Fintech Meetup Reinvents the Conference Experience
By W.B. King
During the inaugural 2021 virtual Fintech Meetup conference more than 2,100 attendees participated in approximately 19,400 15 minute one-on-one meetings — all from the comfort of their home or office.
“Everyone in fintech knows that great technology disrupts the status quo,” noted Simran Rekhi Aggarwal, founder and president of Fintech Meetup. “That’s exactly what we’re doing for fintech events with our proprietary platform. There’s no question that the leading fintech events of the next decade will be tech-enabled experiences, and we’re excited to lead the way.”
The goal of the pandemic-inspired event was to bring together payments, banking and financial services companies in an innovative forum. Attendees were able to pre-select who they wanted to meet and could schedule as many 15-minute Zoom-style meetings as the day allowed. Topics of discussion included APIs, BaaS, core wrapper, decentralized finance, SaaS, open source, end-to-end solutions, online and payday lending, ERP integration, B2B and B2C e-commerce, among many other issues.
Safe 1Credit Union’s Executive Vice President of Marketing Michael George was among attendees. In total, executives from more than 1,000 organizations, including roughly 250 credit unions, were present.
George said the ability to meet multiple fintech executives in a single setting “greatly accelerates the process of analyzing” companies that might be a good partner for the Bakersfield, Calif. – based credit union’s business model.
“With partnerships between credit unions and fintechs proving to be valuable, as well as mutually beneficial, forums allowing for such connections and open dialogue to take place are much easier than navigating this space alone,” said George.
“The 15 minute meetup structure was fabulous. It was the perfect amount of time for both parties to share information, learn about the business models being presented, and quickly know if there was a strategic match,” he added. “If not, then not a lot of time was wasted and, at least, introduction of a potentially new concept was made.”
CU 2.0’s Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Chris Otey also attended the virtual conference. And during the three-day event, he had more than two months’ worth of “traditional” meetings.
“It is the future of conferences. The days of wandering around an exhibit hall as and attendee or standing in a booth as an exhibitor are gone. One day we will look back and think how laughable it was to spend countless hours standing in a booth hoping, waiting and praying a legit prospect would wander by our booth,” said Otey who added that the Ashland, Ore. -based CU 2.0 played a partnership role in the Fintech Meetup conference.
“Fintech Meetup has revolutionized the conference experience. No more 45 minute breakout sessions listening to an expert drone on about digital transformation only to conclude you could have read all that in nine minutes and still learned nothing,” Otey continued. “I think the real genius is in the algorithm they use to match people then deploying a double opt-in mechanism. This completely avoids any wasted time. The beauty is that it can be replicated in a live environment. Think of a conference without an exhibit hall. Instead, you have hundreds of meeting spaces all hosting actual meetings with people that actually want to meet with each other.”
Laying the Foundation for a New Conference Normal
Fintech Meetup’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer Anil Aggarwal explained that this year’s event, which included 5,500-plus hours of lead generation presentations, partnership discussions, funding pitches, recruiting introductions, media/analyst interviews and peer group conversations, was the “largest ever meetings program” in the fintech space.
According to Fintech Meetup statistics, one-third of participants were C-level executives and two-thirds were vice president and above. After the event, participants indicated they were satisfied with more than 94% of their meetings, neither satisfied nor unsatisfied with 4%, and unsatisfied with less than 2%.
“Our launch event established us as the gold standard for fintech events by showcasing the incredible power of our proprietary technology in transforming the event experience,” said Anil Aggarwal. “We’ve delivered value that no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solution is able to provide, and so we can now say without any doubt that software is eating fintech events.”
MX’s Director of Open Finance Katt Benedict attended the event to network and learn from other financial institutions and fintech professionals about the future of banking. The Lehi, Utah –based company helps the financial industry deliver data-driven money experiences via secure, reliable and direct API connections.
“Ultimately my goal was to discuss and learn how together, we can empower financial strength for consumers,” she said. “The 15 minutes is a unique format - allowing us to make many introductions in a short time frame. It was sufficient to gain initial consensus on next steps and to learn a bit about our objectives.”
Safe 1Credit Union’s George noted that during the pandemic other conference organizers tried to change the format – build a better mousetrap – but in his estimation Fintech Meetup was the only event that “nailed it.” He, like Benedict, made many worthwhile connections.
“It was an excellent format for the sharing of ideas without any waste of time. If any hybrid model is adopted moving forward, this would be the one to emulate,” said George. “There is absolutely no doubt we will partner with some of the fintechs introduced to us during the conference. What some of these fintechs are doing, from a partnership standpoint, is beyond what we initially expected.”
While MX’s Benedict said “there is a desire to return to the normal face-to-face” conference experience, this event gave credence to rethink how future conferences might be conducted.
“The conference was incredibly valuable, especially following a year-long pandemic in helping me reconnect and re-engage with peers from across the industry to discuss the current state of innovation and top priorities,” said Benedict. “The credit union way of ‘people helping people’ was at the core of each conversation on how to source trusted and aligned partners and resources that enhance the member experience.”
Fintech Meetup 2022
Building on the success of this year’s event, Fintech Meetup announced that the 2022 conference will take place March 27 to 30 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The goal, Anil Aggarwal noted, is to use the company’s proprietary technology to build the “biggest and best US fintech event.”
"We launched Fintech Meetup as a meetings-centric virtual event because the pandemic made it impossible to hold a comprehensive and inclusive in-person event this spring,” said Anil Aggarwal. “Going forward, however, our primary focus is on end-to-end tech-enabled in-person events that also include all of the traditional aspects of events - from sessions and speakers to sponsors and exhibitors.”
The 2022 conference attendance will be capped at 5,000 and will feature 250 speakers, 300 sponsors and exhibitors and an estimated 20,000 on-site meetings and peer discussions. Anil Aggarwal further explained that Fintech Meetup’s technology will facilitate “tens of thousands of highly targeted on-site meetings to help catalyze payments, banking and financial services innovation.”
In George’s estimation, credit unions were not only well-represented at this year’s conference but also served as a focal point. And while historically credit unions and fintechs weren’t always fast friends, he noted that new, forward-looking partnerships are occurring on a more frequent basis.
“Both credit unions and fintechs play in the same sandbox,” said George. “Together, we have learned it is much more fun and beneficial when we play together as opposed to separately.”
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