Big in Japan - Money Mover attends Tokyo's Fintech Summit

Posted on the 31st October 2017 by Hamish Anderson in Founders' blog, Money Mover News, Founder Insights

Establishing relationships in new regions is challenging, and best achieved with help and guidance from local experts. Hamish Anderson, Money Mover's CEO, was therefore delighted to be asked to participate in a recent Trade Mission to Japan which was being run alongside Fin/Sum - Tokyo’s principal financial technology summit.

FinSum Tokyo 2017 exhibitor space

Our friends at the UK Department of International Trade (DIT) are very supportive in bringing us opportunities to meet prospective investors, partners and customers. In the recent past, and with their support, we’ve attended the inaugural Fintech Conference in London (April 2017) and Money 20/20 in Copenhagen (June 2017). We’ve also connected with their team in Moscow to explore opportunities in the Russian market.

 This time Japan was the location, and I received an interesting email from Naomi Takegoshi, the Senior Trade Advisor at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Naomi wrote to tell me about Fin/Sum Week 2017 – Tokyo’s principal financial technology summit. This year a DIT Fintech Trade Mission to Japan was being organised alongside the summit, and the event organisers would be sponsoring selected businesses to attend. Now, being notoriously thrifty, our ears always prick up when we hear about some sponsorship and, sure enough, Fin/Sum’s organisers, Nihon Keizai Shimbun (the Nikkei), the Japanese FSA, and the Japanese Fintech Association would be covering flights and hotel costs for start-ups chosen to participate in the summit.

List of startups - Finsum Tokyo 2017

The fintech scene in Japan is a little behind that of the UK – driven partly by the fact it is a self-supported community. That is to say that strong legacy applications and technologies offered by established providers dominate the market, making it less open to innovation from new players and difficult to penetrate.  Very few people will have heard of Xero in Japan, let alone use it. In addition, the Japanese financial services regulator (the FSA) has historically been closely associated with the banking community and has only really begun to embrace financial technology businesses in the last couple of years. To this end, and at the request of the Japanese FSA, our own Financial Conduct Authority has been passing on its experience of fintech, in particular its Innovation Hub, as a model to follow in Japan

 Fin/Sum is therefore an important event in raising awareness of fintech in the region, and around 50 startup and entrepreneurial fintech businesses from around the world, including Money Mover, were represented at the conference. The organisers had done a great job of putting together a structured programme of panels, pitches, thought leadership and work shop events running from the morning of Tuesday the 19th of September through to the after party on the evening of the 22nd. While the conference lacked the gloss (and high costs) of the leading Europe and and US fintech events, this was amply compensated for by the enthusiasm of the organisers and participants. I have to single out a couple of individuals for a special mention. Etsuji Otsuka, a co-founder and CIO of TRIUM Partners in Tokyo, was in charge of the Startup Showcase, and did a formidable job of herding participants and investors alike. I’d met Kotaro Zamma, Head of Open Innovation & Business Incubation at NTTData, a couple of times before, most recently in February when Money Mover was a finalist in NTT’s global open innovation contest. As you can probably tell from the photograph, his energy and enthusiasm is unrivalled, and he is already acknowledged as a member of the fintech establishment in Japan and beyond.

Hamish Anderson and Kotaro Zamma of NTTData

 As part of its Trade Mission, the British Embassy in Tokyo had put together a complementary programme for the Thursday afternoon and evening, to include a panel discussion (in which I had been invited to participate) and a startup pitch session, followed by drinks and nibbles in the Ambassador’s Residence. The Embassy had assembled a senior and influential guest list of influencers from a range of Japanese financial institutions and corporates, alongside regulators, trade associations, advisers and representatives from the local fintech community. Attendance was very good; it seems that an invitation from the Embassy is seldom ignored. The event was opened by Paul Madden, Her Majesty's Ambassador to Japan and introduced by Matt Hancock, The UK Minister of State for Digital. The panel session was focused on innovation and overseas expansion, and I was joined for a lively discussion by Toshio Taki, who is Head of Fintech Research and a Board Member of Money Forward, Yuzo Kano, co-founder and CEO of bitFlyer, Ryota Hayashi, co-founder and Group CEO of Finatext and Pavel Matveev, CEO of Wirex.

Fintech Panel at British Embassy Tokyo Trade Mission 2017

 The rest of the week was filled to the brim with prospective partner, customer and investor meetings, which Naomi helped organise, and participating in the conference itself. The conference attendees and invited guests to the Embassy event were all engaged, informed and willing to start to build relationships. Even from this short exposure to the fintech community in Tokyo, it was clear that working with Japanese partners is a long term process which requires commitment and patience from both sides. Assistance from the British Embassy and promotion via events such as Fin/Sum are vital in helping to establish trusting relationships with the right people in the right organisations.

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