As usual, in June, Money 20/20 in Amsterdam was the go-to event for the European fintech ecosystem, bringing together representatives from all over the world.

The event was marked by the presence of distinguished figures, adding a unique flavor to the discussions on the future of money and finance. Notable appearances included a prince and an ex-president. Prince Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau of the Netherlands shared his global expansion pointers. François Hollande, the former President of France, shared his insights on the intersection of technology and politics. This, along with the event’s commitment to sustainability, set Money 20/20 apart from other fintech conferences.

During the event, the conference team and sponsors put together quite a show, including unexpected elements such as the robotic bartender, a race car track, the fintech beach, fintech karaoke stands, nail art and shoe polishing stands, and AI photo booths. As custom dictates, all the sponsors held a merchandise giveaway race, however, focusing more on sustainable and original merchandise compared to last year.

This year, Money 20/20 was bigger and more spectacular than ever, with a more spacious conference hall. However, some participants noted a decrease in the number of attendees, which was attributed to the increased density or distribution among various side events. Despite the inflated event size, the event’s commitment to sustainability was evident in the stunning trees that adorned one of the halls, which were pledged to be released to nature after the event.

My Ancient Roman version according to the AI photobooth.

Let’s take a look at the other highlights of this year’s Money 20/20 Europe together.

Fintech Trends and Event Highlights

The event strongly emphasized “Humans vs. Machines” and integrated artificial intelligence in the talks and sidetracks wherever possible.

Many country delegations, including Germany, Spain, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, and Türkiye, represented their ecosystems with crowded delegations and booths, where different local delicacies were served.

A standout moment was the presence of the AI moderator, Aiana, who sparked a thought-provoking debate on the future of event moderation and journalism. Aiana’s initial shyness during the opening speeches provided a welcome relief to the journalists on the edge of their seats.

After many interruptions, Aiana started discussing her interests, including “animal welfare, gardening, and fintech.” When asked about the connection between these three interests, Aiana started malfunctioning, which is unsurprising.

Various tech companies and BaaS providers flew in to demonstrate their tech capabilities and seamless integration offerings.

Vodeno executives Katleen Thonnon and Karlien Vekemans

Some key messages from the talks are as follows:

  • The opening speech by Revolut’s VP of Global Business Development and Commercial Operations, David Tirado Blanco, investigated Revolut’s development over the years and its maturity period. Revolut was initially developed (and perceived) as a travel card product and now offers global banking and lifestyle services. When asked about the status quo, Blanco answered, “We started with a niche product and a word-of-mouth acquisition approach. In time, we have encapsulated financial and non-financial services encapsulated into one app. It took us three years to get customers via other acquisition strategies.” According to Blanco, Revolut uses various marketing strategies and has spent 3M in marketing in 2023. He believes the secret sauce lies in the customer trust the fintech generated through the word-of-mouth recommendation campaigns, collaborations, and their growing size (40M). Revolut has 8 (digital) branches worldwide and applies localization strategies to all new markets. “Our target market is everyone. We always look into solving problems. If we see a problem or an opportunity not even in banking, we’ll take it.”
  • The endless CBDC discussions Money 20/20 hosts every year had a more conclusive conclusion this year than the past years’ “let’s see” approach. According to the panel discussion featuring experts from Monerium, Citi, and the Open Finance Association, CBDCs might be redundant for retail use despite the agreed benefits of wholesale CBDCs.
  • In his keynote, Francois Hollande discussed how technology will change and improve our lives, especially in turbulent times like this. He stated that he used technology to answer the burning questions the country was facing when he was in office.
  • “AI is a new mega trend, in line with personal computers and the internet. And new mega trends always open up the door for disruptors and new players to enter the market. But I also think there’s a lot of power with incumbents because we know what the clients want. With any tech you should start with pain points and how tech can solve for them and not the other way around. So use Gen AI as a tool in your toolkit, but start from client needs and only use AI where it does make sense.” – Nicole Ebmeyer, Co-Founder and CEO,
  • “What we’re advocating for is to keep a human in the loop at least for the next two years, so that you can control the way the technology is behaving when facing customers and you can improve it over time. One very important aspect is that this doesn’t work 100% out of the box so you need a human to provide corrections. But as you gather the correction of humans, you can pool that back into the model, provided you have the proper tools for customization.” – Arthur Mensch, CEO, Mistral AI
  • “The reality of the situation is if you’re not investing in AI, your competitors that do will deliver more accurate recommendations and deliver a more sophisticated customer experience. They’ll have better product innovation. And you can’t afford that if you want to be relevant a few years from now, let alone a little over two decades from now. Don’t be shy to expand the ways in which you look for value in AI and AI investing.” – Kevin Levitt, Director, Financial Services, NVIDIA

Flexvelop, Brite Payments, Kore Labs, Nomyx, Velexa, and NALA were announced as this year’s “start-ups that are poised to transform the world of money.”

Exclusive Interview with the Wirecard Whistleblower

Pav Gill, the Wirecard whistleblower, who helped expose corruption and fraud at once renowned German fintech, is already an international fintech celebrity. Pav is a frequent guest of European fintech conferences, revealing the story that led to Wirecard’s collapse.

Despite his busy schedule consisting of podcast recordings and a stage talk, Pav was kind enough to offer an exclusive interview during the event, and this way, I finally got rid of my burning questions.

Pav recalls his time at Wirecard as “a bad version of Game of Thrones,” as there was much dishonesty and micromanagement, and many people seemed to have surrendered to the status quo.

We started with the basics—why did Pav decide to blow the whistle? “I was commissioned to invest in an internal whistleblowing case. At some point, I had to whistleblow as the company made my life harder. Eventually, they pushed me to expose their wrongdoings,” answered Pav, remembering the countless death threats he received from Wirecard.

