As the world continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly evolving digital landscape, the importance of gathering together to exchange ideas and insights has never been clearer. That’s why the recent WeMeeting23 conference in Marrakech, which brought together leaders and experts from across the fintech industry, was such an exciting and valuable event.
To get a deeper perspective on the conference and its key themes, #DisruptionBanking spoke with Ghela Boskovich. Ghela, who hosted and moderated the debates at WeMeeting23, is a prominent fintech thought leader and founder of FemTechGlobal™ – a network dedicated to challenging the status quo and improving diversity and inclusion in Financial Services.
In our conversation, we had a chance to discuss some of the critical topics of the conference, such as the future of payments, metaverse and central bank digital currencies (CBDC).
DB: You have been involved with the event since 2017 and have attended three HPS events. What is it that draws you to the event and why is it a special one?
Ghela: To begin with, it’s not a typical corporate event, which I appreciate. While HPS is the corporate sponsor, the event isn’t solely focused on showcasing new additions or versions of its software. Instead, the focus is on ensuring that attendees can extract value from it.
WeMeeting is also meant to be entertaining, as a way of thanking attendees for continuing to do business with HPS. Some clients have been around for decades, and their enduring relationships are a testament to the level of trust that’s been built. The willingness of clients to return and renew their partnership, as well as their advocacy, speaks to the value of the event.
There’s an ethos that HPS brings, too, which emphasizes hospitality, relationship-building, and nurturing emotional connections in business. This approach is different from the cutthroat nature of many corporate events.
DB: The event’s focal point were the talks and the panels at the conference, which you moderated. Was there a panel that stood out to you as particularly informative?
During the Payments in the Metaverse panel led by Jeremy Dalton, Head of Metaverse Technologies at PwC, I learned a lot about what the metaverse actually is and I really appreciate that it clarified my misconceptions about it. Talking to Jeremy beforehand also gave me a different perspective and added to my appreciation for his insights on stage.
DB: And what did you think about the ‘Gearing up for CBDC’ presentation by Ijeoma Okoli?
I found it really interesting to learn about the risks associated with them. CBDCs are a complex topic that comes with a lot of social engineering risks, and it was helpful to hear a clear articulation of them. It also highlighted why these technologies are taking so long to develop.
There are only a few countries that have implemented CBDCs, and it requires a fundamental shift away from the traditional elements of money to a programmable token. It reminded me of China’s social credit system, which most of the world would shy away from for good reason.
DB: What kind of challenges do government-controlled digital currencies create?
Governments change in most countries on a fairly regular basis, and they are subject to the whims of the political party in power. There’s no continuity of principle, especially when we look at the political dynamics and the retraction of human rights across different geographies. Money has always been agnostic, but now your money is subject to following a set of principles and structures. The social risk of programmed money is striking and terrifying, and it was really interesting to have it highlighted. I also appreciated that she put a pause on the hype.
DB: What’s your perception about the organisation and leadership of the event?
The CEO has an incredibly deep understanding of every single element of the company, its vision, its practice of it, and how it is evolving. To have someone in a leadership position that has an understanding from inception is incredibly unique. Not just “This is why we’re doing it,” but “This is why it matters, and this is how it all fits into the bigger picture.” And this is how it fits with you. Because that will show up as a partner. I haven’t seen a lot of CEOs that are not selling but are teaching. And that was a teaching moment.
DB: Every year there is a different message at different events. What message resonated with you the most at WeMeeting?
Payments underpin everything. They are the flesh and bones of financial services and the changing nature of how we understand payments is much more rapidly evolving than it has in the past. While cards were the standard for the past 40 years, the digital revolution and the move towards a fully digital economy require institutions to be more flexible, adaptable, and responsive. And at the same time, resilient. You cannot have a lapse in the service. So, technology is a critical component of that strategy. But it is also how an institution and the clients they serve perceive the value of that exchange. Because all of these technological advances are driving the costs towards zero.
DB: How important is understanding the digital transformation challenges of companies on the market?
So, it’s no longer about payments. It can’t be because payments can’t be a commodity. The service aspect of that is what we save from it. But service can’t be a direct translation of commodity either. You can’t perceive it in that same format, then it becomes commoditized. So you can’t put a ring fence or a boundary around the things like payment and so because that is a commodity again. So it becomes what insights and value can I understand around that activity? That then allows me to understand my customer and where they are in other aspects of financial services. It also helps by revealing insights into their financial health and their financial position. Which ensure that they have the right service at the right time. Meaning that they have the right fit and the right outcome and the technologies needed to enable that.
But it’s the thinking about how to do that, that matters the most. I often go back to the distinction between analytical versus lateral thinking. We tend to default to analytical thinking because it feels comfortable. We assess the situation, recognizing the need to go from point A to point B, and there appears to be an obstacle in our path. However, we fail to realize that this obstacle is merely an artificial boundary. If we approached everything laterally, we wouldn’t waste time navigating through a tangled mass of complexity. We could disregard the boundary and choose the easiest route. After all, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So, how can we achieve the straightest line from point A to point B, not solely through analytical means, but through lateral thinking as well?
That should be the ethos of the industry: embracing the lateral approach. Because analytical thinking is legacy thinking. And that also means it is a legacy technology, legacy processes, legacy business operations, and legacy business model. To ensure our businesses thrive, we must adopt a continuous lateral thinking approach. The foundation that supports our endeavours should embody an open, borderless, non-restrictive system, allowing for the execution of our lateral strategies rather than relying solely on analytical methods.
Ultimately, it boils down to embracing open technology. As we transition from open banking and open finance, we move towards open data. This principle holds true universally, and it is the key takeaway from this discussion.
Interviewed by Barbara Listek
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