Money 2020 Europe – this is how we rolled

 

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Let me tell you what this won’t be. A play-by-play of the conference. It won’t be that for several reasons including the fact that I missed a few general sessions due to meetings and the occasional hospital stay so I can’t comment on the full content. What I can comment on, is my experience of it.

First off, while I publicly flogged them for the iffy WiFi the rest of the organisation was flawless in terms of location and endless delightful perks such as DJs, laser beams, ice-cream and pancakes, cute huts for meeting places, mini Lego figurines for each speaker, smoothie bars, cool exhibitions and even the occasional bejeweled wheel chair for the temporarily impaired. As many people remarked it had a trendy, hipsterish, festival feel to it. Which made it an experience.

Which sadly, was in stark contrast with the content of most of the sessions I attended.

Stiff. Corseted. Jargoned to the gills. Wooden language galore. Many speakers other than the usual suspects who tried to liven it up, sounded like media trained drones repeating soul-killing messages about collaboration, technology and customer centricity devoid of critical thought or meaning. Why is this?

I find this fascinating and genuinely think this is a FinTech specific illness. The way in which we slip in and out of meaning and the way many people are genuinely passionate and bit by the bug one moment, and deadpan and businessy the other. Why can’t we say precisely what we mean in plain English?

Is it because the excitement of the Technology world only recently met the Finance world where being stiff has traditionally been everything? Many of the people in FinTech are new to both sides of the story, the new wave are new to the working force altogether yet they seem to adopt this same non-meaningful half unicorn, half sloth language.

Maybe it’s a sign of how everyone is more or less out of their depth and all the experts are still in the making. Even the most knowledgeable of the FinTech world have only had a few years to work this out as they go along and while in the Tech world one can easily be proud of the outstanding speed of change and focus on innovating for the sake of it, when we apply that to financial services it has to have application and it has to be worked out fast enough to allow the ridiculously long cycles of buying and implementing in banking so it is all scarily fluid. Having to translate all this Tech excitement into Banking value may be what makes them sound like a Silicon Valley hipster one minute and like a retiring McKinsey consultant the other.

Or maybe, more likely and hopefully, it’s all about the fact that before technology decided to stuck its hedonism inducing nose into finance, it was all about numbers and being stiff and corseted was necessary to perform the right math whereas now, banking has had to notice the consumer and attempt to start matching these moments of delight they get elsewhere thanks to digitisation.

UX is only “a thing” that bankers have to take seriously because our mobile phones is where we bank rather than where they’ve been expecting us for the last hundreds of years and the table has turned – it’s no longer the consumer shyly coming to the branch hat turned in jittery hands asking for the banker to make some incomprehensible number magic and sell them a product, it’s now a case of the banker holding out their top hat asking for the technologists’ best tips on how to get to a consumer through this new fangled device. Digital technology brought CX to banking and with it a new language and if it has to be a weird combination between real talk and consultancy speak for now while we build new paradigms for the consumer, so be it.

To me, wheeling my chair through its delightful networking areas and entering panels that felt like annual reviews for shareholders, Money2020 was a good metaphor for today’s banking proposition. Beautifully packaged, hip and trendy on the outside and tangled, stiff, immutably old school and rather useless on the inside.