According to Pav, legal departments in corrupt organizations like the Wirecard have a significant role (and responsibility) in taking the ship down. Pav believes that their senior legal team enabled and, to some extent, coordinated the wrongdoings. Indeed, the ongoing court process has revealed that the former CEO Markus Braun told Wirecard’s General Counsel that compliance was ‘crap and unnecessary.‘ However, he was also recorded while blaming the legal team for the compliance issues. In contrast, the group’s former General Counsel, Andrea Görres, who was questioned as a witness in the trial, told the court that “her small team of 12 people lacked the resources for comprehensive checks,” and the management disregarded their warnings repeatedly.

We also dived deeper into Wirecard’s product quality and working culture. As Germany-based fintech veterans might remember, there was often a cloud of mystery around Wirecard. I, too, had firsthand experience and needed clarification about Wirecard’s product and client portfolio and the inefficient working culture. Pav agreed, stating that Wirecard’s tech infrastructure and products were up to par, which gave him a hunch about the organization’s credibility. Pav continued with enjoyable work memories: “Every time Markus Braun gave a speech, he mentioned how all subsidiaries are loss-making. Nevertheless, there was no clear indication of where all the money was coming from, and no one seriously asked this question or followed up on this topic.”

Later, we shifted gears, discussing whether it is possible not to be aware of corruption in an organization. According to Pav, most senior experts and managers in an organization are likely to have feelings about wrongdoings if they are not fully aware. Pav believes that more people were involved in the scheme in Wirecard, but they somehow got away with it, playing the innocence cards. In some cases, people are aware but don’t care or don’t know what to do.

Although Wirecard created a massive chain reaction in the European fintech ecosystem, with consequences that echo to this day, it’s neither the first nor the last of these cases. Pav considers the legal and compliance teams to hold the fort in these cases and recommends that experts always document wrongdoings and raise their concerns. “Do your job! You might find yourself in serious trouble if you work in a legal or compliance function, suspecting a corruption case, and don’t do anything about it. You can even be considered an accomplice for failing our duties. The silence doesn’t fly by in these professions.” Pav added that entrepreneurs and C-levels can get away with their wrongdoings as these issues are considered a part of the entrepreneurship journey. “They’ll just say he was an entrepreneur and had a crazy idea, and he’ll get by. It’s not the same for legal and compliance people.”

Sometimes, even a failed company is considered a victory by venture capital standards. Even after the cat was out of the bag, several companies got into the race to acquire Wirecard’s assets while making a show of it. Pav is still unclear about the logic behind these acquisitions, highlighting the real problem: you can fool everyone with inflated numbers, marketing, and branding.

All in all, Pav is confident as he has done the right thing with Wirecard. Nevertheless, it has been a rocky road for him. During the interview, Pav stressed over and over again that Wirecard “created a whistleblower who didn’t have to be one.” Pav was doing his job, and by blocking him and threatening him, they created a whistleblower. Pav wants to prevent this painful process for other organizational experts and thus co-created Confide, a compliance reporting software “to stop creating angry and dismantled employees.” Confide aims to foster a culture of transparency and integrity in corporations and solve issues before they snowball into scandals. The Wirecard story can be one of the negative milestones for the European fintech ecosystem, but every cloud has a silver lining, even the fraudulent ones!

Side Events

As tradition dictates, Money 20/20 WhatsApp groups buzzed with side event recommendations and updates this year.

Some popular side events included hotel, rooftop, BBQ, or boat parties by the LHoFT, Volt, Stripe, Holland Fintech, Banxware, Netherlands Fintech & Banking 50, and so much more.

While not held on a boat or a rooftop, the Hexaware’s side event was a highly sought-after affair, drawing in global industry experts such as Chris Skinner and Efi Pylarinou, a testament to the exclusivity and importance of the discussions held.

Chris Skinner started his opening speech by citing the AI craze. “AI isn’t new; it’s been developing for a while, even going back to the 40s. Is it scary? Not to me.”

Skinner showed an ai generated “eggplant” to the audience.

Banking is necessary, but are banks necessary for banking? During his speech, Chris Skinner talked about how a small fintech (Stripe) became more valuable than several banks combined. Skinner believes that the banking system needs a restructuring. As the existing banking system is built on prior needs and business models, Skinner argues that banks need to understand the new distribution channels and update their business models. “MBanks need to reinvent their business model for distributing data through software and servers.”

Skinner’s speech was not without its lighter moments. To underscore the importance of regulatory oversight, he shared amusing anecdotes about Ginko Financial, the bank that famously collapsed in the Second Life application. ‘To be a virtual bank, first, you need to be a real bank with a real license. More importantly, you must understand banking,’ he quipped, injecting a touch of humor into the serious regulatory compliance topic.

Skinner summarized his predictions for the fintech ecosystem, quoting Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”


Elif Kocaoğlu Ulbrich
Gazi University Faculty of Law graduate Ş. Elif Kocaoğlu Ulbrich has degrees in Private Law from Galatasaray University and MBA from WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, and is also a fellow of Jean Monnet, Joachim Herz Stiftung. After working as a lawyer in various international law firms in Istanbul and Ankara for more than six years, Denizbank A.Ş. She started her banking and finance career in 2013, specializing in business development, project management, FinTech regulation and lobbying activities at FinTech startups (FinLeap, Cringle, Lendico) in Hamburg and later in Berlin. Co-author of The PAYTECH Book, The AI ​​Book and The LegalTech Book, which are planned to be published in 2020 in cooperation with FINTECH Circle and Wiley, Kocaoğlu Ulbrich has been providing consultancy, training and publishing services since 2019 through Berlin-based Contextual Solutions, which she is the founder of.