On January 24th -26th, 2024, over 800 Fintech leaders worldwide will convene at the second annual Fintech Islands Experience conference at the magnificent new Sam Lord’s Castle Resort. The members of this diverse global community – startup founders, venture capitalists, bank executives, technology vendors, financial regulators, and more – align around a shared mission to leverage emerging technologies to create a more efficient, inclusive, and sustainable economic system. But why have they chosen this venue on the small island nation of Barbados as the place to cultivate partnerships, share insights and build financial technology businesses?
There are many reasons, starting with the bold leadership of The Honorable Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. The delicate balancing act for financial regulators in every global jurisdiction is protecting the vulnerable while also fostering innovation that stimulates economic growth and opportunity. In this regard, Prime Minister Mottley sets a remarkable example. In her keynote address at the inaugural Fintech Islands conference in October 2022, Mottley espoused an insightful approach to regulation that weighs whether each emerging financial solution serves the public purpose while avoiding public mischief and discrimination. “It is in the principles-based approach that we find what is fair to you [the Fintech industry] and what is fair to those with whom you are seeking to serve.”
Barbados is asserting itself globally as an impactful catalyst for the Fintech revolution. As Fintech leaders from around the globe convene at Sam Lord’s Castle later this year, much is at stake for the participating businesses and investors, the consumers impacted by Fintech innovations, and the governments seeking to balance economic opportunity with protecting their citizens. The 2022 Financial Services Global Market Report estimates that there was over USD 25 billion worth of the global financial services market, growing at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 10% to over USD 37 billion by 2026.
In addition to regulatory environments that provide a sandbox for Fintech experimentation, the Caribbean and Atlantic also present a receptive market for Fintech companies to establish themselves and expand globally. Across a total population of 45 million people, about two-thirds of Caribbean citizens are unbanked, meaning they are predominantly cash-based. Thus it is critical to the region’s economic future to introduce innovative financial solutions that help overcome cultural and historical barriers to transition from legacy methods and spur the adoption of digital tools.
The Fintech opportunity is wider than the Caribbean region. Fintech is a worldwide movement based on strategic partnerships and international connectivity of the Caribbean, both culturally and economically. In addition to the global intersections in the region created by tourism, there is a robust Caribbean Diaspora, making the Diaspora a valuable untapped potential resource for economic development.
Fintech is a broad space that addresses a diverse range of issues. Topics such as open banking and finance, digital currencies, climate and sustainability, and financial inclusion have unique relevance in the Caribbean and impact global geographies. For example, a central banker in Africa or LATAM can learn and benefit from insights from Central Bank Digital Currency experiments by various Caribbean central banks. The relatively small size of the market, combined with a willingness to be global first-movers to test new financial innovations, make the Caribbean an important Fintech catalyst.
With its dynamic leadership and gateway access to the world, Barbados has a unique opportunity at this pivotal moment in the Caribbean’s Fintech revolution to become the hub for the region propelling the blue and green industries towards a better economy.
Allison Hunte is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fintech Islands, the first global Fintech conference in the Caribbean and Atlantic. She is also the Co-Founder of Headline Entertainment, the Caribbean most prominent full-service entertainment agency. Allison holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Howard University, where she developed a passion for the music business and entrepreneurship. With over 25 years of success in live events and project management, Hunte is responsible for The Barbados Reggae Festival, Hennessy Artistry, Taste the Islands, and a host of large-scale live events across the Caribbean and South Florida.
Andrew Morris is a Principal and the Chief Content Officer at Fintech Islands. He is also the founder and CEO of The Fintech Agenda LLC, an Atlanta-based consultancy working with clients to curate content and build events and communities in the Fintech space. From 2014 through 2019, Andrew served as the first Chief Content Officer for the Money20/20 conferences, helping to build the largest and most influential Fintech events globally, including successful editions in the United States (Las Vegas), Europe (Amsterdam) and Asia (Singapore).