The global financial technology (fintech) sector is evolving rapidly, increasingly developing new solutions to meet changing consumer needs, promoting greater financial inclusion across the world. With 2016 coming to a close, Htet Tayza asks: what does 2017 have in store for fintech?
We should note that 2016 was an interesting year. Digital technologies advanced rapidly, allowing greater research and development in finance, promoting industry-wide innovation on a global scale, even in emerging markets. Myanmar’s government, for example, is now looking at setting up a Blockchain-based stock exchange, to promote greater security for investors.
However, an unstable global geopolitical and economic climate has presented fintechs with new challenges. In June 2016, for instance, the UK voted to leave the EU, sparking an anti-globalist populist wave in the developed world. This could be problematic for fintechs, who benefit from offering innovative solutions across a global economy with a vast consumer base, aided by ever-rising connectivity. Within this context, 2017 looks set to be every bit as interesting as the year before.
Rising mobile payments
We should point out that mobiles are becoming increasingly essential to modern life. Consumers are doing everything from reading the news to banking via smartphones and these devices are only set to become more ubiquitous in 2017. This heralds good news for the mobile payments market which is growing worldwide, especially in Asia, a region where many governments are now going cashless.
Experts believe that mobile payments will rise further in 2017. Yes, smartphone sales are fast-hitting the saturation point in developed nations, but there is plenty of room for growth in emerging nations, which have high unbanked populations, creating strong demand for mobile payment solutions. It is also believed that domestic millennial-focused payment apps like Venmo, which allow consumers to send cash mobile-to-mobile worldwide at an extremely low cost, will become more popular next year.
Changing consumer service
Industry portal Information Age argues that artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and bots will have a big impact on fintechs next year. Time management is a serious customer service issue for financial services. But chatbots can answer consumer queries easily, providing quicker services and maximising human employee time to deal with more serious issues, potentially helping fintech firms cut costs.
Yes, customers used to hold security concerns over chatbots. However due to increasing familiarity, these concerns are fast-disappearing, as people become more open to technology-assisted services. Consequently, Information Age believes, consumers will become ever-more comfortable dealing with ‘robo-advisors’ in 2017. This could open up new avenue streams for fintechs but prove disruptive for traditional financial institutions, limiting their ability to tap into the consumer advice market.
Safer financial services
There’s also reason to believe that the evolving machine learning trend could allow fintechs to provide safer financial services than ever before next year. Security has long been a concern for the financial sector and the issue became more pressing in 2016. This year, big firms like Tesco Bank experienced huge security lapses, incurring massive fines and denting consumer trust in the finance sector.
Also, more criminal sanctions were imposed on senior financial executives in 2016, due to illegal market manipulation practises. Combined, these factors have turned compliance into one of the financial services industry’s largest growth regions. But machine learning is advancing every day and it is being used to examine risks and trends, keeping consumers safe and promoting trust in the financial industry, so this technological phenomenon could become increasingly important in 2017.
It is hard to know what 2017 has in store for fintech. The sector is fast developing new solutions, which could make global financial services safer and more convenient for consumers, facilitating greater engagement. But 2016 was the year of political shocks and we could see more in 2017.
Anti-globalist Donald Trump will become US President in January and we do not know how his first 100 days in office will play out. Meanwhile, the French and German elections are also scheduled for next year and if populism takes root in these nations too, as evidence suggests is possible, the global economy and geopolitical landscape could become shakier still. Within this environment, fintech firms may want to take a cautious approach in 2017, to shield their operations from large risk factors.