WCCRC 2016: A curious conference of the FinTech (in the nighttime)

First, I apologise for the caption, but thinking about this conference reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes story, where the dog did not bark (Google it, if needed), which was curious indeed, I think.

FinTech has been straddling the consumer credit information industry and I believe many had expectations that they were about to learn more about this. What about behavioural data, data-scraping and Blockchain, for example? I find it curious how little attention such things got and how few innovations were presented.  It has also made me even more certain than before that our industry is falling behind.  Granted, all the international companies, and most of all the local too, claim to be up to speed on that latest developments.  None are, in my opinion.  The new things are coming out of Silicon Valley, London start-ups, Kenyan mobile lenders, Chinese retailers, not credit bureaus.  The conference addressed the usual challenges we are facing and many speakers did do particularly well, not least our Paul Randall.  Paul had the best presentations, along with the guys talking about consumer services, I think.  But some subjects are becoming tired, when there is nothing new (cross border, anyone?) as well as some of the speakers.  I can conclude here with something I sent to one of the organisers “The world is changing at an increased speed, I think the industry is falling behind and it is represented in the WCCRC conference material.”

The social or networking side of the conference was perfect, as always.  Lots of the same people, for what seems to be becoming decades.  I am becoming one of the good old boys, I have no illusions about anything else.  We had a great dinner in the Historical Museum, where we could look at fossils of extinct species. My reliance on other people to prevent me from becoming a dinosaur is increasing. I wondered if the location was purely accidental.

One thing that drew my attention was the high proportion of Asian companies/institutions represented, considering the conference is held outside Asia, or so it seemed, perhaps I am just now noticing. What I do know is that they are underrepresented as speakers. As are Africans, of course and again. Much of the new FinTech has its greatest utility in developing markets. Particularly, perhaps, in Asia and Africa. I think those areas might well be those that will later contribute to the development (or modernisation) of the consumer credit information industry in the “developed” countries.

And finally, after all this talk about FinTech, let me state my opinion that there is no such thing. FinTech hardly means anything. It can mean lending or technology and methods used in lending. Those are separate things. Using technology in financial services is nothing new. Sometimes a new label is given to something that has already been existing, even for a long time. What is new is how many new things are surfacing at a similar time. The reason, I think, is that the problem of credit appraisal is no longer the exclusive domain of financial institutions and their service providers. Anyone can become a lender, plus potential solutions for the people who are evaluating credit applicants does not necessarily involve huge investments in data, software and equipment. It can even be a cheap app. The promotion of financial inclusion, as a means to address social- and economical- as well as financial issues, for example by World Bank Group, has also drawn the attention to the problem and thus, opened the way for more to come forward with their own solutions. Solutions that have access to finance as its stated goal.

The dog in Doyle´s Silver Blaze did not bark, because there was no stranger present. It was an inside job. We need an infusion to our industry. Strangers to the business. So that all dogs will go barking. Yes, that is it.  I think.

And here is Paul Randall’s presentation.