By @SimonCockingSpiros Margaris  & SA @kapilendo_AG  @moneymeets_com | World’s No.4 FinTech Influencer by @jaxfinance & No.5 & Top100 Influencer by @Onalytica

Your background briefly?

Friends and colleagues have always encouraged me to pursue my dream of combining my creative talents and entrepreneurial background with my extensive experience and expertise in the financial industry. That is exactly what I have the privilege to do now, and with great passion, with my advisory boutique Margaris Advisory.

Having worked in banking and money management, and having launched two startups – one of them nowadays you would call a fintech – in New York during the dotcom boom and bust period, gives me a great advantage in evaluating the potential of fintech startups.

I try to bring my insights into my role as an investor and Senior Advisor in, @kapilendo_AG@moneymeets_com and @FinTechForum_DE.

You can probably guess that I do not buy into the current hype around fintech blindly or naively; nevertheless, I am full of optimism in the power of the spirit of startup entrepreneurs who want and believe they can change the world. And sometimes with some startups you can experience magic in the making.

I have never been more satisfied in my professional life than I am now working in fintech, an industry where you can exchange ideas and thoughts with some of the brightest minds. It is just a very special moment we are all experiencing.

You have a few projects you’re involved in – how do you manage your commitments / and what does a typical day look like for you?

At the moment I’m involved in a few great projects, including being Senior Advisor to Fintech Forum (the first and the largest community for fintech in Continental Europe), and Senior Advisor and investor to (a uniquely positioned German crowdlending platform) and (the leading German ‘FinTech Supermarket’). The great thing about being involved in these projects is that work never gets dull – I can get bored quickly!

For instance in March set a new crowdlending record for Continental Europe by raising 1 million Euros in 9 minutes and 23 seconds for German Bundesliga football team @HerthaBSC (currently ranked 3rd). And I am about to close for a fintech startup a big funding round successfully. So, as a whole, we can be quite satisfied with the way things are going right now.

However, I would like to stress here that I have a focused approach to doing things, and I hope that the diverse insights gained from the few different commitments I have benefit all my clients and projects.

My typical day starts early and ends late in the same way, reading widely about what is happening in the fintech industry and trying to share my thoughts and inspirations through social media channels with my followers, clients and partners.

If I am not travelling to the fintech centres to meet contacts and new promising startups, then I will usually be talking to the companies I am directly involved in through my role as Senior Advisor and investor, and meeting my financial institution clients.

I also spend time on preparation for my conference speeches and publications. On my blog The Brave Step I publish innovations, inspirations and thought leadership articles such as ‘The Fintech Agent’, ‘Efficient-Banking’, or ‘Future of Fintech. A Combination of Barbarella & 2001: A Space Odyssey’. One of my innovation proposals – The Fintech Supermarket – was a contribution to The FINTECH Book recently published by Wiley.

It takes me a lot of time and hard work to write these articles, it just does not come easily to me, but it is very rewarding to share your thoughts. In general, I try to keep a holistic view of the fintech industry and convey these insights through daily advice for anyone who is interested.

Congratulations on being listed as a top FinTech influencer, which areas are you most excited by?

Thanks, Simon. It is a great honour for me to be listed as one of the world’s Top 5 Fintech Influencers by @jaxfinance and @Onalytica. And it is just fantastic to be among the great names on the list – people who I greatly admire for their vision, their insights, and their leadership role in driving the fintech industry forward.

I think we are only at the very beginning of where the industry is heading. As crazy as it sounds, we are in Stone Age. In particular, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), in combination with all segments of fintech, will advance the industry greatly but we cannot yet project in what form it will play out.

However, in the meantime, we all can try to take steps towards helping customers to a better banking experience.

You are based between 4 countries, how is this working and do you see commonalities and opportunities across the various markets you work in?

From my base in Switzerland I travel mostly to Germany, the UK and the U.S. to visit people and startups, and to evaluate fintech opportunities and gain insights.

I lived in New York for over fifteen years of my professional career and launched two startups there, so for me, the U.S. is a great place to start any business. The fact that the U.S. has Silicon Valley and Wall Street makes it a perfect place to be a leader in the fintech industry.

However, it feels like the UK has taken over as the leading fintech hub, as they not only set clear fintech trends but also lead with initiatives in regulation and government support for the industry. Many around them try to emulate them, and that is what I call real influence.

The fintech space in Germany, Switzerland, and even Austria, I would call the value play for venture capital funding looking for great opportunities. You will get a much lower entry price for some great fintech startups than in the U.S. or the UK, although not all fintech business models will work here the same as they do in the U.S., the UK, Asia or Australia.

Also, we should not exclude Asia and Australia. I strongly believe they will play a significant role as fintech hubs in the future.

Can traditional banks successfully innovate to deal with the rise of FinTech banking disrupters?

It is hard for banks to be innovative since the corporate business DNA is stale, however, ‘hard to do’ does not mean ‘impossible’. Banks and, in general, the incumbents can partner or buy young startups to speed up the innovation process.

However, what goes in may not be the same when it comes out on the other side and the startup spirit and innovation drive will likely be curbed by corporate structures.

Banks and startups are just too different, although they could benefit from each other’s strengths. Banks have the clients and money, and startups are agile, innovative and customer-centric, so the mix could be very potent but in reality difficult to do together.

If you could make everyone in Banking do what you told them, what would you command them to do?

Just invest in promising small early stage startups – small amounts of half a million pounds or dollars – and in as many as you can. If done right, banks will benefit in know-how and entrepreneurial spirit transfer. The chance to have some great investment returns is the icing on the cake.

Will bitcoin achieve wider adoption or not? What are your thoughts on the viability of wider adoption of cryptocurencies? 

As a short answer, I’d like to quote Marc Andreessen’s (@pmarca) tweet (18. Dec. 2015), which I think says it all: “Big companies desperately hoping for blockchain without Bitcoin is exactly like 1994: Can’t we please have online without Internet??”

The more we talk about Bitcoin – whether good or bad – the better for Bitcoin, since publicity helps spread the word. It also helps people to slowly get a better feeling about the benefits and risks of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.

To your specific question about the viability of wider adoption of cryptocurrencies, I can only say that it is a foregone conclusion that it is here to stay (period). Anyone who does not believe that must have been ignoring the whole digital transformation happening for quite some while.

Of course governments, regulators and banks do not specifically like it, since it also represents a shift in power and control. As we all know that is not something they will easily give up, but the importance of cryptocurrencies will increase no matter what.

Which thought leaders do you like to read / follow?

Since I read and follow many people I would hate to leave out an author, journalist, or thought leader here. So one way to see some of the people whose thoughts I read for inspirations and insights is to follow my tweets on @SpirosMargaris, although most of the time it only includes people who can be found on social or TV media channels.

I would like to mention here that I draw my inspirations not only from the fintech industry but as much, or maybe even more, from other great sources totally unrelated to it, such as art, literature or completely different industries.

How do you manage online / offline, work/life challenges?

Badly, I’m afraid, since I’m often tired at night. But as long as my passion for fintech and the people involved stays strong, I can manage the challenges. As I said, it is a very exciting industry and time, and some extremely smart people are involved. It is an opportunity of a lifetime and I want to be a small part of it with my contribution.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

Let’s remember one thing I always tell my clients and whoever wants to hear it, fintech will never disappear, only some fintech startups will disappear.

As long as we use technology we will have fintech. That many startups disappear is a normal process, but others will rise right behind with great new ideas and some will surprise us all. An exciting future is ahead for all of us who want a better banking experience.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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