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NFU and UNI Europa Finance host final conference in Fintech project

On May 10, Nordic Financial Unions and Uni Europa Finance, together with the University of Gothenburg hosted the final conference of the project How Fintech affects the financial sector and what the effects are on collective bargaining in the European financial sector (Project number VS/2020/0113) in Copenhagen. The day was a mix of different panel discussions of the challenges and opportunities Fintech pose for the finance sector and finance unions. The full project report, recording of the conference and earlier workshops can be found at www.fintechandtradeunions.com

The day kicked off with a presentation by Bertil Rolandsson, Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg, and one of the project researchers. The project has been ongoing for over two years and have involved researchers from Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Estonia. Focus has been on case studies and interviews with Fintech’s in all the case countries, establishing their impact on the labour markets.

One of the key questions in the report has been to see how the digital development has affected the finance sector, starting from the ideas of digital disruption. Disruption in established market relations and business models is challenging sectors and companies to rethink business as usual. However, this phenomenon is not new, as the digitalisation of our society has been going on for over fifty years. “How long can we talk about this development as something new?”, asked Bertil Rolandsson in his presentation of the project.

Within this development Fintech have been active actors and besides looking at their effects on the labour markets and industrial relations, the project has also discussed if these actors have been disrupting the market or rather have searched for cooperation.

Some of the conclusions of the report is that Fintech has been impacting the market but not in such a disruptive way as we might have thought. There has been competition but also a lot of cooperation between these new actors and traditional ones. We see signs of consolidation in the market.

Turning to the labour market, there are differences between the case countries where we see the first sign of organising in Scandinavia (The  collective agreement for Fintech signed by Finansforbundet and the employers organisation is a great example). However, there are challenges in organising, often linked with employees in Fintech knowing their value in the labour market and thus not needing to organise collectively.

“The digitalisation is driving the change – but not as disruptive as we thought”

Panel 1 – Discussion of national aspects of project report
Panellists:
Anna Ilsøe, Associate Professor, Employment Relations Research Centre, Copenhagen University Jaan Masso, Programme manager, University of Tartu Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Bengt Larsson, Professor of Sociology, Gothenburg University Faculty of Social Sciences, Paul Suilen, Business analyst, De Netherlandsche Bank
Moderated by Morten Clausen, Director of Financial Regulation, UNI Europa Finance

The first panel of the day was a panel with some of the national researchers of the project and a discussion on and comparison between the different case countries. The researchers presented key takeaways from the case countries and were asked to think about, if the project raised new questions and if there was something that stood out in their conducted interview rounds.

The development in Fintech has similarities to the platform economy: tech as changing power. Employees and customers are young. When they grow in size: more structure is needed. Expectations that digital companies maturing into structure to organise were expressed. Younger customers and employees want something else, and this is driving the development of the financial sector.

Labour scarcity of tech and digital skills are posing challenges for companies and proving useful for employees with these skills. Fintech wants legitimacy – when scaling up they act within the rules of the labour market. They need to be seen as legitimate on the labour market. Trade unions and employers’ associations must ask the question: What do Fintech’s need? Look at the Danish case where trade unions could identify office spaces as a need for smaller fintech start-ups. Trade unions must build relations. Works councils could be a good starting point for that relation.

There has been cooperation rather than disruption from Fintech in the sector. Similar development in all the case countries. Growing of organising in Fintech. Hubs, communities, etc. Anna Ilsoe underlined the finding, that the role of physical space has been so clear – the importance of offices and joint hubs and communities for knowledge sharing and finding collective views.

Finance companies need each other. There is a relation between Fintech and traditional actors. There are also challenges in the relationship – different tech infrastructure – not always long-term marriages. Mutual interest but with different views on tech make it difficult. Collaboration is key. Collaboration also with universities. The need for dialogue was stressed, and to keep open perspective on the ecological changes in the sector. Digitalisation is not disrupting, it’s evolutionary. We have looked a lot at companies, now we must focus on workers, continued Anna Ilsøe. Younger workers have new and other needs and perspectives. There is a lack of diversity in the Fintech sector.

Panel 2 – Social partners reflections on the project report and exploration of related initiatives
Panellists:
Massimo Mensi, Head of Department, UNI P&M Oliver Hauser, Gewerkschaftssekretär, Ver.di Thomas Krogh Jensen, CEO, Copenhagen Fintech Paolo Guidici, Professor of Statistics, University of Pavia
Moderated by Trine Pernille Larsen, Associate Professor, Employment Relations Research Centre, Copenhagen University

The second panel of the day focused on the social actor’s reaction on the results from the project report. In the panel there were representatives from Italy, Denmark and Germany, from both employee and employer perspectives.

This research has given ideas and incitements for new and more research in this area. There are even more differences when we look outside of northern Europe. We now need less talk and more action from trade unions. Collective bargaining is a tool but not the only one. There is a need for education and training in digital skills and knowledge.

When fintech grow there will not only be good jobs in these companies, also ‘boring’ jobs will be created. The trade unions need different approaches to Fintech based on their size. Small fintech’s live on investments and there should not be a focus on unionising but rather to help them grow. Focus on bigger companies in unionising and organising. Oliver Hauser, Trade union secretary at Ver.di stated that many workers don’t care which platform they work for, they are tech employees. The regulation pressure is what makes the finance sector differ from other sectors.

There are a lot of potential benefits with fintech in the finance sector. More opportunities for citizens, fairness, digital development of the whole finance sector. Trade unions can learn from the fintech’s and their younger employees and ways of working. Fintech’s are bringing creativity and motivation to the sector – they want to solve financial problems and challenges.

