The Absolute Ultimate Guide of Who’s Who in FinTech (Reloaded)

Let’s face it, if you’ve read me before you’re not here for a cheery, optimistic Christmas’ Eve eve article so no need to get up in arms about the grumpiness. 

It’s December and the Twitterverse is alit with two types of things: lists of FinTech influencers of the year and posts on 2017 predictions and even lists of posts of predictions. -Incidentally in my opinion, the one that’s truly worth reading is Jim Marous’ excellent compilation of insight.- Other than that, the only bitter conclusion we can all take from the many articles on trends is that the Future of FinTech is coming! Again.

On the topic of lists though, I considered maybe curating the ones I wrote in the past few years but instead decided to simply repost my initial Who’s who from three years ago as the only one that holds true firmly in the InstaFinTech-ers Inflation of the past few months in my view. 

Sadly, when I went to look for it, it was missing. I realised I hadn’t backed it up and it was all gone post NextBank’s rebranding into NextMoney! 20 minutes of panic later I found it thanks to WebAchive’s Way Back Machine! Such is the pace of FinTech one would claim… Or such is its fickle nature. Nonetheless I’ve reproduced it here (not with ease I hasten to add as every Twitter link was now pointing to the WayBackMachine) so you’re welcome y’all, Merry FinTech Xmas!

A.D. 2014

I can’t believe you’re even here reading this considering the abundance of “Who’s who” articles, blogs and quips out there this year but this is the absolute ultimate guide. At least to me. It’s how I saw them. Personally. And I’ve had it with all these other ultimate guides that are highly subjective! No more. If you are here to find your name on the list and it’s not there, I’m sorry, if it’s any consolation sometimes even the likes of Jim Marous and Chris Skinner find their names missing, hasn’t stopped them.

The Titans
This is the old guard and the guardians of all that’s holy in FinTech knowledge. They’ve been around from times immemorial, some of them blogging and Twittering from as far back as 2000! I personally “found them here” when I started a few years ago and hey, I’m old guard too now. And they are mandatory. To read and get to know. No excuses.

Chris Skinner @Chris_Skinner
Brett King @brettking
Ron Shevlin @ronshevlin
Bradley Leimer @leimer
Jim Marous @JimMarous
Dave Birch @dgwbirch
Jim Bruene @netbanker
Rob Findlay @robfindlay
JP Nicols @JPNicols

The Newer Kids on the Block
They aren’t new, just slightly newer than the above and on their way to enter the above category. They are young and opinionated and so influential that if you don’t recognise their name and wonder about their stance on this or that you’re doing it wrong.

Yann Ranchere @tek_fin
Simon Taylor @sytaylor
James Moed @jamesmoed
Harriet Wakelam @hwakelam

The Europeans
Some of these are part of some of the other lists in many ways but they are nonetheless what makes up the European contingent (mostly London but hey, we’re the Capital of FinTech so what did you expect?)

Nektarios Liolios @nekliolios
Daniel Gusev @dngusev
Matteo Rizzi @matteorizzi
Conor M Ogle @cmogle
Christophe Langlois @Visible_Banking
Peter Vander Auwera @petervan
Claire Calmejane @ccalmeja
Brad Van Leewuen @bradvanl
Roy Vella @royvella
Elizabeth Lumley @LizLum
Nasir Zubairi @naszub
Andra Sonea @andrasonea
Devie Mohan @devie_mohan
Phil Allen @philballen
Daryl Wilkinson @DarylAndHobbes

The Bankers with the vision
In the last few years I’ve met a handful of visionaries working in banks. Whether their title is digital something or other or online and mobile channels something or other or even CxO (in painfully rare cases) they are the ones whose courage of conviction is much greater than those of us who work on the sidelines pointing in. They made digital banks happen in the last few years and brought what was debated, tested, talked about in this list to consumers. They likely know this list. And read it. Sadly this is an all-to-short section. There are at least another 8 names that are sadly just Twitter-stalkers because of inane bank-policies against joining in the dialogue.

Michal Panowicz @MichalPanowicz
Louise Long @longlou
Alessandro Hatami @ahatami
Pol Navarro @polnavarro
Roberto Ferrari @ferrarirobtweet

The Americans
Many more on the American contingent are bankers. That’s a good sign. And their chatter around big events like Next Bank or Finovate or Money2020 or SIBOS is often all you need to know how that went, if the usual innovation curb means this year “innovation” in FinTech meant very light shades of pink lipstick applied on pre-existent pigs or great big new ideas and a hint of how to execute them will shake things up.

Sam Maule @sammaule
JJ Hornblass @BankInnovation
Deva Annamalai @bornonjuly4
John Waupsh @waupsh
James Wester @jameswester
Alex Jimenez @RAlexJimenez
David Gerbino @dmgerbino

The A-Pac-ers
Not surprisingly this list is extensive, more so than it shows here and the intersection with the above are vast. Australia and Asia have so much thought brewing that the healthy dialogue is only natural. And honest. And very fresh.

Scott Bales @scottebales
Neal Cross @Neal_X
Christel Quek @ladyxtel
Matt Dooley @mattldooley
Steve Monaghan @Steve_Monaghan
Jin Zwicky @JinZwicky
Anthony Sexton @anthonysexton

The (Too) Silent Mega Influencers
‘Nuff said.:)

Benjamin Ensor @benjamin_ensor
Jacob Jegher @jjegher
Eric Van der Kleij @Ericvanderkleij

The Why-Have-they-(kinda)-Shut-up Guard
If you see these guys for a beer remind them to Tweet, if you’re their employer, give them time to tweet, read them and reward them. They’re not out, they still occasionally post and I’m sure they’re still reading it all but it’s not “like the old days”. There are some names above that have stopped being as active as us all in the industry need them, as well, and the reasons are many but they are not excused and could still use the nudge.

