What the Fintech? Season one | Fintech Jail
Listeners of our flagship podcast, What the Fintech? will be all too familiar with our game, “Fintech Jail”, where a guest submits their industry buzzword to be banished from the sector for a set amount of time.
Below is a list of all of season one’s fintech buzzwords to watch out for, or set free in season two.
Episode 1 | How to treat borrowers | Nadia Sood, CEO, Credit Enable
Buzzword: Speed, fast, easy
Reason: “Instant gratification terms that technology gets wrapped around.”
“Whilst these are important, there is a place for things taking longer so you can get the quality and the thing you need from the interaction.”
“If you do a survey on what all the fintechs in the world are talking about, you’ll see they all talk about a one minute loan, one second loan or a one millisecond loan, and when you look into it, it never really is that fast because. And it shouldn’t really be that fast because both you and the lender need to get comfortable with each other.”
Sentence: 25 years minimum, no parole.
Judge’s reasons: “People want some checks and balances. We don’t need a £10,000 loan given instantly.
“Real time – more like bad time!”
Bonus buzzword: Network effect
Reason: “What does that mean? In what way are we doing that? Are we networking with people enough? Is it technological and not an eco-system?”
Judge’s reasons: “It sounds like you are ‘network effecting’. Maybe if we see it 20 more times in a press release.”
Sentence: Dismissed. We are monitoring network effect.
Episode 2 | Is cash still king? | Nick Kerrigan, head of innovation execution, Swift (MD at Barclays at the time of recording)
Reason: “A simple word with so many divergent meanings amongst fintech professionals.”
“At its most simple is that it means products that connect or work efficiently and in real time. Depending on who you are speaking to, it may mean a simple sign-on login with one click, a specific data flow, and API integration or something much deeper in the tech stack between two companies.
“When you ask, ‘what is your integration?’, it is often a lot lighter and a lot more basic than that, and someone has put someone else’s app inside their shell or a whole experience they handed over to another company.”
Judge’s reasons: “It’s far too vague to be meaningful.” “It means too many different things to different people.”
“Terms that are overly generic have their time in the fintech jail.”
Sentence: Ten years minimum.
Episode 3 | Digital disruption and innovation | Julian Sawyer, CEO, Bitstamp (MD for Europe at Gemini at the time of recording).
Buzzword: Crypto exchanges
Reasons: “One of the things that came out of [George Orwell’s] Animal Farm was how we’re all equal, but some are more equal than others. I wanted to talk about crypto exchanges because we have a got a challenge and an opportunity as an industry to explain that whilst we are all crypto exchanges, we are not all equal.”
“I think this will be a challenge in terms of explaining to consumers and explaining to institutions why one is different than the other, and why one is better than other. That’s in security, regulations, compliance, customer experience etc. I think the challenge we have got is to try and educate and inform, as they are not all the same.”
“Get out from the crypto currency echo chamber.”
Judge’s reasons: “You have to educate the end user, but also the regulator in order for them to regulate it accordingly.”
“Where there’s a lack of clarity, there’s often errors that can seep right into that ambiguity.”
“The crypto currency echo chamber can certainly go in the jail as a concept.”
Sentence: 20 years, no parole.
Episode 4 | Partnerships: till death do us part | Sean Hunter, chief information officer (CIO), OakNorth
Buzzword: Big data
Reasons: “It’s been a massive innovation to be able to handle data analysis with vast amounts of data. But I think the phrase ‘big data’ became this incredible buzzword, where all sorts of people are trying to use various technologies that were being designed for massive data scale, to do things that don’t really need that or wouldn’t be appropriate.”
“Big isn’t always better. The key thing with any kind of analysis is not the scale of the data, but it’s the thoughtfulness and robustness of your methodology.”
“Bigger datasets aren’t always better. You’d rather have a smaller structured set of good data, than huge amounts of unstructured data.”
Judge’s reasons: “It teeters between a catch-all phrase, and they did say that data is the new oil, but not sure about that considering where we are with that right now.”
Sentence: Five years with parole in a nice rehab centre.
