By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Susanne Chishti CEO , Co-Founder & FINTECH Circle Innovate Conference Speaker

What is your background briefly?

I started to work for a fintech company called Tandem Computers (now part of HP) 20 years ago in the Silicon Valley before the term “fintech” existed. At that time the internet was literally being invented and I had all these cool tech geeks around me setting up their startups in their garages. At that time I was just a student, too young to realize the significance of that moment and that the internet would change our lives. What I never forgot however was the magic in the air, the passion & courage to question the status quo and to challenge conventional business models.  I continued with a traditional consulting career and learned coding (C++ at that time) and implemented front- and back-office systems across Accenture’s banking clients in London. After a few years I joined Morgan Stanley Asset Management and really enjoyed banking and wealth management. It was not until 2014 when I attended several fintech events in London and all of a sudden I had this feeling again, that I felt 20 years earlier in the Silicon Valley. This time I knew that FINTECH would become big and that it would fundamentally change our lives the same way the internet did before.  FINTECH was the answer we were waiting for after the Financial Crisis.

Does it seem a logical progression to what you do now?

I started on the technology side, then went to the finance side and now I am able to combine both, so all of sudden my life makes sense again! I am also very inclusive and believe in the power of the community – that’s the original reason for the “FINTECH Circle” brand name. At that time lots of my banking friends and I wanted to invest in fintech startups and I knew lots of fintech founders who looked for smart capital, meaning investors who would put both money and their network and contacts to work to help young companies succeed. That’s when I set up FINTECH Circle as Europe’s 1st Angel Network focused on fintech opportunities. Our focus is to help fintech founders when they want to raise seed capital for the first time. The next application deadline to submit a funding proposal to our Angel Network is the 31 January, you can submit it online.

What does FINTECH Circle do? 1 min pitch?

In addition to being an Angel Network, we are a global community of FINTECH entrepreneurs, investors and thought-leaders on LinkedInWe are also an Open API Platform Partner working with banks & insurance firms and technology providers who aim to collaborate with the best fintech companies to create long-term value for their customers and shareholders. The power of an effective open API strategy can be huge in helping transform an organization, it can even guarantee its survival.

We also run a WealthTECH Advisory Practise with superior fintech companies and experts across investment management, robo-advisory and new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, crowdsourced alpha, Blockchain etc to help Private Banks & Asset Managers to leverage the fintech solutions out there. Effective solutions often focus on improved investment performance (“higher alpha”), customer experience, client conversations (including chatbots), better underwriting, streamlined operations, fraud detection and Know your Customer (KYC) support tools.

How was 2016, what went well?

During 2016 Fintech became mainstream. We became a global enterprise working on projects for financial institutions across Europe and even as far afield as Australia, helping design and fulfil on FinTech innovation mandates. We also announced a very exciting and strategic partnership focusing on FinTech in Africa with CiTi.

We launched The FINTECH Book in March 2016 and by the end of the year it became a global bestseller (sold more than 10,000 copies worldwide). We celebrated the launch in many countries and it was always a great feeling when our authors met for the first time in person and signed all the books together and then presented on stage in various countries. Lots of fintech friendships were the result. A blog of our global book launch event in London is here and our launch video is here.

Finally, there is huge demand for proper Fintech education. As a result we designed the first certified FINTECH Course in Europe in cooperation with ESCP Europe, a leading European university with campuses in the UK and across Europe. We will soon announce the 2017 FINTECH Curriculum at ESCP Europe – so stay tuned!

The FINTECH Book did well, what were your hopes / expectations for it?

The FINTECH Book was originally an idea by Janos Barberis and I to learn from the best fintech entrepreneurs, investors and visionaries globally. At that time we had no publishing contract and thus when we invited people to submit abstracts in 2015 we did not know if anybody would respond at all. After a few months we had 189 submissions from 27 countries with the most amazing insights about the fintech revolution globally. We were totally blown away! As a result we decided not to self-publish but to get a well-known publisher so that the insights of our fantastic contributors could be read by the world. This of course was another challenge as we had no idea about the publishing industry at all. In fact I remember when I went on my own to the London Book Fair and “knocked” on the doors of dozens of publishers who had no time for unknown authors and certainly had never heard of “fintech” before. After a day full of rejections, I finally found 2 publishers who “got” it and understood that we were launching the first globally crowd-sourced book. Both made us offers and we selected WILEY, a fantastic partner.

What inspired you to do three more Fintech books in 2017, and how did you chose those particular topics?

2016 was the year Fintech went mainstream and 2017 will be the year when fintech verticals such as insurtech (innovation across the insurance sector), wealthtech (innovation across the Investment- and Wealth management sectors) and regtech (innovation across compliance solutions to meet regulatory requirements) will really take off. This year it won’t be enough to talk about fintech strategies anymore, but people want to see results. In order to solve real problems within an enterprise, one needs to build up digital expertise. It’s still a challenge to learn the digital survival skills and to know where to go to get an unbiased, holistic and global overview where all stakeholders (entrepreneurs, investors and fintech visionaries) share their insights. That’s why we are launching 3 new books:

How can people apply / what is the deadline?

We are looking for the best entrepreneurs who have developed solutions in wealthtech, robo-advisory, insurtech and regtech. Their solutions might include a variety of technologies from big data analytics, AI, Internet of Things (IoT), natural language processing, deep learning algos to chatbots, biometrics, blockchain, new business & revenue models etc. We also want to hear from the best fintech investors and thought leaders across each area. Finally, we invite Intrapreneurs ie Chief Information/Digital Officers of established financial services providers to share how they innovate internally, how they implemented successful partnership strategies or rolled out fintech innovation across thousands of customers.

In order to apply you need to submit an abstract of up to 300 words of a topic of your choice by 31 Jan 2017 online. During February a public voting process will start where everybody can vote for their favourite abstracts. By early March we will aggregate the public voting results and create a list of finalists. This final short list will be reviewed by all Editors and Wiley to arrive at the final selection of Authors. The final authors will be notified by mid March and need to submit their full chapter (about 2,000 words) by 30 April 2017. A more detailed overview and FAQs are available on our website.

It’s a unique chance to participate and to share your knowledge and insights with a global audience. You only can win because even for those contributors who are not selected as finalists, their names & contact details will still be included at the FINTECH Directory at the end of each book. It allows our future readers to hold the “fintech” ecosystem in the palm of their hands, no matter if they read the paperback or e-book version or listen to The FINTECH Book on Audible.

Finally there is so much talk about the lack of digital leadership across banking and insurance, do we need “Digital Boards”?

The average age of an S&P 500 board member was 63 years. Many Board members have been appointed due to their successes in a pre-digital age where the number of branches determined the value of a bank. A time where online and mobile strategies were seen as back-office work delegated to the CTO who was purely a cost center. A high-performing board needs to look differently. First of all it needs to be diverse – only 20% of FTSE 250 board members in the UK were women last year. How can cultural change of a bank or insurance company be ever achieved if the board is still “stale, pale and male”? Secondly, board members need to fully understand that the valuation of their institutions in the digital age will be driven by new factors such as data and their ability to turn their business models into open platforms and create valuable ecosystems around it. Luckily there are thousands of fantastic female fintech leaders out there globally who run their own fintech firms, female investors and fintech experts. Female Tech Leaders are needed more than ever to help financial institutions thrive in the fintech age!

The Fintech Book : Financial technology handbook for investors, entrepreneurs and visionaries. Reviewed

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