Insights from Finance 2.0

This week I had the pleasure of attending Finance 2.0, which is the leading FinTech conference in Switzerland. In this post, I’ll be sharing the content of the conference from a software developer point of view.

The Customer is King

The slogan of the conference was “Facing a paradigm change: From CRM, the classic Customer Relationship Management, to CMR, a Customer-Managed Relationship.“ That sums up really well what most of the speakers addressed: the customer is in the driver’s seat and if the financial institutions do not cater to their needs, they will lose their reason of existence. This paradigm change has motivated the industry to be innovative and launch products that the users want to use.

The saying “The Customer is King” is no news for software developers. We know that if the app or software we are designing is not what the users want, they will simply not use it. With consumer loyalty on the decline, the financial industry has begun to focus on customer-centric tools just as we have been doing in software engineering.

Open Banking

The topic “Open Banking” was mentioned frequently. More and more banks are letting third-party companies (mostly startups) access their financial institution via open APIs to develop innovative tools. There was a panel about the security risks associated with open banking and how to deal with it.

Open Banking is an interesting topic. The panel discussion clearly showed that a market potential exists for innovative startups or software developers building services in collaboration with financial institutions. As a software agency with a lot of experience in simplifying complex processes, these are interesting prospects.

ICO’s and blockchain

I was rather surprised that there weren’t more speeches about the possibilities the blockchain technology offers for the financial industry. Instead, in a panel discussion titled  “ICO: A bubble or the future of funding?”, it was pointed out how crazy it is for startups collecting millions in investments without having produced anything except an unreadable white paper.

The underlying skepticism proofs that as a producer of digital products it’s not enough to simply groom oneself with the buzzword “Blockchain” to get into business with financial institutions. Only a valid business case can succeed in convincing potential customers.

Living innovation

I was thoroughly impressed by SIX Group and their innovation initiative. Here’s a large player in the financial industry not only talking about being innovative but actually living up to that claim. I particularly enjoyed the pitches from the winners of the SIXHackathon that took place the preceding weekend. The prototypes they developed in only 48 hours were very interesting and the level of (tech) talent from the team members was quite impressive.

Summary

The financial industry acknowledges that the times are changing and that it’s time to focus on the customer and their needs. Digital transformation is only one of the means to take this change into account, but it’s precisely what Simplificator is good at. These times are really exciting for us and we look forward to excelling our partners’ businesses and making their customers happy.

Being a Software Developer Intern @Simplificator

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m ending my 6-month internship at Simplificator as a software developer. A month ago I turned 34. Yes, you read correctly, at an age where most employees are looking to boost their careers, I decided to go back to square one and learn how to code. But why did I choose to do so?

I’ve always been intrigued by computers, software and computer games. At the tender age of 15, I had to decide, what job apprenticeship I wanted to take up: office clerk or information technology. Back then most information technology apprentices were boys, and I felt that I would feel out of place as the only girl in a class of 20+ students. As you can imagine, I decided to go for the office clerk education.

Fast forward fifteen years: I had just quit my job at a Zurich-based Start-up and had to decide, what I wanted to do next. Go back to managing IT projects and earning good money or invest time and money and learn how to build software? Play it safe or risk it?

I decided to listen to my heart and take a risk, and so I embarked on a journey to learn how to code.

I first started by teaching myself HTML and CSS and it turned out to be a straightforward thing to learn. The next step was JavaScript…not so straightforward. I learned just enough JavaScript and jQuery to get by, but I wasn’t happy with neither my learning pace nor my learning success. I was beginning to doubt my risky decision, and so I decided to give it one more shot: I enrolled in the Master21 Coding Bootcamp.

At this boot camp it just all fell into place, and that has a twofold reason: first of all, the fantastic instructor Rodrigo and second the programming language Ruby. It was the first time I had the feeling I could realistically reach my goal of learning to code.

Thanks to my boot camp instructor Rodrigo, I was approached by Simplificator employees and encouraged to apply for a job as a software developer. The multiple interviews I had at Simplificator were pretty tough, and it became apparent that I wasn’t yet at the level of a junior developer. Simplificator saw potential in me and offered me an internship as a software developer. Needless to say, I jumped at this opportunity to deepen my coding skills.

As a warm-up, I worked on my own little Ruby on Rails project and programmed a simple to do list. That work gave me the opportunity to both further my knowledge of Ruby and Ruby on Rails. I also learned how to use git and GitHub, Heroku, database management tools, IDE’s, etc.

I also got to do some frontend engineering on Simplificators own website.

My to do list built wiht Ruby on Rails

 

The next (big) step was building a productive tool for Simplificator. “Burn Rate” is crucial in planning our work on the different projects we work on. Thanks to the custom calculation formula, the software indicates how much time we have to work the next four weeks on the various projects to fulfill the requirements.

When the first development cycle of “Burn Rate” ended and we implemented it in production, I was so happy: Here was a useful tool programmed by myself (ok, I got some help here and there).

The third and last step was working on a project for an existing customer. It was challenging and exciting at the same time, as I worked on implementing new features in a previously existing web app. It was very helpful for my Ruby knowledge as I was reading and trying to understand code, which was written by other developers.

As the end of my internship approached the question arose “Should I stay or should I go?”. Well, I decided to stay and here’s why:

  1. My internship made a developer out of me. But it will take time and lots of lines of code to make a good developer out of me.
  2. My team here at Simplificator is simply awesome. They truly made a point of teaching me well how to go about when developing. Each team member is very different but we harmonize really well together.
  3. My mentor Alessandro willingly shared his knowledge with me and always found the right words to motivate me. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him in the following years.
  4. I believe in the philosophy of Simplificator:
    • Love what you do
    • Collaborate closely
    • Keep it simple
    • Dare to question
    • Get things done
  5. I’m thankful for the chance Simplificator gave me.
  6. I love playing foosball with my colleagues.

Was it worth going back to square one at 34 years of age? Yes, it was!
Was it easy? Not at all. But aren’t the difficult things the most rewarding?

fussball
Enjoying a break with my colleagues