Episode 5 | Digital disruption: innovation in investments | Stephanie Brennan, founder and CEO, Evarvest
Reasons: “We are hearing this buzzword so much. Fintech companies are all about ‘gamification’. There are two parts to this for me. One is that it sounds like we are making something a game and in the investment space, investing is not a game. You want to make investing engaging and simple, but I think the second part is that gamification kind of is a bit misleading, because if you look at gamification frameworks, there are actually about social influence.”
“These are influencing behaviours or decisions, and we are misleading customers and users in this space, claiming to build a gamification framework to make it more engaging like a game, but really it’s about influencing decisions. Maybe a little bit more transparency of how we want to build user experiences to be engaging.”
Judge’s reasons: “Definite yes. I find the term itself irritating, and as someone who has played games all their life, it’s irritating to see some firms having something like a flashy app or a little emoji makes things cool and ‘game-like’. I think there is a danger of people infantilising very serious financial subjects, by overcooking things and making them too flashy, neon and attractive.”
Sentence: Life, no parole. Should not be used in this industry.
Episode 6 | Digital disruption: entering new markets | Greg Watts, CEO, Findr (the AI matching platform for fintechs and their partners)
Reasons: “I’ve lost count with the fintechs who have a dashboard. Everyone seems to have a dashboard, whether it’s built or not built. But I’ve never quite understood the value these dashboards bring. Typically a fintech will talk about whether it’s customisable or configurable dashboard, which is all interesting, but they don’t really tell me what’s in it or what it does, so that word, I would love to put in the jail.”
“Call me ‘old-fashioned’, but why don’t fintechs just say what it is they’ve got? Whether it’s for retail or a bank. Just tell us what it is. Describe what it is you’ve got and then provide the benefits it provides to retailers.”
Judge’s reasons: “I don’t find it too much of an onerous word. Perhaps I don’t see it in my everyday world.”
Sentence: Dismissed. An appeal has been noted to really get this behind bars.
Episode 7 | Open banking & savings | Victor Trokoudes, co-founder & CEO, Plum
Reasons: “What irritates me is that it’s used as though it’s the solution to problems that have existed for very long. Clearly that’s just a way to pass information and two businesses communicating.”
“I just don’t see that blockchain is revolutionising how we do things. It’s very much driven by companies deciding that they want to do something better than they can implement technologies. It doesn’t need to have a buzzword like blockchain in order to get information flowing in a way that they think is more efficient.”
Judge’s reasons: “That’s a bingo!”
“Feels like kicking someone when they’re down. I’ve been to conferences where someone has mentioned blockchain and the audiences laugh. While I agree it definitely has a lot of misused applications, there are some cases like in supply chains or documentation where it can really help.”
“It feels like something that’s already been in the jail, and it’s an open and shut case.”
Sentence: Five years and probation with reviews.
Episode 8 | Payments: were systems in Europe ready for COVID-19? | Sophie Guibaud, chief growth officer, OpenPayd
Buzzword: Challenger bank
Reasons: “It’s not about putting down the challenger bank industry, it’s about the misuse of the term. We have been using the term challenger bank since 2014/2015 and applying it to banks and non-banks. What we call ‘neobanks’ are companies that don’t have a banking licence and I think those companies shouldn’t be called challenger banks. They revolutionise the way people interact with money and they actually create a new proposition to specific segments which have been under-addressed by banks, but they are by no means ‘banks’. I think challenger banks – the word itself – should be used for companies that have a banking licence because it because less misleading for existing customers.”
“Then there’s the point about challenger banks themselves and whether they actually challenge a bank. But they are not really challenging them. I think a lot of challenger banks focus on UX or how to improve the customer experience and focusing on specific segments. But what we are seeing more and more of is those challenger banks going towards traditional bank roots to make money and becoming a traditional bank.”
Judge’s reasons: “That’s a bingo! That’s a big one!”
“Everyone and their dog is a challenger bank these days!”
“The way in which you’ve described it and the misuse of the term without a banking licence, and once it becomes one it starts looking more like a traditional bank. Perhaps then it’s more of a marketing scheme to look more different to attract more Gen Zers and millennials which makes them a ‘challenger’.”
Sentence:Two to three years, with a review.
