IFLR FinTech Europe 2019: meet the speakers

Author: Karry Lai | Published: 7 May 2019
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IFLR’s FinTech Europe 2019 will bring together the leading minds from the financial, startup and legal communities to discuss all-important regulatory questions. Key discussion points include: the progress of open banking; collaboration between financial institutions and startups; protecting intellectual property in a digitising world; emerging regtech solutions; and the value of blockchain and AI for  financial services.

Click here for more information on the forum, view the agenda, or register to attend.


What do you spend most of your time doing at the moment?

Calum Smyth, global head of IP, Barclays

Solving for how institutions/companies with different skills, business models and products can effectively collaborate. Where co-creation is involved, ownership of and rights to use the output is an intellectual property question, but it can be challenging to shape a deal which represents fair value – at least perceived value – for all parties. Parties should proactively consider what they need from a project to support their business strategy, as opposed to what they would want in an ideal world. Good legal counsel means proactively managing clients’ expectations upfront and leading them through the detail.

Andrew Speers, director, product and innovation, NatWest

Voltron: a bank consortium looking at putting global trade on R3’s Corda Enterprise. It’s at a very exciting stage with some big news coming out soon. I really think this will change global trade.

Lisa Biesenbach, DLT customer journey expert, ING

At the moment, I am spending most of my time analysing the market and talking with various distributed ledge technology (DLT) players to keep up-to-date with the latest initiatives and innovation in the industry. I am constantly in touch with fintech companies to explore any possible collaboration with ING.

Gemma Steel, director, Dozens

I spend a lot of time on compliance: checking that we have industry-leading processes implemented, that we are managing our customers’ money in the best possible way, carrying out internal training, and keeping out the criminals. I also spend a lot of time on people at Dozens – ensuring people are happy in what they are doing, interviewing and hiring, and checking no one is about to burn out.

Euan Towers, managing legal counsel, commercial and private banking, RBS

I’ve been working flat out for the last 12 months on a payments-related innovation initiative which the bank is hoping to launch imminently as a new fintech business. So I do very little beyond execute, execute, execute – which I believe is the nature of building a new business from the ground up! But to put this in the wider context of the bank, key themes are digitise, innovate, be bold, be agile, obsess about the customer, continuously improve our customer journeys, and create solutions to real business problems.

Michael Lehotzki, digital lead counsel, Global Commercial Banking, HSBC

I help HSBC and its customers implement digital products and processes, such as we.trade, e-trade connect, and digitised letter of credit Voltron, globally.

Dragana Radojevic, head of legal, M&A, BNP Paribas

Supervising legal work regarding various initiatives to create, update or restructure various partnerships with banking and non-banking partners, including fintechs, in different countries where we operate.

What are the biggest trends/themes in your market?

Calum Smyth, Barclays

Digital transformation means that technology, and its protection, is now being created in most parts of the supply chain, and new entrants have increasingly varied profiles – from startups to established players in adjacent markets.

Andrew Speers, NatWest

Open Data, API [application programming interface], artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and DLT connectivity are all starting to shape the network economy, and will change how business is transacted and financed. We’re all only just beginning to understand the new risks and opportunities this presents. There is also a growing trend to look at digital standards for DLT/blockchain – such as new blockchain platform UTN, and other projects in Europe.

Lisa Biesenbach, ING

Most corporate players are approaching technology via a consortium approach. In addition, most players are spreading the risk by exploring several technologies simultaneously, and staying agnostic. Within the market, a trend can be observed regarding the tokenisation of assets.

Gemma Steel, Dozens

The theme of overspending and budgeting is definitely getting more attention, with many challengers developing new tools to address these issues. However, we're still waiting to see those tools benefit people beyond London millennials. In addition to this, the focus is mostly on tech tools rather than product innovation, which means we see a continuous misalignment of company and customer interests. 

Other trends we see are also more behind-the-scenes business to business (B2B) offerings. To be able to provide a stellar product and service to customers usually means a lot of partnership in the background, to help streamline the services, and streamline costs involved – and a lot revolves around data. Whether data to keep out the criminals, data processing for monetisation, or data science in relation to AI and machine learning. Data-related B2B firms just need to find well-financed fintechs to use their services. 

