This week was the first time I attended a FinTech conference representing EY at FinTech Connect Live 2017 and it was an interesting experience.
I met a whole host of people who came up to the stand to browse the brochures, pick up freebies or just to chat. Although there were hundreds of people doing a huge variety of things within the FinTech world – I found most of my conversations followed a pattern of 5 different types:
1) What do you think of x topic/FinTech industry/x space?
The person has come over either very deliberately or in passing to specifically ask you, as an employee of a large global company working in this area, what your opinion is on the state of the world… So no pressure.
These conversations often started with a specific question, but then grew into a wide-ranging debate on FinTech products/services in the market. I ended up discussing whether the ICO market is due to implode imminently, how InsurTech will disrupt the insurance industry, and how FinTechs can best partner with larger organisations. All fascinating stuff.
2) What does EY do in FinTech?
The person probably knows EY already but is confused as to what a large accounting firm is doing at a FinTech conference. Or they might be a founder of a FinTech looking to see what services the firm can offer. Either way, these conversations are very focused on our and their companies and how services can help them get to where they want to be.
This was a new experience for me talking about the firm as a whole, rather than the department and specialisms that I focus on day-to-day. Luckily I was attending with very experienced, talented colleagues and could therefore learn from the best.
3) I want to tell you about me and my company
The person wants to talk about their business, either to potentially partner with EY or just to raise awareness about what they’re doing in FinTech. After a few of these I realised that the downside of hosting a conference stand compared to being an attendee is that you can’t walk away! If someone arrives and wants to wax lyrical about how great they are, all you can do is listen, ask questions and nod along.
Although some people went on a bit, most had an agenda of what they wanted to talk about and knew what they want from us. So cards were usually exchanged and that was that, potential future actions on the way.
4) What can EY do in (x) space/with (x) tech?
They want a specific product or service and want to know if EY can provide it, or they work with a particular technology (eg. Blockchain) and are interested in what EY is doing with it. It was fun talking about Tesseract, the blockchain project for fractional vehicle ownership and EY’s project with Maersk to streamline marine insurance processes.
For AI, machine learning or data analytics questions I could direct people to colleagues that knew more about the firm’s work in those areas. It was also interesting to hear why people were working with certain technologies over others.
5) Intense discussion about life, the universe and everything
These conversations sometimes started along the same lines as the other four types. But very quickly, they would descend into a deep and meaningful discussion about me, the other person, our lives, jobs, hopes, dreams and fears.
The conversation usually averaged about 20 minutes and at the end I felt exhilarated but would probably need to sit down from the adrenaline rush. This was by far my favourite category because it was so unpredictable. I learnt a lot from these chats and hope to keep in touch with the people who shared their 20 minutes or so of energy with me!
I hugely enjoyed the conference and it was great to meet all the weird and wonderful people in all the different categories above. If you are a more experienced conference-goer you will undoubtedly have come across these types of conversations, if not many more.
I would love to hear what your most common conversations revolve around and whether you also see a pattern across different events.