How did you get involved in the world of fintech?
Many moons ago, I started a fintech company before the industry was even called fintech. I became involved in the hedge fund industry by investing and raising money for some fintech startups when the industry was still very young. I guess I was in the right place at the right time when the digital disruption of the financial sector picked up speed. We still have a long way to go to change the financial industry and achieve its real potential. We want fintech to be like the air we breathe — for it to be all around us, without us needing to think about it. That’s the ultimate future of fintech.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the way people think about and manage their money. How is this impacting different industries?
The pandemic has dramatically changed all industries. One of the fintech sectors that has benefited is the challenger bank industry, as people were forced to find a way to bank without going to an actual building.
Many consumers are hesitant to adopt fintech. What are ways that we’re already interacting with this technology that we might not be aware of?
Fintech is everywhere — even before we coined the phrase “fintech.” Some people may choose not to use a challenger bank, for instance, but I’m certain that they’re exposed to fintech, whether they want to be or not. Fintech is so much broader than the known business-to-consumer startups that some might associate with the industry. If you go to withdraw money from an ATM, there’s fintech behind the scenes enabling this process. Even paying and sending money involves fintech. To round it off, every incumbent bank uses fintech to keep up with the digital transformation that’s continuously happening and accelerating.
As a venture capitalist, what do you look for in a startup?
I look for startups with great teams that know how to execute and overcome constant challenges. Of course, I always look to see if the company has real and strong customer traction. That’s proof that their solutions are genuinely helping people.
What advice do you have for fintech entrepreneurs looking to gain exposure and scale?
Succeeding as a fintech is like cake — you need many good ingredients to make it tasty. Beyond assembling a great team, it’s important to focus on what the customer needs. This is validated by gaining customers. However, the crucial element is strengthening your brand. If you have a strong brand, make sure it’s noticed, or you’re wasting an opportunity to show the world what you have to offer. Believe me, every successful startup understands just how important a strong and known brand is to their success.
Spiros Margaris is ranked as the number one finance influencer globally by Refinitiv (Thomson Reuters) and the top fintech influencer by Onalytica. He’s a venture capitalist, futurist, keynote speaker, board member, and senior advisor and investor to several companies in the fintech, insurtech, cybersecurity, health care, and AI industries. Mediaplanet interviewed him about the ever-scaling future of fintech.