The rapidly expanding cohort of fintech start-ups can better meet the demands of the established banking system, according to a vision from the President of the Swiss Finance + Technology Association. The answer, he says, is to shift focus from a tsunami of fintech ideas to the needs of companies and investors.
Former Credit Suisse banker John Hucker has therefore embarked on a new venture, FINTECH+, which aims to better match the questions posed by traditional finance with the solutions offered by technology. “In a sense, we want to do less structured farming and foster a more fertile, jungle-like environment capable of fostering the commercialisation of new innovations” says Hucker.
On the one hand, Hucker thinks the traditional financial sector cannot break free from the shackles of its old way of thinking. “Today, the Swiss financial center operates on a well-established business model but it is in decline and increasingly vulnerable to disruption. New solutions are needed and they are likely to come from new sources in the FinTech ecosystem.”
On the other side of the coin, Swiss fintech incubators and accelerators are trying too hard to replicate Silicon Valley’s garage start-up scene. But most are expensive to operate, lack a true global dimension, are often restricted by the one or two big companies that run them or fail to deliver innovation to the people and institutions who really need it, he argues.
No beauty contest
It is far better to fuse Switzerland’s twin strengths of basic research and development with the country’s traditional status as an international meeting hub. Fintech+ aims to collect innovators, investors, regulators and big companies under one roof. “I want to create an environment where people with a common need come together to create value,” Hucker said.
The process starts with a two-day FINTECH+ conference in Zurich that starts on October 1. Rather than stage a “beauty contest” of diverse Swiss start-ups, Hucker wants this conference to tackle specific themes, such as how artificial intelligence can benefit the wealth management, insurance and sustainable sectors.
The conference will feature ‘reverse pitches’ where the financial industry poses the questions and asks for practical solutions. The 200+ attendees from 10 countries will include fintech delegations from Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The objective is to bring the world of fintech to Switzerland, the first step towards creating a ‘global ecosystem’ for all interested parties to exchange ideas, find solutions and raise funds. “We think everyone benefits from connecting on an open platform, rather than going it alone in the fintech ecosystem,” said Hucker.
The conference aims to set the scene for a digital platform that will allow participants to continue the international dialogue once they have dispersed to different corners of the globe. This will also be designed to hook up fintech start-ups with venture capital funding opportunities and help companies find the best talent worldwide.
“There is lots of capital seeking deals with the potential to generate returns in the fintech sector right now,” says Hucker. “We want to provide the means for the market to function by itself.”
In addition, the finishing touches are being applied to a ‘deconstructed accelerator’ in Zurich that will “cut to the chase of how to let people achieve their objectives.” The accelerator aims to connect start-ups with investors and offer consultancy, marketing and legal advice throughout the life cycle of a start-up venture.
“This will help fintech companies come to Switzerland and for Swiss firm to expand internationally,” said Hucker.