Every year more and more events focused on the fintech industry are appearing.
In 2015 alone there have been umpteen showcase occasions focused around finance, innovation and the technological challenge to the banking industry.
From Finnovate Europe in early February and Finnovate Spring in May, to the whirligig of Fintech Week in September and the upcoming Fintechtonic Awards in December, the landscape has become busier than ever.
And there’s no sign yet that fintech’s rise is slowing down.
In fact, the sector looks to be increasing across the world. Whilst London may have reached record highs for fintech investment, securing around 75% of the $2.2bn raised by UK firms since January. According to Accenture’s new report investments in financial technology in Asia Pacific are set to quadruple in 2015. This estimate comes from the fact fintech investment has hit $3.5bn, up from $880m throughout 2014. The report also revealed that 40% of these investments were in payment innovations, and 25% in lending.
The monumental surge of interest, development and use of fintech is evident. Consider Money 20/20, the annual financial services conference held in Las Vegas in October: numbers of attendees have soared from 2300 to 10,000 in just four years, from 85 showcasing companies to 506 across a range of industries from mobile to fintech.
So with no signs of stopping and all evidence pointing to 2016 as yet another year of exponential innovation and accomplishment, what can we expect as we move through the winter and into the new year?
Expect more new entrants
The industry will be all too aware of the increase in new entrants. Primed for technological innovation, traditional financial services face a continued rise of new businesses and products with their own agendas and ability to disrupt. Generating further competition, it’s likely banking services will feel the impact more keenly in the next twelve months. This is particularly true given the focus on the ‘Uberisation of Payments’ – startups aiming to revolutionise financial services to become efficient, effective, and inclusive.
Blurring disruption and innovation
In the 7th Annual Innovation in Retail Banking Report from Efma and Infosys Finacle, banks considered new disruptors the second highest threat (41%) after big tech companies like Apple and Google (45%). However, as banks accept they can’t stop the startups, more are likely to follow the trend set by banks like Barclays who finance them. Responding to the perceived threat by increasing investment and harnessing their innovations for themselves, this could help to improve the overall customer experience at banks.
Moreover, the regulatory landscape that has enabled so many fintech startups in the UK to thrive is becoming tougher. New developments now need to integrate more successfully, to have flexible and agile IT systems capable of responding to demands from entities like the FCA. Smaller entrants may therefore need extra support due to limited resources if they’re to build robust systems. The relationship might thereforesee a shift from challenger to partner.
Bitcoin vs. Blockchain
Cryptocurrencies are beginning to shake off their dubious reputations. Part of this is because of the underlying blockchain technology. Fact is, Bitcoin might have started the conversation, but now it’s being sidelined as household names have hopped on board the blockchain bandwagon in order to better their businesses through its technology. These include UBS, Citi Group and NASDAQ, all of whom seem to agree that blockchain will fundamentally alter the infrastructure supporting the finance landscape. There’s even the first Blockchain-inspired bank in the pipeline – Secco Bank, founded by Chris Gledhill.
Millennials & harnessing fintech for good
With COP21 only weeks away, businesses that are not ready for a world where they can balance principles and profit are likely to be left in the dust. Part of the reason for this is the rise of the millennials, those 18 to 34 year olds, in particular, the older HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet) that comprise the top consumers of fintech. However, beyond their dissatisfaction with traditional banks and their love of frictionless payments, they’re also much more socially conscious when it comes to business. As Bill Roth wrote, ‘their combined experiences have made them fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, environmentally aware and urgently engaged’.
This is not to say older generations don’t want to manage their assets and bank accounts from their armchairs, but millennials are the thread stitching together the desire for change with the ability to use technology. They view the sharing economy as an efficient utilisation of their money. They seek transparency, appreciate brands engaged with causes, and are more invested in harnessing business for good. We can already see it in the popularity of blockchain and fintech’s ‘Robin Hood’ narrative (see Transferwise and Lend Invest). They also seek financial inclusion, revealing yet another reason for the popularity of mobile payments and uberisation.
The problem of data and cyber-security
The digitisation of services has obviously created its own set of problems. Just look at all the different hacks over the past twelve months – from Sony to TalkTalk, the risk of data theft has become of utmost priority to consumers as well as their financial providers. Threats from malware and hackers demonstrate the need for vast cyber-security investment in the finance space, and nimble fintech companies could be more adept at this than traditional, cumbersome institutions.
Fintech becoming mainstream
As fintech influencer Oliver Bussman argued, technology is changing the dynamics in the financial services industry. This may seem obvious, but as fintech continues its climb, more people will become aware of its potential and more customers will start using it. Fintech is moving beyond revealing and disputing antiquated practices, providing opportunities for competition, and overhauling the experience for everyday consumers. It’s generating positive change. It could even be argued that technology is making finance trendy as the likes of Apple Pay bring fintech into mainstream consciousness.
And, ultimately, it is this shift of financial awareness, innovation and technology into today’s zeitgeist that makes fintech 2015 and 2016 potentially so exciting.