By W.B. King
A positive takeaway from the pandemic was figuring out innovative ways to successfully conduct business remotely. It was in this spirit that the Fintech Meetup conference experience was born. And judging by the numbers, the second annual event, which took place over the course of three half days in March, shows no signs of slowing down.
“I attended last year and really enjoyed it, so attending this year was a no-brainer. Fintech Meetup was a great opportunity to make connections with potential vendors for initiatives we’re working on this year,” Service Credit Union’s Fintech Operations Manager Jim Wallace said, adding that he attended 19 meetings. “In fact, when others at the credit union heard I was attending, they started asking me to connect with vendors for their projects, too.”
Fintech Meetup’s Co-Founder Jon Lear told Finopotamus the conference was created to help “catalyze change, partnership and innovation” across the fintech and financial services industry. The event covers more than 130 categories of solutions and services. “Effectively anything and everything a credit union needs to better serve their members for generations to come,” said Lear.
In advance of the event, attendees were able to search the database and request up to 24 15-minute meetings with desired colleagues who had the option of opting in or opting out.
“The wave of innovation, collaboration and partnership coming out of Fintech Meetup has been incredible,” Lear said of the event conceived 15 months ago. “Credit unions play a critical role in the financial services industry and we’ve been thrilled with the huge levels of positive feedback that credit unions have provided after participating.”
When asked to boil down the March 2022 event statistics, Lear noted that 25,249 meetings were scheduled for 2,255 participants from 1,097 organizations. One-third of participants were C-level and 54% were vice president and above.
“Participants averaged 11.4 meetings each and we scheduled 6,312 hours of meetings. The overall attendance rate was 95.4% and most importantly, 94% of participants rated their meetings as valuable with 80% of the meetings resulting in requests for follow-up meetings,” Lear said. “The fintech industry has never seen such universal connection and collaboration before with over 300 credit unions and CUSOs participating.”
Nothing Wrong With a Dad Joke
Open Technology Solutions’ Innovation Lead Chris Kramer attended 18 meetings and said many participants found humor in the same recurring “dad” joke that likened the event to speed dating. The Centennial, Colo. -based CUSO offers network and telecom management services.
“I like the format,” Kramer said. “I manage our CUSO’s team in charge of industry research, so it’s great to have a forum where I can get a rapid but wide view of fintechs and trends.”
And whereas many organizations have started to host in-person or hybrid conferences, Kramer said he prefers the Fintech Meetup model.
“As a life-long introvert, I love virtual events,” he said. “The opt-in/swipe-right format creates meeting opportunities that I would normally pass on in live events — meeting with fintechs whose products are not on my radar.”
A first-time attendee, Samaha and Associates’ CEO Sabeh Samaha took part in a number of meetings and said this conference format is “a sign of the times.” The Miami Beach, Fla. consulting firm has served the credit union industry for nearly 25 years.
“The system, the process worked very smoothly,” Samaha said, adding that he made a few promising connections that he looks forward to contacting again. “As an introductory and catch-up process, it was efficient, but I will say that the meetings could have been just a little bit longer — maybe 20 or 25 minutes. Fifteen minutes came up really fast.”
While attendees engrossed in conversation could be caught by surprise when the meeting time elapsed, a two-minute warning was provided before the screen closed. If attendees wanted to share information and continue the conversation, the process was automated with one-click so a future meeting could be scheduled.
“The format of up to 24 15-minute speed-date meetings works incredibly well and enables participants to meet with all the fintech solutions and partners they could possibly need,” Lear explained. “We are continually refining and building our product making it even easier for participants to find the right people at the right organizations.”
Another first-time attendee was Digital Onboarding’s Senior Vice President of Partnerships Adam Westley. The Boston-based company offers an engagement platform designed to help banks and credit unions turn account openers into engaged and profitable relationships.
The objective of attending the event, Westley said, was connecting with potential partners from the industry as well as touching base with existing contacts.
“I attended 24 meetings and liked the speed-dating format very much. It allowed you to quickly determine if there was interest to continue the conversation and provided contact details when the interest was mutual,” he said. “The only con for me was the lack of an in-person forum, which is always nice to build relationships, but admittedly would make the event more difficult. I attended the conference from Maui all week, which was something that could not have happened at an in-person event.”
Lear noted that the Fintech Meetup team is “format agnostic” believing that both “virtual and in-person events are complimentary.”
