On Wednesday, OpenPayd hosted the first episode of Banking Unlocked, a new series of webinars exploring ways in which banking and payment services can unlock value and catalyse growth.
This episode focused on sustainability and innovation, and the challenges associated with balancing these two imperatives. The panel consisted of OpenPayd CEO Iana Dimitrova, Innovate Finance Head of Policy and Government Affairs Iana Vidal, Soldo’s VP Small Business Europe Darren Upson, and Checkout.com’s Head of Compliance and MLRO Matt Buchanan. It was hosted by Ali Paterson, Editor-in-Chief of Fintech Finance.
The guests began by offering their own definitions of sustainability. Matt Buchanan suggested that sustainability involves careful, measured growth and a structured approach. Iana Vidal added that corporate governance and operational resilience are important, and that the Wirecard scandal will mark an inflection point.
For Darren Upson, innovation for its own sake isn’t sustainable. Transferwise is an example of sustainable innovation, he said, because it’s solving a genuine problem. Growth comes from solving a problem for enough people.
Iana Dimitrova added that sustainability is about trust, and that’s multifaceted: it includes relationships with regulators, with banking providers and other partners, and with customers. Governance isn’t about admin - it’s about enabling and advancing.
Exploring Wirecard more specifically, Darren Upson said that Soldo’s service was interrupted by the firm’s closure, and that communication with its customers was crucial. He added that governance and compliance is about culture: a fintech can have the best processes in the world, but it comes down to people to implement them. Iana Vidal agreed, saying that Wirecard was partly a victim of groupthink, and that diversity of thought and experience are crucial.
The panel then discussed the challenges of dealing with a rapidly changing regulatory environment. Iana Dimitrova said that both people and technology are crucial, and that both must be able to adapt to fast-paced change without disruption to internal processes or user journey. Much of this, she said, is about hiring people with deep subject knowledge, who can preempt and understand the direction of travel.
Matt Buchanan said that the FCA have an innovative approach to regulation, especially with regard to the the sandbox initiatives. Iana Vidal agreed that the FCA is the gold standard for regulatory bodies worldwide.
Finally, offering advice for fintechs looking to secure new licences, Iana Dimitrova said that regulators like to see experience, so having licences in other jurisdictions is very important. But the focus of regulators is shifting from promoting innovation, competition, and fair access to market, she said, and towards a focus on operational resilience, profitability, conduct, and culture.
Stay tuned for future episodes of Banking Unlocked.