Two Top Innovators Share Their Visions of Tomorrow

The volume of marquee fintech shows and smaller niche events exploded over the past 5 years, feeding the industry’s seemingly insatiable appetite for in-person engagements. But as the pandemic put a halt to in-person gatherings, it spurred innovation around virtual connectivity. Shows are now beginning the transition to in-person or hybrid formats, so we asked two experts about the digital transformation of industry events and what their role may be going forward.

Anil Aggarwal: “Trust, relationships and technology.”

Anil Aggarwal is a veteran fintech CEO, but may be best known as the founder and former CEO of the Money20/20 and Shoptalk events. By honing in on community building and engagement, his events have served for over a decade as important catalysts for industries undergoing long-term, deep digital transformations. He’s now launched a new fintech event called FIntech Meetup.

Change in the fintech events landscape is on the horizon. According to Anil, all of the different components of traditional events–learning, networking and trading–now need to be broken down and rebuilt as technology-enabled offerings if they are to best serve today’s as well as the future needs of the fintech community.

Fintech is a multi-sided ecosystem with many embedded two-sided marketplaces that relies heavily on social capital to form partnerships. These partnerships are necessary for successful new offerings to get off the ground and thrive, as well as for traditional businesses to realize change. Fintech events have played an important role in developing these partnerships and helping the ecosystem evolve. And technology is the best way to help that social capital flourish going forward.

In Anil’s view, we should expect fintech event offerings to become technology enabled very quickly coming out of the pandemic. That doesn’t mean that events will be online only–it means that even offline events will have a digital overlay, just like Uber put a digital overlay on the in-person experience of getting a taxi. The overall events industry has historically been slow to adopt this kind of technology, but that is about to change.

Anil believes that the best attendee experience gains will come from investing in technology to further drive community engagement. Events will be a seamless experience–whether online or offline–enabled by technology as the driver of vastly new experiences. 

Using his background as a tech entrepreneur, Anil and his 30-person strong engineering team has built a new event tech stack from scratch. They are launching Fintech Meetup first as an online event  to be held on June 15-17, 2021, then offline going forward in Las Vegas starting in 2022. 

For the inaugural event in June, Fintech Meetup will be focused solely on connecting the fintech community through thousands of one-to-one meetings. To facilitate those meetings, Anil has worked from the premise that the knowledge of who wants to meet with who is widely distributed across the fintech sector. What’s needed is an efficient tool to allow everyone to act on that knowledge in an efficient way and a resulting meeting format that’s convenient.  

Fintech Meetup is on track to facilitate more than 15,000 one-to-one 15-minutes meetings for 2,000 fintech professionals. The event will provide participants with profiles of other participants and the opportunity to express interest in meetings in a highly structured way. This process removes the randomness of meeting the right contacts at a show with engineered connections that make the most sense. 

The fintech community relies on an incredible amount of social capital and interconnected relationships are critical to success. The pace of innovation and change is staggering with new products, solutions, companies and individuals entering the industry that will define the next wave of fintech. According to Anil: “Fintech comes down to people, trust and relationships and technology will be necessary to create the rich engagement necessary to maximize those capital flows.”

Monique Ruff-Bell: “Build the community, not just the show.”

Many see the decade-old Money 20/20 as the definitive event that brings the fintech community together. 

According to Monique Ruff-Bell, Event Director for Money 20/20 USA and VP of events for Ascential PLC, this year’s Money 20/20 has been reinvented to best serve the fintech ecosystem. 

Along with safety being a top priority for in-person attendees, the organizers are also exploring hybrid formats, on-demand content, and live streaming of content through online platforms to enhance attendee experiences. Money 20/20 does have a virtual event footprint – Money Fest, which premiered as a fully online event in the fall of 2020. More than 18,000 people engaged with the event in some way. 

Ms. Ruff Bell suggests that the fintech events circuit could contract post-pandemic and only the strongest brands that invest in their experiences will survive.  Money 20/20 engaged with the agency Sid Lee, one of the creative partners of Cirque du Soleil, to completely break down the attendee experience and find better ways to increase engagement and networking. The goal: to deliver content plus rich experiences. This approach presents serendipitous moments for attendees to network via experiential activities, gaining special access to guest speakers, and other surprise and delight moments. There will also be more of a focus on special programs targeting C-Suite level attendees. 

“Events must think beyond a one day or four day experience,” Ruff Bell said. “There must be engagement with the brand throughout the year with ongoing engagement. That will be a mix of online and offline experiences, but events can no longer think of their event as a moment in time.” 

This year, the Money20/20 experience will occur 100% in the exhibit hall, so there will be a buzz about the space with something engaging around every corner. A concierge service was added to the event in 2019 for all attendees to access. The service allowed busy attendees to use the app to request things like a blanket, charger or coffee. Service is and continues to be the mantra.

Ms. Ruff Bell says “Build the community, not just a show. The ecosystem needs to see the value of the show and [the show must] serve the ecosystem year-wide. If the attendees feel like we care for them then they are  going to care about us.” 

Ruff Bell points to three big themes with respect to fintech events in the  coming years.

  1. Big events will need to feel small and highly curated to their audiences. People will be very selective about the events they go to.
  2. Face to face meetings will never go away. Though people forge more solid relationships one-to-one, busy fintech execs will now be more selective with their time and budget.
  3. The commitment to diversity is critical for fintech. Other perspectives beyond the CEO can be equally as valid. People want to hear something that they have never heard before at an event. 

Fintech events at a crossroads

Both Anil Aggarwal and Monique Ruff-Bell agree that the coming years will be transformative for fintech events. Established fintech shows and smaller gatherings will vie to write the script for the industry’s new normal. Whether it is an emphasis on socially-focused technology heightening an event-goer’s experience or year-round community outreach from a trusted event brand, events will concentrate on generating human capital, fostering collaboration and promoting innovation.

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