Your FinTech enemy can also be your friend
Wolf Of Wall Street Perception

How your bank bashing FinTech product can still woo a tough crowd of bankers

It’s a fun, but slightly nerve-wracking experience to tell a room of 200 bankers that your approach to transparency is non-existent and in many ways, your money transfer service reeks of excessive cost! Welcome to SIBOS, the world’s largest conference for financial institutions (aka the lion’s den).

Giving bankers in Boston a lesson on transparency

Recently, we boarded a plane to Boston for the Grand Finale of the SWIFT Innotribe startup challenge. Having been selected from over 400 + startups to present, it was a great pleasure to attend SIBOS. Ever since the launch of earlier this year, our first of it’s kind international payment marketplace, we’ve tried to fly the flag of 100% price transparency in money transfers to anyone that will listen. Even to bankers, whether at SIBOS or launch day at Finovate. The result? Rather unexpected actually. You can talk to these guys. Openly. Without sacrificing your ethos, principles or core messaging.

 On the floor at Sibos 

Wooing a tough crowd of bankers

Rehearsals were somewhat interesting. Our message stayed consistent: Listen Bank: You’re overcharging on currency transfers, we offer selection of far cheaper exchange rates, timestamped and transparant mid-market versus customer rates. To a room of senior bankers, this certainly ruffled a few feathers in the audience. But I wasn’t booted out the show. I didn’t get a slap. Over the few days I spent in Boston, I learnt that you can gain respect by elegantly saying ‘guys, you’ve got this wrong’ but at the same time ‘stick to your guns’. They can even give you ideas to take home. Here is an excerpt from a spicy conversation:

Me to banker: “Did you know, 71% would rather go to the dentist than a bank?”
Banker to me: “We know, that’s why we are here at Innotribe.”
Me to banker: “If you go to a supermarket, there is a price for apples and pears. You leave knowing what you are paying. To the penny. Why not in money transfers?”
Banker’s colleague butting in to me: “(after waffling a bit). I guess you are right. I’d like to explore more and have ideas on ways to strengthen your product further, something we’re piloting infact. The customer is king, they deserve this. In 2020, it’s unfathomable this won’t happen.”
We had offers of far-flung, forward thinking banks asking how they could contribute rates on our democratic venue and brainstorm collaborative ways of working together, including using CurrencyTransfer as a benchmarking tool to monitor just how far off the mark they are on price and transparancy. Our ‘we’re not a bank, we’re not a broker’ approach certainly resonated with a crowd that was willing to listen. They were here to learn. It takes two to tango, and a competition like Innotribe brings a cocktail of banks, startups, investors to share knowledge and understand industry themes.
Bankers relaxing

Nice to see the bankers get loose

Not entirely related to this post, but SIBOS ended with a glitzy bash. It was a nice change to see no suits for the first time in the week, with bankers getting loose on the dance floor. You can check it out here:

Your enemy can also be your friend

Banks are still majorly overcharging the unaware consumer on international payments. 2-5% + spreads on a basic SME transfer is not uncommon. Even more scary, it is still one of the last areas of financial services where the end customer does not know what they’re paying. While we didn’t ram this down their throats, we certainly weren’t afraid to say stay true to our raison d’etre.

To any startup, I would say get out the building! Speak to your perceived ‘common enemy.’ Woo them. Charm them with your product. Give them a kick up the butt. Our multi trillion market is big enough to share notes without being afraid. Heck, there was even a whole day session on Bitcoin, and learnt that banks are even piloting with cyrptocurrency startups. At worst, you can learn just how far off the mark the banks are to refine your dare I say it, disruptive (shh, the D word) marketing message further. At best, you may land some unexpected business development and partnership opportunities. In our world of bank account to bank account transfers, our non-bank foreign exchange suppliers still need to work with banks. At times it could have been risqué, but we stayed true to our message. We dissed them but simultaneously educated them. And still gained respect. Win / Win.

#FinTech, or #MoneyTech – who cares, it’s booming!

I recently heard the phrase #moneytech being coined. Whether you call it #fintech #moneytech or #(inserthere)tech, the industry is booming and banks are paying VERY close attention to fast growing upstarts. Forward thinking startups are speedboats, the one thing we have that they will never is speed and momentum. But I also learnt we can still speak with the stereotypical oil tankers (one banker said it’s easier to move a graveyard than a bank), knowledge share and build successful businesses. Thank you Kevin, Iona, Mike, Audrey and the whole of team Innotribe! You’ve created a wonderful community and made me realize that your enemy can still most certainly be your friend. Team CurrencyTransfer left Boston with our minds buzzing about ways we can make our product stronger, involving a wide array of participants in the FinTech ecosystem.

See you next year!

Daniel Abrahams CEO, Follow us or comment below. We’d love your thoughts @currencytransfr

PS. Fintech upstart? Apply for Innotribe Startup Challenge 2015

If you have a fintech product, I would strongly suggest you apply for the Innotribe Startup Challenge 2015. From personal experience, I can solemnly declare you will learn from industry heavyweights, tighten your pitching style, network like crazy and forge deep relationships with potential partners in the growing ecosystem. SIBOS is also a fantastic opportunity to learn about industry themes. *and I wasn’t paid to say this*