October 2016

Deutsche Bank's Michael Spiegel, head of Trade Finance and Cash Management Corporates within Global Transaction Banking, has long talked of the “inflection point” in the industry, so it was perhaps appropriate that the theme of Eurofinance 2016 in Vienna was Treasury at the Tipping Point.

There were many reasons to assume that the world is at something of a crossroads on a much broader scale.

Spiegel and his management team used Eurofinance as an opportunity to underline Deutsche Bank’s position at the centre of the Services industry. This was emphasised by the Bank launching another research paper in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit, Managing Risk in Challenging Economic Times, which confirmed treasurers are concerned about global growth prospects, among other things.

Eurofinance was staged against widespread worries about the global economy and anxiety over the  European banking sector. The industry, generally, is going through a period of disruption, some of it driven by the growing FinTech sector. In the past the FinTechs and banks seemed to be potential combatants, but there has been something of a shift in attitudes. Both now see each other more as partners working with each other for the good of the market and customers. Increasingly, banks are allocating resources to digitalisation and collaboration. This was very evident at Eurofinance, with banks – including Deutsche Bank -  talking of their exploratory projects on complex issues like Blockchain. Moreover, both sides now see relationships as mutually beneficial – the FinTechs want scale and the banks crave the innovative spirit of the nimble FinTechs.

But while it was easy to applaud these vows of union, Eurofinance emphasised that the bigger picture is also changing. It was difficult not to be impressed by Dr Ian Goldin of Oxford University, for example, as he spoke of Renaissance 2.0, while other presenters also hinted at a world of mass automation that may bring political and economic problems with it. Not even the experts know where the new jobs will come from in the future.

With the conference in the heart of old Europe, it was also disconcerting to hear of the declining influence of the continent. Certainly, the session by Yanis Varoufakis, former Minister of Finance for Greece, with his comments about the European Union, fears over Brexit and dark warnings about the future left you in no doubt that Europe has challenges that may take decades to solve. There was further evidence of Europe’s diminished role in the demographic statistics from one lengthy session on the elements that are shaping the future. Of all the continents, the US has the healthiest demographic, thanks to immigration.

Eurofinance came to a close with Deutsche Bank’s traditional client event that also allowed Spiegel to welcome and introduce the new head of Global Transaction Banking, John Gibbons, who wasted no time in interacting with clients.

Spiegel concluded with some strong messages about the Bank’s financial strength and commitment to transaction banking. “We have well publicised challenges, but I am very confident in the future of our organisation,” he said.

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