MWC Keynote Recap: Fintech’s Next Step

With the hype around nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse continuing to build, how can telcos and fintech companies incorporate these exciting new technologies into their operations without breaking customer trust?

This question was at the heart of MWC’s seventh keynote on Day 3, as financial services experts explored how new technologies can reshape—and potentially disrupt—every industry.

The Arthouse Appeal of NFTs

Beginning the keynote, Caixabank’s Chairman Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri highlighted the experience and stability that incumbent financial services institutions can bring to bear when considering new techhnologies.

“Growth in the wellbeing of society can only be achieved by responsible business models,” he said.

Per Goirigolzarri, a big part of responsible banking is regulation, which “gives stability to the system as a whole.” That also extends to NFTs, the burgeoning blockchain technology currently making waves in digital collectibles. On NFTs, Goirigolzarri said “everyone needs to play on the same playing field.”

Translation: The president of Caixabank recognizes that the pace of digitalization must be reviewed so no clients are left behind.

Some industries are further along with NFT adoption, like the fine art world. Charles Stewart, CEO of the auction house, Sotheby’s, shared several examples of how art sales have changed in the past few years, claiming that NFTs have democratized art.

“Blockchain offers new ways for people to actually collect,” Stewart articulated. “You don’t need to be a billionaire to approach the art market.”

While museums, street art and galleries open to the public have existed for some time, this seeming leveling of the art ownership playing field was touted as a major advantage, though Stewart admitted that individual rich buyers often can outbid even large, dedicated groups of passionate common people.

In discussing the ways that NFTs created new ways to own and share art, the Sotheby’s CEO was quick to point to a growing trend.

“There are lots of different ways people are approaching this idea of collective ownership or fractional ownership,” said Stewart. “And absolutely I think that’s a powerful trend that we will see much more of during 2022.”

Because of the portability of NFTs, he explained, you can have an art exhibit in 40 unique locations at the same time or share an art piece you own a portion of with family and friends, unlike a physical piece that may be hard to transport.

Enter the Metaverse

Per the panel discussion, the question with NFTs seems to be not if they are going to transform digital ownership, but rather how quickly.

Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO of Indian media company Hungama, shared a few ways that the company has been doing so as well, as how the thinking around NFTs shapes the possibility space for their use.

“The entertainment is a big catalyst for the adoption of the metaverse,” said Roy, pointing to projects where NFT platforms can “give fans more” of “experiences money can’t buy,” like behind the scenes and walk-on roles made exclusively available for those who own part of an NFT.

While this concept has made a big splash in Bollywood, Roy believes the effect will be across every industry that does business online.

“As I look at the rise of Web3, one of the components we are seeing is this younger generation…[saying] ‘I want that privacy back.’ NFTs are just one manifestation of that.”

But with more data and digital delivery comes more responsibility to handle user and payment data ethically. And Caixabank’s Goirigolzarri raised a concern on many tech ethicists’ minds: the lack of morality in data.

“It has become clear that the automated use of algorithms without any human intervention can create biases,” said Goirigolzarri. “If they are not corrected, they can result in highly unfair situations.”

With increasing digital tracking and profile creation, some experts fear that the goal is not better customer experience, but the invasion of privacy. As these new technologies like the metaverse and NFTs proliferate, it will be on companies to use customer data ethically and appropriately.