Insight: That feeling when…

23 Apr 2020

Open Banking Expo caught up with Marie Walker, Co-founder and Head of Content, Open Banking World Congress on developments around their annual event. The global health pandemic has impacted us all in varying ways and as we continue to shine a light on the heartwarming work the wider Open Banking and FinTech communities are delivering during the crisis through collaboration, we thought it was only right we did a little collaborating of our own…

In the early spring of 2020, this May’s Open Banking World Congress was shaping up to be our biggest and best ever. We ran our first open banking event in 2016, when Open Banking was still something of a niche interest and we counted ourselves lucky to break even. By last year momentum was building and we were investing heavily in growth. 2020 was going to be the year when that paid off, with record levels of interest, attendance and profitability.

That all changed over the course of a couple of weeks. Vague mutterings about possible problems with coronavirus swiftly crystallised into the realisation that our flagship event couldn’t happen in the way we had planned. With little guidance coming from government, we had a decision to make.

We pivoted, hard. We abandoned the idea of a physical conference and switched to an event that is fully virtual – and free to attend. That meant writing off the committed costs of the venue (who wouldn’t give an inch on cancellation terms). More than that, it meant foregoing all of our future delegate revenue.

We could have tried to scrape back a fraction of those losses with an online attendance fee. But it seemed more important to us to support the community, at what was increasingly obviously going to be a difficult time for most of us.

We’re just a few weeks out from Open Banking World Congress now.  The online event is looking good – the same speakers (actually rather more) and a global audience of thousands from pretty much every corner of the planet. If you’re interested in open banking and haven’t already registered, you should!

It’s not going to make up for the financial hit we took. But there have been some surprisingly positive angles to the whole experience.  We really appreciate Open Banking Expo for offering their platform to share these with you…

To start with, we’ve got a much better – and rather more personal – feeling for what disruption is all about. It’s made it easier to understand how financial institutions are facing up to the strategic – even existential – challenges of being disrupted, and what a fintech goes through when it pivots.

Despite all sorts of personal and professional difficulties, it’s clear that Open Banking is as strong a movement as ever. If anything, the pandemic is driving new approaches to sharing and learning from data, helping to accelerate the trend towards open finance / open X.

It’s been a reminder of how brilliant the open banking community is. The continuing support from sponsors and speakers, the amazing projects people are working on to mitigate some of the consequences, the conversations I have every day with different people – it’s great to be a part of this.

For ourselves, it feels good to have taken back control. We can see new opportunities, and we’re coming up with new ideas and new plans. It’s still not easy, but it’s a lot better than it was.

For many of us, 2020 must still feel like a year to forget. But I’m hoping that we’ll end up looking back at it as the year when something even more exciting started.