In conversation with Matt Gamser, CEO, SME Finance Forum

Matt Gamser, CEO, SME Finance Forum

August 23, 2017 – This is the first of a series of short interviews with some of the influencers FinTechStage is bringing to BAI Beacon 2017 as part of our renewed strategic alliance.

We kick off this series with Matthew Gamser, CEO of the SME Finance Forum. Matt is a regular FinTechStage speaker thanks to his broad knowledge, charismatic persona, and extensive network. There is never a dull moment while working with Matt.

Hi Matt, second year at BAI with FinTechStage, what do you think sets this conference apart? 

As a FinTechStage, it’s the only one that’s part of a much larger event…while in Jakarta we had multiple agendas, FinTechStage was probably the largest event…in Chicago we were dwarfed by the other BAI goings-on.  At the same time, that meant that we had all sorts of people we normally could not have attracted to FinTechStage, who took part, which was stimulating both for them and for us from the speaking side.

This year you are going to moderate a hell of a panel with some great speakers, what would you like to get out of it? If the conversation takes one specific topic, which would you like it to be? 

I am really not sure how far AI takes us beyond what we can do when we do more conventional analysis of SME clients for whom we get good quality, real time transactional data.  But I suspect there are things that AI can do, because of its ability to see patterns, rather than our present way of guessing correlations and then having to confirm ex-post.  And with the great panelists I have, I’m sure I’m going to learn new things in this regard!

The SME Finance Forum works to expand access to finance for small and medium businesses. You are doing this worldwide, what are the main differences you have encountered in the US compared to Europe and the rest of the world? 

Well, perhaps it’s more surprising how little is relevant only to “advanced” markets like the US and Europe nowadays, and how much multi-directional learning is occurring, such as “south to north”, as opposed to “north to south”, in the old, Western-biased jargon!  Historically, the US has had more data available on small firms that was shared to credit bureaus and other places, even than Europe.  This led to some innovative banks like Wells Fargo pioneering data-driven approaches from the early 90s, when in Europe the big banks were “pooh poohing” all this, and in the rest of the world it just couldn’t be done, as the data wasn’t there.  Today everyone who wants to excel in SME finance is after data, and the biggest players emerging who possess it aren’t dominated by one country or region – in the US this includes Amazon, PayPal, Google and Facebook, but they are facing formidable challenges by the likes of Alibaba, TenCent, Baidu, FlipKart, PayTM, mPESA, etc… the one thing you may notice is that NONE of these, though, comes from EU.  This may be one reason EU competition commissioners have some justification about anti-competitive risks from Google, etc…  can we look one day to Klarna and others in this space?  Maybe, but they are far from it right now.

 One thing’s for sure, the SME Finance Forum is going to be the place to be for those keenest on this topic.  We are now over 130 banks, fintechs and development banks from 50+ countries and growing, even though we’re less than 2 years old… 



Matthew Gamser is CEO of the SME Finance Forum, a center for knowledge exchange, good practice promotion and networking for the finance industry, managed by IFC for the G-20 countries’ Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion.  The SME Finance Forum today has over 130 banks, fintech companies and development banks from 50+ countries as members.  Mr. Gamser has over 35 years’ experience in private enterprise and financial sector development.  He has worked with commercial banks and non-bank financial institutions in broadening and deepening services to households and enterprises previously lacking formal finance.  He has worked with governments and policy-makers on improving the enabling environment and infrastructure for financial sector development, with a focus on financial inclusion and on the role of the financial sector in mitigating the effects of climate change.  He has worked for IFC for over 11 years in various positions from Washington, DC, and Hong Kong.   He holds A.B. and A.M. degrees from Harvard University, and M.Sc. and D.Phil degrees from Sussex University (UK), where his work focused on the management of technological change.


Matthew Gamser will be moderating the panel session De-risking Business Banking Lending through AI at BAI Beacon Atlanta 2017 on October 5th at the Georgia World Congress Center. Take a look at the Agenda and find which other panels and keynotes are of your interest!