EDC at Web Summit 2023 in Lisbon
For those of you that have never attended one of the four Websummit events… it is an experience and a very well organised one indeed. 70,000 delegates, 4 exhibition pavilions, numerous stages with presentations, a packed Altice arena (which happens to be one of the largest indoor arenas in Europe), numerous food trucks for catering and very impressive evening entertainment (they call it the ‘night summit’). It is undoubtedly one of the most important tech events in the industry, and EDC was glad to attend.
The event covers literally every industry segment there is. From sports to media, politics, energy, education all the way to financial services. Given our day-to-day job, we naturally had an interest in payments and wider financial services, and it was interesting to see which key topics were covered. Two key topics stood out for us:
- Embedded Finance: This term has been following us for at least a few years already and it was interesting to hear that there was some sentiment that whilst Embedded Payments / Finance has not failed, it has not fully succeeded either to date. Undoubtedly, a number of key puzzle pieces have been put in place, such as regulatory issues or technology standards around connectivities between different parties. But in order for those embedded propositions really to succeed and for financial services to be seamlessly used in a non-financial services environment, end users need to have more trust and that requires closer collaboration between the provider of the end-user interface and the actual / behind-the-scenes provider of the financial product. The right checks and balances need to be in place and, importantly, transparency needs to be in place so it is clear where the end user should go if something would go wrong.
- Alternative Payments: International Payment schemes were present, and some banks attended but the ‘traditional’ payments world was outnumbered. When you looked closer at attendees and listened to roundtable discussions, the role of non-card payments was promoted strongly with a particular focus on real-time payments, open banking as well as BNPL. Start-ups like Ivy that aim to build a global network linking separate domestic real-time payment systems or BNPL providers promoting benefits to consumers as well as merchants were all present. There is clearly a value proposition in these alternative payment methods and they will co-exist with well-established and trusted card payments.
But believe it or not; there is more to life than payments. Attending sessions that focused on other aspects of the tech landscape were very rewarding indeed. Just to give a couple of examples:
- Artificial Intelligence: AI was discussed everywhere, and associated opportunities and risks are issues that are part of mainstream news and are being referred to in our daily life. So how should AI be regulated? That was the topic for discussion by Andrew McAfee from the MIT Research Institute. He broadly split stakeholders into two teams – Team Permissionless Innovation and Team Upstream Governance. Whilst both teams agree that ‘Stakes are High’ and that AI is ‘Democratising access to extremely powerful technologies, both teams’ philosophies are possibly incompatible and some trade-off will be required. Can we just innovate regardless or is it essential that we set requirements before we go to market? Whilst Andrew was clearly on Team Innovation (“Make it easy to correct mistakes instead of impossible to make them!”) subsequent speakers were arguing that the debate should not be black or white and that some middle ground can be found. Whilst we, payment nerds, are thinking about the role of AI in payments, such strategic discussions around AI are fascinating.
- Use of digital technology: Arguably one of the more sobering presentations addressed the usage of digital technology in Kiev, an active warzone. Kyiv Digital started as a mobile app providing citizens with applications ranging from transport payments, housing services to e-petitioning / e-voting. Following the invasion of Russia, the scope of the app changed from “comfort services” to “safety services”. With the help of Starlink, it allows for image capture of CCTV cameras, live tracking of enemy army movements, alerts of drone attacks and provision of safety routes to bomb shelters and evacuation points. Furthermore, it enables communication services from shelters but also access to education services to compensate for lost time in schools. Usage has increased from 1.4m citizens pre-war to 2.6m now (or over 50% of the population in the wider Kiev area). A fascinating illustration of how digital technology can make a real impact on people’s lives.
Technology will continue to evolve rapidly. It is so important to track and assess those changes… and not just in our beloved payment industry.
The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of Edgar, Dunn & Company. The information and views expressed in this publication belong solely to the author(s).