Episode 9 | Open banking: entering the mainstream | Sam O’Connor, co-founder and CEO, Coconut
Reasons: “I know that presents some challengers, particularly for people without access to electronic payments, and the COVID-19 situation. An issue that’s close to me is that cash is difficult to account for and difficult to automate your bookkeeping around. For me, having these physical notes lying around, just attracts viruses and bacteria but also makes the work around managing your money much more difficult.”
Judge’s reasons: “I wouldn’t want it in there as there are elderly and vulnerable people who rely on ATMs and using cash. Maybe if there was more of an initiative from the government in order to help these people move into the digital space. There was this guy once, who advocated for everyone having free broadband and everyone called him crazy even though that would have been really good news for people going digital. Until there is a way for everyone to get access to the internet and be involved in the digital world, then you still really need cash.”
Episode 10 | Diversity & inclusion: AI bias | Theodora Lau, founder, Unconventional Ventures
Reasons: “As an industry, and as a society, we place so much value in disrupting the status quo and taking things away. It’s never a zero-sum game. Why can’t we talk more about collaboration? Working together – crossing the bridge, so we can create more value for society and our customers.”
“We’re going to do something different, but then they just come out with yet another debit card or yet another app.”
Judge’s reasons: “With disruption comes that mentality of ‘you’re in lockdown during coronavirus, you have to learn a new language or new skill – constantly try and upgrade yourself’, and that continuous drive. People in this industry have been driven to burnout by endlessly trying to disrupt and spending all this time at work and showing off with all the new things they are doing.”
“Been bored of this word for such a long time.”
Episode 11 | Financial inclusivity in Russia | Ivan Glazachev, CEO, Yandex Money
Reasons: “Anytime fintech says we’re focusing on omni-channel experience, to me is like saying you’re focusing on breathing. Breathing is something everyone must do. This is a must-have feature. It should be under the hood – no dispute, no debate.”
Judge’s reasons: “It’s something basic that we’re all doing.”
“It’s certainly become the norm.”
Sentence: Ten years.
Episode 12 | Transformers: more than meets the AI | Matt Sattler, head of HSBC’s innovation labs
Buzzword: Artificial intelligence (AI)
Reasons: “Making AI real takes key pieces of a formula. Think of it as a recipe. Recipe number one: do you have the talent to building these types of products? Do you have the culture to enable that? Culture is not about just the team that’s building that, but it’s also the organisational culture to adopting it. Number three is data, and a lot of data. AI is data hungry. Last but not least, because you have all these data and all these tools, you need the infrastructure to support that. Without these four key pieces, it’s impossible. And even with these four pieces, it’s still very difficult to make artificial intelligence real. That’s AI narrow intelligence as we know it today.”
“You hear AI on a day-to-day basis. But when you really scan to see how many companies in the world and the market capital to making those real, those number of companies dwindle down to a handful. What we need as an industry is better ways of vetting and understanding those companies that are really using AI. Removing potential confusing and inefficiencies within the market, as those inefficiencies have an impacts businesses and people.”
Judge’s reasons: “Even if you have a better system of vetting AI, you’ll still use AI, but have more efficient use of it. We will keep an eye on it and call out those companies that are using it wrong. I think the media and financial industry can start using it correctly, then we can have a chance in saving this term.”
Sentence: Watchlist. We’re monitoring you.
Episode 13 | Commerce in the wake of COVID-19 | Travis Skelly, director of venture investing, Citi Ventures
Reasons: “It drives me nuts. Reimagine lending. Did we imagine lending first and never build the lending? Now we’re reimagining the imagination. It’s the semantics of the word and not what we‘re trying to accomplish when we’re saying it. It’s an overused fintech word.”
Judge’s reasons: “I didn’t reimagine that we’re stretch the court metaphor this far, but here we are.”
“I’ve don’t think anyone really sat down and dreamt about lending and imagined lending. Not sure anyone dreams about lending?”
“Tough to be the guy who imagined lending the first time around.”
Sentence: Life imprisonment
Bonus buzzword: AI
Reasons: Piggy-backing off Sattler’s points about it in the last podcast. Let’s lock it away.
Judge’s reasons: “Fresh AI allegations! People must really want this put away.”
