Exclusive: ‘The show must go on’ – Emily Camara, RBR in “The Fintech Magazine”
The Fintech Magazine: Physical events were obviously one of the first activities to be suspended when the pandemic started, so can you tell us how RBR’s strategy has had
to evolve in 2020?
Emily Camara: RBR has always been, and continues to be, passionate about the value of physical conferences. Bringing people together and sharing knowledge is core to our offering and, quite simply, you cannot beat face-to-face interaction. Our event partners echo this sentiment and are still keen for us to run physical events this year, if possible. Therefore, our main strategy has been to push back our conferences to the last third of the year in order to reduce uncertainty and maximise participation.
In addition, we are going to co-locate two of our flagship events right at the end of the year. With a large number of industry conferences having moved to Q3 and Q4, co-locating brings value to those delegates and partners who are keen to participate in both events and already have a busy schedule planned.
For all of these events, we are working closely with our venue partners to monitor the social distancing situation and ensure that appropriate measures are put in place.
TFM: Co-locating two of your events sounds an interesting strategy. Which events are being held together, and is this just a one-off?
EC: We have decided to co-locate Self-Service Banking Europe 2020 (SSBE20) and BankSec 2020 (BSEC20). The events will take place in the Park Plaza London Riverbank hotel on December 9 and 10. At present, the co-location strategy is a one-off because the subject areas are largely separate, but we will seek feedback from all our stakeholders before making a firm decision.
SSBE20 focusses on self-service, fintech and digital banking, while BSEC20 centres on physical and digital security, including self-service security, access control and cybersecurity – and so, while the topics are different, they complement each other well.
It is important to emphasise that the events are not being merged – quite the opposite, in fact. They will retain their individual focus and have separate agendas. There are some delegates and some of our sponsors and exhibitors, however, who have a strong interest in both areas and, for them, there is significant value in co-locating. For others, they can either participate in just one of the events or take the opportunity to find out more about other key banking topics.
TFM: Has RBR considered hosting virtual conferences instead of physical events?
EC: Yes, absolutely, we have been reviewing virtual conferences since well before the current crisis. Given the current uncertainty, we have made a commitment to all our partners for 2020 that if physical conferences cannot happen, we will run a full, two-day virtual conference instead. While there are aspects of physical events, particularly face-to-face interaction, which are difficult to replicate, online conferences create opportunities to reach an expanded audience and involve speakers who might otherwise not have been able to participate. Features such as video-on-demand allow additional content, and for people in different time zones to watch sessions at a time that is most convenient for them.
TFM: How have RBR’s events evolved over the last few years, even prior to COVID-19?
EC: The event theming is constantly evolving to ensure we continue to deliver cutting-edge case studies and explore the key topics that banks want to discuss. This is partly why our events attract such a high number of senior executives from banks across the globe. For example, at all our events in 2019, at least half of delegates were bank executives, and more than 40 countries were represented at each UK event.
On the exhibition side of things, networking and meetings have become increasingly important. Exhibitors are moving away from simply giving a one-size-fits-all demo and instead are keen to engage with their prospective clients on a deeper level and try to understand how they can help with specific challenges the banks are facing. The booths themselves are reflecting this – whereas, a few years ago, most booths would be used for showcasing equipment, nowadays it is just as common to see a sofa, coffee machine and maybe the odd screen or two.
The events team at RBR is always aiming to bring in new initiatives in order to keep the events fresh and to provide extra value to our partners. For example, at our co-located self-service and security event in December, we have introduced a feature in the exhibition called Expo Live, giving sponsors and exhibitors a platform to share insights and news with attendees. We also added an initiative a year or two ago to help facilitate introductions at the booths, which has been appreciated by our partners.
TFM: You mention that the theming has evolved. Can you expand on that?
EC: The banking industry is rapidly evolving and we strive to reflect that in our events. SSBE, for example, used to focus heavily on ATM technology and strategy. While those are still important and feature in the event, we’ve branched out to include other key self-service topics such as mobile, internet banking, digital and fintech.
In a similar way, we have evolved the BSEC theming to reflect the key security topics that are high on banks’ agendas. Several years ago, BSEC largely focussed on ATM security (gas explosions and skimming, for example), whereas it now also explores cyber, branch security and other self-service security issues.
TFM: RBR is also well-known for its research and consulting activities – how do these relate to the conference business?
EC: The various areas complement each other extremely well, first and foremost in terms of content. As we are close to the industry, we are continually following the latest trends and can ensure these themes are reflected in our conference agendas.
We also work regularly with banks around the world as part of the research process, meaning we are already engaged with the most relevant people in the industry who often end up speaking at or attending the events. Similarly, on the sponsor and exhibitor side, many of the organisations that support our events are also clients of our research and consulting work.
TFM: How can readers get involved in RBR’s events?
EC: It’s probably worth summarising our event plans for the coming year. Self-Service Banking Asia 2020 takes place in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on September 23 and 24. Like its European counterpart, this event focusses on self-service technology, mobile channels and fintech, but also incorporates some branch and security topics. Then, we have our flagship branch event – Branch Transformation 2020 – which looks at branch design, customer experience and branch strategy and takes place in London on November 17 and 18. We finish the year with the co-located events we have already discussed – SSBE20 and BSEC20 – taking place in London on December 9 and 10.
There are a variety of ways in which readers can get involved in these events. We are always looking to add interesting bank case studies to our agendas and would love to hear from anyone interested in presenting; we have a range of exhibition and sponsorship packages for companies that would like to promote their brand and meet potential customers. Alternatively, individual delegate tickets can be purchased.
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