Here at the historic City National Civic in San Jose, there is little doubt the fintech revolution is well underway.


While the Bay Area is perhaps more traditionally associated with countercultural revolution, the modern day capital of Silicon Valley is – at least for the next few days – alive with the sound of financial services tech innovation.

But for those of us attending FinovateSpring who have followed the fintech community’s emergence in recent years, there has been a discernible shift in tone and atmosphere.

The headlines might still shriek of disruption of disintermediation (and there is no doubt these business trends are happening), but on the ground here at fintech’s Woodstock there is a lot more love going around than chaos and competition.

Financial institutions of all stripes and sizes are well represented, from Wall Street giants to Midwestern credit unions to Japanese investment banks – their pockets full of blank cheques and hands clean and ready to grasp at the entrepreneurs that seek their life-giving capital.

Your humble correspondent also spied some Aussie instos on the hunt for investment and product development opportunities, including well-known yellow and blue branded big four banks.

At every outdoor table in the conference’s sunny Californian courtyard, and in every nook of its boozy exhibition hall, bankers sit with entrepreneurial insurgents, making plans for partnership where not too long ago they were plotting each other’s demise.

This is the new normal in the fintech ecosystem. While the threat of disruption hasn’t entirely dissipated, the conversation has turned to co-operation, to deals and dialogues, buyouts and bank-backed incubators.

When it comes to fintech’s sub-sectors, FinovateSpring features presenters and attendees from across the broad spectrum.

As it was in London for FinovateEurope, robo-advice had a strong showing, almost all of them complying with the B2B2C trend.

Having seen the Wealthfronts and Betterments of the world spend much of their seed capital on wayward marketing to consumers, these second generation robos are instead setting their sights on investment advisers and the institutions themselves, billing as practice management tools as well as consumer-facing investment enhancers.  

With P2P lending in the US headlines for all the wrong reasons, there were no shortage of solutions also intending to fix some of the problems perceived in debt-based crowdfunding.

Payments, cybersecurity, saving, spending and back-end processes were all touched on as well, with a distinct focus on helping banks gain efficiencies and remove clunk legacy architecture, rather than cutting out the bank and going direct-to-consumer.

Now in its ninth year, Finovate has played a major role in turning fintech from a boardroom and incubator buzz term to a global industry in its own right. It’s unique 7-minute demo format continues to showcase some of the best and brightest.

Many Finovate alumni have been fundamentally disruptive over the past decade, and there is much truth to the narrative that traditional financial services must adapt or die.

But, like Woodstock, love and chaos are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Judging by the tone and conversation at this year’s FinovateSpring, banks and fintech firms are heading more towards co-dependance than destruction.

Aleks Vickovich is contributing editor at Fintech Business, and is based in the United States.