Martin Thuesen of Keylane on how the NYC Tech Masterclass helps companies harness new opportunities

World-renowned for its gastronomy, architecture and design, Denmark is now fast emerging as a Nordic leader in the tech start-up space with the fintech sector leading the charge. According to Nordic Tech List, some $63 million of start-up investment was channelled to Danish fintech in 2017, boosting a thriving industry already supported by a strong member’s organization, Copenhagen Fintech. Overall, industry observers of Denmark’s start-up scenes are increasingly optimistic. In fact, in 2017 Denmark boasted the highest per capita level of venture capital investment among 15 European countries and there has been a marked upsurge in investments for seed and start-up phases ever since.

But how can Danish financial institutions gain inspiration from the US market and adopt the latest trends from the New York fintech and innovation scene?

Copenhagen Fintech and Denmark In New York have a solution: the NYC Tech Masterclass.

Newly launched by Denmark In New York’s expert tech-focused trade team and conducted alongside key partners in the fintech space, the NYC Tech Masterclass introduces Danish financial institutions to the ins and outs of the New York tech scene, connecting them with leading practitioners from the New York fintech and start-up ecosystems.

Against that backdrop, Denmark In New York spoke with three recent NYC Tech Masterclass graduates about their recent experiences and why they would recommend the NYC Tech Masterclass to fellow Danish fintech entrepreneurs. In this second installment, Martin Thuesen, Chief Development Manager at Keylane, explains how the NYC Tech Masterclass helps companies build a global perspective and stay relevant in the fast-paced world of fintech.

Denmark In New York: Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to attend the NYC Tech Masterclass.

Martin Thuesen: I work as Chief Development Manager in a business line called Obex at Keylane which is a leading European provider of standard SaaS platforms for the insurance and pension industry. In Obex, we develop and maintain financial planning tools for banks and pension companies. Through our tools we are in indirect contact with around 1.5 million people in the Danish market who receive advice on pensions, household budgets and their wealth: maybe they want to retire early, buy a summerhouse or make sure there is some inheritance left for their children. This is the process we support via our financial planning tools and calculation engine.

We consider ourselves to be a fintech company although with more than 20 years’ of experience we are far more established than most of the fintechs you hear about these days Our ambition is to empower the financial industry to change through technology, therefore it was a natural step for us to become a sponsor and active participant in the Copenhagen Fintech Lab and the European fintech community overall to grow our eco-system of emerging technologies.

It was via one of the newsletters to sponsors and members that I first heard about the NYC Tech Masterclass.

After some internal discussions we decided that I should go — being well aware that I would not necessarily return with the killer idea on how to revolutionize the industry or our business.

I decided to participate for several reasons. First of all, the programme and agenda looked really interesting with many interesting speakers and venues lined up. Secondly, it is important to have a global perspective on the industry. A lot of cool things are happening in Denmark and Europe in general, but there is of course a huge world outside where things are moving fast. Thirdly, I expected to be able to create a network among the participants and to discuss the sessions and input we received during the intense three days — and maybe meet up once back in Copenhagen having digested some of the input and worked on more concretely how to apply or implement some of the learnings or inspiration. Last but not least, I was very curious to get some input as to how we in Keylane can better work together with some of the smaller start-ups and support them and grow together.

What are your key takeaways from the Masterclass 2019?

Martin Thuesen: The “Kodak Moment” is not around the corner. There is not one single company that will disrupt the entire industry. The fintechs are often “attacking” specific verticals in the industry and the incumbents should be very much aware and on their toes, but the banks and pension providers we know today will still be around many years from now.

So, a lot of the innovation investments in traditional financial institutions have moved away from trying to build the “killer feature” in the front-end or drastically change the industry and are instead invested in back office trying to innovate the processes by applying AI, machine learning and other ways of automating. This will create a cost cut in FTEs, reduce the error margins and create better user experiences.

What insights did you bring back home to your team?

Martin Thuesen: While talking to many of the start-ups and more established fintechs during the programme, it became even more apparent that you need to have a short time to market and be able to grab the opportunities and ideas when they occur. Some of those companies started out in one direction with one idea but being able to move fast made them able to switch focus or add to their offering.

Many bigger financial institutions still tend to seek big solutions instead of having incremental releases to improve their offerings.

For whom is the NYC Tech Masterclass relevant?

Martin Thuesen: I would recommend the programme to anyone interested in broadening their horizon and learn by being at the epicentre of the fintech evolution in New York’s “Silicon Alley”.

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