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Interview with Anil Aggarwal

1:1 with Anil Aggarwal

Fintech Meetup is only a few weeks away, and BillGO is excited to be co-sponsoring the virtual event. Billed as “the world's largest fintech meetings event,” the three-day conference sidesteps the usual keynote speakers and fireside chats. Instead, it brings together 3,000+ industry participants for 30,000+ meetings.

Ambitious? Sure, but for founder & CEO Anil Aggarwal — whose LinkedIn profile lists a dozen startups he helped launch — ambition is just another day at the office.

We sat down with Aggarwal to discuss the goal of Fintech Meetup as well as his thoughts on the future of fintechs, subscriptions and open banking.  

Do your goals behind Fintech Meetup differ from what inspired you to start Money20/20 a decade ago? 

My goal hasn’t changed: it remains to empower the fintech ecosystem with events that serve as a catalyst for the ongoing digital disruption of payments, banking and financial services. Early on, that catalyst was education in the form of speakers and content, but today that catalyst is networking and collaboration through facilitated double opt-in meetings.


Let's talk about those meetings: Fintech Meetup offers 30,000 meetings for more than 3,000 fintech professionals. Logistically speaking, how do you make that happen? 

We have developed proprietary meetings programs and technology that helps everyone find and meet the right people. Our platform is end-to-end and includes registration systems, data models, selections workflows, scheduling algorithms, mobile apps, video conferencing, etc., all designed to automate processes that are otherwise very fragmented and entirely inefficient. 

The result out of the gate was nearly 20,000 double-opt-in meetings that we facilitated, and where the feedback was that participants were satisfied with more than 94 percent of the meetings. 

Connections and collaboration at the scale of tens of thousands of meetings cannot be achieved manually or occur based solely on serendipity. They also cannot be achieved with the basic matchmaking capabilities that traditional events have rolled out over the past few years.

You launched Money 20/20 a decade ago. In what ways has the industry evolved since then?

The 30,000-ft answer is that fintech is disrupting the head of the payments, banking and financial services demand curve — from reinventing traditional bank accounts and credit cards to changing the basics of how money is managed and moved. A decade ago, that was only a possibility. Today it’s a reality. The fintech industry has evolved from talking about what the future might be to proactively creating it.

What hasn’t changed? What defines a successful industry event? 

Events stay relevant so long as they’re providing an industry with what the industry needs. In fintech, today more than ever, that’s a place — whether it’s virtual or in-person — to connect, network, collaborate and unlock opportunities across every use case, from finding key partners and securing new leads to productively working together and learning from each other.

“Unless they adapt and change, financial institutions run a very real risk that fintechs will pick off the most profitable elements of the traditional customer relationship.”

Where will fintech be in the five years? 

The biggest trend we see is both an aggregation and disaggregation of solutions across fintech and banking. On the one hand, the pace of disaggregation of a financial institution’s (FI)  traditional “one-size-fits-all'' model is accelerating across payments, lending, credit and processing. 

A bank customer now has much greater flexibility and power in choosing who provides these services to them. Unless they adapt and change, FIs run a very real risk that fintechs will pick off the most profitable elements of the traditional customer relationship. 

On the other hand, fintechs are evolving from providing narrow “point solutions” — which solve specific pain points (e.g., cross-border payments) — towards providing a much more integrated and expanded suite of solutions and services. The competitive environment is going to intensify significantly for both banks and fintechs.

In a recent podcast, you said, prior to 2010, fintechs were thought of as taking “paper-based systems and making them electronic.” It’s 2022; why do so many businesses still rely on paper-based systems

People tend to overestimate what they can change in the short term but underestimate what they can change in the long term. It takes time to change entrenched systems and behaviors, but it clearly continues to play out. This is especially true in the financial services industry, where ecosystems generally have to collaborate to realize profound change, and that process is iterative and takes time.

“It takes time to change entrenched systems and behaviors … This is especially true in financial services where ecosystems generally have to collaborate to realize profound change.”

Why are big FIs slow to adopt and introduce fintech-based technology? What could fintechs do to accelerate things? 

FIs are going through profound change as a result of shifting customer expectations and increasing competitive pressures from fintechs and other new entrants. The complexity of traditional banking — including process, technology and regulatory perspectives — means it can be very slow and expensive to adapt to this new reality. 

At the same time, FIs have enviable reach and distribution that can transform any fintech. FIs and fintechs need each other to survive and thrive. Fintechs should recognize that successfully working with banks takes time (but the prize is definitely worth it!) and that FIs operate with significant additional regulatory constraints, which fintechs typically don’t. 

Ultimately if both the FI and the fintech focus on how best to serve their joint customers and members, successful partnerships can be created that deliver significant results.

Subscription services are surging in popularity. Will they reshape traditional financial services? 

During the past five years, subscription services have emerged as a key consumer payment method. Subscription services have reshaped the relationship between the merchant and their customers. Subscription services drive loyalty, increase basket sizes and make the consumer relationship incredibly sticky. 

Over time, subscription models will start to impact traditional financial services. We are already seeing this with a number of neo banks both in the U.S. and the U.K. Customers are able to subscribe for a basket of services (e.g., cross-border payments, FX services, deposit interest levels earned etc.). These are all bundled together at various tiers segmented by volume levels, customer support requirements and other factors. 

Traditional FI services are going to be increasingly “consumerized,” and subscription models will play a major role in this shift.

What is your take on open banking in the U.S. right now? 

The U.S. is often compared negatively with Europe from an open banking perspective. However, significant progress has been made, as demonstrated by the stellar growth of Plaid, MX and Akoya, to name a few. 

In turn, these open banking innovators have stimulated the development of entirely new sectors and services. Just as the growth of real-time payments in the U.S. lagged Europe for a number of years, it is now catching up. We expect to see exactly the same growth trajectory for open banking over the next five years.

Will FIs benefit from open banking? Small business owners? 

For FIs, open banking represents a great opportunity to win new customers, their deposits and deepen their existing client relationships and wallet share. Aggregating a single view of all their financial activities in one place (through open banking connectivity) will enable banks to cross-sell and market their own products and services to customers using third party solutions (“I see you’re using company X for service Y. Have you considered us?”). 

The small business owner should expect to see greater competition for their business which ultimately should be reflected in lower costs, improved products and better customer service.

Join Us at Fintech Meetup 

BillGO is sponsoring Anil Aggarwal’s Fintech Meetup, on March 22 - 24. The virtual event is your chance to network with executives from across the financial services industry. Get tickets here.   

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