FinovateFall 2021 Conference Signals a Return to Relative Normalcy

By W.B. King

Despite COVID-19 variants and an uneasiness felt by some in the industry regarding large public gatherings, FinovateFall 2021 successfully welcomed more than 1,100 in-person vaccinated attendees during its three-day New York City -based event.

The hybrid conference, which took place September 13 to 15 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square, included more than 1,500 attendees in total and featured 75-plus fintech demoers and more than 130 speakers.

Among those in attendance was MSU Federal Credit Union’s Assistant Vice President of Digital Strategy and Innovation Ben Maxim. And while this wasn’t his first in-person event since 2020, he said it was the largest.

“It was great to attend an event like this in person and get to know the people on the other side of the Zoom screen. It was a strange feeling to have been interacting with quite a few of the attendees for the past year-plus via video, but never having actually met in real life,” said Maxim. “It was also great to get a chance to engage and in a conversation I had while at the event I described it as having the unexpected collisions of ideas and people instead of having to always schedule the interaction via video just isn’t the same.”

William Mills Agency’s CEO William E. Mills also attended the conference. Not only did he call the event a “terrific success,” he said it rivaled pre-pandemic conferences. The Atlanta -based agency has worked in the financial industry for more than 38 years and served hundreds of companies that provide products and services in the banking, payments, mortgage, credit union and related markets.

“I think the stringent vaccination requirement that New York City put in place effective September 13th makes people feel much safer. You can’t even walk into the hotel lobby without proving you are vaccinated,” said Mills. “If other financial events are in places that require vaccinations, then I think it bodes well for the industry events this fall.”

William MIlls Agency's CEO William E. Mills.

Mills also sat on the Blue Chip Panel discussing the future of open banking, cloud, API and other financial technologies. Fellow panelists included Ninth Wave’s CEO George Anderson, JPMorgan Chase’s Head of Strategy & Transformation - Wholesale Payments Digital Eileen Holcomb, Financial Data Exchange’s Managing Director Don Cardinal, and Activant Capital Investment Team Member Andrew Steele.

“I’d say a big theme was how financial institutions can create digital relationships with their customers or members and not just transactions,” Mills said about the conference. “I heard it stated multiple times: ‘It all starts with the customer.’”