due to their sluggish response, and has created an ecosystem of start-ups and high-growth technology creators selling their solutions to the service provider by pointing out how horrible the latter is. We have such a divisive discourse in the industry that the “ecosystem” conversations sound more like the trendy word of the day than a meaningful shared impetus.
Whether you are a veteran or someone who Googled what FinTech was then started having an opinion this month, you can’t deny that -for now- we are in a unique market moment with a fascinating dynamic in our industry to say the least and it would serve us all to want to build bridges rather than point fingers.
Cornerstone of my Emotional Banking TM methodology is the “Keep it real” part. It’s a self explanatory concept and while banks have an arduous road ahead keeping it real in terms, in more ways than one, providers in turn, owe it to the industry to not develop meaningless jargon and fixed ideas of their own and turn into the very kind of beast they claim to be battling.
Lastly, to me, “being FinTech” is not about a label but about a burning need to keep building and bettering money services for the consumer and anyone with enough brains and passion is welcomed.
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