Technology is rapidly changing the business landscape. People can cash their cheques by their phones, transfer funds to their friends and in some countries, no longer need to walk with cash. These changes are all because of fintech.
Fintech, a portmanteau of financial technology, is the applied technology that help enable transactions in the financial sectors.
Tech Beach Retreat, a TT owned company that connects people in the Caribbean with technology leaders around the world, is hosting their fourth Tech Beach convention in Bermuda to talk about fintech, and the way technology can help empower businesses to service their clients.
Business Day spoke to Nicolas, 30, and Kyle Maloney, 32, two directors of Tech Beach at One Woodbrook Place last week Thursday to discuss fintech and the ways Caribbean countries can utilise the technology.
“There’s a major shift that’s happening within the world in the financial industry. There is an uprising of companies that are, in deed and action, more consumer focused. They are all about less fees, more transparency in their transactions, and fintech is an aspect of financial technology that is geared towards technology first banking,” Kyle said.
For Trinidadians, the brothers explain, there are a lot of difficulties when operating in the financial sector. For instance, peer to peer payment transfers using regular banks takes days when in other countries it takes seconds.
“When we need to send money to our friends it is difficult. It takes a lot of time. If I get a cheque written to me, unless it’s from the same bank, I can’t clear it immediately. As far as e-commerce, which is a big thing for us exporting our culture, a lot of small businesses can’t export our culture, make greater revenues and bring foreign funds into a country because they can’t accept payment online. It’s very challenging. It takes a long time to make payments,” Nicolas said.
One major problem they identified was the lack of knowledge the business owners have on the available technology.
The brothers own a company in the US, and they utilise Stripe (https://stripe.com/gb), an online payment processing system for internet businesses. This allows them to sell anything from anywhere online.
“In Trinidad I simply can’t do that and that is just one example, there are many examples in the way that Fintech is just making things so much easier for consumers.”
Nicolas travels frequently to Sweden where the payment platform Swish (https://hub.packtpub.com/sweden-is-at-a-crossroads-with-its-nearly-cashless-society-to-swish-or-e-krona/) is making movements to replace cash in the Scandinavian country.
Kyle said this was an initiative to avoid problems such as robberies and begging from the socially displaced.
“They have a unique code that is tied to their ID, and that makes things like security easier. A lot of times as Trinidadians, when we feting we have to hit the ATM. If you go two fetes that’s $1,000. You are running around in fetes and you lose some money and it’s a scene.
“To put it in Trini perspective, we have all been there, hit up the ATM at 2 am, that is the lack of fintech. In Sweden we don’t have that issue. You don’t find people getting robbed in the street because no one has cash on them.”
Kyle said most places in Sweden people cannot pay with the physical dollar.
So how do Caribbean nationals learn how to utilise fintech solutions? This is where Tech Beach Bermuda comes in.
This is the fourth Tech Beach conference. All the previous ones were in Jamaica in December. A fifth Tech Beach will be in December.
Kyle said Bermuda has a drive to improve and revolutionise the country’s fintech solutions. Last year, the Minister of National Security for Bermuda, Wayne Caines, attended Tech Beach Jamaica and was impressed by the presentations and connections happening in Montego Bay, and he approached the Maloney brothers to host a Tech Beach in Bermuda.
Bermuda is known as one of the top countries in the reinsurance industry. They are one of the largest reinsurance domiciles on the planet. Their insurance covers quite a bit of the planet in terms of insurance with some of the largest companies having offices in Bermuda.
“It’s a crazy feat for that country. That’s what they are known for, as well as offshore banking. It’s a big big deal. Some of the companies like Google have offices in Bermuda. Their economy and their country is very well off because of this. It’s a clean and pristine country with things running relatively well for sure.”
Tech Beach has sponsorship from the Bermuda Business Development Authority, the Bermuda Department of Tourism, and Fintech Bermuda, a fintech development unit of the government.
Tech Beach Retreat Bermuda will be on October 17-18 at the Hamilton Princess Beach Resort. Early bird tickets are still available for US$650 per day or US$1,000 for both days.
Some of the topics that will be discussed include in the financial innovation revolution, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality, the future of transportation, the shared economy, big data, the internet of things, privacy and data security, digital marketing and corporate level innovation.
Speakers include Jeff Pulver, executive vice president of Skrumble, a blockchain communications technology business; X Eyee, a blockchain ambassador for Google; Cindy Yang, partner and team lead in fintech industry practice for Duane Morris; Emma Todd, executive board member of Blockchain for Impact and Darren Wolfberg CEO of Blockchain Triangle.
From Trinidad, Republic Bank will send representatives to attend Tech Beach. The Maloney brothers are currently courting First Citizens to send representatives.
Bermuda’s Premier Edward David Burt did his degree in finance and information technology at the George Washington University, in Washington DC. The brothers explained his knowledge of the importance of IT is what made Burt an early adopter in fintech.
They however expressed concern in the stagnation of TT’s leaders to rapidly work towards adopting more technological solutions for their business solutions.
“I have spoken to quite a bit of the banks. I speak regularly to First Citizens bank and Republic. I sit on the board of the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) with Jason Julien, who is from First Citizens. There is a definite strong interest in doing more for the consumers. There is always a strong level of inertia because the risks around it. We are not trying to be leaders in any way. We are always the followers. Worse yet, in the space of financial technology, that’s the shortcoming.”
Kyle said TT may be leaders in many ways but certainly not in technology as the TT education system does not prepare people to be ready for digital solutions.