Interview

Amsterdam Fintech Week highlights - interview with Don Ginsel, Holland Fintech

Tuesday 6 July 2021 14:04 CET | Editor: Mirela Ciobanu | Interview

After Amsterdam Fintech Week, The Paypers sat with Holland FinTech’s Founder & CEO, Don Ginsel to find out what where his event’s takeaways, with a focus on what makes a financial ecosystem thrive

Don, please tell us a bit about the Amsterdam Fintech Week, how did it all start and how has the event changed over the last years?

In 2018, Money20/20 – one of the leading events for the fintech industry, chose Amsterdam as the location for their European main event, after two years in Copenhagen. By that time, our team at Holland Fintech had already become good partners with the organisation – and made them realise that Amsterdam was the place to be for fintech – and heavily involved to help make the event a success, also for Amsterdam and our community. And to further enhance the delegates of Mondey20/20 and our community, we filled up the week around the main event under the name Amsterdam Fintech Week.

After two regular fintech weeks in 2018 and 2019, last year we had to face the consequences of COVID-19 measure. Money20/20 Europe pulled the plug just few weeks before the Amsterdam Fintech Week was planned, and we had already worked with our members to make the week a success. Well, it did not look like it was going to be a success, with the main event dropped. In a quick turn, we decided that we just had to take on the whole week by ourselves, given the enthusiasm of our team and members to make it work. Within a couple of weeks, we turned the program around to a full time, content filled online program, plus two in person events.

It was a crazy time, and it made us learn a lot. This is how we got to see the power of the community, and the willingness of all to make a community event like this work. We realised that if we can organise a full week in such a short time, we should bring Amsterdam Fintech Week to independence. That’s what we did in 2021 for the first time: a full online event week, with keynote speakers and panels organised by Holland Fintech, as well as an open framework and platform, for the community to organise independent sessions during the week.

Can you please briefly present some highly anticipated keynotes, expert panels, workshops and startup pitches that impressed the audience and why?

We were very honoured that Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, in her capacity as UN Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) has opened the event on Monday, 7 June 2021. Internationally she is a wonderful advocate for the use of technology for financial inclusion, and has been able to mobilise many governments, institutions, and people to make impact for people’s financial inclusion. In her opening speech, she called upon the tech industry to keep an eye on people’s situation and to steer solutions to where they are needed most, together working to general financial well-being.

Also, the other keynote speakers, all opening a day at the event were an inspiration source, with CCO Ken Serdons from Mollie opening day two, with a focus on fintech for SMEs, speaking about Mollie’s growth to a unicorn and how fintech can power entrepreneurs. On Wednesday, 9 June 2021, with a focus on fintech across Europe, Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, envoy for startups and scaleups spoke about the need for a European approach and collaboration. That was reinforced by Jan Ceyssens, of the European Committee, who spoke about the EU’s vision for digital finance, calling for string collaboration between policy makers, regulators, and market participants.

On Thursday Hanzo van Beusekom, board member at the Authority for Financial Markets reviewed the development of technology in financial services over the ages and looked ahead to the further potential of technology as well at the challenges it creates for society and regulators. This view was also supported by Steven Maijoor, board member at the Dutch Central Bank, who called upon the shared responsibility to learn together about the technologies developments and how to safeguard the financial system as a whole, while supporting innovation.

All in all, a great line of up key notes to open the day, which were all followed by a panel discussion of experts who dove into the theme of the day and the words of the keynote. These session provided also great insights and can, like the keynotes, all be viewed via the xfw.amsterdam website. And then we did not even yet discuss the enormous amount of knowledge and insights that were made available by our 60+ event hosts, that organised independent sessions during the week, featuring in total over 150 speakers.

The event kicked-off with a day dedicated to the financial life of consumers. How has the financial life of consumers changed? How are we going to keep financial services understandable and inclusive?