Euan Towers, RBS

If I define my market as the fintech-focused wing of the bank, then the trends are increased competition and a growing threat of disruption to established banks from fintech. In Europe alone, over 1,400 new fintechs have launched since 2005. We’re seeing the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon all making moves into finance, and in particular, payments. The pace and scale of change is only increasing, with the second Payment Services Directive, open banking, customer expectations and technological feasibility all ushering in huge amounts of innovation in financial products. It can be difficult to keep up with all the developments at times.

From an established bank perspective, I would argue there’s now a significant market trend towards actively seeking to compete with fintechs by launching our own digital ventures. We have Mettle, Esme, Bó, Rapid Cash and Aptimise in the market already, and more innovative ventures in the pipeline, so it’s a hugely exciting and energising time to be working in this market space.

Michael Lehotzki, HSBC

There is a fundamental digital facelift in commercial banking for banking products and their underlying processes across the industry to keep up with the pace of digital customer experience that has started in retail banking.

By using AI and machine learning tools, banks are increasingly able to create new data products and improve services and suitability of existing products. Information can be used to extrapolate customer trends and capitalise on customer behaviour patterns. The risk that more tailored products for some will come to the exclusion of others, if they are unfairly excluded or priced out due to bias in data, including factors customers cannot control, will require an ethical framework for big data use.

Dragana Radojevic, BNP Paribas

The transformation of our business model through digitisation, including the launching of digital banks in various countries, and the use of new technologies to credit granting or payments in retail stores.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle/challenge for fintech companies in 2019?

Calum Smyth, Barclays


Andrew Speers, NatWest

Modular solutions. Moving from good idea to commercial value, helping banks optimise their inefficiencies and ensuring they understand what banks really need in this market.

Lisa Biesenbach, ING

I think interoperability is the biggest challenge for companies working with DLT in 2019. Many initiatives are being tested and will be introduced into the market in the near future, but these solutions are built on different distributed ledgers. Hence tackling the issue of interoperability between platforms is essential to move towards a distributed economy and leverage the full potential of DLT.

Gemma Steel, Dozens

I think the spotlight is well and truly on fintechs to show we are acting with utmost integrity. This means going beyond the tech mantra of being customer-centric and offering innovation, to increasing focus on properly protecting customer money, and presenting ourselves to the public in an honest and candid way. It’s great to see lots of fintechs putting pressure on the incumbents to make positive changes, but I think we may also start to see some business consolidation in the next year, and increased regulatory scrutiny to check the fintechs are "fin", not just "tech".

Euan Towers, RBS

The biggest hurdle is around customer trust and having a human touch.

Many of our business and commercial customers hugely value their relationship with their relationship manager. There’s a level of trust in the NatWest/RBS brands and those of the other big high street banks that is difficult for standalone fintechs with new brands and purely digital customer interfaces to match. Established banks also have an inbuilt advantage in the networks they can use to distribute new products, whereas standalone fintechs can struggle to scale their business.

Some fintechs obviously do that better than others, and it’s a certainty that we’re only at one point in the development curve of fintechs. This is a challenge they can overcome with time, but right now I’d pinpoint the human touch issue as the biggest challenge that many of them need to deal with.

Michael Lehotzki, HSBC

Almost all financial services have been already disrupted by fintechs, and competition is fierce to provide a value proposition which is sustainable. Customer apathy and the ease of switching from one service to the next may conflict with established governance standards that customers would usually expect from any new offering in the banking industry.

Dragana Radojevic, BNP Paribas

There are issues such as finding a good use case which is sufficiently general in scale to grow the business and attract investors and partners. Secondly, the ability to structure the organisation by growing disruptive businesses in a compliant and risk-controlled way, bearing in mind increasing regulation. More specifically in 2019, I would be interested to see how fintechs work with the General Data Protection Regulation to get access to customer information, and how they develop open banking initiatives.