February 23, 03:02

5′ with Dr. Periklis Thivaios

Partner at True North Partners LLP

FinQuest 5′ sessions welcomes Dr. Periklis Thivaios.

Periklis, as an entrepreneur since the age of 26, has been involved in the launch, management and financing of startups in financial services, retail, renewable energy and hospitality.

  • What do you consider to be the greatest innovation in history?

Umberto Eco argued that the greatest innovation in history was the wide-spread cultivation of beans, as it allowed humankind to survive the famine of the dark ages. Without meaning to disagree with the great semiologist, I would argue that the greatest technological innovation in history has been the development of telecommunications (from the telegraph onwards), which have formed the foundations for further innovations such as the internet.

  • What do you consider to be the trending technologies now and what is your prediction for the technologies of the future?

I guess we would all agree that trending technologies are viscerally linked to the ability to connect (and as of more recently, identify) actors from a distance. The word ‘actors’ is intentionally open ended, as social actors/agents may well be individuals, groups, institutions and non-humans alike. Telecommunication goes beyond the direct connection between two humans, as remote computer to computer connections have illustrated in the past; IoT is only a further step in our appreciation that it is not only humans that need to connect via a distance. Technologies of the future will bring closer the physical and virtual space, without though trying to merge them or make the former irrelevant. Physical space is essential to and unavoidable for human existence: we are always in a space and that in itself is an ‘actor’ communicating with us, albeit without words. I foresee technologies that focus on the better interlinkage between the physical and the virtual, rather than the virtual alone.

Throughout history, technology has been fundamental in the operations of financial institutions. Other than facilitative technologies which allow to perform tasks more efficiently, I would like to focus on technologies that enable the development of distinct business models. It was due technology that banking institutions achieved the trust to act as money creators (instead of mere intermediaries) and, as of more recently, that money and payments are being dematerialised. From a fundamental financial theory and practice perspective, I believe that digital currencies (whether Central Bank issued or not) will have the greatest impact on finance. Linked to my previous point, we are observing a merger of the physical with the virtual and the simultaneous unbundling and rebundling of the functions of money (unit of account, store of value, medium of exchange), alongside the integration of currencies with payment mechanisms and information content. The impact on financial stability, bank service propositions and the competitive landscape cannot be underanalysed. Just to avoid being misunderstood, I want to stress that I am not talking about crypto-currencies, but any sort of digital currency, whether CBDC or private (cryptos included but not being the universe).

Please allow me to talk about history again, as this is the best means of understanding the present and contemplating about the future. We are well aware that most innovations originate in incumbent institutions, but their successful commercialisation is often driven by other, challenger firms. While this story sounds somewhat glorious or romantic, in practice many innovations fail to take up because challenger firms often fail to raise the capital or attract the customer base required. With initiatives such as FinQuest, we observe a re-approachment between incumbents and innovators, commercialised on a collaborative rather than competitive space.

I have been a mentor for the first two rounds of FinQuest and therefore my opinion is rather biased… Of course I would encourage startups to participate! The most important benefit to them will be the ‘real world’ challenge of their ideas: any innovative idea is great, but if it cannot be commercialised, it is bound to fail. FinQuest, with the support structures it provides (mentors, access to expertise and bank services) is an invaluable step in the path towards technological diffusion and commercial thinking.