Fintechnews.ch conducts a series of short interviews around well known longtime Swiss Fintech Influencers.
Today we speak with THE Fintech Influencer. Spiros Margaris* was ranked number one Global Social Media Fintech Influencer in quite a few lists. Spiros tells us what we should learn from Fintechs in the US and why Swiss Fintechs should watch a certain video from Muhammad Ali.
Hi Spiros , what has changed for you personally during this pandemic?
I travel less and do more video conference calls, but I guess I am not alone ;-).
There has been a slow-down for all of us. I have used the extra time to assess my work and businesses and, of course, to focus and appreciate the essential things in my personal life.
Although my keynote speaking has abruptly stopped—it’s only a small part of my overall business—the COVID-19 crisis has actually increased my business advisory work. There seems to be a stronger appreciation in a crisis for an independent and experienced coach to provide a sounding board to startup founders who can also, of course, benefit from my strong global fintech brand, knowhow, and network.
Do you think COVID-19 is the digital accelerator that was missing in the industry so far?
As much as the coronavirus has had a negative economic impact on global growth and, of course, on the startup world as a whole, I strongly believe and deeply hope it will produce many fantastic new opportunities.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing consumers and businesses to adapt faster to digital technology changes, just as many grandparents have learned to take advantage of video chat services such as FaceTime to connect with their families during the lock-down period.
That means that great fintech or insurtech companies will gain new customers more easily and market share with their solutions since the resistance to new technologies is falling. I believe that this is an excellent environment to distinguish your startup from your competitors.
It is important to try with all we have not to let the coronavirus define our—startup or personal—future.
“The optimist always wins.” I am a strong believer in this statement.
What are you currently working on?
Most of my time is spent talking to the startup founders where I am involved. We try to figure out strategies to succeed in the pandemci and post-COVID-19 environments that will inevitably change many business models—whether we want the change or not. Every startup has different needs and offerings, so it never gets boring. Besides, I have to fit in interview requests which prove challenging timewise but often provide beautiful diversity to the daily routine of my work.
You have been to the USA several times and know the fintech trends there very well. What are we missing here?
I have spent more than twenty years in the USA and travel there frequently. I obviously follow the fintech market closely due to its importance and my passion.
I think sometimes it is hard to look at specific strong trends in the USA and apply them one-to-one to Switzerland, Europe, or Asia, and vice versa. It is clear that all countries are looking at each other’s trends and regulations, and this has an impact on each other’s fintech strategy.
As I said before, kitchens in many households or restaurants have many of the same ingredients, but the way each cook prepares a meal is very different, as is how good the meal will taste. That is not unlike the situation startups have been facing. We all have, more or less, access to the same technologies. We can use technology ingredients such as AI, big data, IoT, etc. But, we must figure out the best way to mix the technology to make it a desirable proposition for our customers. The better we mix the technology ingredients, the more likely a startup will succeed, not unlike a restaurant chef.
Please name a fintech in the USA that we should follow and tell us why.
I’ve been following the US fintech unicorn, Brex, for a while. In a nutshell, they provide charge cards with almost instant approval to startup entrepreneurs and require no personal guarantees from them. Within a short period of three years, they have become a huge success story and continue adapting their business model with new services like cash and expense management. It is remarkable and speaks volumes that they just raised $150 million during this challenging COVID-19 funding environment.
What can Switzerland learn from Fintech in the USA, or is it the other way around?
It is not only technology that will make or break a fintech. I think it is very much about understanding clients’ (B2C or B2B) needs and having the courage to authentically stand out with your brand. A great brand inspires trust and helps drive business growth.
Something we all seem to know but find hard to overcome is the Swiss risk-averse and “not wanting to stick-out” mentality. There is a stigma that comes with failure and its economic and personal consequences. Failure is a very realistic outcome for any startup and proves difficult to ignore for a Swiss-educated and trained entrepreneur. But, there have always been great exceptions in Switzerland, and that makes us hope that regardless of the coronavirus crisis or Swiss mentality, Switzerland will produce some great global startups.
What I miss from many Swiss startups is the entrepreneurial courage to shout, “We are the greatest!” and, of course, to keep delivering on that statement. Maybe as inspiration, watch Muhammad Ali’s speech “I am the Greatest,” from February 1964.
I guess it is very Un-Swiss to build that courage and state it aloud; however, it’s the key to succeeding—but only in combination with hard work, an open mind to new opportunities, and the courage to fall and get up again. Not unlike Muhammad Ali.
Which Swiss Fintech Startup should we have on our radar?
I don’t want to mention any specific Swiss startups now—so I don’t exclude or miss potential great names. However, I think we have great fintech companies in Switzerland with excellent technologies and brilliant people behind them who want to expand beyond its borders and already have. A good example is the insurtech unicorn, wefox Group (where I am on the advisory board). It’s the biggest insurtech company in Europe—that started in Switzerland but has expanded successfully in Europe and keeps expanding in global markets.
Please nominate a Global Swiss Fintech Influencer for one of our next interviews:
I nominate Urs Bolt.
*Swiss Fintech Influencer Spiros Margaris:
Spiros Margaris is a venture capitalist, futurist, keynote speaker, and senior advisor to wefox Group, SparkLabs Global, Mediastalker, Yield Growth, and F10 Accelerator.
He is the first international influencer to achieve “The Triple Crown” ranking. He was ranked the № 1 international FinTech, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) influencer (MAY 2018) by Onalytica. Spiros once again was ranked the № 1 global FinTech influencer (FEB 2020) by Onalytica. He regularly appears in the top three positions of established global industry influencer rankings.
He is a keynote speaker at international FinTech and InsurTech conferences. He also gave a TEDxAcademy Talk. He published an AI white paper, “Machine learning in financial services: Changing the rules of the game,” for the enterprise software vendor SAP. He was the first non-IBM keynote speaker at the largest IBM event in Europe (Oct 2019), “2019 IBM Systems Technical University”.
For more information about Spiros and his latest projects, you can check: www.margarisventures.com
And we highly recommend following him on Twitter.