This week, ‘new’ money met ‘old’ under the watchful gaze of City guardians.
Interesting to note that the venue chosen to hold the Innovative Finance Global Summit 2017 – the show piece event for the techiest of FinTech aficionados – was Grade I-listed Guildhall, in the heart of the City of London. It is a place where money men have gathered for centuries (apparently, even the name means ‘payment’ in Anglo Saxon) and also home to effigies of Gog and Magog, the giant guardians of the City, who get hauled out once a year to be paraded at the head of the Lord Mayor’s Show.
These two must have shared a silent chuckle this week when it was a case of those with a vision for the future, but no money, meeting in the heartland of those who have bundles of the stuff, but who stubbornly insist on clinging to the old ways that made them rich. The unavoidable truth is that both factions actually need each other if London is to preserve its reputation as the FinTech capital of the world.
Perhaps the other inescapable conclusion is that, although its consequences currently dominate our thoughts and headlines, Brexit actually means very little in terms of addressing the world’s overriding priorities. FinTech wizards may find ways to cut down on the time it takes to make faster money transactions or process loan applications – objectives that appeal to developed countries and those in charge of financial systems – but they will contribute very little to solving the massive problems facing the under-developed world that represents most of humanity.
What is needed is more widespread access to capital so that billions of people can be lifted out of poverty, to live in millions more homes that have yet to be built (estimated circa 50m in India alone) and to eat food that still has to be produced. Capitalism works, but it still only serves the minority.
FinTech has a lot to deliver and expectations are sky high. There is an abundance of good ideas, some may even be brilliant and world-changing. But they will not progress to anything remotely useful without the support of ‘old’ money. And therein lies the greatest challenge.