Service Credit Union’s Wallace said he was impressed with how the event was organized and orchestrated.
“It’s literally a machine that shepherds you on this journey through the process. I always knew exactly what was expected of me and by when. It’s quite remarkable, really,” he continued. “I actually prefer this type of event. It’s much easier to squeeze a lot of meetings into a short amount of time without physically running from location to location. Plus, it’s generally distraction-free, unlike having a conversation in a booth at a traditional conference.”
Another first-timer was FinClusive’s CEO Amit Sharma who decided to join the event in hopes of meeting potential customers and partners. The New York City –based hybrid fin-reg-tech company provides a low-cost, high compliance, fully integrated and blockchain-enabled digital banking, routing and payments platform, which, he noted, is securely accessible for the world’s underserved, excluded or financially challenged.
While Sharma misses in-person events, he took part in 16 virtual meetings. He noted that the experience was designed in such a manner that it was “easy” to engage with other attendees.
“Virtual events are indeed efficient and a good way to do them from any location,” said Sharma. “I was on travel overseas and could still accommodate these meetings while traveling.” He continued. “There were many opportunities to engage counterparties that can add value to our products and services and our ability to provide services to others. [Although] it was a bit U.S. centric and the nature of fintech is global.”
Fintech Meetup Takeaways
Part of Kramer’s job at Open Technology Solutions is working with his team to create “articles and scorecards” denoting interesting opportunities in credit union banking. After the event, he noted having a “ton” of new leads. Among topics of interest were meetings focused on artificial intelligence (AI), financial literacy and health products.
“AI is huge with impending ubiquitous adoption and marketing, we’re near a turning point where AI will become an expected part of a product, and not an icing-on-the-cake differentiator,” he said. “Financial literacy and health products are delivering actionable insights for consumers, and revenue opportunities for financial institutions. AI and big data fintechs are unlocking FIs’ ability to deliver loans and other opportunities to underserved demographics. I think we’ll see wide-spread adoption of alternative data in general, but specifically a focus on underserved consumers, in the next five years.”
One of Westley’s takeaways was that partnering with fintechs has never been more important than it is today.
“There has been a real shift in the industry to be more collaborative and it is creating some very exciting new innovations,” he said. “Financial services customers want great digital experiences but that alone is not enough to satisfy a client. Banks and credit unions have to invest in improving these channels but remember that the human touch has been and will continue to be a key part of their success.”
Lear echoed Westley’s comment, adding that credit unions are “almost universally embracing fintechs” as they seek to “better serve their existing members,” while attracting new members.
“Whether it’s transforming their payments or credit solutions; overhauling their core banking platforms; or completely rethinking their member engagement or servicing tools, fintech is an unstoppable force driving wholesale change and creating new opportunities for credit unions,” said Lear.
“Historically, credit unions haven’t been able to get rapid and broad exposure to all the fintech solutions available in the market to enable their transformation. There is so much innovation and transformation happening across fintech and things move very quickly,” Lear continued. “With Fintech Meetup, credit unions have been able to quickly and efficiently participate and meet with all the fintechs they need to transform their offerings.”
Providing a credit union perspective, Wallace said he met with fintech executives who had “really great things [to offer] in the personalization space,” an initiative that is important to the $5.1 billion Portsmouth, N.H.-based Service Credit Union, which serves more than 336,000 members.
“We understand that every member is different and being able to cater to the specific needs of individual members is very powerful. I was able to make some meaningful connections in the area thanks to the Fintech Meetup,” Wallace said.
“Service Credit Union works with many fintech partners, some under the umbrella of other larger ones. I think we’re seeing ecosystems evolve that allow fintechs to work seamlessly together to provide better overall solutions. Although many fintechs create technology solutions that help people self-serve, they also help credit unions provide more personalized service,” Wallace continued. “Fintechs allow credit union members to handle many simple to complex tasks on their own, allowing credit union staff to be available in a consultative way when personal intervention is needed.”
As Lear and his team rebound from the successful event, they remain hard at work ensuring that future attendees are provided with the most efficient way to virtually meet partners, organizations and individuals that “support the transformation” of credit unions.
“We’re going to be making some big announcements over the coming weeks regarding Fintech Meetup 2023,” Lear said. “The credit union industry is going to love what we have planned.”
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