“The sizzle in fintech started, and in some ways is still, on the East coast and the West coast and in London,” says Mark Haraburda, Managing Director Barchart.com Inc., which will be hosting the third annual Fintech Exchange 2017 in Chicago on April 27.
“We spent a lot of time going to these conferences out there and they tended to be mostly about consumer facing applications in fintech: Banking, lending or credit, payments, robo-advisors, wealth management and things of that nature,” Haraburda says.
The team at Barchart noticed a lack of focus on what was most important to them and its clients: Financial markets and trading. They also were logging a lot of hours and travel expenses to all these events, which seemed a bit odd for a firm based in Chicago, a financial center, particularly for futures and options traders.
“We liked the way they conducted them, lights and camera, on-stage short and concise approach, but we really wanted to bring something to Chicago and keep the focus niche. Fintech, but fintech narrowed down to financial markets and trading. Fintech exchange narrows it down,” he says.
That provided the germ of an idea for a fintech event with a more narrow focus on trading. “We wanted a niche event that has to do with anything in financial markets and trading. Whether it is data, infrastructure, telecommunications, exchange technology or front end software; all stuff to do with markets and trading,” he says.
The calendar is extremely crowded with financial conferences, which makes it very challenging to launch another event, but fintech is hot and Haraburda says he was somewhat surprised in their ability to book high-profile speakers. “Year-one IBM Watson was our keynote; year-two, Google cloud; it wasn’t hard to pull off,” he says.
Their timing was good because fintech was the buzz, yet no one had substantially created a fintech event directed specifically at traders and trading technology.
“This year the trend is about data, everything from data visualization to data storage to data mining and analysis: really looking at big data, tick data and historical time series, processing loads of real time streaming feeds; we got a lot of firms involved in data,” he says.
The keynote presenter at this year’s event is Tableau, a well-known Silicon Valley firm focused on data visualization for any industry but with a financial vertical. They are will be discussing data visualization and the new technologies and new tools coming out.
Of course, any event focusing on innovation and technology has to take care not to become too formulaic, so Fintech Exchange has expanded its offering.
In addition to the 10-minute lighting-round fintech CEO presentations that have become a staple of the event, Fintech Exchange has added deep-dive roundtables. One will be led by Acquire Media about news and there also will be a Blockchain roundtable.
There will also be a pre-conference networking event the night before sponsored by Trading Technologies. And, once again, Adam Honore from Markets Tech will provide a state of fintech presentation.
After years of attending conferences Haraburda wanted to do something different. “With our event you are able to sit back in a theatre and listen. You don’t have to approach anybody; you get presentation after presentation in a concise manner,” he says. “It is a nice delivery mechanism to hear about the latest innovations by the firms in financial markets and trading. We want them to come away a little more educated. The topics tend to be technical but not where you have to be a technologist to understand it.”
The key is for the presenters is staying on point and providing their value proposition without it seeming like a sales pitch.
“They have to be concise, they have to be interesting. People really like that style of delivery,” Haraburda says. “They are getting exposure. We don’t want it to be a sales presentation, we want it to be an innovation- and technology-focused presentation, but let’s not kid ourselves, you are still up there pitching yourself, you are pitching your company and your product. For them it is a marketing opportunity to an engaged audience that is paying to be there.”
The typically younger, millennial entrepreneurs who have been featured the first two years have embraced the approach, which is why many have returned.