This is a very important mission we are on: financial services were not easy to begin with. Adding technology, new suppliers, new jargon and moving everything online poses quite a challenge for consumers. I believe we don’t talk about that enough. The change, that is driven by technology, but also regulations and globalisation, provide wonderful tools for people, but not everyone is able to benefit equally, and the world becomes more complex. As industry we need to be aware of this and join forces to solve this challenge. But it is not something solution providers can do alone. That’s why we saw Amsterdam Fintech Week, besides our work at Holland Fintech, as a wonderful platform to convey this message.

Our daily themes were oriented at addressing and involving a much larger group of stakeholders from outside the industry, to ensure we keep an eye on the outside in view of what we are working on. Consumers, entrepreneurs, and society have expectation of financial services, that we need to talk about much more. We were really motivated as well by the big support we got from our network to frame this message during the week, as well as the great support by the keynote speakers and sponsors for this story.

We hope that putting the financial wellbeing on the agenda, supported by research and actions with partners, we really hope to make a big contribution to an even greater impact of fintech on society.

Switching to another group of customers served by fintechs: SMEs. What are the existing and forthcoming developments for SMEs?

We dubbed the day ‘born multinationals’. Today, many companies are directly taking part in a global supply chain and might find customers across the world. That is greatly powered by fintech, like payments, forex, marketplaces, remittances, ERP, supply chain finance and much more. The big challenge here is: do all entrepreneurs have access to these tools, and are they enticed to make good use of them? Much potential goes to waste when companies have a local focus, instead of global, and are insufficiently aware of the potential of technological solutions.

Open banking has been the buzzword for the past years in fintech, leading the way for a fully connected financial landscape, and the removal of much ‘paper’ friction in the industry, but the SMEs largely need to be educated about this still. When we have been able to do that, all companies can be fitted with a suite of fully connected and seamless digital financial services, enabling superscaling and reducing most of the financial administrative hassle.

We all know that Amsterdam ecosystem is well connected to the rest of the Netherlands, Europe, and the world, and fintech is powering many of these connections. How does it do it?

Amsterdam has found itself at some important crossroads, making it a natural place for people from all backgrounds to meet. Traditionally, there are strong ties to the Nordic, powered by Baltic see trade and across the North Sea, the ties with the UK are very strong. Across the land, Germany is our biggest trading partner and our relations with the BeNeLux are also still strong as if we would still be under one king.

The different cultural perspectives, and a relatively small home market, force the Netherlands to be outward looking, and the focus on water and trade have taken Dutchmen across the world. I can only conclude with the Dutch saying ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’. Following that wisdom, I can only urge people to cross as many borders as you can find geographical, sectoral, psychological.

And the Netherlands, with Amsterdam as capital, is basically one big (pretty green) city, that is a very pleasant place to live, attracting people from across the world. There is high trust in society and institutions, but also in technology, making it easy to try new solutions on the 17 million citizens. Mix that with the large talent pool and trade mentality, and fintech must be booming!

What are the top 5 ideas that you took from the event?

Out… of… space

About Don Ginsel

Don Ginsel is a Civil Engineer and former banker at ABN AMRO and Deutsche Bank. After a brief time in Venture Capital, he became an entrepreneur, working as strategic and financial advisor and coach to various startups and scaleups. At that time, he co-founded Capital Waters foundation, to support entrepreneurs with raising investment. In 2014 Don founded Holland Fintech, one of the largest financial innovation ecosystems in Europe, aiming to use the momentum of change in the financial industry, to change it for the better. Don is currently active as executive and board member in several initiatives that are driving forward digital transformation, financial inclusion and spreading knowledge about technology and innovation across the world.

For more information about Don, please see: https://www.linkedin.com/in/donginsel

About Holland FinTech

Holland FinTech has built a vast knowledge base through research and operates an enormous network of change agents that tie strongly into the financial industry across Europe. Working through a program for collaboration, transformation and impact, Holland Fintech offers its vast network of over 500 member companies a unique advantage to be part of the future of the financial industry and drive forward the digital economy.


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Keywords: fintech, financial inclusion, SMEs, banking, payment processing
Categories: Banking & Fintech | Payments General
Countries: Netherlands
This article is part of category

Banking & Fintech