While the location may have been steeped in history, the two-day event was resolutely forward-looking, tackling subjects from blockchain and cryptocurrency to big data and AI. The discussions turned political as well, with speakers weighing in on what a potential Brexit-related exodus means for the industry generally and fintechs in particular.
There is a general sense of optimism in the French fintech scene, owing to an effervescent startup culture, increased access to capital, availability of technical talent, financial incentives and, of course, the uncertainty of Brexit as an opportunity for France and the Paris Region. Area startups like Younited Credit (consumer credit), Famoco (payment solutions), DreamQuark (AI for marketing, risk and compliance) and dejamobile (mobile technologies for payment and trade) were among the 120 exhibitors, ready to show off their innovative products to financial decision-makers.
On Tuesday, Nicolas Dufourcq, Managing Director of Bpifrance (the French public investment bank), mentioned that they are currently investing in more 800 fintech startups each year, thanks to a $10 billion fund. The government’s generous R&D tax credit, combined with a large talent pool of computer scientists, data analysts and engineers, is another boon for banks and fintech companies, especially in the Paris area’s highly-diversified economy and high concentration of industry players, startups and large multinationals working together to push the fintech envelope and enrich the entire ecosystem.
It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that the Paris Region is the leader in Europe for investment and home to 4 of the world’s top 10 banks. Valérie Pécresse, President of the Paris Region, addressed the crowd on Wednesday to highlight the work happening here to help companies navigate the setup process, with a dedicated team of experts on call to assist companies with their go-to-market strategy, visas, real estate, housing, schools for children and a host of other services. A “starter pack” has also been introduced, offering up to €250,000 for international companies looking to expand and hire in the Paris Region.
Valérie Pécresse was also adamant about the financial sector’s sense of social responsibility, especially as it pertains to equality. This being France after all, she posed philosophical and moral questions like, “What happens to the future of medicine and women’s health if there are few women working in AI? Inclusion is the answer to root out unconscious biases that can have serious consequences.” New measures like Elles de France and have been introduced to ensure equal access to STEM education and remove barriers for women in tech. In that vein, the Paris Region also offers advantageous microcredit to social entrepreneurs.
As the FinTech Forum came to a close and the last glass of champagne was drunk, participants were left with the understanding that big things are happening here for fintech. As local, national and and foreign investment continues to drive innovation, it’s certain that banks and other financial stakeholders will increasingly look to France and the Paris Region for technology, innovation and talent to grow and transform their business.