Trending Topics sneaked into one of the flagship fintech events in CEE, Annual FinТech Summit 2019. The conference took place in Sofia on March 13 and gathered banks, insurance companies, fintech startups, and investors from the CEE region.
As main media partner, Trending Topics got to interview most of the speakers and key opinion leaders in fintech (and insurtech), who shared their thoughts about the future of the industry.
What’s Next in Fintech?
One of the hottest topics during the conference was the new Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which according to many, will disrupt the financial sector as we know it. In short, PSD2 allows all bank customers to use third-party solution providers to manage their finances.
“That gives the ownership of the data back to the user. Since nowadays financial services are a lot about customizing things to the user, I do believe that this will lead to a major shift in Fintech,” said Alex Zhigarev, Partner at the Austrian investment fund Speedinvest. Tamara Valdo, Fintech Partnerships Manager at Raiffeisen Bank, also confirmed that she sees an increase in the number of startups in the field of open banking.
Another trend, which isn’t really new but is definitely gaining momentum, is the migration to mobile-first banking. Petr Baron, CEO of TBIF Financial Services (TBI Bank), expects that businesses will reduce substantially and even stop using offline banking.
Many hope that technologies like blockchain, machine learning, and increased process automation will bring more transparency to the sector. According to Kaloyan Georgiev, CEO of the new-age insurance company Colibra, the insurance and banking sector is lacking trust from customers and technology can address that.
Last but not least, everyone in Fintech is passionate about “beyond banking”, standing for seamless customer experience. According to Tal Sharon, Managing Director at Equitech, financial institutions should get to a point where users forget that they are interacting with their bank or financial service provider. Nikolai Genchev, CEO of UNIQA Bulgaria, also believes in the customer-centric approach and sees blockchain as a big opportunity for the sector.
Where is Southeast Europe on the Global Fintech Map?
Here the opinions are quite polar. Some see the flexibility and small market size as a great testing ground for new fintech products. Others believe that the adoption of fintech is still very low and look at the region more as an R&D hub rather than a potential market.
“With the transition, all the banks from Western Europe came to Eastern Europe in order to hunt growth. Basically, they overbanked the market completely. The market is currently overwhelmed with banking and financial services, and it’s really hard for Fintech disruptors to find a place there,” said Stoil Vasilev, VP Corporate Development at the mobile payments company SumUp.
However, it’s a common belief that the engineering talent in the region is a big advantage and gives SEE the potential to transition from an outsourcing destination for software development to birthplace of fintech innovation.