Fintech, a blanket term used more to increase valuations than to actually describe a company’s products or services, has become a significant industry surrounding corporate finance. Companies that offer technology solutions — for things like accounting, payments processing, and lending verifications — brought their best step and repeat banners and business development reps to New York City's Javits Center last week for Fintech Nexus. Throughout both days, the event featured its staple product pitching, thousands of attendees, and lots of networking.
One thing that couldn’t go unnoticed was the teams that clearly don’t work too often together in person and used the event as an opportunity to get together face-to-face. These teams, some even being introduced to each other for the first time, all came in with different approaches for success.
From fluorescent matching outfits, all the way to company chants to start the morning, the attempt at showcasing camaraderie to competitors and other attendees was slightly cringe-worthy, but common throughout the show. Also, the comparisons to Money 20/20 in side-chatter among people during lunches and outside speaking sessions were endless.
Below are six takeaways from Fintech Nexus.
1. Are Companies Selling Culture or Products?
In conversations with reps from numerous payments, cloud transition, and know-your-customer (KYC) solution companies, what the exhibiting company was doing outside of their products seemed to be the coached-in talking point for many business development representatives. With the possibility of some reps being new due to continuing talent troubles being faced by all industries, it was pretty common for reps to suggest a card or an exchange of information for any questions about the product or service itself.
Many reps wanted to pitch their company in the context of its greater organizational goals, the story behind the company, personal details about the founders, and mentions of top investors. Many reps seemed to be selling culture and politics, and not the product itself. Getting information about the intricacies of the products and services offered by these companies, and what makes them different from their competitors' products, was like trying to pull teeth.
2. Networking Through the Fintech Nexus App was a Hit
The networking areas of the event, where people were connected on the event’s mobile app, were a huge success. On day two, CFO asked 50 people who were waiting alone at meeting tables if they had met the person they were planning on speaking with. Forty-seven said they had never, 2 were unsure, and one had met the person at Bitcoin 2021.
All 50 people used the app provided by the event to initiate the meeting. From meetings between sales teams leaders in similar industries sharing ideas on how to encourage employees, to startups meeting with M&A leaders trying to sell their business, the event served as an excellent opportunity for in-person interaction.
3. ChatGPT Was the Boogeyman
Among speakers and attendees alike, conversations around artificial intelligence were prevalent but superficial. Most gave some version of “we have to wait and see” or “this is just the beginning,” but no one that CFO came in contact with had any real answers on how AI-generative chatbots can positively impact fintech or the greater financial landscape. Although the integration of AI and machine learning in various financial services was a recurring theme throughout, exactly how, and which companies will take the lead, was still up for discussion.
4. Cybersecurity a Major Focus
Cybersecurity companies had a significant presence among the booths. Among attendees in this area were some established and growing companies. Regardless of their growth stage, all were discussing and offering the idea of custom-catered cybersecurity solutions.
KYC protocols for payments services, data protection for both customers and employees, and proactive fraud prevention tools and services were all on display, with the ability to mold products for particular business needs. Rather than have blanket protection products that companies can either adapt or pass on, these cybersecurity companies have taken the initiative to build flexibility and customization into their offerings.
5. Interest in Regulatory and Compliance Guidance
Through speakers, breakouts, and one-on-one meetings, leaders provided insights into the complex regulatory environment and compliance challenges faced by fintechs and their clients. Conversations were focused on the need for both fluid and flexible regulatory frameworks that encourage innovation. Compliance solutions, technology focused solely on regulation, and best practices for navigating regulatory environments were among the talking points. Within conversations and speaking sessions attended by CFO, there wasn’t any regulatory talk around ESG compliance, for example, but rather a focus on data security and customer protection.
6. Distancing from Crypto and Blockchain
In what created interesting environments at trade shows and happy hours in years past, the crypto and fintech companies mixing of ideas and product displays didn't occur at Fintech Nexus. While there was some blockchain presence at the main showcase, it was tucked away in the smaller, two-person booths situated in the corners of the expo. When asked what happened to the crypto companies that have made their presence known at past fintech events, many awkwardly chuckled or shrugged off the question, citing the economy and fintech’s success as its own entity. Few blamed the lack of presence on things like FTX or the crash of NFT markets for crypto's noticeable lack of large-scale attendance.