FinTech at South by Southwest — Banking in digital contexts

On 10 March countless gates and doors to conference rooms and concert halls throughout Austin, Texas will once again open to celebrate South by Southwest (SXSW), the digitally creative happening. Every year the schedule of speakers and events at SXSW, which is split into the sub-conferences interactive, film and music, draws over 30,000 visitors and the most famous digital masterminds, film-makers and musicians as speakers or acts — including e.g. Barack and Michelle Obama last year.

Sutor Bank will also be at SXSW with our FinTech division, as a sponsor of Hamburg Startups to support the traditionally strong presence of the Hanseatic digital and creative industries and are involved with the joint stand of the German economy.

Which has us and all others interested in FinTech wondering: What does SXSW have to offer for “our” topic and what is the relevance of FinTech at a generally digital conference? Why is it worth travelling to Austin?

Nobody attends SXSW to specifically learn something new, innovative and exciting about FinTech, strictly speaking. That’s what conferences such as Money2020 in Copenhagen and Las Vegas, or Finovate with stations in London, New York and Silicon Valley are for on an international level. SXSW is about — in addition to paramount networking of course — finding out “where” and “how” FinTech will take place in the coming years.

FinTech as a dedicated topic at SXSW

FinTech has also been accepted as a relevant, however not dominant topic at SXSW the last two years. Whilst in the past the main programme didn’t offer dedicated sessions and only a few events were offered in the unofficial accompanying programme, Austin is now offering some specific to FinTech:

One of the ten tracks in the renowned SXSW start-up competition Accelerator Pitch is dedicated to start-ups in the financial sector. Five start-ups, one from the UK and four from the USA, will pitch to a panel of judges, experts, journalists and most importantly countless investors in this competition. Some of the business models of the SXSW FinTechs (see below) are interesting but aimed at a very small target group. The next unicorn of finance is probably not among them.

The conference schedule includes the following session on FinTech:

· Beyond FinTech: Blockchain for Every Industry

· Frenemy Feud — Fintech vs the Banks

· FinTech’s Future: Banking & Beyond

· The Globalization of Finance

· Latinos in Tech Solving Wealth Disparity Gaps

These roughly are the agenda items we also discuss at other conferences. It will be interesting to hear whether a global digital conference will yield new aspects related to these matters.

The session “The Future of Banking is Already Here: Fintegration” points at what makes visiting SXSW interesting with regards to FinTech: FinTech in the sense of technology-driven start-ups developing digital and mobile, optimised banking options or positioning themselves as innovative B2B providers for financial service providers will soon be a thing of the past. Looking ahead, FinTech ensures banking processes will be (micro)services which can be integrated directly in a digital context of life, some of which are emerging now: For example, as a credit module when purchasing cars or travel, as a payment method for sharing platforms, peer-to-peer trade platforms, or in traditional retail, as a module for spontaneous or event-triggered investment and savings processes.

It’s these new digital contexts of life which are the major, broad topic in Austin. For those interested in the processes where banking will be important in the future, at a minimum the five interactive days will be worthwhile. Furthermore, “FinTech activists” will be given a broad picture of future technologies and their applications — another reason Austin is the place to be during SXSW. And SXSW is also fun.

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