Aden Davies @aden_76
Emmanuel Papadacci-S @emmanuelps
Salil Ravindran @TimesRGud
Nicolas Debock @ndebock

This list is Twitter and some of these thinkers (in particular the Titans) blog religiously. Reading those should be first priority.

This list has intersections. Many. It’s the beauty of it to a degree. Europeans who are titans, A-Pac-ers who are bankers, analysts who become bankers, bankers who join the lighter (sic) side, thinkers who become executers and doers who become preachers. It’s all in how fluid our industry is and in a year’s time if anyone stumbles across it many of those categories won’t hold true but the fact that they were all part of shaping this will.

In a speech recently in Canary Wharf, Georg Osborne the Chancellor of the UK was talking about all hands on deck and what is it that we need to make us the real epicentre of FinTech. To know this list. To grow it if we have solid reason. To nudge and ask them. Constantly.To have them engaged if not in mentorship roles if we can’t manage that then at least in dialogue. Their opinions rolling will power the engine to make this happen, not stiff governmental policies no one will even know about. Get the new guard of innovators and entrepreneurs reading them religiously and they’ll understand more about the industry as it’s been shaped in the last few years and where it’s heading than reading 100 reports and attending 50 stiff courses or conferences.

This list’s combined IQ could power a mid-sized town for years and they know and get FinTech so intimately, that if we were to fire all bank’s Digital Heads in the world, have these guys in charge, give them absolute power and a debatably-big bucket of money we’d have so much awesomeness reach each and every of us consumers in about a year’s time that we would send our bank a basket of fruit every month.

Amazon Go and Contactless – How invisible payments and banks not doing their job can put us all in the red

AmazonGo – be still my beating heart! I can now go in and out of a store without any of the pain of having to stand in long queues or battle self-service machines that work as well as most airline self-check-in torture kiosks! What a wonderful concept!

Almost as soon as it was out, the Fun Police choruses could be heard around the digital world. “We’re going to spend even more!”, “Coupled with instant access to loans will spell financial disaster for consumers!” they lamented. It’s like they can’t bare us, the consumers being happy! I want to pay quick and painless! What kind of masochist wouldn’t agree with that? And surely, they must be exaggerating, what difference does it make if I use my card at the end of a long, soul destroying line, or see my total as I exit the store?!?

Thankfully, sane voices reminded everyone that it’s no different than contactless and that we’ve had around for quite some time now. And that is working out just fine for us. Or is it?

Contactless – what an unfortunate name since you have to tap the card, effectively making contact!- usage reports are showing it to be an unmitigated success. According to Barclaycard, 4 in every 10 eligible transactions are contactless and if we factor in how some outfits have been slow in rolling our their capabilities of accepting the payment we can easily presume most customers who have the technical opportunity to tap to make a payment will do so.

While adoption is spectacular, we should take a closer look at the spending behavior. Some reports suggest that once the spending limit has been raised in Britain to 30£, people have increased their monthly spending by an estimated 20%. This comes chiefly from weekend overspend.

Imagine being at your local pub with a bunch of friends having a good ol’ time. Every time another round is ordered, the waiter brings his card reader as well to settle it. A fleeting beep and millisecond later, he nods, smiles and leaves. Seems you have paid by contactless. Magic. Except, the only thing you really know about the amount is that it was under 30 pounds. How much it really was is generally unclear and while largely irrelevant if you’re having a great evening, using Chip and Pin would have allowed you that brief moment of financial responsibility while it asked you to approve the amount before entering your pin.

The UK Card Association tells us the average contactless spend is of 8.80£ – so it’s clear they are being used for rather large purchases not transport which would amount to smaller transactions. Now evidently in the absence of a limit of 1000£ we ought to be relatively safe from instant financial ruin however if we look at the same stats, half of the contactless cards in the UK are credit cards which makes the actual spend much higher.

While thanks to the –arguably- booming economy the average UK could afford to mindlessly tap and use contactless about 22 times a week before they finished their entire disposable income, according to the Money Advice Service four in ten adults in the UK do not even have 500£ in savings. That alone is a bleak picture of the future even to the untrained eye.

Maybe it’s time we stopped debating “cashless” -which is evidently the future – and start debating “mindless” which is already the “now”.

Personally, I’m a fierce personal responsibility fan, so I’m far from advocating for not having contactless payments, far from it, in fact, the limit should be raised not only to match that of Australia or Canada (around 55£) but to however much the user chooses, so that it breeds financial consciousness. I am simply pointing out that as we’re optimizing the ease of access, frequency of usage will increase and consumers need immediate visibility to gain control.

Credit score agencies have been quick to point out the dangers of overspending when using contactless but they also make it sound as if their technology is the answer to counterbalance it by information which is deceiving. The information a consumer gets from a credit agency is post-factum, the damage or overspend has already been done. Having immediate, contextual and relevant visibility of one’s finances is a must that lays with the money provider themselves – the banks.

One could argue they ought to have first put in place the tools to keep us aware and informed of our spending habits before they moved into faster payments an in era of dangerous consumerism and lack of spending restraint.

if-ignorance-is-bliss1

Instant spending alerts, clear free-to-spend balances, contextual notifications relating to a customer’s money and relevant information about spending’s effect on overall finances to aid perspective, are all still a figment of #FinTech’s imagination for all incumbent banks in the UK and yet customers have a way to spend even more, faster.

Financial health is not the retailer’s, the credit score agency’s or even the bank’s responsibility, it is undoubtedly our own but giving us all the information to achieve it is their duty and technology is not what prevents them from doing so.