31 October 2023 |

Money20/20 U.S. Puts Humanity in the Fintech Spotlight


In a recent piece I shared on my Forbes contributor page, I delved into the insights and moments that struck me during my time at the Money20/20 event. 

It was there, while sitting in the commentator’s box last Tuesday that I had the privilege of witnessing Stephanie Ferris, the CEO and President of FIS, as she shared her thoughts on the fintech landscape. 

Her talk drew a powerful analogy between her role in the fintech industry and Billy Joel’s renowned song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

The analogy captures the chaos that often characterizes the fintech world. But what emerges from this chaos is a newfound clarity. Ferris eloquently emphasized the heart of genuine innovation, which occurs when disruptive individuals revolutionize the core business model from within, prompting a fundamental shift in mindset. 

She stressed the importance of safeguarding a company’s most invaluable asset – its people.

This essence encapsulates the vibe of Money20/20 and fintech as a whole.

During a memorable keynote exchange with Eva Reda, President of Consumer Banking at American Express, the conversation revolved around the fintech sector’s resilience in the face of a series of challenges spurred by a global pandemic. 

These challenges encompassed the frosty “crypto winter,” a banking crisis, surging inflation, and rising interest rates – all of which have collectively eroded consumer trust, a pressing concern for our industry.

What makes this conversation truly stand out is the presence of two extraordinary female leaders at the forefront of humanizing the fintech sector. They navigate through turbulent waters with a specific focus on crucial aspects such as payments, marketing, and strategic alliances.

These female leaders exemplify the idea that harnessing purpose to drive innovation is the key to gaining the coveted trust of customers. They are actively reshaping the fintech landscape, working diligently to rebuild trust and credibility. 

Looking ahead to 2024, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that we should have been following their lead all along – and we must continue to do so.

The reality facing our industry is stark: the financial services sector currently ranks among the least trusted in the business world, second only to social media. Fintech, positioned at the intersection of finance and technology, faces the formidable task of bridging this trust gap by infusing humanity into a transactional world.

As brilliant female CMOs like Elise Brown of Anthemis emphasized during their panel discussion, consumers yearn for authenticity, genuine human interactions, empathy, and the assurance that their needs and values are valued. This is where fintech can genuinely rebuild its reputation as a trustworthy industry.

And research underscores that women excel in most leadership skills, making them a driving force in reshaping the fintech narrative. They emphasize that harnessing purpose to drive innovation is the key to earning the coveted trust of customers. In fact, women leaders outperform men in 84% of leadership qualities, including inspiring and motivating others, according to Harvard Business Review. 

Gender parity isn’t merely a matter of fairness; it’s an essential component of accurately representing underserved markets – enabling fintech to serve as a bridge to establish trust and transparency with consumers.

E-commerce, too, is evolving in complexity and introducing new players into the mix, as Lia Cao, Managing Director and Head of Embedded Finance and Solutions at J.P. Morgan Payments, emphasized during a panel discussion at Money20/20.

Introducing third-party sellers and advertisers has transformed the traditional buyer-seller exchange into a multi-party marketplace. Payment platforms like J.P. Morgan have stepped in to enable tap-to-pay, an example being their collaboration with Sephora in August.

“But the goal is to move beyond mere payments and delve into the world of embedded financial services,” explained Cao. The quest for trust doesn’t conclude with humanizing payments. 

Promoting embedded financial services is essential to bridging the gap between having tap-to-pay capabilities and fintech addressing more significant issues such as persistent income inequality.

To bring this aspiration to life, fintech leaders must do more than comprehend their clients; they must delve into the preferences, values, and challenges of end consumers. This understanding should permeate every facet of their operations.

Serving the underserved can be challenging due to fragmented data and siloed information about individuals. Innovative fintech companies are leveraging technology to obliterate these barriers, making financial services accessible to millions without incurring excessive operational costs. 

For instance, Naré Vardanyan, Founder and CEO of Ntropy, has employed language models to decode financial data, making it comprehensible to humans and algorithms, particularly for underserved communities.

Money20/20 offered a vital lesson: fintech must unite, prioritize humanization, and bridge the trust gap in the financial services industry, with women leaders playing a pivotal role in reshaping the sector. 
For more details, dive into the full Forbes article – an exploration of the current state of the fintech world enriched with valuable insights from female industry leaders.