Which will win out in the end, fintech companies or banks?
That was the question debated by three financial services professionals and a futurist at Next Bank USA 2015 in New York yesterday.
Moven CEO Brett King was joined by digital media executive Robert Tercek to argue the case for the fintech side. Banks were defended by Michal Panowicz, deputy head of digital banking at Nordea, and Ron Shevlin, director of research at Cornerstone Advisors.
For much of the dialogue, the four didn’t seem to disagree on much. Nonbanks such as Moven and Lending Club provide experiences generally superior to those of banks, but still rely on banks to operate. This, Panowicz argued, hardly constitutes “disruption.”
King disagreed, saying that fintech startups now outnumber banks, and are winning the hearts and minds of millennials in particular. Tercek’s main theme was that digital experiences were taking over the world, and that financial services could not help but be swept up in that. Given that, the fintech companies focusing on customer experience would win out over banks focused on legacy business models and profit and loss.
“Banks think like banks, fintechs think like experience and service companies,” King said. “The bank has come to us to fix their problem,” he said, referring to Moven’s bank customers. “And they’d never be able to do it themselves.”
Panowicz, who is best known for leading the development of mBank in Poland, disagreed, pointing to the delight mBank and other innovative banks in Europe bring to their customers daily. He pointed out that neobanks such as Simple, Moven, and even Fidor had paltry customer uptake. Fidor, he said, has about 60,000 customers after five years, while mBank had 130,000 in three days. Panowicz also lamented that “banks” is so often used when “U.S. banks” is meant. If you saw what other banks around the world had to offer, he said, you would hate your American bank even more.
King scoffed that this was limited to perhaps a dozen banks around the globe.
Ron Shevlin, who recently left a longtime post at Aite Group to join Cornerstone Advisors and its Gonzobankers, as the consultancy calls its blog, scored perhaps the best jab of the day, comparing JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s oft-quoted comment that “Silicon Valley is coming,” to Paul Revere’s “The British are coming.” He quipped, “And who won that one?”
Panowicz and Shevlin were voted the winners by the Next Bank audience, but as Shevlin pointed out during the debate, trying to find daylight between banks and fintech companies was increasingly becoming a false dichotomy.
Increasingly, innovative fintech companies are seeking to join forces with banks to deliver superior customer experiences. But at bottom, whether or not branches are gone in 10 years, as King suggested, banks will still take on the risk and satisfy the regulators, and customers will get better experiences on the front end.