Cash of the Titans: Day 2 – Money 20/20

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By Matthew Dove

The human brain is programmed to identify patterns and, for better or worse, make arbitrary distinctions. Categorisation was certainly the spirit wind filling the sails of day two at Money 20/20 Amsterdam.

Line it is drawn and the curse it is cast, the slow one now will later be fast.

These words not only but showcase Bob Dylan’s effortless grasp of verse but also his prodigious talent for gauging developments in financial technology. Whether the line be drawn between China and the US or the banks and big tech, it’s becoming urgently apparent that the spoils will belong to the fleetest of foot.

Roaming the floor of the Dutch capital’s RAI Convention Centre, TFT was privy to the same story by different authors. In the ING Cafe with Katrina Hermann (ING), Shamir Karkal (BBVA) and Toby Otsuka (Rakuten), the narrative revolved around trust and cohesion.

The delegate from Rakuten confidently asserted that the decision to place ones hard-earned cash in the hands of a third party is second only to one’s life in terms of gravity. The level of trust involved being reserved solely for the banks. Big tech doesn’t get a look in.

Despite a wealth of evidence to suggest the contrary is in fact true (for a glimpse at the post-crisis paradigm shift click here), Otsuka ploughed on regardless. For Otsuka, it logically follows that different services require different levels of trust and Amazon and co. don’t have sufficient “brand equity” to carry the weight of finance.

Whether the line be drawn between China and the US or the banks and big tech, it’s becoming urgently apparent that the spoils will belong to the fleetest of foot.

BBVA’s Karkal was deft in his retort, “customers don’t trust banks, they trust FDIC deposit insurance!”

The pair also failed to reach consensus on matters geographic. Otsuka implied that the homogeneous platform models emerging in the US, China and Japan are unique to those regions, whilst the diversity of Europe can support a wider range of service providers.

Karkal, on the other hand, ventured that the States and China are ramping up a tech cold war which will inevitably engulf the rest of the world. Proxy-war-as-a-service, anyone?

On the bafflingly named, Industry Transmutation stage, attendees expecting to see Jeff Goldblum morph into a hideous fly were to be disappointed. Instead they were treated to a wonderfully acerbic turn from David Birch. Hyperion Consult’s director made no allowance for his audience of bankers. In fact, his performance appeared tailor-made to dishevel one or two starched collars.

On the implications of open banking, Birch asked what the crowd thought big tech is going to do with all the information banks have been forced to pony up. Addressing his own enquiry, Birch answered that they’re not going to, “piss about with data like you lot do.”

He continued that the real challengers in distribution aren’t the, erm, challengers but the tax-averse wizards of Silicon Valley. The geek will inherit the earth as it were. A poll of attendees seemed to confirmed as much; two-thirds believing that the long-term beneficiaries of open banking would be “as yet unspecified competitors” whilst only 19% pushed the button labelled “challengers.”

“What are you going to do about it?” came Birch’s rhetorical provocation. A resounding response there came none…

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