Financial Services are at the cusp of digital disruption. We might not be witnessing a 'revolution', but all the emerging trends and technologies are certainly proving that we are in the midst of an ‘evolution’.
Most of the large global banks are born pre-digital and are facing the challenge of legacy infrastructure, software, and culture. On the other hand, the new challenger banks are born-digital and carry no baggage of legacy. They are creating products and services that are relevant to the digital age customer’s needs.
Most of the large global banks are planning to either start their new digital banks or buy stakes in some of the challenger banks just as BBVA did recently by taking ~30% stakes in Atom bank. At the least, we will witness many pre-digital born banks investing in and embracing digital trends and technologies in 2016.
Here are 5 FinTech trends to watch out for in 2016:
- Blockchain - Distributed Ledger:
Financial services organizations are racing to harness the power of the Bitcoin infrastructure to slash costs. The basic technology underpinning the Bitcoin virtual currency could be used by some of the world's biggest banks. These banks want to use the Blockchain method because it is hard to fool - making fraud difficult, speed up trading systems and make deals more transparent. Many banks such as UBS are already trying out Blockchain technology for different use cases.
Blockchain is the software that both powers and regulates cryptocurrency Bitcoin. In its most basic form, it records ownership of Bitcoin — money — and transactions — one person paying another. The software uses a distributed ledger to police the network, which means a certain proportion of the vast network must sign-off on a transaction before it can be processed. This replaces the need for a ‘trusted middleman’ in a transaction.
The project to test Blockchain-like technology is being led by financial technology firm R3 which has so far signed 30 banks. R3 has done a good job bringing all the rival banks together. We are witnessing a great interest across financial services on trying out this disruptive technology and will continue to see investment in 2016 to try out specific use cases that can give banks a competitive advantage.
2015 was the year that banks began to experiment seriously with biometrics: US financial provider USAA already offers three different biometric login options for its mobile customers (Touch ID, Facial recognition, and Voice recognition). Biometrics has been the ‘Next Big Thing’ in authentication for a long time now, but many things that have held it back have not gone away. There is often the need for costly additional equipment, and processes that require verification by a back office platform which makes it slow. Wells Fargo is testing voice recognition and eye scanning, joining an increasing number of banks and other financial services companies using biometrics technology to authenticate customers using their mobile applications. Nearly one-third of the largest US banks plan to make biometrics available to mobile banking customers by the end of this year.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Robots have begun their invasion of banking. Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in banking have the potential to reduce costs, expand skills, and improve the customer experience while working alongside or replacing humans. According to an article, Barclays believes that AI is the future of banking, and one bank in Tokyo is already staffed by a helpful robot. We have already seen rudimentary examples where users can talk to a computer system to make money transfers or access information.
Robo-advisors, or fully-automated online investment platforms, are also disrupting the financial advisory services. FinTech startups such as Betterment and Wealthfront have managed to pull early investors with their robo-advising platforms offering the perks of low fees and a reduced entry barrier when it comes to minimums. Many large banks including Deutsche Bank have launched their robo-advisor services. Automated financial advisors and planners that assist users in making financial decisions is a very strong use case.
We are certain to see an increased investment into AI in 2016 across financial services.
- The API Economy:
APIs are yet another vital trend driving disruption, and fueling FinTech startups and open banking data initiatives worldwide. Some of the new banks such as Fidor bank are already reaping the benefits of open APIs. With new rules such as European Payment Service Directive (PSD2) coming into existence, banks will have to implement APIs that can provide access to payment account information to third parties – including their competitor banks – following the customer’s explicit consent.
Consumers now have the power to engage and perform transactions wherever they are, through a device of their choice. To engage customers across all digital media, banks need to be able to provide contextual and personalized product offerings and drive immediate conversion through embedded offerings. With the advent of APIs, banks can easily expose their product catalogs, payment wallets, and other services to digital customers.
APIs are an important component in the digital architecture and banks are investing in building modern applications that can service their customer on a platform of their choice at any point in time. We will continue to see increased investment in 2016 on building APIs and helping banks serve their digital customers better.
- Cloud Computing:
Cloud has become one of the mainstream strategy topics for most large global banks. The debate is not if, but, how will they eventually embrace cloud – if not public cloud, then private cloud or hybrid cloud – and which version to select for which function.
Banks will continue adopting Cloud services for their business applications, while carefully keeping sensitive data housed at private data centers. According to CIO.com, Deutsche Bank plans to have 80% of its systems based in the cloud by 2020. Today, cloud has matured and covers a panacea of Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and more. It is certain that if not public, private, and hybrid clouds will play a vital role in the banks’ digital future.
Join us at Netherland India Business Meet 2016 to hear Santosh kumar speak on ‘The changing face of Financial Services’