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IFGS 2019 Speaker Spotlight: Dr Desné Masie, Economist

What is it about IFGS that brings you back every year? OR What is it about IFGS that has brought you to the event this year?

There is no other gathering in the world where you can learn so much about fintech in two days. Whether you attend the panels or spend time networking, it has for me always been a good value to attend the whole event. Simply incredible. People from every country you can think of. The attention to detail by the IFGS team also ensures everyone is comfortable. I particularly love how the historical Guildhall is an amazing contrast to the futuristic content – it makes a nice continuum to the history of finance in the City of London.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the FinTech industry over the past 12 months?

– I have been struck by the increase in investment by incumbent financial firms in the UK into disruptors and challengers, and the explosion of VC in Africa.

– I am happy the industry is becoming more accessible and mainstream – this is when something js truly revolutionary when it is put in every day use by the majority of people rather than a small techie elite. If we really want to reconfigure finance to be more efficient and inclusive, we have to make sure the technologies are user friendly and scalable. This is what drives me to really see the large social shifts that financial innovation brings to society.

– I have been struck also by the increasing politicisation of tech especially around data privacy and security, diversity and inclusion, dissatisfaction with legacy systems and the growing concerns around the ethics of AI.

What do you believe to be the most vital implication of Brexit on UK Fintech?

While I understand the political dynamics that led to Brexit, and in particular the divisions that saw that vote split down the middle at 48/52 remain/leave, the rapid dissemination of ideas and innovation requires some freedoms around capital and movement. There is no getting around the fact that the UK must signal it is open for business and international talent not just from Europe, but from around the world if it is to remain competitive with jurisdictions such as Singapore, Berlin, Zug etc. Given that around half of jobs in the City of London are already currently occupied by EU and non-EU, non-UK talent, the policy of ‘Global Britain’ must be pragmatically reconciled alongside Brexit and not just by platitudes and slogans. However, forecasting the implications is impossible – this is a seismic event and there will be many unintended consequences both positive and negative. Many people seem to think/hope that cosmopolitan tech and finance talent will always remain passionate about the city of London. It remains to see whether this will be the case or if Brexit will atomise London’s position as a leading fintech global hub while people of all nationalities  hedge their bets by splitting locations with London or relocating entirely. I think given the staggering political and logistical complexity of it all, the best thing to do is be prepared to pull together in the same direction for the benefit of everyone in UK fintech.

What are your go-to reads for industry updates and insights?

Wired, Medium, Linked in (I enjoy posts by Louise Beaumont for open banking, Ryan Radloff for crypto, Monica Singer, for blockchain, Giselle Frederick for all things fintech, Alpesh Doshi for crypto and AI, Michel Rauchs for blockchain and crypto, Paul Bilokon for AI and Data Science), Ark, Fintech Futures, Bank of England, FCA, European Banking Authority, Innovate Finance Newsletter, Cambridge Wireless, Monetary Authority of Singapore, HFM Week, Latham & Watkins, Simmons, Carey Olsen, also BVCA, Asia Nikkei Review, FT,

If you could be stuck in a lift with 3 people who would it be and why?

Amartya Sen, because his ideas on economic development and its relationship to human dignity have been a big influence on my career, teaching and writing

Ai Wei Wei, because he has used art to provoke debate around some of the most difficult issues of our time. I was particularly moved when he provided a piano to a Syrian musician in a refugee camp – just so she could play. I am so fascinated by how Ai thinks about things in this compassionate and observant way, and on top of that, create works, that I think are quite beautiful too.

The real Satoshi Nakomoto – does this even need an explanation?