Disruption isn’t just for upstarts, machines won’t replace people, and you’ll soon be excited to have your next conversation with your life insurance company. These were just some of thoughts I heard from fintech innovators who shared their passions during a roundtable at the launch of the SAP Next-Gen Innovation Community for Financial Services last week.

In fact, the only thing more breathtaking than the view of New York City from the floor to ceiling windows on the 48th floor of the SAP Leonardo Center at 10 Hudson Yards was the flow of creative perspectives from these great thinkers. Here are some highlights from the conversation, which was adroitly moderated by Tim Race, former business editor at the New York Times.

  1. Disruption is not just for upstarts

As consumers, we expect to have our needs known in advance, understood more completely, and serviced immediately. However, fintech startups delivering ever-more personalized services are just part of the disruption engulfing numerous industries, including financial services.

“Major players in other industries are becoming more interested, encroaching on banks and insurance companies because they have assets and customer relationships they can exploit. This is a new paradigm for financial institutions,” Rob Hetherington, Global Head of Financial Services at SAP.

Incumbents are also moving fast to embrace innovation. “Every bank and insurer I talk with has some innovation activity, experimenting themselves and collaborating with fintechs,” said Hetherington. “Existing players are not standing still. We see banks working with non-banks to create new value propositions that open up new opportunities.”

According to Hetherington, IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are happening now, with large-scale adoption of blockchain technology likelier in a year or so. Microservices are critical to innovation that he said “cannot be viewed in silos. We’re going to see banks and insurers experimenting and working with partners to bring together Iot, blockchain, AI and machine learning.”

  1. Invest in people along with technology

In the rush to build cool workspaces sporting major wow-factor technologies, David Dabscheck, Founder & CEO at Giant Innovation, urged the audience not to forget about people. He shared a cautionary story about talking with a woman who said she visited her company’s designated “innovation room” when she wanted to “get away from people.”

“Technology allows us to do things we couldn’t imagine doing years ago, but people forget that as much as investing in the hippest office space, they also have to invest in developing the creative skills and mindsets of employees,” said Dabscheck.

As automation runs rampant across the front and back office, Dabscheck said that financial organizations like banks must empower employees to use their newfound time for innovative customer services. “Allow people to think about how process and service efficiencies can spark innovations that can be as disruptive as the automating technologies. It’s about people, process and technology.”

  1. Real-time banking

Mayank Mishra, Global Head of Digital Channel Services, Treasury and Trade Solutions at Citi, said that his company has already been co-innovating at the SAP Leonardo Center. Citi’s agile methodology is based on real-time business that involves partnerships, mobile applications and other innovations.

“At Citi, 52 trillion dollars in transactions go through our channels and digital solutions across 96 countries every year, and we knew we needed to do something different for agility,” said Mishra. “We also realized the world was changing — people expect faster results and new concepts. We understood these changes, and started bringing in the right culture, technology and people. The catalyst to real-time banking is APIs.”

  1. Machines plus people can address money laundering

California-based fintech startup Quantiply is using AI, machine learning and the SAP HANA in-memory database and predictive analytics to tackle money laundering, one of the world’s toughest problems. That doesn’t mean people disappear.

“Machine learning is not going to replace humans, but augment them and multiply their contributions so banks can increase profitability and lower operating margins,” said Surendra Reddy, Founder & CEO at Quantiply. “When it comes to AI there is a fear factor of people losing jobs, but we have a different view. It will improve human productivity so people can go home and play golf on weekends. AI can spot potential money laundering networks and help prevent it before it happens.”

Reddy expects machine learning will help ensure regulatory compliance for banks, reducing penalties and the overall cost of money laundering to society.

  1. Rewarding healthy living

Insurtech startups are revamping life insurance by rewarding customers for healthy living, and collaborating with partners. “You can create meaningful relationships between insurers and participants through technology,” said Stephen Mitchley, Chief Strategy Officer at Vitality Group, a division of Discovery. “Technology capturing someone’s heart rate on their wrist, on their phone, has disrupted the industry, and made us more cognizant of our customers. If you extend yourself beyond insurance boundaries into the real world, you can create partnerships to deliver meaningful incentives for a healthier future for your customers and the company.”

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