So, another year’s WIRED Money , together with BBVA, over and what have we learnt from this gathering of individuals and businesses looking to change the world of financial services through technology?
One thing is certain - the fintech world is a different place after the UK’s vote on June 23 to leave the European Union in a referendum held on the same day as WIRED Money. While we now have to wait and see the outcome of ‘Brexit’ negotiations to assess the impact on London’s status as the European home for financial services startups, disruption in the sector continues apace, with WIRED Money identifying the segments that we should be keeping an eye on.
As ever, the event assembled an impressive collection of speakers ,and if you’re wondering where to invest in next the answer from an number of them to the question of which sector is up next for change is insurance. According to Marta Krupinska, co-founder of international money transfer service Azimo, it’s the ubiquity of insurance that makes it so attractive.
“We take insurance through our lives, and I’m hoping that innovation will lower costs and increase access,” she said. One company that’s already used digital to change insurance is Swiss insurance management platform Knip. Co-founder Christina Kehl - who is now MD of the Zurich-based Swiss Finance Startups, which is seeking to encourage the development of the fintech sector in Switzerland- believes that the insurance industry is embracing this change. ‘Previously, insurance companies were comfortable. Now they recognise that a wave’s coming and they’re doing something about it.” As well as Christina, other speakers on ‘Insurtech’ included Aldo Monteforte, founder of The Floow, which uses data from smartphones to help insurance companies and Guevara’s Kim Miller, whose business encourages groups of friends to take out insurance together based on the psychology of crowds.
Christina Kehl, Co-founder of insurtech Knip and MD of Swiss Finance StartUps
Like Kehl and Knip, Nikolaus Suehr, CEO of Kasko, is looking to take advantage of digital change in insurance by offering an API that aggregates insurance products on affiliate websites and allows companies to integrate insurance into their offering, thereby providing choice and transparency for customers. He believes that investment hasn’t quite caught up with the huge changes taking place in the insurance industry.
“ The issue is that building a B2B insurance platform is a little different from selling shoes online and there isn’t a sufficient track record to encourage investment,” said Suehr. He added, optimistically: “Funding is definitely increasing, but there’s a bit of a lag.”
Even investing itself is being disrupted. Suehr spoke about people coming back from Silicon Valley with stories of how fintech investment was cooling. “Apparently, investors want to see revenue, which begs the question - what did they want to see before?“ he said. Jay Reinemann, Lead Partner at Propel Venture Partners, in which BBVA has a stake, talked about the change in the make-up of investors. “There are now many more entrepreneurs in the fintech investment space, which helps when it comes to providing practical support.” And then there is a shift in the way that investments are made. Jonathan Medved, founder and CEO of Israel-based OurCrowd provides crowdfunding for startups through investment for equity as an alternative to VCs.
Kasko CEO Nikolaus Suehr presenting on the BBVA OpenTalent Startup Stage
“Investing in a business when they’re a private company is seen as complicated - who knows what preferred stock is, for example - and yet this is where the majority of returns are, “ said Medved.
“For a minimum of $10 000, investors can choose startups in which we’ve done due diligence and are also investing, “ he explained. One such investment is Biocatch, which uses ‘behavioural biometrics’ - the way you interact with your phone or laptop, for example - to authenticate users and prevent fraud. OurCrowd led a $10m Series A round in the company.
Given its’ potential, it’s no surprise that Blockchain is still exciting many with its various use cases. Credits is a B2B provider of Blockchain infrastructure, and co-founder Eric Benz likens its’ potential to that of the internet, but asks for patience. “The internet didn’t happen overnight - it’s a stack where you need to build the fabric. Blockchain is the same - it’s a stack.”
So whatever happens in London and the UK, WIRED Money demonstrated that there is no let-up in the pace of innovation and disruption in financial services. Delegates were also clear about the role that the event plays in the process. Benedetta Arese Lucini of Oval Money, an app that aims to help people better manage their money through studying their financial behaviour, and who presented on the BBVA OpenTalent start-up stage, said: “For startups, WIRED Money gives us a chance to meet larger players and foster partnership, which we believe is best route to innovation in financial services.”