Panel 3 – Skills and talent, how to develop them and retain them
Panellists:
Diederik Bruggink (Head of Innovation and Payments, ESBG) Dr. hab. Renata Włoch, Scientific Director, Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw Petru Dandea, Secretary-General of National Trade Union Confederation Cartel ALFA Arne Fredrik Håstein, Vice-President, Finansforbundet Norway Maurice Jongmans, CEO, Payment Innovator
Moderated by Simon Jernberg, Policy Advisor, Nordic Financial Unions

“The key is to train the staff so that they can be on the train that is already moving”, said Arne Fredrik Håstein, Vice President of Finansforbundet, Norway, in his opening remarks. The third panel focused on skills and talent acquisition in the sector and how fintech and traditional actors are approaching the need for talent and how to retain them. The panel had a wide set up with representatives from academia, fintech companies, incumbent finance and trade unions.

Some of the key take aways from the panel was that there is a big lack of digital skills in Europe and among its citizens and that the need for talent and skills in the finance sector is a big challenge for all actors. The digitalisation of the finance sector has created a battle for talent between companies.

“Skills are easy if and only if a person has basic capabilities such as adaptability, flexibility, digital literacy – that is, knowing what you can do with technology”, said Renata Wloch, Scientific Director. University of Warsaw.

To tackle these issues there are a lot of things that needs to be done. There must be both initiatives to educate and upskill young people so they are competent for the needs and roles that the sector needs. It is also important that there are initiatives to reskill and make sure that employees can change jobs and if they lose their job they must be given the opportunities to re-skill. Trade unions have a large responsibility here and are taking a lot of initiatives to address this and to provide finance employees with these opportunities.

Fintech’s and traditional financial actors cooperate and are dependent on each other. This relationship is often a win-win situation. ”In the beginning it was hard to convince traditional companies that we were not by default a competitor”, stated Maurice Jongmans, CEO at Payment Innovator.

Finally, there were calls on the EU Commission to address the need for skills and training but also regulation and initiatives to foster innovation.

Panel 4 – The way forward, how the fintech sector will be organised in the future
Panellists:
Ella Sjödin, Director Policy and Public Affairs, Finansförbundet Louise Grabo, Secretary General, Swedish Fintech Association Peter Kerstens, Adviser on Technical Innovation and Cybersecurity, DG FISMA, European Commission Morten Holm Bundgaard, Senior Consultant, LL.M., The Danish employers’ association for the financial sector (FA)
Moderated by Carin Hallerström, Secretary General, Nordic Financial Unions

In the final panel of the day the theme was the way forward. In the panel there were representatives from the European Commission, trade unions, fintech associations and employers’ associations.

There was a discussion if there is a level playing field in the financial sector, starting from the point, that fintech believe, that they have a disadvantage in the market whilst traditional actors think Fintech has the advantage. The truth is somewhere in between. There is no level playing field. However, there are advantages and challenges for both small fintech’s and big financial institutions.

Fintech’s are providing broadly the same services as traditional finance, this creates more mobility in the sector. Fintech push innovation and they push traditional actors to innovate. This creates new needs for talent and digital skills in the whole sector.

It is difficult and expensive for Fintech’s to scale up, only a few become large companies. The real success stories are typically a group of friends from finance that join forces to solve a typical/specific financial challenge and their company is exclusively focusing on that.

More regulation and supervision from EU might bring fintech to leave EU. Trade unions need to develop knowledge of fintech and needs of employees. How can trade unions be more attractive for finance employees overall? There are the same  challenges within fintech and traditional finance – diversity and gender equality, skills and talents – trade unions can help fintech’s here.

The labour market in finance has become more mobile, employees are changing jobs at a higher rate and especially within fintech.

Fintechs act in a highly regulated sector compared to other tech sectors. The EU is aiming towards “Enabling regulation” – competitiveness is important to increase innovation. There has been a debate for decades in the EU on Stability vs competitiveness – there is always risks, but you need to enable opportunities more.

Europe entrepreneurs must be more daring, they do not think big enough. European companies have often better technical solutions than American, but they lack confident and business models. The most successful companies do not complain about regulation. “Innovate first – ask for permission later”

The conference was a great ending to the project as it was the first in-person event. The debates and discussions were lively and brought new insights to the project. The entrance of Fintech has truly changed the financial sector, but the development has been more positive than expected. Collaboration and cooperation is defining the relationship between Fintech and incumbents, and innovation is taking place also among the traditional actors.

Collaboration and cooperation are also key for trade unions when approaching Fintech. These companies are challenging the understanding of financial employees and business models in the sector. Trade unions must increase their knowledge and understanding of this change to be able to organise in the sector. Cooperation with Fintech associations and employers’ associations are important.

NFU and Uni Europa Finance would like to express a big thank you to all the researchers of the project and especially to Bengt Larsson and Bertil Rolandsson for coordinating the research.

The project reports, recording of the conference and earlier workshop are now able at www.fintechandtradeunions.com

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NFU and UNI Europa Finance host final conference in Fintech project

On May 10, Nordic Financial Unions and Uni Europa Finance, together with the University of Gothenburg hosted the final conference of the project How Fintech affects the financial sector and what the effects are on collective bargaining in the European financial sector in Copenhagen. The day was a mix of different panel discussions of the challenges and opportunities Fintech pose for the finance sector and finance unions.
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