Markus Gnirck, Co-founder Startupbootcamp FinTech, explains why we have currently a FinTech Zoo; How Bankers are transforming from suit to jeans wearer and why we need a 2 way approach…
Why do we enjoy going to the Zoo so much?
Because we can see animals and creatures that do not exist in our normal environment. We are curious to find out more about these unfamiliar species, see their natural habitat and learn about the way they behave and live.
That is exactly what is happening right now with many financial institutions and FinTech startups. I call it the FinTech Zoo.
Having been around early stage FinTech for quite some time now in different parts of the world, I can’t help to draw this comparison:
Banks are very keen to engage with these creatures, called FinTech startups, as early as possible, otherwise they fear missing out on a new species like ‘blockchain’. They send delegations to co-working spaces (still dressed in suit & tie), visit Demo Days (maybe no suit & tie this time), come to meetups and mingle at Hackathons (this time in jeans – I know, crazy!). They read 1-pagers, try to understand the dynamics of a FinTech startup, hand out business cards and promise to follow up.
Every time, it feels strange how banks, just like zoo visitors, are excited about experiencing this new environment and are captured by the opportunities and this alternative lifestyle. However, just like in a zoo, it is not possible to take this funny animal home and actually integrate it in the real environment. Somehow it feels better to keep the animals where they are and not have them break out of this startup world. So startups stay in their co-working spaces / incubators / accelerators and keep working on changing the finance world.
So, has there been any value added to anyone?
Yes. Banking employees have been exposed to innovation of some kind and are more likely to understand how they must change their mindsets – otherwise ‘Winter is coming’. The benefits of a Zoo are clearly on the educational side, as the open-mindedness of FIs only comes with as much education and exposure to new things as possible. This FinTech Zoo has clearly kick-started a necessary process to bring banks closer to startups.
However, it is also a fairly 1-way process. While banks are able to understand and benefit from the knowledge of what the startups are doing, it is time to make it a 2-way approach. We need banks to start sharing what their challenges are, in which areas innovators can help to improve processes and experience. FIs need to set the right expectations where and how to work with startups, and not just join the startup & innovation circus.
We need to rebalance the dynamic and remove the protective glass separating the Zoo’s visitors and inhabitants.
It is time to meet with mutual respect, understand each other’s challenges and find ways to leverage everyone’s strengths.
Otherwise, soon enough, these FinTech animals will break out…
On a more serious note, the real issue lays in the fast flow of information and accelerated access to anything worldwide. No one wants to miss out, fair enough! FIs, please continue to embrace startups.