" class="no-js "lang="en-US"> EXCLUSIVE: "Fintech Goes to Hollywood" - Hannah Duncan in 'The Fintech Magazine'
Sunday, April 14, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: “Fintech Goes to Hollywood” – Hannah Duncan in ‘The Fintech Magazine’

Hannah Duncan relives what’s now established as the glitziest night of the fintech year

Stepping into the FF Awards at the historic Old Billingsgate building was a welcome contrast to the wintery London streets. Guests were bedazzled by paparazzi cameras, ushered towards dee  red carpets and welcomed with sparkling flutes of bubbly. YES! From the swoosh of ball gowns to the jangle of jewels, the vibe was invigorating. Lights, camera… fintech!

Naturally, I asked a few attendees the obvious question. If the FF Awards ceremony was a drink, what would it be?

“A soupe de champagne with curaçao,” shrugs Zumo’s Amelie Arras like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. God, how we love her. “Why? Because the finalists are champagne calibre, the curaçao is a twist… and, besides, blue is the colour of trust,” she finishes.

“An American red wine,” proclaims FF’s Doug McKenzie in his kilt. “Because there’s lots of it about, plus it’s loud and fruity!”

Doug and the rest of the FF crew had painstakingly set up the entire event – it was the second time Fintech Finance had handed out the Wow Moment awards and more than 500 people were there to enjoy it.

RED CARPETS AND FINTECH ROYALTY

Jacket of the night surely had to go to Kevin Emery, gobal cybersecurity director for UL Solutions. He sported a card-themed look which was anything but undercover. I caught up with him to ask what Hollywood genre would match his outfit and Kevin did not disappoint. “It would be for sure an action movie. I actually think Hollywood should make a movie about my life. Happy to have Jason Statham or Tom Hardy play me.”

Gabriella Trow, head of marketing and demand generation at Vitesse, also stood out in a turquoise gown with The Little Mermaid meets Morticia Addams vibes. Impossibly elegant. Fintech royalty floated past like grand ships. We ogled at the iconic Jim Marous in his red hot bow tie and glittery trainers (legend). We peeked over shoulders at the illustrious Chris Skinner – who also had fabulous shoes… did we miss a trend here? And we were drawn to the magnetic Leda Glyptis who never fails to light up the room.

At one point my guest and brother, Toby – who is a junior doctor and not a fintech person – commented, “John Bercow is standing behind you.”

Obviously, I ignored him the way all big sisters should. But sure enough, when I swiped a look later, there he was. The man best known for bringing MPs in line as Leader of the House by bellowing “ORRRRRDEEERRRRRRRR!!!!” was now calmly enjoying a duck appetiser with Fintech Finance founder and host Ali Paterson.

Ali had that slight look of “What if he shouts at me to behave?” Totally understandable.

As the night got underway, we swished over to our tables for some juicy fintech chat over a lovely meal. I sat next to Hokodo’s Lucy Heavens who looked like a Chanel advert in a floaty black ball gown. Serene. Modulr kindly provided a tote bag of treats (thank you, Modulr).The toothbrush, socks and laptop cover proved surprisingly useful and have since become remarkably integrated in my daily life. Nice one!

AND THE AWARD GOES TO…

Before we knew it, excited hushes and shhhes filled the room. Ali took to the stage, looking fierce in his kilt (has anyone ever seen Ali wear trousers at these events?) to launch the awards and introduce the HILARIOUS Channel 4 presenter and comedian Alex Brooker to lead proceedings and introduce a roster of special guest presenters.

Among them, Frank Abagnale, the original ‘social engineer’ and conman, author of Catch Me If You Can, was beamed into the room from his home in the US – as was Ghela Boskovich – you could just see the back of my head in her video. I swelled with pride.

“In an industry where so many innovations are changing the way people and businesses do banking, the event was an exceptional way to recognise the firms that are delivering solutions at speed and scale “

Jim Marous

We clapped, whooped and raised our glasses for the winners, none of whom had been prepped for their award – and were, genuinely speechless, as in they had no speeches.

