Tearsheet's Iulia Ciutina and Rebecca Cohen both traveled to Money 20/20 Europe earlier this month. They sat down with editor Zack Miller to discuss what they saw, learned, and experienced.
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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.
In person experiences are back, but not easy
Both Rebecca and Iulia said it was good to experience the rush and excitement of conferences once again after an extended pandemic-induced lull. It was good to meet people IRL that they've been working with solely over Zoom.
"You definitely have the sentiment of people meeting for the first time after collaborating online or digitally. There was a sense of togetherness -- that we all exist in physical form, and not just virtually." -- Iulia Ciutina
Additionally, conferences are places for colleagues within the same organization to meet up. Iulia and Rebecca have been working together close to a year and hadn't yet met in person, and got a lot out of sitting and experiencing Money 20/20 Europe together.
"It was really awesome. I've been working with Iulia for a year, and we just got a chance to hug for the first time." -- Rebecca Cohen
But it wasn't easy being back. Both reported that people felt higher social anxiety than normal and that it was important to find ways to recharge social batteries to make it through the three days of talks, exhibits, and meetings.
The macroeconomic environment is beginning to weigh on things
Rebecca asked people on the floor what they thought of the crypto winter, interest rates rising, venture funding drying up, and a looming recession. She felt like she was raining on the good times parade a bit.
"There's a lot of uncertainty, lot of question marks. No one is oblivious to what's going on. But overall, the feeling is that the current storm is a good thing -- hard, but a good thing." -- Rebecca Cohen
It was Iulia's first time at Money 20/20 and she heard from conference veterans about the way they saw the trajectory of the show take over the years.
"It's a cycle. It used to be all about disruption, and about the innovative companies that are going to stay. Then you had the investment boom, where a lot of cash was pumping into the startup scene and everybody wanted to bet on the next high growth company that could acquire customers at any cost. But now the sentiment is shifting more to the health of the underlying business. So what are the actual good businesses out there? It's shifted from disruption towards profitability." -- Iulia Ciutina
There was a lot about payments, a lot of ID proofing, and a lot of crypto. There was also the hype around the metaverse on stage, but you didn't really see exhibitors on the floor targeting it.
Traditional FIs like Citi and ING had presence at the conference, mainly for their innovation teams. They weren't necessarily exhibitors, but had their own areas upstairs. JPMorgan was an exception -- the largest US bank had an Audi on the floor to discuss the future of mobile payments.
Iulia remarked that she feels the FIs don't feel as threatened of fintech as they did before. The story has turned into a narrative about partnering and finding value in a bundle of services.
"Banks know they can't innovate as fast. So it's just a better play for them to let others do it, and hop on that train or acquire companies." -- Iulia Ciutina
Green Finance at Money 20/20
Iulia said that Green Finance definitely hit the stage at the event. There was a whole stage dedicated to talks around sustainability, financial equity, and the likes. The stage was covered in plants, and was very aesthetic. While there were a lot of representatives from all kinds of payment companies, we were still missing a presence from climate fintechs or companies that are actually doing something in this space.
"I guess I was a little bit disappointed." -- Iulia Ciutina
Marketing and acquisition
Money 20/20 brings out the best of the best: the best faces, the best swag, the best booths, the best everything, according to Rebecca. She was shocked about just how many things at the show were branded. Breakfast, breakaway events, cocktail mixers, massages... and a whole lot of socks.