On October 13th, LebNet, LIFE and the Lebanese Canadian Tech Hub organized the Lebanese Fintech Global Conference at the CEIM (Center for Enterprise and Innovation of Montreal).

The conference, which was attended by 70 people, discussed the fintech ecosystem, future trends, the main tech players and how they are transforming the banking sector with AI and blockchain potential opportunities among other topics.

The morning sessions featured Alexandre Harkous, founder and executive chairman of OneWealthPlace, a digital platform for assets and wealth managers. Harkous, who has 20 years of experience in the finance industry and has sold two software publishing companies to leading industry players, shared his success story with the audience. The talk was followed by another presentation given by Gerard Rafie on the role of artificial intelligence in fintech and a presentation on blockchain uses and limitations by Dr. Nicholas Khabaz, founder and CEO of HedgeSight, a fintech company that provides a blockchain ready, end-to-end portfolio rebalancing solution for hedge fund investors.

The afternoon started with keynote speaker Stephanie Choo, partner at Portag3 Ventures who detailed the global Fintech landscape and related investment dynamics and then the conference ended with a content rich panel moderated by Rania Afiouni Monla and featured Joseph Fakhri, Antoine Azar, Joseph El Sayegh. Bassem Monla, and Mike Merdinian.

The conversations and discussions were highly engaging. For those who missed the event, we have compiled for you a list of inspiring quotes and insights from speakers and attendees.

Alexandre Harkous

Data is the new oil. [We need] massive data today to create new value.

Why I am an entrepreneur? I had no choice, I am lebanese, it’s in the genes. We all left Lebanon to be successful. If you have an opportunity to work for a startup, don’t hesitate. [It’s a] great learning experience before you start something on your own. Suffer as an entrepreneur, it’s good from time to time.

My dream is to create a success story in Beirut now.

Gerard Rafie

If you ask a head of a bank: what keeps you awake at night [they will answer]: Cost, regulation, profitability

Technology in banks is for cost reduction. That’s it.

Regulation on data in banking will never end, more keeps coming. The biggest investment in banking will be in AI to manage the data. AI can make autonomous decisions: that’s the beauty of it and the danger of it. AI should not automatically trade, just provide insight and suggested picks. At the end of the day, trading is about guts and until AI gets guts, humans will trade. I can see AI and blockchain converging in the future to create the best secured distributed data storage easily accessible by AI tools

Stephanie Choo – early stage investor at Portag3 Ventures

The confluence of activity in fintech (tech transformation, incumbents at a crossroads and regulatory tailwind in banking) has made this area very exciting and very well capitalized players [are] emerging. [It’s a] good time to be a fintech entrepreneur these days.

[We still have] a few more areas to solve: who becomes the consolidator of all financial services for a client? In M&A, how to integrate acquisitions into larger incumbent? How will big tech enter in fintech: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook.

Having expertise in the regulatory space is very important for entrepreneurs. Fintech requires time and significant capital at the early stage to scale. In fintech, [you] need an ecosystem approach to win

Dr Nicholas Khabbaz

95 percent of blockchain’s proof of concepts in the financial banking sector have failed to date.[He then spoke about a methodology to mitigate risk of failure]

Mike Merdinian – blockchain instructor at McGill University School of Continuing Studies

Blockchain is leveraging known technologies dating back to 1962 to create a new industry of ‘Trust’. The challenges are the lack of talent, regulatory, jurisdiction of various regions and people still don’t trust [it]. Blockchain is not Ketchup: you can’t use it everywhere.

Joseph Fakhri – president and CEO of Axiom Innovations

Blockchain is putting tremendous pressure on ‘cost’ in the financial industry

Joseph El Sayegh – president and CEO of SCOR Canada Reinsurance Company

Insurance companies are more geared to take risk than banks

Antoine Azar – co-founder and CTO of Thirdshelf

Quebec is extremely well positioned for fintech & AI talent.