Your background briefly?
I started my career as a regulatory economist in the telecom space, working primarily on cost models for a newly deregulated industry that pit incumbents against a swarm of new telco competitors. Eventually, two models were combined into a hybrid cost proxy model the FCC adopted, one of which was the model the team I’d worked with created. My early years wear spent monitoring federal and state regulatory impacts in the utility space, but a pivot into Insurtech (it wasn’t called that at the time, of course) doing business development for policy administration systems eventually led me to Fintech when I joined Zafin in 2011. I feel like I’ve come full circle, as Zafin’s platform is grounded in the principles of relationship and dynamic pricing for banking, another highly regulated industry.
We love Nabokov (Pale Fire, Ada, and many more), why did you chose that quote?
I love Nabakov, too, especially as his protagonists and antagonists walk that 51/49% line – with that small sliver of capacity for good or evil tipping the scales slightly in favor of one direction over the other. It’s his penchant for creating moral ambiguity that is so compelling, and it’s forced me many times to reflect on my own moral framework. Those are quiet, reflective moments – and those moments of personal revelation have caused tectonic shifts that were more profound, more earthshaking, more transformative than something loud, forceful, or external. Frankly, a truth revealed is the genesis of revolution, and it’s that spark of reality – and empathy – that wakes us up to the danger and injustice of some social systems we’ve grown up believing are “just the way things are”. That can ignite a revolution.
As a FinTech influencer, which areas are you most excited by?
I wouldn’t call myself an influencer, I’m more of an enthusiast and active participant in the debate. What I find most exciting is the movement towards open banking platforms. It’s the foundation for bringing the sexy stuff like alt-lending, P2P payments, robo-advisors, automated savings, mobile/contactless, AI and personal financial management (PFM) to the masses.
— Ghela Boskovich (@GhelaBoskovich) April 14, 2016
Can traditional banks successfully innovate to deal with the rise of FinTech banking disrupters?
Absolutely! I think it’s more about letting both banks and Fintech focus on their competitive advantages, and combining those advantages to better serve the end customer. Banks, look to Fintech as your outsourced Innovation Hub. Instead of competing with Fintech, focus on providing core banking services: redirect your energies towards the innovation of better channels and more human, intuitive customer experience design across those channels. From a purely economic point of view, partnership and collaboration bring a quicker ROI to the bank than does a longer, more costly lifecycle of an in-house build. Why ignore that efficiency when it creates a win/win for everyone involved: banks, Fintech, and the end customer.
I don’t see Fintech as disruptive, really. Instead, it’s about building a better mousetrap together, rather than banks doing it in isolation. That’s not disruptive – it’s better engineering.
If you could make everyone in Banking do what you told them, what would you command them to do?
That’s a dangerous thought! I’d reiterate the message of partnership and collaboration with Fintech, not competition. Fintech is a community of people looking at solving problems for end customers, all wanting to improve the experience of money management and wealth building. Banks are an industry focused on making money management safe. Are we at odds? No. So why look at each other as opponents when we’re all working towards the same goal? To that end, if my wish were a command, from a tech ecosystem perspective, I’d want banks to embrace an open platform framework, create a stack that allows for Fintech API plug ins, use that data to create products and services that truly meet customer needs and treat customers as individuals and not some fraction of a market segment.
— Ghela Boskovich (@GhelaBoskovich) April 13, 2016
FemTech, how would you explain what it means? What is still needed to be changed?
FemTech is about connecting this industry at an emotional, empathetic, human level, it’s about HumanTech (to use the term coined by Leda Glyptis), and recognizing that diversity of thought, experience, and perspective lead to better solutions. We can’t solve problems when half of the population is left out of the discussion, and the people engineering the solution have a limited, homogenous, one-lane view. So FemTech is about diversity – race, gender, creed – being the source of better solutions. It’s also about the collective voice being more powerful than scattered cries. It’s about inclusion.
So we’re creating a network of women – and men – who support, mentor, sponsor, and advocate for one another, to guide this industry into a place where we reflect the diverse customer set we serve. We get to change the industry from the inside: change hiring policies and practices to include more women candidates, change perceptions about women’s roles in the industry, change the stigma, reputation, and experience of being a woman in tech. It’s about getting more women actively engaged as influencers, speakers, panelists, recognized experts, and getting them more exposure and giving them a louder voice and equal platform in industry debates. Our Manbassadors recognize the value women bring to the industry, and know that together we can build a better mousetrap. What is true for banks and Fintech is true for men and women in this industry: we’re better working together, equally, than competing against one another.
Will bitcoin achieve wider adoption or not? What are your thoughts on the viability of wider adoption of cryptocurrencies?
It may not be Bitcoin, but eventually yes, crytpocurrency will find widespread adoption. At the end of the day, money is merely 1s and 0s, all fiat currency is since it’s not based on a gold standard. Currency is just a symbol for purchasing power, and that power can be reduced to a data set. Cryptocurrency is the next logical extension of that data set.
Money 20/20 tell us what you enjoy about it? What insights will / did you get from it?
It was refreshing to see more debate, opposing view-points, and contention in the sessions at Money2020. From Dave Birch’s cashless manifesto to Western Union’s CEO Hikmet Ersek claiming cash is still king, to the irony of the registration passes being treated like cash to having the #NoCashDay challenge – contrast was the name of the game.
And the usual hyperbole around the death of banks at the hand of Fintech, Fintech unicorns, VC investments bubbles, and onerous regulations were missing. Instead, ING’s Ralph Hamers called for more collaboration between banks and Fintech to drive innovation, citing ING’s more than 40 Fintech partnerships. It was also pretty cool to see customer centricity take shape in the challenger bank presentations from Mondo’s Tom Bloomfield and Atom’s Mark Mullen.
Which thought leaders do you like to read / follow?
There are so many, I’m reticent to leave out anyone. There are the usual suspects of the FinTech Mafia (whom you’ve interviewed for Irish Tech News), as well as the founders of Innotribe Peter Vander Auwera and Matteo Rizzi. And of course I follow numerous FemTechLeaders, and the man behind those FemTech interviews, Sam Maule. I like to follow the rabble rousers, rebels with a cause, and those who poke the tiger. For a snapshot into those thought leaders, I’d suggest taking a look at those I follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.
— Ghela Boskovich (@GhelaBoskovich) April 13, 2016
How do you manage online / offline, work/life challenges?
I don’t! I’m fortunate to call so many in the industry friends, so my personal life bleeds into my professional one and that energizes me. What comes with that is an amazing mix of talking philosophy, enacting strategy, and practicing purpose, as well as the deep connections that come from being passionate about similar issues. From laughs, misadventures, gab sessions and deep affection for my circle of friends, I feel enriched and connected. That’s personal, that’s life. And through FemTech, I get to know so many friends at a truly profound emotional level, that I feel as though I have found my place in my tribe, and it feels like home.
Aside from that, it’s a matter of carving out time to read, write, sing, visit museums, craft jewelry, and cook for friends and family – those serve as little shots of energy and appreciation for the good things in life.
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?
Just one thing to add: this industry is in transformation, and by extension, has the power to transform the lives of the people it serves. It can, and should, foster financial inclusion to bring the underbanked and underserved into the fold. Banking is personal, it is the framework for how we interact with the rest of the world. How we shape this industry impacts each and every one of us. Let’s recognize the seriousness of that responsibility as we forge ahead, together.