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Digital Nations 2030


Last month, hundreds of delegates met at Digital Nations 2030, to shape the future of digital economies, governments and society. FinTechNZ’s Leigh Flounders facilitated the Future Finance Forum; he shares his event highlights below:

One of the most rewarding aspects of travel and interacting with different cultures, is the ability to subconsciously start to make genuine observations, rather than necessarily forming opinions.

Through this travel and breadth of global interaction, you are constantly bombarded with unique insights and conversations, that you may have otherwise not been exposed to.

For me, travel is a constant, with the financial technology industry taking me across China, Switzerland, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom, in the last six months alone.

But what made February 2018 exceptionally special, was that the global conversation around digital technology finally came to Auckland New Zealand, with the Digital Nations 2030 conference supported by NZTech. During the two day event, the Digital 5 nations (D5) of Estonia, Israel, South Korea and The United Kingdom descended on Auckland, and provided some genuine context and aspirational views around how New Zealand can become a true digital innovator in the global environment.

Financial technology is what makes me tick, and Digital Nations 2030conference provided plenty of insights into the future of finance. Estonia’s Siim Sikkkut kicked off the wealth of overseas knowledge imparted to Kiwis, explaining how Estonia has converted to a truly digital economy, from tax through to social services, and how now every one of us can potentially become an e-citizen of Estonia through breaking down the digital divide and ‘onboarding’ ourselves as overseas citizens of this great digital nation.

At the ‘Future of Finance’ sessions on day two of the summit, we heard broad views, ranging from UK panel members talk about NFC communications, and paying for London Underground trips with their ‘smart’ jewellery (a long way off from our clunky and problem ridden ATHop cards), through to New Zealand regulators discussing the future of blockchain and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

One of the clearest insights that the audience gained around blockchain, was that again New Zealand is lagging behind global jurisdictions such as Switzerland, USA and the UK, with a very clear ‘wait and see’ mindset permeating the New Zealand regulatory environment.

Still, there were signs of light at the end of the tunnel, as banks mused about embracing open data, and the ensuing wave of disruption that will inevitably come to New Zealand financial services due to inherent global changes, such as the European Payments Services Directive 2 (PSD2) protocol.

What was made clear from the conference, is that there are highly intelligent individuals coming to the forefront of New Zealand banking and regulatory providers, that have a very pragmatic view on the upcoming tidal wave of digital disruption about to envelop global financial services. However, I cannot help but feel that we have already missed the opportunity to really capitalise as a country on these changes, by providing clear market direction to the financial services sector, and creating an environment for healthy innovation.

What made the Digital Nations truly special, though, was the variance of opinion about FinTech best practice, evident in the discussions held at the summit. An example of which being, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with Kiwi regulators, legal professionals and government agencies, talking about how New Zealand does not need a regulatory financial sandbox; that same evening I heard from The Right Honorable The Lord Mayor Of London, about how the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulatory sandbox has been ‘instrumental’ in driving London’s status as the global FinTech leader and created stratospheric benefits for the city.

The beauty of hearing these opposing international views is that one can very quickly form strong observations around what is factually working globally, opposed to having an opinion about what may be a suitable way forward for digital economy.


Credit: Leigh Flounders is a member of FinTech NZ’s Core Working Group and on the board of NZTech”.

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