An interview with Patrick Gutmann, Managing Director, Banks, Institutions and Governments at MFS Africa
Fintech has played a vital role in driving economic participation, financial inclusion and creating smoother pathways for the movement of money and services. But what comes next? The European spoke to Patrick Gutmann – who recently joined pan-African fintech company MFS Africa – about the next phase in the sector’s development.
You have spent the majority of your career working in traditional banking. What attracted you to a fintech like MFS Africa?
Patrick Gutmann: The world of payments is evolving rapidly and MFS Africa is playing a pivotal role in driving that change. While I have worked in the payments industry for a number of years, my previous positions have been in a more traditional setting, such as commercial banks. Given the financial movement taking place across Africa and the rest of the world, I’m keen to be at the forefront of this change and bring my experience to a business that is using technology to create new possibilities in financial services. MFS Africa’s mission to use finance and technology to help unlock the opportunity of growth is very motivating for me. This is such a dynamic space and I’m excited to join at this stage in MFS Africa’s story.
What part does London have to play in MFS Africa’s overall global strategy?
To the HSBCs and the RBSs of the world, which have histories that stretch back at least a century, MFS Africa might appear to be in its infancy. But in the context of the fintech scene, MFS Africa is no longer an emerging startup – we hit the decade mark last year, a moment that encapsulates many years of growth. The business has firmly established its position in the African fintech ecosystem, with over 200 million mobile wallets on the continent connected to its network. And like any business, with such growth comes a new chapter. For MFS Africa, this means further global expansion and the opening of a London HQ.
London is regarded by many as the world’s financial capital. Its financial institutions set the tone for how organisations approach corporate governance and regulatory issues, and culturally it is a hotbed of financial innovation. MFS Africa’s presence in London will enable us to set the benchmark in how we run our business – a gold standard for finance – and allows us to tap into a varied network of talent who can bring a new perspective to MFS Africa.
The fintech industry is evolving rapidly. What do you think should be its biggest priorities in the decade ahead?
It’s not just MFS Africa reaching the next stage of growth – the entire fintech sector is moving from adolescence into adulthood. What once seemed like novel ways of doing finance became mainstream and the sector’s most prominent players have begun to hit critical mass. As we look ahead, what we’ll begin to see from the fintech industry is a shift in emphasis from the tech side of the business to the financial side – in essence, putting the “fin” back in to fintech.
At the start of their journeys, the biggest obstacles facing many fintechs was attaining scale and adoption at speed. This didn’t just mean rapidly getting new customers and proving product-market fit – but about creating the technological infrastructure that would underpin their innovative services and ensuring they worked smoothly for customers and partners around the world. The challenges that fintechs faced were mostly related to technology, which has defined the last decade. And, while we will still continue to see bounds of innovation for years to come, there’s a new opportunity that will see the fintech industry begin to use their scale and adoption to develop new financial services that will change the financial services forever.
How does MFS Africa work with traditional banks?
We approach banks with a consultative mindset, seeking to understand their specific needs and working together to address them. In general, there are three primary ways in which we do this:
First, we provide banks with access to our network, connecting them to over 200 million mobile wallets across over 30 African markets. Integrating with the MFS Africa Hub provides a rapid, seamless, and inexpensive way to gain access to this network. Through this integration, banks can provide interoperability amongst their own subsidiaries without having to build this themselves.
Second, following our acquisition of digital payments provider Beyonic last summer, we also provide banks with access to the Beyonic platform. This enables them to enhance their own offering to SMEs.
And finally, we are currently in the process of extending our treasury and forex services to banks, both as a customer and as a local supplier of forex solutions, further expanding our relationship with banks into other services.
As they mature, it’s important that fintechs work with banks to create new possibilities in financial services and I’m excited to see where we can take the sector over the next decade of MFS Africa.