Paris Fintech Forum 2020: The ‘Davos of FinTech’ ends 5th annual conference on almighty cliffhanger

For the last five years the Paris Fintech Forum (PFF) has been the most exclusive European annual event on digital finance. Organised by Altéir Event , the 2020 edition was no different. Hosted at Palais Brongniart, it proved to be the Davos of digital and fintech industry. More than 2700 international participants from 75 countries, 280+ CEO speakers, and 180+ Fintechs gathered to shape the future of all the actors of the financial industry, bank, insurance, regulators and Fintechs.

A hub for the game changers and big players in banking, insurance, finance, Venture Capital, Fintech, regulators and institutions, this year we witnessed a realm of exclusive session and had access to workshop rooms where exhibitors and attendees took networking to a whole new dimension.

The two day event was packed with CEO sessions covering everything from Fintech growth to SME finance, pitches and showcase, Open Banking, women in finance and a whole lot more. In fact, the 7 stages offered over 130 different sessions while over 180 Fintechs took over the 3 exhibition halls, each showcasing their latest tech and product lines.

Main partners, MasterCard, Microsoft, BHP Paribas, Caisse des Depots and Xpollens all hosted their own lounges with showcases, pitch sessions, 1:1 business meetings and networking.

To give you an idea at the breadth and scope of the event, Brella (the official app) recorded over 37,000 user to user interactions over the 2 days.

With so much going on it was impossible to see everything and our biggest gripe (if you can call it that) is that we simply had too many great options and not enough time!

Key Takeaways

Key topics this year included direct to consumer models, Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS), Open Banking, Artificial Intelligence, Insurance, consumer and SME lending.

RegTech was also a key talking point with regulatory complexity, use of AI and market adaptation being part of the discussion across many sessions.

One on one talk with  Nik Storonsky (Revolut)  and  PFF founder, Laurent Nizri.   Credit: @Nicolas Kalogeropoulus / Altéir Event
One on one talk with Nik Storonsky (Revolut ) and PFF founder, Laurent Nizri . Credit: @Nicolas Kalogeropoulus / Altéir Event

Memorable Moments

“Banks will not be able to compete in the retail space in 5 years. There will be 5 or so major players, all of whom will be Fintech’s, controlling retail banking.”

This was the assertion by Nik Storonsky (Revolut ) during his one-on-one session with PFF founder, Laurent Nizri .

A FinTech unicorn and British success story, Revolut is widely seen as the market leader in the sector with 11 million clients worldwide and 20k new registered accounts every day (of which 1k being business accounts, growing by 20% per year).

It is safe to say that Nick’s assertion should be heeded, not just here in Europe but also in America. When asked about Revolut’s delayed entry into the US market, Nik Storonksy was direct “We are solving the problem of instant payments in US before launching”.

When asked about Revolut’s performance, revenue lines and when we could expect the company to turn over a profit, Nik Storonksy had this to say:

“Like Amazon, we stared with one service (Fx) then moved into money transfer, insurance, crypto and we have more products coming in 2020 including interchange, subscription service, metal cards, user fees and business account stream. For the UK especially, we have largest number of products since it has the best regulation across Europe, it is our testing bed for all new features and services. As for profitability, we will be profitable in 2020 and already are in a number of countries.”

On a lighter note, Laurent Nizri asked what would be his best bit of advice or interesting fact he could share with the audience. Nik Storonksy answered “The most interesting fact, I probably made the biggest number of mistakes. The key is to have thick skin and learn from those mistakes.”

When asked what his 2 year plan is, Nik smiled, commenting that his focus is always on the next 3 months “We have early targets too but 3 months is what we aim for.”

The crowd laughed when he was finally asked if there were any plans to sell and if he had a price. His reply:

“I want to continue for as far as I can go, so 3 months.“

“For Russia and Alfa Bank, digital is already the past, we live in a post-digital world. Right now the big focus is on the phygital experience. China does this well (wechat) and I believe we do it just as well in Russia.”

Vladimir Verkhoshinskiy (Alfa Bank CEO) commenting when asked “What is the biggest barrier to entry?”

He added:

“One of the competitive edges for us is being private, we make fast decisions and changes. We get full support from our shareholders, I can’t see a pubic bank moving as fast as we do and it does affect the speed of change.“

He was joined by Javier Pérez-Tasso (SWIFT), Stéphane Boujnah (Euronext) and François Riahi (Natixis) on the “From Incumbent to Digital Leader” panel session on the main stage.

When asked whether any of them are concerned about Startups, Javier Pérez-Tasso (SWIFT) chimed in with:

“It’s not about being concerned, it is about addressing the needs of the consumer. We see the ecosystem a little bit more in depth. There are many more players in the chain and they can contribute to the overall experience of the customer. “

Laurent Nizri  is the founder of Parish Fintech Forum
Laurent Nizri is the founder of Parish Fintech Forum. Credit: @Nicolas Kalogeropoulus / Altéir Event

I want to build something meaningful with you and I will spend the next 6 months developing it. I don’t know what and where the next step will be. As a strategy consultant, I know that change is key to success,”

Laurent Nizri

Not what we expected to hear

It’s safe to say that no one sat in the auditorium at the start of the second day expected to hear Laurent Nizri proclaim that this would be the last Paris Fintech Forum.

After all, Paris Fintech Forum has been a leader since its inception 5 year ago. It seems, Laurent and his team are mindful of the fact that times are changing and they too must adapt if they wish to remain relevant. Laurent added:

“We are a private event, an international one. Last year, we had 2,000 one on one meetings, this year we had 10,000 on day one. We are the 1st but we cannot stay the 1st by doing the same thing again and again. Thus I am not selling, but there won’t be another PFF next year. I want to build something meaningful with you and I will spend the next 6 months developing it. I don’t know what and where the next step will be. As a strategy consultant, I know that change is key to success,”

Closing the event with the message “we will be back”, the question on everyone minds, undoubtedly, is in what form.

What’s next for Paris Fintech?

While Paris Fintech Forum as we know it might be finished, it is quite clear the team at Altéir Event and Laurent Nizri have big plans in store. As of right now, all we have to go on is a landing page displaying “Paris Fintech Forum 202X – Reloaded”, claiming that “The future of the Paris Fintech Forum will be written with your inputs.” Prompting visitors to touch to “to help us build the “Reloaded” version of the most exclusive international event on digital finance & fintech”.

Whatever form PFF Reloaded will take, we are confident it will once again exceed all expectations.

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Darie Nani
Darie Nani

Aiming to inform, educate and sometimes amuse.