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Track: Growing Unicorns in the EU: Building, Leading and Scaling Financial Tech Start Ups

Location: Whittle, 3rd flr.

Day of week:

The UK & EU FinTech sector continues to go from strength to strength. The start-ups are now scale-ups, and many of the scale-ups are unicorns. Banks that didn't exist a few years ago have millions of customers and thousands of employees, and they run tech they've designed and built from scratch. We'll explore the architectural and organisational challenges these pioneers are facing as they change up through the gears and alter the face of finance across the UK and the EU.

Track Host: Greg Hawkins

Former Chief Technology Officer @starlingbank

Greg Hawkins is an independent consultant on tech, fintech, cloud and devops and advisor to banks in the UK and Australia. He was CTO of mobile challenger Starling Bank from 2016-2018, during which the fintech start-up acquired a banking licence and went from zero to smashing through the 100K download mark on both mobile platforms. He remains a senior advisor to Starling Bank today. Starling built full-stack banking systems from scratch, became the first publicly available cloud-based current account in the UK and the first UK bank with PSD2-capable open APIs and was voted Best British Bank and Best British Current Account in 2018.

10:35am - 11:25am

Applying Machine Learning to Financial Payments

This presentation discusses how Machine Learning can be applied to Payments to respond rapidly to known and emerging patterns of fraud, and to detect patterns of fraud that may not otherwise be identified.  It will cover techniques that have been used and are emerging in fraud detection including rule-based techniques, supervised learning and unsupervised learning. The presentation includes a demonstration using TensorFlow to detect fraud. This will illustrate the process of preparing training and test data, learning and then applying the model to generate potential fraud events.  We’ll also explore potential issues including data bias and mitigating approaches.  

Objective of the talk:

Develop an understanding of how machine learning can be implemented to detect fraud in payments, gain knowledge on how Machine Learning can detect patterns that indicate fraudulent transactions, learn how data is prepared to train an artificial Neural Network  

Required audience experience:

Basic familiarity with machine learning is helpful, but not required

Tamsin Crossland, Senior Architect @iconsolutions

11:50am - 12:40pm

Rampant Pragmatism: Growth and Change at Starling Bank

Dan and Martin joined a tiny team at Starling Bank in early 2016 tasked with building a bank from scratch. In hindsight that was probably the easy bit. Today as engineering leads we aim to bring just enough structure to the organisation as it grows, while keeping alive that early spirit of creativity, adventure and ownership.    

When you’re suddenly doing things you always assumed were for worrying about later - expanding from mobile-only personal banking to deliver online banking, business banking, euro and dollar accounts - how do you bring that confidence of youth into maturity?    

The answer lies in our technology, our architecture and our approach to data. We will touch on relational theory, functional relational programming and self contained systems; explain our approach to complexity; and show how they inform the design of many parts of our system, including the ledger and our web stack.

Daniel Osborne, Web Technology Practice Lead @StarlingBank
Martin Dow, Engineering Lead for Core Banking @StarlingBank

1:40pm - 2:30pm

Scaling N26 Technology Through Hypergrowth

N26 is a mobile-first bank which was recently listed as the number one startup in Germany and one of the world's most valuable FinTechs. I joined the company 3 years ago, when it had less than 100 employees. Now there are over 1500 people working across 5 different locations. I will share my experience at N26, where I have led 3 different teams. A lot can happen in 3 years, especially during the time of hypergrowth. I will talk about the problems we (as engineers and tech leads) faced, the solutions that worked well and those which did not and how our technology adapted to demands of increasing scale and complexity.

Folger Fonseca, Software Engineer and Tech Lead @N26

2:55pm - 3:45pm

Microservices for Growth at have been running Kubernetes in production for over two years. But the journey has not always been straightforward. Most real stories of growth involve several generations of architecture, repeated accruals and repayments of technical debt, piling up of layers of technology that reflect the evolving outlook of the organisation over time and ComparetheMarket is no different.

Kenichi and Adam will explain how they took this technology landscape through the adoption of Microservices in the creation of Comparison as a Service, one of the core pillars of the user journey today. They’ll describe the history, the challenges and the lessons learned and explain pitfalls to avoid when building a high growth popular service. They will also go through PaaS and the necessity of building platforms in order to scale microservices efficiently. Finally how these technologies evolved together with internal processes whilst adopting newer technologies to solve differentiated business problems

Kenichi Shibata, Cloud Native Architect @comparethemkt
Adam Stewart, Solution Architect @comparethemkt

4:10pm - 5:00pm

Modern Banking in 1500 Microservices

Monzo runs over 1,500 microservices in production and that number continues to grow. Each has a single responsibility and well defined interfaces. It takes many, many distinct pieces of functionality to run a modern banking backend.  

This talk will explain how we build, operate, observe and maintain our banking infrastructure. We’ll talk about how we compose microservices to add new functionality. We will discuss Monzo’s review culture, deployment and incident tooling, monitoring practices and how we share knowledge effectively. All of this plays a significant role in allowing Monzo to deploy new features safely hundreds of times a day.

Matt Heath, Senior Staff Engineer @Monzo
Suhail Patel, Backend Engineer @Monzo


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