First edition of the Fintech Forum
On October 20, 2014, the Fintech Forum I brought together in Barcelona the financial world and businesses currently innovating in the finance sector to jointly analyze the digital transformation of the financial services industry. The Conference focused
on innovation in the financial industry, and how the technologies are generating structural changes in the sector.
The meeting, co-organized by the law office of Gomez-Acebo& Pombo and Digital Origin was the first of Spain's fintech (financial technology) meeting points.
The first panel, “Paradigm shift in the financial world”, dealt with the time of the current change that the world of finance is experiencing with the progressive digitalization of the sector. “It is not a matter of reproducing
analogous experiences in the digital world, but rather a focus on possible disruptions, of technologies that will allow us to do different things,” said Javier Zamora, Professor of Information Technology at IESE. In this regard, Zamora
noted successful experiences in the fintech sector worldwide, with interesting players in peer-to-peer lending (loans between individuals) such as prosper.com, lendingclub.com or smava.de. He also referred to kiva.com, an entity based
in San Francisco, allowing financing social projects. “While these banks have not fully started, and their volume is not very big at present, future development potential is huge,” said Zamora.
The importance of trust
Representatives of the financial sector present stressed the importance of building trust as a key factor for the future success of companies: “It is important for banks and SMEs to change towards a more open and transparent attitude that will allow information
to flow. This will generate confidence in society, so essential at the moment,” said Joan Massons, tenured professor of finance at ESADE. “The Latino world must evolve with the English-speaking market: the
first has some opacity, while the English-speaking world is much more transparent,” he concluded. Marta Plana, co-founder of Digital Origin, pointed out that “the three basic pillars for our company are confidence, security
and benefits for the end user.”
Great future for new players
The second panel,“Digital banking: a new concept” more widely addressed one of the major concerns that affect this banking revolution: regulation. Regarding the central question of this forum, the need to regulate the sector,
participants voted Yes and gave as an example the case of England, where the market is regulated.
Jaime Carvajal, President of Banco EVO and CEO of Arcano Group, predicted “a strong future growth of new players of the financial sector,” especially for the generational change, with users accustomed to using current digital
media. “Everything digital has a very wide horizon,” he concluded.
Bárbara Navarro, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for Google South of Europe,referred to the exciting moment, full of risks but also opportunities, experienced in the sector: “There is no doubt that we are experiencing
a revolution, and we are talking about a 100% digital economy.” In this context, “traditional operators consider that they are are in inferior conditions from being regulated excessively, while the new players are in a stage of regulation
virtually nonexistent for them.” Navarro also noted the fact that “there is excessive regulation that could threaten the competitiveness of businesses.”
In her speech, Marta Plana, co-founder of the digital finance company Digital Origin indicated two of the most relevant aspects for her company: “There are two key elements for Digital Origin: technology, which allows us to
have a 0.001% fraud rate, and the Big Data, which allows us to analyze the control of risks and loans.” Plana also requested regulation in the sector “because it gives greater safety to our customers and our investors, and generates
greater confidence in our business model,still little known in Spain. In England there are about 250 companies that, like us, are dedicated to cash-on-demand, while in Spain there are only about 20 of us.”
Traditional banking also expressed its point of view on this issue: “Traditional banking and new players are two complementary worlds and should not be seen separately. We do ask that regulation be as low as possible, but equal for all,” added Ignacio Redondo,
Executive Director of the Legal Counsel of CaixaBank.
Francesc Fajula, Director of Digital Strategy of Santander Universities, expressed the same sentiment, and defended the regulation, but in a way that does not impair innovation capacity: “if we must regulate everything, then
we threaten innovation. In San Francisco the environment is very open and clearly allows the new, more disruptive business models.” In this sense, Fajula continued, “our great competitor is Google: they have very valuable information
and high quality users who know how to use it very well, information that traditional institutions have failed to exploit.
Jordi Òliva i Ritort, Director General of Financial Policy, Insurance and Treasury of the Generalitat de Catalunya, closed the day, saying that “the biggest challenge in the public sector is to seek regulation in the current
rapidly changing environment.”