Traditional banks and fintechs are no longer worlds apart, says Roisin Levine, head of UK and Europe partnerships at Wise.
Roisin Levine of Wise decided to embark on a career in fintech “as it’s at the forefront of innovation”. She has certainly seen a lot of changes in the industry since she started out, and she likes working in a sector that is changing with technology and society. Her working day typically starts with coffee and a scan of the morning papers for breaking fintech news.
Currently, she is head of UK and Europe partnerships at Wise, a Belgium-incorporated, London headquartered financial services company that specialises in cross-border payments. “No day is the same and there is always something new to learn,” says Levine. “It’s fascinating seeing the sector evolve and increasingly deliver better financial products for millions of people.”
Her job is fast-paced, she says, and her time is largely spent speaking to people in the financial world about Wise’s services. “My job therefore involves meeting with a lot of people across the industry and talking with a broad range of prospects to understand their cross-border payment needs. I work mainly with banks and fintechs across Europe, helping them leverage the payment infrastructure that Wise has spent over a decade building.”
The prospective partners she meets can range from leaders of emerging fintech start-ups to people from established banks. To the latter group, Levine explains how they can “end their reliance on the traditional SWIFT network” and improve their cross-border offering. The fact that legacy banks are turning to the likes of Wise to better cater to the technological challenges arising from non-traditional banking methods is a relatively new development, she says.
“When I first started in fintech, the idea of large, traditional banks partnering with fintechs was still novel. The two were worlds apart and largely defined each other as competition. However, there has been a real change in the industry – so today, partnerships are common.
“Banks realise that they have to provide so many services to so many different types of customers that they will never be able to specialise and quickly adapt in the way fintechs can. Meanwhile, fintechs have realised that banks provide great scale and experience. By working together, banks and fintechs can offer customers far better services,” Levine believes.
Wise has more than 60 partners globally such as Bank Mandiri, Shinhan Bank and Monzo. Many of these partners integrate Wise’s tech to provide the international payment features their customers now demand.
As well as working with external partners, Levine collaborates closely with a lot of different internal teams at Wise, from legal and compliance to marketing and product. Of all the trends in the fintech space, she says she is most excited by the scope for partnerships. “It’s a change in mindset and something that holds a lot of potential for the industry.” She is also noticing tech trends like AI and its impact on the scene, particularly in terms of tightening services and security. Wise uses machine learning to automate some of its systems, she explains.
“But perhaps the most important trend is how fintech is perceived. Fintech providers are now seen as ‘mainstream’. Ireland has led the way here, with the widespread adoption of neobank providers. And this is a trend that’s carrying across age groups.”
There is room for improvement, however. “The wider financial sector needs more transparency,” for starters. “It is still tough for consumers to easily understand and compare the market. For example, many international payment providers hide their markups in the exchange rate. But the issue goes beyond international payments. Take interest rates. It’s hard for customers to understand which accounts pay an interest rate, let alone a fair one – meaning they’re losing money.”
But Levine is hopeful that new ways of thinking about financial services can have a positive effect on the overall sector. “Fintech can enable you to work on services that really help people and make the financial sector fairer,” she says.
She adds that it is becoming a more “inclusive” sector to work in. “Traditionally, certain roles have been very male-dominated. Engineering, in particular. But businesses know this needs to change. At Wise, we run WiseWomenCode, which aims to help women into the sector.”
“There are so many different types of people, roles and businesses within the fintech sector, meaning that is a huge amount of flexibility and opportunity for anyone looking to enter the sector. Whether you have a background at a big bank, a marketing agency, or in customer service – you can find a role.”
Her advice for anyone thinking of following in her footsteps to work in fintech? “Go for it.”
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