Katryna Dow

Katryna Dow

CEO & Founder at Meeco

Sydney, AustraliaInterview

 

@katrynadow  |  LinkedIn Profile

What makes your company unique with respect to FinTech in your opinion?

A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group, estimated that by 2020 the personal information economy would be valued at 1 Trillion Euros.  The research concluded that approximately 670 Billion Euros would flow back to individuals via new services such as Meeco.

Currently Financial institutions purchase personal data and on-line behaviour from multiple sources, data brokers, credit agencies, marketing lists and social aggregators.  The cost of data acquisition is increasing whilst customer intimacy is decreasing. Purchased data is used to augment existing data to achieve insight relevant to the delivery of products and services.

Meeco enables customers to exchange personal data at its optimal value (accurate + real-time + in-context + intention) with trusted parties including individuals and organisations.

The Meeco Platform is comprised of encrypted personal data services including a data schema, which can be mapped directly to enterprise CRM, ERP or Data warehouse applications for real-time dynamic exchange. For customers it enables the ‘API-of-Me’ for Financial services providers enables a segment-of-one view.

This lowers the cost of data acquisition, whilst increasing transparency, trust and customer intimacy.

We believe that data is the new currency. Progressive financial institutions realise that in order to stay competitive and relevant to their customers they need to consider the individual, to respect privacy, understand preferences and most importantly understand the customer in context, not simply through an algorithm.

What has been your experience as a start-up founder focused on FinTech?  Is there specific individuals or groups that provided unique input or support to you and your solution?  

Having started Meeco from concept the only role I haven’t fulfilled so far is ‘coding’ – but I plan to come back as an engineer in my next life!

Nobody tells you what this start-up path is like, it’s hard to describe unless you have lived through it. It is constantly the most challenging, rewarding and heart-wrenching experience I have ever had in my life.

Along the way the people that stand out in the FinTech world would be Peter Vander Auwera, who I met in Australia a few years ago.  He was presenting at Amplify on the Digital Asset Grid, this vision for an empowered future where individuals control the exchange and context for how their data is used.

I had the chance to tell him about Meeco (very early days).  He was not only encouraging but he gave me the names of some people who ended up being key my next step.  There was so much serendipity in that meeting, which continues to be the case.

I spent almost a decade working in Financial Services, there are many people I would like to acknowledge, one of them being Lee Tonitto. Whilst the project she headed up didn’t directly influence the design or solution that is Meeco, it did teach me a lot about working in a high performance team and doing the seemingly impossible. I think without that specific project experience I wouldn’t necessarily have the resilience I have needed.

What do you believe are some of the misconceptions concerning FinTech start-ups and their impact to the Financial Services ecosystem? 

I think the biggest misconception is that a single killer-app is going to change the system.  We resist change and want it to be gradual, even if the hockey stick idea will transform things, it’s human nature to hold back from the tipping point as long as possible.

Every day I see Financial institutions filled with great people, who are just as frustrated by the system, the inefficiencies and the inability to deliver on marketing promises. However we are comfortable with known models, and existing structures so the change is hard.

There is so much talk of disrupting existing organisations, which ends up coming across as enterprise bashing.  If we can find a way to take the agility, risk tolerance and vision of startups and partner it with the strength, security and resources of large financial institutions then together we would have a very exciting future.

How do you believe technology solutions will address the digital footprint issue for Millennials and the next generation? 

I think our generation has a responsibility to help establish the architecture for this emerging generation to re-shape the digital world.  Even more, they need to have the tools to do it on their terms.

A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled ‘Everything is Broken’ – it touches on many of the themes in this question, specifically Millennials and the next generation, focusing on technology and financial services.  Here is an expert that aligns to the question.

“So often I hear that the move to design for the emerging generation is not worth it because there is ‘no revenue’. Maybe not today…but we are talking about the architects of tomorrow.” The generation that as teenagers will have accumulated more data and personal information than we ever thought possible.

Designing for this cohort is a sophisticated balancing act that requires authenticity and deep understanding. Youth culture moves seamlessly between the physical and digital, highlighting that we can no longer design for an analogue world. I would argue that this is an even greater reason for us to champion the social mores of the physical world and ensure they are extended into the digital world.

Why has our move to the digital world allowed and condoned behaviours that are abhorrent in the physical world? Imagine meeting a person for the first time and saying hi…can I have your account number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and a trick question about your dog?

