It’s back to the basics in the still-young fintech industry thanks to the wide-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Christoph Maichel, YPO member and Chief Executive Officer at Wahtari, a Germany-based fintech firm.

YPO recently interviewed Maichel for an “Ask the Expert” livestream to get his thoughts on what’s trending in fintech.

“The biggest trends everybody was talking about in the last year were blockchain and artificial intelligence, AI,” Maichel says. “We were in a bubble of happiness. We were waiting for the next big thing to come, to change the world.”

Then, the pandemic entered the equation. “We had to learn very quickly, all over the world, to stay at home,” adds Maichel. This sudden change has shifted the focus in fintech to the question of what customer interaction is going to look like now – and in the future.

“Financial transactions will go online; they will be done at a distance,” says Maichel. “We need a new front end for the customer. Banks are asking, how will we interface, how will we do co-browsing with our customers? That has a lot of challenges, especially for privacy.”

Building trust online

While re-inventing remote customer interaction is now out in front for Maichel and his fintech colleagues, blockchain and AI are still relevant, and related.

“Blockchain is a confusing term,” he says. “I tell people to think about it as a trust protocol. Getting trust back into the interaction with the bank. Basically, blockchain is a distributed ledger. Everybody can see who has done something, when something was created. Third-party risk, fraud, will be driven away by blockchain.”

“In a crisis, focus on what you can control, the things you can do. See technology as a growth opportunity.” Christoph Maichel, CEO Wahtari 

With customer behavior being collected everywhere today, big data and AI are influencing business, especially marketing. Maichel issues a warning to the financial services and fintech industries. “There’s risk in having this knowledge. There is a chance that banks will know a lot more about us. But at the same time, with the regulations and the risk of data privacy, I can’t see any financial services companies really abuse the data they get from you. It is way too risky for them. I think in our business and in our industry, we are the ones who really need to protect customer data in the first place.”

A shift in the marketplace

The fourth and final trend he’s watching is, what Maichel calls, “the whole approach of marketplace where new companies facilitate interaction between consumers or between sellers and buyers without actually offering the service completely themselves.”

Maichel points to the shared service companies such as rental bikes and scooters that are common in many cities. “Interaction with the customers has changed,” he says. “If I want the service, I just walk by with my smart phone. I can become a customer of that company within a second. They charge me, they know who I am, they know where I’m going, and I can use their service right away.”

Businesses today need to look to this and how much time it takes to onboard a new customer. “Start looking at how much time do I need from the first contact, the first opportunity to sign up a customer until I have an onboard and can charge them something.”

Advice for leaders in uncertain times

Maichel offers this advice for other leaders: “Once we’re in crisis, focus on what you can control, focus on the things you can do. See technology as a growth opportunity. There’s a German saying, which I think is really helpful. Keep always in mind a new day starts in the middle of the night. So, let’s start a new day. Move forward happily.”

For more stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.

Watch the full interview with Christoph Maichel here:

https://www.facebook.com/ypoglobal/videos/642851759888064