Sentence: One year, with a review.
Episode 14 | In these VC streets | Manuel Silva Martinez, general partner, Mouro Capital (formerly known as Santander Innoventures)
Buzzword: AI – again!
Reasons: “I think there’s so much to do to change financial services, but you don’t need super deep tech to reinvent things that are broken. It’s basic technology with a good design to do things the way you do things in a contemporary manner, as opposed to old tech that solves the case for businesses.”
“When we get a pitch by an entrepreneur, and the buzzword right away is ‘we have this AI’. And I think, ‘ugh, great!’ It creates suspicion. Tell me why you need all those buzzwords. I try and wipe it away and get to the core of the problem.”
Judge’s reasons: AI crops up once again, so it has to be locked away.
Sentence: Five years.
Bonus buzzword: Cloud computing
Reasons: “I see it with other technologies too. If you asked me a few years ago, I’d say blockchain or even longer, and I’d say cloud computing. Having a firm do cloud computing is not particularly interesting.”
“The means are confused with the ends. I’m interested in the problem you’re solving, not how you’re solving it. You feel that because it may be a demand in investor’s side to showcase advance technology which gets highlighted in the description as opposed to what it is you’re already solving the issue for.”
Judge’s reasons: “My first role was in cloud computing, so it’s making me nostalgic.”
Sentence: Ten years, with parole.
Episode 15 | Authentication station | Tudor Goicea, chief revenue officer (CRO) at the PayTech Award winning firm, TypingDNA
Buzzword: Open banking
Reasons: “I feel like the term is getting exhausted. We’ve been talking about it in Europe for a few years, but the concept is much older and parts of it have been used in US for a long time. I think it should become the norm and not a ‘thing’ anymore.”
Judge’s reasons: “We report on open banking so much that you sort of get open banking fatigue.”
“Open jail for open banking.”
Sentence: Nordic style open jail with an ankle monitor on whilst probation. No specific time. Will review.
Episode 16 | Financial inclusion 2020 | Nina Mohanty, Klarna and co-host of Breaking Banks Europe podcast
Reasons: “This has expanded beyond just fintech. It’s been brought up in context of Coinbase and the idea that they are a ‘mission-focused’ company. We’re all mission-focused! Every company has a mission and a vision and is focused on that. I don’t like the way it’s been used and co-opted. Even McVitie’s is mission-focused to make the best biscuits in the world.”
Judge’s reasons: “It brings me back to secondary school and doing my GCSEs. One thing we did for our course work was defining a mission statement for our imaginary business. So, if I was doing it at age 15, then I’m sure that these big companies can have their mission statement.”
Sentence: 15 years.
Bonus buzzword: Mobile phone dashboard mock-ups on a website (more of a concept than a word).
Reasons: “Everyone has them and new fintechs have their standard square-space template.”
Judge’s reasons: “Image mock-ups with mobile phones on the dashboard can go in as an accomplice to mission-focused.”
Sentence: Same as “mission-focused” with 15 years.
Episode 17 | The spirit is willing, but the markets are weak | Vinoth Jayakumar, partner, Draper Esprit
Buzzword: Embedded finance
Reasons: Every interaction we have has something to do with money, so it is by definition already embedded. Investors creating a term because they are inventing and industry. It’s like saying ‘we’re going to invest in mobile’, everything is mobile. Or investing in software – everything is software.”
“Get straight to the point.”
“Embedded finance is touted by large insurance firms or telecoms companies when you have something that’s not financial and use a platform like Railsbank or Mambu to provide a service to allow them to sell banking to their subscribers. Just get straight to the point. It’s cash for this, or insurance for that, or lending for this. You can skip the embedded piece.”
Judge’s reasons: “Finance is becoming a more fluid term, and everyone is unsure about what to do with this term.”
“This discussion is the distilled version of fintech jail in its entirety. A section about how the industry needs to be more upfront about what it’s offering and not hide behind generic terms to try and be more marketable. We have to put it in the jail. It’s the definition of why we made this segment.”
“It’s almost the winner of fintech jail, if there was a winner. We’re nipping it in the bud.”
Sentence: Put away in quarantine in an institution for life.