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29 November 2018

The SIBOS summary: innovation stifled by protectionism

Ben Matthews

Ben Matthews
Partner, expert in global payments, and corporate and commercial banking

Now in its 40th year, SIBOS is one of the bigger annual Financial Services Conferences. They rotate venue, and this year SIBOS was held in Sydney and despite some choosing not to make the journey (I think having Money 20:20 in Vegas at the same time didn’t help!), there were still north of 7000 attendees.

So, a month on, what are my clients still talking about?

Lots of data, but very little insight… 
Many sessions at SIBOS were focused on data. Whether its data to drive client intimacy, better risk management, commercial benefit or all of the above, it was unsurprisingly a hot topic.

However, there was also recognition that business cases and Proof of Concepts based on better use of data had not been as successful as hoped, and some of these shortcomings were down to a collective (and by this I mean industry-wide) lack of understanding as to how much aggregation, enrichment and analysis was really needed to drive the benefits expected.
There was also significant focus on how the right culture and business processes can really enable a data strategy. The technology to drive insight, innovation, a richer customer experience is already here, but it’s often the system that’s the issue; keeping us largely anchored in the past.

Trade is transforming… despite head winds
It’s a pivotal time for trade as there are inherent conflicts playing out where increased protectionism is on the rise, whilst innovations in trade, fuelled by consortia such as Marco Polo and Voltron, or newer entrants such as KOMGO are attempting to drive efficiencies, collaboration and new revenue opportunities.

Many I spoke with felt strongly that the industry needs help, both from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) -in setting some minimum standards- but also in ensuring that innovation doesn’t drive us to a proliferation of mini ‘digital islands’. There is a need to build scale, not exclusivity in order for trade and supply chain businesses to achieve their potential.

“The Payments Mosaic”
Exciting times, driven by API innovation, Open Banking, GPI and Data, all supporting building a richer experience. Many also acknowledged the continued need for standards (ISO 20022 etc…) and some voiced concern as to how this interconnectivity and internet of things could further propagate complexity, rather than cut through it.

The New Payments Platform (NPPserved as a great example of where markets can innovate if regulators are on side and participants recognising the benefits of collaboration. Although adoption has been slow and several of the local businesses I spoke with complained that the barriers to participation are still too high, there was optimism that this would transform the regional payments landscape.

Final thoughts? The tone was ultimately upbeat and optimistic this year and technologies that were only emerging at SIBOS Geneva in 2016, felt established and mainstream. I guess I would have liked to see a little more around the ethics of AI, innovations in machine-learning and a little more on Financial Services’ role in driving initiatives around social mobility and financial inclusion, but I suspect these themes will be more in focus at London 2019.

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