This wholesale giving up our rights to privacy and pseudonymity must be restored if we are going to provide a safe and equitable world for youth to transact. Which leads to what I call the ‘AND’ not ‘OR’ generation:

  • Great service AND authenticity
  • Great value AND personalization
  • Great experiences AND ……

But….and there is a big BUT…this is a generation that does not care whether their banking services come from a bank, or a ride comes from a taxi company, or a weekend in Paris is in a hotel room.

THEIRS IS THE CURRENCY OF INTENT

“What do I want to do today and how can you help me achieve this?”

Help me…make it easy for me! At the same time there is a new battle going on for the currencies they will need for the future:

  • #Reputation
  • #Identity
  • #Data

When I was working in Financial Services one of the important litmus tests for a new product was; “Would I want someone to sell this to my mother?” I think the question of our time is:

WILL THIS EMPOWER OR LIMIT OPPORTUNITY FOR GENERATIONS TO COME?

What does the hyper connected world look like for todays child?

The IoT baby starts with smart diapers flagging temperature spikes and onset of fever, they then move onto wearables and monitors.

Who decides on the privacy setting and gets access to the data?

Education portals capture every event from attendance to academic records, health, temperament and social skills.

Who should be the guardian of this data; parent, institution, government or held in ‘trust’ as a future asset for the child?

There’s an increasing question as to whether or not Facebook is relevant to youth culture or is it simply becoming the Yellow Pages of our time, the place you look-up, connect and then move the conversation off-line.

Where will those conversations take place?

Digital identity, reputation and verified attributes will be essential for check-out, payments and all transacts in the connected world. The means to ‘prove’ who you are will increase along with the value of having proved it.

Who should own and control that identity?

The emerging generation will have their eligibility for education, assessment of health insurance rates, access to services, suitability for loans and credit all assessed from data points collected from pre-birth.

There are already companies in the USA and Europe using Facebook Friends as an indication of applicants credit worthiness.

Do we want them to have the means to assert self-authentication or are we comfortable with silo services like GAFA being the means by which they can log-in to essentials services and transact in the world?

There is a reason the distributed argument resonates with youth. Consider what is at stake for this generation. The millennial generation is the largest population in history, even bigger than Boomers. We need to find ways for this generation to create the society that speaks to their values.

I authored a detailed overview of the new business models needed to emerge to make this flow possible.

Why do you believe gender diversity, especially with respect to FinTech, is such an important issue? 

In 2009 Harvard Business Review published research on the Female Economy.  At the time of publication it was estimated that the global Female Economy is larger than China and India combined.  When you think about this as a united segment, the scale is amazing. However, within there is a myriad of diversity including culture, socio economic circumstances and differing views on what it is to be ‘Female’.

However, despite the value of the Female economy we remain underrepresented when it comes to leading the organisations, designing the products and building the services that are vital to our lives, and the lives of those we love.

We are fuelling the economy but not designing, directing or determining how it serves us.  Working in technology I see such a significant opportunity for women to help build the technologies that are meaningful for our lives.

However, having said that I think an over correction is just as dangerous.  The best projects I have worked on have been a blend of great people, men and women, different view, skills and perspectives.  When you get this to work in a team you have the underlying capability to design for society at large.  I actually think we are better together.  We just need more of us around the table.

Do you believe the changing social norms around either spouse staying at home directly impact FinTech solution design?

 Absolutely.  When you look at the Harvard Business Review study mentioned earlier the segmentation screams out for a different approach.  The two that jump out for me in this context are ‘Pressure Cooker’ the successful multitasker struggling for stability and the Making Ends Meet when life doesn’t go to plan.

In financial services we tend to build these product cycles that have everyone on a perfect trajectory from education, to marriage, to children, to investment property, to retirement culminating in empty nest wealth management.

However the truth is life isn’t like an insurance brochure. The increasing rate of divorce, the stress on middle income, the very real health issues families deal with along the way create a need for a different approach.  These life events don’t look great in an advertisement, but it is these events that we need to better understand, to design for and to make it OK to talk about.

How important has the support system of your family been with respect to your personal career success?