I managed to quiz one, Jinesh Vohra founder of Sprive, which helps homeowners in the UK be mortgage-free faster, about how he felt.

“Surprised but proud!” he replied. “Going on stage was a bit of a blur – it happened so quickly! I just went through such a range of emotions from ‘is this really happening?’ to ‘what am I going to say?’.”

We’re proud of you guys, too Jinesh!

DANCING THE NIGHT AWAY

The sparkling surprises and jaw-dropping royalty kept on coming. Like a conveyer belt of Marvel heroes. Noughties mega group, Liberty X, strode onstage decked out in leather and heels. As that infamous beat started up, I grabbed my guests and we hit the dance floor. All around us, cameras twinkled and spotlights whooshed as the girlband belted out their top-10s. Across the venue, guests’ faces lit up as they chattered about the night’s events. I caught up with some of fintech’s finest to ask more.

“The FF Awards are an antidote to the established awards system”, elaborated Modulr’s bombastic Sergei Miller-Pomphrey, with his iconic Glaswegian cadence.

“They’ve got something brewing at FF that you don’t often see – it’s the people, the team, the spirit, the creativity, and Ali, the leadership. Sometimes heroes just need to tear everything down to build it all back up again!”

Sergei – if you don’t already know him – is kind of a ledge. He dances like there’s no tomorrow and once let me stand on his shoulders in some mud.

“The FF Awards was an amazing opportunity to see more than 500 of the brightest and best minds in financial services in one place,” fintech icon Jim Marous later told me. “It was also a great way to celebrate the best-of-the-best in 18 different categories.” Couldn’t agree more!

Award ceremonies can sometimes blend drearily into one, mulched down into a squishy memory. But not this time. Despite the free bar, the FF Awards truly were unforgettable. And made us all feel like stars. Now turn the page to to meet our fabulous winners.

“The FF Awards is an awards programme like no other. What’s not to love about celebrating WOW moments? “

Lucy Heavens

WOW MOMENT IN… CONSUMER BANKING

Starling Bank flew to the top for putting contactless control back into the hands of customers. When the contactless card use limit automatically increased from £30 to £100, not everyone was comfortable with the idea. This thoughtful fintech gave people the chance to change it back, or adjust the limit to whatever they wanted. Nice! It earned a ping of approval from customers and a WOW from our judges.

WOW MOMENT IN… BUSINESS BANKING

Nothing quite kills the buzz of going international with your business like cross-border payments. From start to finish, the whole palaver can be a major headache, especially for medium-sized businesses. Stepping in to give these guys a break is MultiPass. Our judges were impressed with the way the platform found a slick solution to a major problem and had rapidly expanded over the past year. Now let’s pop another champers and crank up the party anthems.

WOW MOMENT IN… EMBEDDED FINANCE

We love a fintech that gives power to the people… and so do our judges! This year it was the partnership between PPS and Sprive that made us go WOW. Together, these two techy tycoons created a service to help everyday homeowners pay off their mortgage faster. By putting just a few pounds a day towards their property, ordinary people can ditch debt faster and cheaper than ever before… where do we sign up?

WOW MOMENT IN… OPEN BANKING

We asked for a video. We asked for a WOW moment. And, oh Lordy, did we get it. Hearty congrats to Neonomics for their epic submission. It had everything. Lumberjack vest? Check. A kid rapping about fintech? Check. Dollar sign sunnies and office floor dancing? Double check. Neonomics have done some banging new things this year, boosting experiences for customers and streamlining processes. For the second year running, they are the Open Banking winners. Special shout out to nine-year-old Penelope Matilde Fazlic who stole the show with her awesome rap skills. We love you!

WOW MOMENT IN… CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS

Ahhh…. Partnerships. There’s nothing like a good collaboration to get things moving. And when it comes to cross-border payments, there’s one nifty fintech we can’t get enough of. This year, our judges were WOWed by Wise, whose partnerships in Turkey and Israel are the first of their kind. The submission won by a landslide. Nice one, Wise!

