Rohit Arora
Rohit Arora

Blockchain front and centre at digital finance event

By simply looking at the speaker’s list for this week’s Frontiers of Digital Finance one gets an idea of how much fintech has been accepted in financial circles, Biz2Credit co-founder and CEO Rohit Arora said.

Biz2Credit and the Columbia Business School are hosting the two-day conference, which is being held Oct.2-3 in New York City at the Columbia Business School. Confirmed speakers include executives from institutions such as Goldman Sachs and BNY Mellon, faculty from Columbia and Yale, and executives from some of the most successful fintech startups.

It was important to share a variety of perspectives, Mr. Arora said.

“We are trying to look at issues from an incumbent viewpoint, not just a disruptive one. The mix of speakers makes it a different type of conversation because there is more than one viewpoint.”

Mr. Arora said the conference’s timing is excellent in light of significant breaches at Equifax and other companies. The importance of the blockchain and the benefits it provides will be a hot topic.

“Blockchain will play a key role,” Mr. Arora said.

Some legacy players have been slow to upgrade their security standards, Mr. Arora said.

“They have no idea what they’re doing today.”

Customers will expect more control over their data along with lower transaction fees and blockchain can deliver on both counts. Middlemen are being eliminated with resulting processes becoming both faster and cheaper.

When the fintech revolution began, much of the talk was of how the upstarts would eliminate the banks altogether. The industry moving away from such talk is another sign of fintech’s maturation, Mr. Arora explained.

Rohit Arora
Rohit Arora

“Incumbents see this isn’t a fad that is going away. They know they will be in trouble if they don’t take action.”

In many cases that action means partnerships with startups, which allows both sides to quickly benefit, Mr. Arora explained. Legacy players get faster, proven solutions without the painful R&D process while the added business helps the startups to more quickly scale.

The two days will see discussion of all of the most important technologies in the industry, Mr. Arora said. The cloud provides added security because less data is stored in one single place. Blockchain and artificial intelligence help reduce fraud.

The financial services industry needs to develop alternative revenue streams because their fee-based income is disappearing, Mr. Arora added. They also need to adjust to a more a-la-carte model where customers can easily select which services they want from a variety of sources the bank brings under its umbrella.

“The bank will almost become like the App Store,” Mr. Arora suggested. “They will be the aggregator and distributor of multiple services. The fees based in-house will go down, but the app revenue will go up.”