I have had no support from family; my decision for my career to be central in my life has always been a great disappointment for my parents.  They are in their late 70’s and early 80’s now and don’t really understand what I do. They can’t fathom the amount of travel associated with my work.  As I get older I realise that I actually inherited from them a strong work ethic.  There is no doubt had I been their son rather than a daughter they would have been more supportive of my choices. I am eternally grateful to them for teaching me to be independent. Ironically, had they been more supportive I am not sure I would have pushed the edges so much – so in hindsight they were and are the perfect family for me.

Who(m) do you believe has had the most influence with respect to your own career? 

My first primary school teacher; Mrs Twist.  She once took me aside on a school excursion, I was about 8 years old at the time and I remember her imploring me to aim high and work towards being all that I could be.

The late Dr. John Turner, a history professor at Newcastle University.  He was also the father of my dearest friend.  As a teenager I spent a lot of time in their home, and despite me being a challenge with millions of questions, he always had time for me. He inspired me and kept reminding me to find my own road and not to be afraid to break the rules or think differently. Looking back he saw something in me that my family didn’t and for this I will be eternally grateful.

The University still honors him through a memorial lecture.

Who do you consider to be strong women leaders in the banking / FinTech space?

This is a tough question for a few reasons.  Firstly there aren’t enough and secondly, because there are so few it ends up being the same names over and over.

In Australia, the woman that jumps out for me is Annalie Killian.  She is the founder and producer of the Amplify Business Festival, sponsored by AMP.  Every two years she brings the best and the brightest hearts and minds together from around the world to look at innovation in a very hands-on way.  It is a world-class festival covering FinTech, finance, the future of work, the aging population, art and science.

She is a powerhouse of a woman, a single mother and connected 24/7.  She has a deep passion for the organisation she works for and genuinely cares about its people embracing innovation in service of its customers. There is a good reason they call her the catalyst for magic.

What do you see as the 3 leading future trends for FinTech?

APIs – I was recently talking to Leon Gerard Vandenberg, the founder and CEO of bitSIM.  We were discussing disruption across financial services and he remarked “the bank of the future will simply be a trust mark + an API”.  If he is correct (and I think he is) then we are moving towards the API economy, the power will be in the ability to harness data and draw insights.  As individuals we equally need this capability, which is why Meeco enables the personalised ‘API-of-Me’. Relationships will be forged through mutual exchange and trust and transparency will be key.

AI & IoT – Think about how many phone numbers, birthdays or street maps we remember today. Over the past decade we have been slowly outsourcing parts of our memory to smart devices. Over the next decade we will see IoT become the Internet-of-everything.  Think about babies born wearing smart devices to monitor vitals from the moment they take their first breath, through to education portals, wearables, devices, the connected home and car.  The race will be for the data and the smartest algorithms to predict and anticipate intent.  We will see the shift away from products to outcomes and experiences.

The main concern I have for this emerging world is the need for empathy and forgiveness. How do we code the human aspects of connection into devices and smart contracts, especially financial transactions? We need to work towards the best of our humanity connecting to technology with an ‘and-not-or’ approach.

Blockchain – where do we start? One of the challenges with this emerging technology is there is a lot of hype alongside enormous possibility. I think people are beginning to see that it is not about Bitcoin or crypto currency, they are simply proof-of-applications. The real opportunity is with blockchain, and hopefully it staying true to its decentralised roots.  However there is pressure for transactions to complete faster, and need for scale, which is why we are seeing debates arising around proposals such as Bitcoin XT. I have hope for Ethereum and am inspired by what I see so far.  However, it’s very early days, we are still trying to architecture the new with existing business models and frames-of-reference.  If we can rethink power, autonomy and parity, then some very interesting things might emerge.

 

About Meeco:

Meeco is the worlds first Life Management Platform.  Meeco provides the enablement layer for a new multi-sided trust based personal data eco-system.   We call this Me:B or MeCommerce.  It’s the move towards increased personal agency and being part of the value chain with respect to how our personal data is collected, used and monetised.

The Meeco platform provides applications to store, analyse and exchange personal data.  Sharing is always explicitly on your terms. Meeco is designed to be an easy part of your daily digital routine. Every time you use Meeco to pay a bill, book a flight, search the web or signal your intentions you are reducing your digital footprint whilst building digital assets and a richer personal profile that you control.

In May 2015, we proudly received a special award at the European Cloud & Identity Conference in Munich in recognition for being the first to market with a user-centric multi-sided platform.

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