WOW MOMENT IN… ID VERIFICATION & KYC

OCR Labs came in with a very authentic video. Just two minutes of honest chat about democratising onboarding, beating fraudsters and the importance of facial recognition. This refreshingly different approach went down a storm with the judges. Many congratulations to OCR Labs for their plain and simple winning formula.

WOW MOMENT IN… DATA INSIGHTS

All jaws dropped when the UL Solutions team strolled up the stage. Kevin Emery’s jacket, described by Alex Brooker as ‘confident’, drew every eye in the room. Despite the garment’s casino vibes, the video entry by UL Solutions was all about conquering risk. The video had a surprising but welcome groovy background beat. We challenge you not to shimmy your shoulders as you watch it! Many congrats to the UL Solutions team on the memorable submission and jazzy wardrobe choice.

WOW MOMENT IN… AUTHENTIC ESG

Hand in hand with Parley for the Oceans, G+D created a unique payments card this year. Their new recycled plastic cards help to protect oceans and raise awareness of plastic pollution. But according to the team, it’s just the beginning. As well as putting forward this clever and thought-provoking idea, the team also delivered a Hollywood quality video. Surely, there’s only one word to describe this moment… WOW.

WOW MOMENT IN… WEALTH MANAGEMENT

Well, Temenos got straight to the point. No messing around here! Judges were plunged head-first into a product demo, and they loved it. The slick and seamless features – with a special focus on filtering options – stuck a chord with investors. Sometimes you just have to let the product speak for itself and that’s exactly what Temenos did. From time to time, we could all be a little more Temenos. Congrats to the team!

WOW MOMENT IN… BLOCKCHAIN

When the Nuvei team say they move fast, they mean it! Their memorable video lasted just 14 seconds! Filled with a rigorous clapping beat throughout – the kind that makes you want to get up and do an aggressive jig – the submission was powerful and to the point. With a video so very professional and Apple-esque and a proposition like no other, the judges were blown away. Go, Nuvei!

WOW MOMENT IN… LENDING

Mambu went in strong, presenting its WOW moment as banking platform to startup Scroll Finance with a lot of serious detail. They’re serious about the benefits this new lending service will bring to people, and are looking to democratise home equity. The judges went crazy for it, and votes poured in. Nice one!

WOW MOMENT IN… INNOVATIVE INSURTECH

Presented by the white-tuxedoed Ron Rock from Jobs Ohio, this was a fiercely contested category. Hearty congratulations to INSTANDA and MLTPLY, who’s partnership over the past year was a real WOW moment. Magic happens when seed companies and startups are given a chance to thrive. That’s exactly that INSTANDA and MLTPLY are doing in the insurance world. Their ultimate WOW moment was developing a new fully-fledged insurance product in just six weeks – a record time. Go team!

WOW MOMENT IN… MOBILE PAYMENTS

Judges were WOWed with Enfuce’s video entry, which showcased how they create payments cards in a matter of weeks – whatever kind of card you need. The submission was smooth, cool and weirdly 80s reminiscent. With animations of rockets and astronauts, what’s not to love?

WOW MOMENT IN… PARTNERSHIPS

G+D again took to the stage, this time for its winning partnership with Netcetera. As soon the judges they pressed ‘play’, they were transported to a fiery video with motivational vibes. The content went on to provide a detailed overview of the magic partnership, that unlocks new security possibilities for customers.

WOW MOMENT IN… REAL-TIME PAYMENTS

Looking suitably festive in red and green, ACI Worldwide proudly picked up their trophy for Real-Time Payments. As their video explains, the planet has hurtled a million miles an hour towards instant transactions over the past years. Post-COVID, nobody has time to wait days for funds to clear. Pah! ACI Worldwide have been at the heart of this much-needed transition and are racing ahead to give us the real-time tech we need.

WOW MOMENT IN… BANK BUILDER

What do Revolut, Wagestream and Sage all have in common? They all use Modulr for their embedded payments. The team dazzled the judges with more of their stellar performance. Presenting the award was none other than former Leader of the House of Commons John Bercow! Join us in warmly congratulating Modulr – that’s an ORDEERRRRRR!!!

 


 

This article was published in The Fintech Magazine Issue 26, Page 20-24

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