What are the characteristics of a concierge? Think lots of knowledge, a vast network, and a good sense of understanding the client’s wishes. Switzerland now has such a service: It’s called the Swiss Financial Innovation Desk, also known as FIND, established in 2023. In this month’s finance.swiss, Tanya König meets the head of FIND, Eva Selamlar, to better understand how she wants to provide concierge service that will act as a catalyst for financial innovation—and what the KPIs will be.
What exactly is the mandate of the Swiss Financial Innovation Desk?
It consists basically of a mission statement, which is threefold. First, linking innovation projects with research, with investors, with authorities, both on a national and international level. Second, to facilitate the exchange between the relevant stakeholders. And third, wherever FIND then sees the problems and issues, to make propositions to tackle those and to enhance the frameworks.
Switzerland already has a very vibrant financial industry and innovation acceleration programs, such as Switzerland Global Enterprise or Innosuisse, to name just two. What added value do you bring to the table?
There are indeed already a lot of players, and my motto is not to copy but to contribute. And to really assume a bracketing function that is really missed today. So to play this missing link between the existing players and facilitate the exchange and really work and focus toward the solutions. And obviously to also find or identify the blind spots that are there and to eliminate them.
Now, you want to fill the gap being a missing link—how exactly are you doing that? Are you already in touch with any of these programs?
We are. In the stakeholder mapping, I’ve already reached out to many of those. And there will be a systematic collaboration going forward. One example is Innosuisse, which does a great job, which has a lot of start-ups that it takes on and supports and coaches. Interestingly enough there are not a lot of fintechs. So my job will be —together with my team— to vamp up the pipeline and to build the bridge between the ecosystem and the start-up scene, academia, with Innosuisse when it comes to fintechs.
You say you want to provide concierge services. In what sense? Give listeners a couple of examples on how you want to help the industry?
Well, first of all, let’s just take a minute and focus on what a concierge really does. A concierge is resourceful, facilitates, focuses on a problem, on a customer, and overperforms ultimately. So this is exactly what I want to do together with my team. We want to be really out there, close to the customer, the stakeholders, know where the problems are, and also know what the developments are on an international level—what international rules will be hitting Switzerland in the next couple of years — so that no one is caught off guard. We also want to have an eye on the competition and we want to be just mindful of what’s going on and ultimately look fact-based. How many start-ups are there? And how many green fintechs are there? And then to really focus
our efforts to that end that we can increase those numbers and enhance the ecosystem.
Switzerland’s government is well known for its laissez-faire approach. Will the government now take a more hands-on approach with the establishment of FIND?
It will not change the current approach. So it continues to be the market that drives financial innovation by market demands. But what FIND will do is to really focus on the conditions. So is the Swiss government doing anything, are authorities doing anything that is needed to have an optimal framework and have optimal conditions so that the market can do what it does best to create financial innovation and solve problems and serve customers?
What are the KPIs of FIND and how are they measured?
There are quantitative and qualitative KPIs. There are long-term and short-term KPIs. We will have to be very mindful to pick the right KPIs, the ones that we have an actual control over, really measuring our performance and our impact. So again, taking the example of a concierge at a hotel: How many customers are in the hotel? How many start-ups do we have in Switzerland? How long does it take for a customer to book the stay? So translating that to the FIND work: What’s the time to market? How long does it take to get a license? Is it clear how to get a license? Is the information readily available? Another example: the rankings. Hotels, as we all know, really differentiate themselves by rankings. So everyone goes on Booking or similar platforms, picks the hotels obviously according to the rankings. Again, the Financial Innovation Desk will also look at the rankings that are out there—there are several—and really analyze them and see which element is there that we have control over and then deliver on those elements and try to have an impact there.
Besides offering concierge services you will also proactively organize events, such as the Swiss Hacks this year. This will take place just ahead of Point Zero Forum, where regulators, central bankers, and industry leaders from around the world are coming together in Zurich. How does it work? What’s the idea behind it?
Well, maybe not everyone knows what a hackathon is. So this is just a great format to bring the ecosystem together and to have talented people come, motivated people, not only students, but also people that work in start-ups or existing financial institutions like pension funds, banks, insurance carriers. They come together for 48 hours, and they devote their time to several problems. And those five problems —called challenges— will be around data sharing, cybersecurity, green fintech, sustainable finance, embedded finance. And so 150 talented people will come and work on solutions to actual problems.
And what was the motivation to do that?
The motivation is to really let Switzerland shine and let the Swiss fintech ecosystem shine. We have everything that it takes for a strong financial center: We have talent, we have capital, we have the regulatory framework, we have stable conditions. And so the motivation is really to deliver on the mission statement of FIND with this.
Eva, I guess if anyone is interested they can just reach out to you?
Absolutely! You will find me online, and I’ll be more than happy to help.