It is the shortest day of the year and it feels a bit like Christmas is coming early this year. You might expect celebrations of the feast of light starting early, but actually the Netherlands are back in full lock-down, stores and any kind of leisure or entertainment closed, it feels like a sad road up to the holidays. What a way to end the year that was so full of expectations, after the big Covid shock in 2020. But not all was bad and there is hope for a very good 2022!
So let’s look back at what 2021 did bring us, and ahead to a beautiful 2022.
At the turn of the year Holland Fintech became an association and installed a brand new association board. Since 2014, we have been working for the fintech ecosystem like an association, but the governance was not final yet. And much thanks to support from our advisory board, we were able to smoothly enter into this great new chapter of Holland Fintech. The new association board was full of ambition, so the year was ready for a fabulous start. Especially with the vaccinations ramping up; what could be in the way?
As we started out, we still had to swallow some uncertainty and restrictions, but that all looked temporary. For Holland Fintech it meant doing our meetups and events fully online, and even organizing one of our landmark events Amsterdam Fintech Week fully online in June. We of course would rather have brought everyone together physically, but we made it work, and it was a great success! With the opening by HM Queen Maxima – in her role as UNSGSA for financial inclusion – as one of the key highlights. It was a full week of events with approximately 68 sessions, and over 500 attendees, so we were able to meet a need in the industry and create the right settings to do this digitally.
As a result, online was beginning to feel more like a domain we needed to foster and grow in combination with our physical events and meetings. We also focused more on online content, like our PSD2 and AMLD5 guide and other online resources. We are very proud of the collaboration with our members on these projects. These tools are very useful and engaging, and of course our hopes were high for getting people together and taking these topics to a live discussion.
After the summer holiday period, we launched a new vacancy platform, to support members in their recruitment efforts. Also the country was opening up and even though our first general assembly as an association still had to take place virtually, it looked like a close turn of events for physical events. Hospitals were gaining some breathing ground, measures were slacking, and everyone was ready for business as usual. It was almost like everyone awoke from a long winter sleep.
This all culminated in a joyful state of people when they actually were able to get together, for instance at Money20/20 Europe, in Amsterdam. The event was a blast regardless of a tuned down program and less visitors. People were really happy to see each other again and connect. Conversations particularly seemed to be more social than business oriented because of it, but nonetheless, the business appetite was definitely there.
September and October hence proved to be two happy months of sparking many new business initiatives. I have never seen my mailbox and LinkedIn messages piling up so fast. And in the meanwhile, we were busy rolling out our ambitious working program, empowering our members to connect, engage and learn from each other, through 15 peer groups and several working groups on strategic themes. It has been quite a ride to launch all these in one quarter, but our team did a great job achieving it and the new program was very much welcomed by our members.
At the same time, we kept on working on our tools and formats to support the online engagement in our network and during events. That paid off in the launch of our new Member portal, where we allow all members to connect with other members, interact within their peer group and or address topics publicly. Going to events, sharing content, initiating projects and socializing have never been easier. With Omicron becoming more dominant, it might actually prove to be more necessary than ever…
And so 2022 starts… The enthusiasm has been curbed somewhat: new restrictions, supply chain hiccups, inflation, interest rates rising, stocks falling, crypto in uncertainty. But what did we expect? That Covid would disappear suddenly? And we would live happily ever after? We were of course hopeful for better times, but we just have to bear some patience. Things will get better, they just never do so in a linear way. And while health concerns, severe illness, loss of lives, too much pressure on healthcare and serious personal financial challenges due to measures or other impact, are very real, many people are dealing with inconvenience rather than anything else. That might still be hard, but we will be able to get through this.
I am very keen on exploring the new year, whatever rollercoaster it will prove to be. We are very much focused on supporting our member community, to let more fintech companies start, support scaling, as well as digital transformation of incumbent players. ESG, financial crime, data governance and open finance are some topics on top of the list of things to work on next year, together with experts, founders, investors, regulators, universities and all other stakeholders. Our work has been pretty tough over the past 1,5 years, but that also strengthens us for a challenging future. Bring it on!
Much thanks go out to my team at Holland Fintech: Esther, Wyndham, Rolf, Andrii, Michael, Sandy, Robert, Onno, Jochem, Menno and the Association board: Douwe, Andre, Marcel, Harrie, Hessel, Fleur, Angelique, and advisory board: Dimmes, Ronald, Conny, and Annemieke, and of course the members of Holland Fintech, for all the collaborative hard work, advice and general support over the years and last year!
For now I leave you with the best holiday wishes: stay healthy – and keep up the good spirit!
PS. Our program 2022 will be announced soon. Don’t want to miss it? Sign up to our newsletter.