2023 Money 20/20 USA Recap
Money 20/20 USA has become the biggest FinTech gathering in the US. This year the conference did not disappoint, although, in many regards, it felt quite different from previous years.
That being the case, I wanted to share some general observations on the conference and highlight some of the trends that stood out from sessions I attended and various discussions from the show floor.
As I mentioned, the show felt quite different from last year, which was the first full-attendance in-person session following the COVID-19 shutdown. Walking into the show floor, it was clear that the Money 20/20 team had prioritized sponsors and networking over content. Why do I say this?
At the center: The center stage that largely characterized the last two years was gone, replaced instead by dedicated areas for meetings. Previously, the meeting areas were relegated to the sides of the show floor. From a literal and practical standpoint, networking seemed central and integral to the show. And, as the actual center point, it played host to more business meetings for sponsors and attendees than any previous year I have seen.
Stages: With the center stage gone — which, in my opinion, was always too noisy to be able to really feature any meaningful content — the side stages framing the show floor should have grown into a larger role. Unfortunately —and pardon the pun — the side stages instead seemed to be relegated to the sidelines. The sitting areas seemed smaller than the last two years. And for most of the sessions I caught personally, the seated audience was very small, with a larger and less engaged crowd standing from the showroom floor which came and went.
Sponsor Booths: For the most part, the sponsor booths seemed larger and more intricate than year’s past. It gave the show floor a more open feel, which was conducive to exploration. Attendees didn’t face rows of small booths with small branding to get lost in.
Given that my goal this year was networking, I appreciated the changes. However, had I been attending the conference mainly the sessions themselves, I think I would have been displeased.
That said, there was a ton of great content on all the stages. Combining the session topics with the extensive networking discussions I had, the trends from the conference that really stood out to me were:
1. FinTech Revolution and AI: The overarching trend was the continued evolution and revolution in the FinTech industry, including the adoption of AI and emerging technologies. While most people talking about AI seemed to be annoyed about the buzz that generative AI has wrought, they understand that we are seeing a new phase in AI technologies. There is excitement about the possibilities made possible by AI, but a real concern that expectations will not meet reality if banking data isn’t ready to meet the challenge.
2. Regulation and Compliance: Not one of the more exciting topics, but there seems to be a growing emphasis on FinTech regulation and compliance, particularly around industry stability and consumer protection.
3. Wealth Management: While Money20/20 has historically been a payments-focused conference, there was quite a bit of discussion on innovations in wealth management, with an emphasis on generational wealth transfer and the overall impact of technology.
4. Financial Inclusion: The need for the industry’s support of underserved populations and regions came up often. In the payments area, I saw a shift toward discussing more inclusive and efficient global payments solutions. There were a couple of sessions that focused on payments in Africa. I had a chance to speak at the TerraPay booth about cross-border payments. Just prior to my presentation, TerraPay announced a partnership with Colombia’s digital wallet Nequi, providing a great example of how fintech firms are driving the growth in payments throughout the developing world.
5. Embedded Finance, Open Banking and BaaS: This was a trend that came up strongly last year. It continued this year with further discussions about the integration of financial services into various industries, such as e-commerce, gaming and IoT, to drive convenience. Many of the attendees from the US and Canada seemed hopeful that the regulatory hurdles to Open Banking in North America will ease.
6. Sustainability and ESG: Despite the political ESG backlash in the US, numerous sessions placed an increasing focus on sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors within financial services.
7. Risk Management and Fraud Prevention: The continued increase in fraud and the growth of real-time payments drove many discussions about how to improve risk management. The application of AI was highlighted many times. I had the opportunity to participate at an afterhours panel sponsored by Instnt, where we discussed universal identity. The panel included Instnt’s CEO Sunil Madhu, and Bread Financial’s Jyoti Menon. It generated some great discussions during and after the panel.
8. Optimization: For nearly a year, we have been hearing from both bank and FinTech executives that they need to optimize. At Money 20/20, we heard it in person, as bank executives are challenged to continue driving increasingly complex digital transformations with less resources. Similarly, FinTech firms face a reality with limited VC funds.
9. Real-Time Payments: For the second year in a row, FedNow had a booth at the conference. The discussions I had with American bankers were about their challenge to develop products on top of RTP and FedNow rails. Most bankers I met still report that they have only signed up for receipt of real-time payments. When I discussed faster payments with bankers from other parts of the globe — particularly Asia — they shook their heads about how slow US banks are moving in this area.
Two years ago, the buzz was all about cryptocurrency and blockchain/DLT. This year, I only saw two crypto booths – though there might have been more – which makes sense given the continued challenges in the space. I expect to see a bit of a bounce back next year, but time will tell.
Overall, I found the conference to be quite energizing, even if personally I was exhausted at the end. The pace of change in the industry continues to accelerate, and the opportunity to hear what is in the mind of all kinds of industry players is invaluable. That said, my favorite part of an event like Money 20/20 is the chance to meet face-to-face with industry friends. Unfortunately, I missed many people this year at Money 20/20, but if the pace of change in financial services continues as it is, there will be a lot more conferences and a lot more vital conversations to engage in next year.
A version of this post was published on LinkedIn, November 1, 2023.