What does the FinTech landscape in your country look like?
Talking about FinTech specifically, I consider the whole of Europe, with the exception of the UK, to still be close to irrelevant. This is not to say that there aren’t FinTech startups in Europe and in France, but simply that I don’t see anything moving significantly beyond the start-up phase. The places to be are still the USA (and New York in particular for FinTech) and the Far East (China especially).
If we think more of start-ups, the picture is more nuanced. Firstly, France has had a few successful experiences – for example, BlaBlaCar, Deezer and Dailymotion, which all have an international footprint. Secondly, France is capable of producing talent, thanks to its “Ivy League” schools. Even if they work in California, French talents are very active. Finally, the French state and corporations have been spending more and more resources to develop and nurture this kind of enterprises. BNPP is one leading example, with offices in the Silicon Valley, but also with specific programmes for French startups.
Unfortunately, I believe all this is not enough. France and Europe still lack a favourable ecosystem and they suffer from too much bureaucracy and too little flexibility/liberty. There is a lack of a certain kind of history and culture – education system, investors, R&D, etc. Europe always relies on new legislation as the means to create the “European” Google, the “European” Facebook, or the “European” Amazon, but none of the originals were born from legislation or state intervention.
How receptive is your country’s culture towards changes resulting from FinTech? E.g. in terms of privacy and or change resistance?
Again, I think the attitude is quite uniform over Europe, excluding the UK, meaning that there is a high resistance to change, especially coming from outside Europe. We have to keep in mind that France has arrested and is prosecuting two Uber managers. Also, in terms of legislation (concerning, for example, privacy), France and other European countries are among the strictest regions in the world, together with some Asian ones. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I think privacy is a topic we have to consider and treat very carefully. It surely doesn’t help enterprises, both big and small, in their efforts to innovate.
I’m pretty convinced, though, that the resistance is more in the public domain and regulating bodies than in users and consumers. European people are more than willing and ready to adopt new technologies and services and benefit from them.
Will there be any banks left in 2020?
That year is not that far away, so I’m pretty sure there will be banks and that they will still play a major role in our lives and in the economy. The big question is: “Where in the value chain they will be?” I’m certain they will still have the “hard” part, because no-one wants to take banks’ role toward regulators and their capital requirements. But this will become more pf a low-margin activity, so who will be the leaders further down the value chain? Where will the revenue be? While I’m perfectly conscious that a certain way of doing banking is definitely past us, I don’t believe in the doomsday scenario in which banks disappear, to be replaced by trendy start-ups and Internet giants. Banks have the resources and the attitude to change and win the challenges they are facing in the digital era. Probably not all challenges, but a significant number of them.
Which FinTech company could become the next Uber? Why?
If I knew, I would invest my savings in it. I would say that the Uber of financial services may be Apple. It has started very small with Apple Pay, in a hyper-competitive business, but more than anyone else, it has certain assets that could allow it one day to do basically anything it wants if it finds the right mix: unlimited financial resources, cultish client loyalty and an established digital and user-centric culture. I honestly believe Apple is the competitor for every player in the financial industry.
What do you think is the most promising technology that will disrupt financial services? Why?
Another question almost impossible to answer. If I trust the buzz, and I admit that some potential and more “visionary” applications seem really revolutionary, I would say block-chain, which really strikes at the heart of what a bank has been over the last 1 500 years, an intermediary of money and trust between people and institutions. Personally, I’m more fascinated by what will happen next in terms of human interface. The smartphone has completely changed people and customer behaviour, and with them some major service industries, so what’s going to be the next step? Even if I’m a fan, it’s not going to be the smartwatch. Other than that, I have no idea but I’m really excited to discover it in the next years.