The Intersection of Financial Institutions and Technology Leaders

Building Things That Matter: What Fintechs Could Do Better

By Joan Susie

Many years ago, I went to a Google-hosted event of the founders of financial technology firms and walked away with a T-shirt I love and wear to this day. It says: “Build Things That Matter.” 

At Moov Financial’s fintech_devcon conference in August, Google’s Vice President of Financial Services Yolande Piazza and Google Key Account Executive Sam Maule took the stage and discussed where the opportunities are for both banks and fintechs to build things that matter. Piazza, when asked what fintechs should be doing better, said fintechs should be thinking bigger. “Fintech hasn’t quite lived up to its desire to disrupt, and mostly because fintechs are taking on slices of the market and it’s hard to move the market that way,’’ she said.

A developer the night before had lamented that fintechs seem to make slightly better user experiences for educated white people in their 30s. Even though many founders wanted to change the world, they’re not exactly doing that.

Piazza commented that, by banding together, fintechs could strengthen their value proposition and get closer to disrupting the industry: “Too often at the demo days or pitch events, founders are thinking about what they are going to say or comparing why they are better than others pitching. What if they listened to hear who they could work with to make a better product?

I followed up with her later about what some of those combinations would look like and how banks could play a role. She thinks the winners in financial services will be the banks that think outside of the traditional profit and loss parameters. “Banks that take the lead in creating the next ecosystem of banking, which incorporates community, education, customization, gamification, and financial wellness, will be poised for long-term success,” she says.

Piazza believes financial services firms need to think about how to create the next “super app,” an app that encompasses what many people want and need in their personal and financial lives. That starts with moving towards a customer engagement model, rather than a customer servicing model. Fintechs are good at creating a superior customer experience online and in mobile devices. But they could get even better by partnering with other fintechs, technology companies and banks.

“Driving change in financial services lies in the intersection of traditional institutions, large technology companies, and fintech firms,’’ Piazza says. “It is combining the strength of traditional financial institutions, which is managing risk and the regulatory environment, with the secure infrastructure and innovative data, analytics, and AI tools that large technology companies offer, alongside the customer experience that fintechs can provide on the front-end.”

This won’t be easy. It’s easier to make a solution that people will try than create a solution that people will use to consolidate their financial lives, or that people will depend on.

Piazza knows her stuff. For years, she was CEO of Citi FinTech. With her experience at Citi and now Google Cloud, Piazza is still watching for huge market-moving disruption. She is looking for the leaders that will build things that matter.