Last week I attended the Innovate Finance Global Summit, now in its ninth year. It was my seventh in a row and it did not disappoint. Once again, it brought together a who’s who of global fintech. The City’s Guildhall, a magnificent building, hosted two days of insightful panels, inspiring presentations, and quality networking. Many important topics were discussed. From the current investment climate to the future of money, financial inclusion, and financial wellness.
Innovate Finance’s CEO Janine Hirt opened the two days with a reassuring message that despite the difficult market environment, more than $12.5bn was invested into UK fintech in 2022. That’s second only in the world to the United States, and ahead of the next 13 European countries combined. Extraordinary. Another stat I found staggering was that fintech challengers now account for more than 55% of the SME lending market in the UK; and 8 out of every 10 adults in the UK are using at least one fintech tool on a regular basis.
The UK has a forward-looking approach to enable fintech to thrive and a big part of the reason for this is the close collaboration between government, regulators, and businesses. Plans to improve Open Banking rules and the Financial Conduct Authority’s announcement of the creation of a permanent digital sandbox service are good examples of the UK’s leadership in the space. The Bank of England set out details on their approach to digital money, including the tokenisation of commercial bank deposits and the possibility of a Wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency next year was mentioned too.
The various panels over the two days included leaders from Monzo, Funding Circle, Zopa, Money Hub, Thought Machine, Clear Bank, GoHenry and Starling Bank.
There were some fascinating sessions on the opportunities and risks from AI, and the potential for a quantum computing revolution. No doubt both these topics will become a central part of future Summits.
Over the last few years cyber security has also been a theme of increasing importance and I was delighted to host a panel session titled: Is the growing threat of cyber-crime stifling innovation?
I was joined on stage by four leading cyber security experts: PA Consulting Partner Cate Pye; Xalient Chair Simon Church; Irius Risk Co—Founder Cristina Bentué; and City of London Police Detective Chief Superintendent Andrew Gould.
The context on cybercrime is quite scary. Over 500 million global ransomware attacks last year and reports that at least 40% of UK companies reported a cyber incident. By 2025, the cybercrime industry is forecast to be worth $10trn.
The panel agreed with Cate’s point that cyber should be a catalyst for change, not for paralysis. Digital transformation is a must for companies up and down the country, but conversations shouldn’t focus on fear, but rather an acknowledgement that they are part of our new ‘business as usual.’
The reality we all face is that cyber-attacks will continue to happen and there will be more and more of them. That is why cyber security is less about the art of protecting businesses against an attack and far more about being an integral part of a digital growth strategy. We also spent time thinking about ways in which boards can deal with cyber challenges more effectively and concluded that cyber is a risk conversation, not a technology conversation. That way it becomes central to discussions around risk management and mitigation. It is a key component of any company’s business strategy and should not get treated in isolation.
As we looked at ways to provide advice for our audience, I asked each panellist to provide one recommendation they thought every company would benefit from as they look to get their cyber basics right. Simon thought that having a plan that addresses how companies should react to cyber incidents is key. As is testing that plan regularly. Cristina highlighted the importance of security awareness and training for staff. Cate encouraged companies to de-mystify cyber and follow a ‘secure by design’ model as they build their capability across systems, processes, and people. Andrew spoke about the importance of adopting world-class cyber musts, such as multi factor authentication.
These are great recommendations, and I would add the need to follow a zero-trust approach to cyber risk: trust no one; verify everything is the mantra we all need to follow. Zero-trust is in Glasswall’s DNA. Traditional reactive security solutions fall short when it comes to zero-day and complex file-based threats, which can bring organisations to its knees. I’m the first to say that there is no silver bullet when it comes to cyber threats, but Glasswall CDR goes a very long way to keeping companies safe from threats in files and attachments, still the main source of attacks for organisations all over the world.
I’m very grateful to Cate, Simon, Cristina, and Andrew. We could have easily talked cyber for much longer. And I was struck by how important what we covered was to everyone in the audience, from start-ups to scale-ups and even the larger incumbents.
At a time of uncertainty across the business landscape, the Innovate Finance Global Summit radiated optimism. There was pride in the air for what the fintech sector has achieved over the last ten years and much excitement about what is to come.
As Innovate Finance Chair Lou Smith said in her closing speech, whilst fintech has come a very long way and there is much to be proud of, there is also still a lot to do. The environment, Lou said, is complex, unknown, and relentless. However, we have everything we need to lead this incredible industry proudly and across the globe. I completely agree and share that optimism. I also see cyber as being an integral part of fintech’s future success. It is no longer a bolt-on session at the end of the Summit. It is an on-going conversation which is at the heart of every fintech’s growth strategy.
I for one really look forward to seeing what fintech can achieve in the decade ahead and know that the cyber security industry will be a proud and reliable partner every step of the way.