The future of fintech and digital banking | Leadership - Business Chief Europe

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Jo Howes is the Commercial Director of CREALOGIX UK, the Fintech100 company which is among the global market leaders in digital banking with headquarters in Switzerland and offices in Germany, London and Singapore. Here she shares with us her predictions for the short, medium and long term of the wealth management and banking and finance industry.

The future of fintech and digital banking

In 2019, we are going to see a continued wave of new robo-advisory offerings in wealth management. There are around twenty significant players in the UK market, but these are mostly from brands which only have a short history in the sector. The choice will improve in coming months as the digital leaders among established wealth management firms and private banks roll out their own robo-advisory services.

This shift towards robo-advisory solutions is not only creating new commercial opportunities for specialist wealth managers but is also significant for banks. Banks globally see a lot of inactive cash savings sitting in customers’ accounts, but they haven’t got enough information to know how to recommend investments to their own clients. Using digital onboarding and quizzes to get consumers to identify their goals and risk appetite means a bank has far better understanding about what to recommend. If a saver can get her money to work harder, and the bank now has a clearer picture of a more engaged customer, that’s a win-win. So, in 2019, expect to see banks start to nag customers about uninvested cash, and it will be interesting to see the devil in the detail of how they choose to approach this.

The potential of open banking

The second shift that I expect to see happening in 2019 is the realisation of the potential that open banking has for the wealth management industry. Awareness will be led by private banks, which have to comply with PSD2 and so are further ahead in implementing public APIs. These private banks will become very significant channels for the wealth managers who can package their digital offering and enter into integration partnerships. We’ve seen this working well between challengers, and there’s going to be nothing to stop established brands taking a similar marketplace approach.

As soon as more traditional wealth managers see the commercial benefits of connecting better with a fast-developing ecosystem of financial innovation, they are going to prioritise open banking in their ongoing digital roadmaps. Individual investors may not know or care much about the phrase ‘open banking’ but they will certainly demand the features and convenience. But there are other technology trends that the banking industry needs to keep an eye on.

The top 4 trends to watch in 2019

AI and ML in WealthTech

Human wealth managers are more burdened by the volume of data than ever. To tackle cognitive overload, the industry needs cognitive technology. AI working on market and portfolio analysis in the background can surface insights that help human relationship managers do a better job. An example of this is banks introducing technology for keyword analysis and smart indexing from voice call history.

Customer Experience takes centre stage

Another example of a more cognitive approach to technology is the addition of prompts and advice into digital banking interfaces, so that BI gets more of a CX makeover: banking customers and investors don’t just want graphs, they want to know what it’s telling them. In 2019 we will get closer to this as financial apps compete to make their notifications more personalised.

Hybrid robo-advisory services

Easy switching for clients between self-service, chat, and video call support when they need assistance from expert advisors. The traditional approach of travelling to meetings in a physical branch or office is off-putting to the modern investor, but they still want the human touch, and this is a big differentiator for established wealth managers to deliver well.

XaaS

In 2019 with the increasing connection of financial services via public APIs and marketplaces, we’ll see a greater incentive for FIs and partners to design their business models to be available “as a service”. Done right, this is a win-win in banking technology, as the institution reduces costs and increases agility. In the underlying technology, everyone is looking to develop solutions on low-code platforms, making systems easier and more reliable to run, while prioritising performance for the end user.

Medium-term trends

Voice interface  

The wealth management sector is looking set to increase its offerings of voice interface add-ons. This could be, for example, through home IoT devices – “Siri, tell me how my portfolio is doing”, or perhaps a daily financial summary in your bathroom mirror! This will work well for active investors and lead the way to further voice integration in what’s becoming known as “conversational banking”. Voice can help all kinds of investment services make their notifications smarter, providing contextual audio alerts for news or market changes, personalised to an investor’s interests and portfolio.

Augmented reality in everyday financial applications

While gaming is embracing fully immersive AR experiences, this has yet to go mainstream in the business world or with productivity apps. In the medium term a partial approach with AR through a mobile or tablet screen has more immediate use cases. One example is the ability to point your phone at a bill and get an overlay hovering over it to say whether you have sufficient funds in your bank account (or even if you’ve already paid it).

Cryptocurrency integrations for investment portfolios

Many investors are taking cryptocurrency seriously as part of a diversified portfolio, so we’ll see digital wealth management platforms present valuations alongside traditional assets, as well as start to implement API-based trading facilities in partnership with leading exchanges. Cryptocurrencies will remain a speculative and highly volatile investment class in 2019 but that will attract certain types of investors to keep experimenting.

Longer-term trends

SI: Swarm Intelligence  

This is an emerging technology to keep an eye on, as quantitative trading strategies look for ways to improve their modelling of complex financial systems. Asset managers who already know how to model predictions will get a competitive edge from exploring hypothetical scenarios more intensively than via traditional methods. For the technology providers, simplifying access is the prime challenge.

Blockchain

While cryptocurrencies have gained headlines, the underlying technology is steadily maturing into serious business propositions, and I expect to see select players in asset management and treasury taking advantage of Distributed Ledger Technology in 2019. A number of start-ups are already promoting the idea of the “blockchain bank” but I expect this to take a while to prove in practice before receiving backing from major institutions.

AGI and quantum computing

I expect more banks will start thinking about the applications of Artificial General Intelligence and quantum computing. Businesses should consider when, not if, the ‘thinking’ power of AI in fuzzy real-world problems will overtake human abilities, probably by a combination of software development and raw computing power. Banks and financial services looking ahead ten years, or more, should consider what money, payments, and investing will look like at this time – and that includes AGIs as customers. If High Frequency Trading changed financial markets forever, imagine hundreds of superintelligent (probably corporate) minds competing for investment performance and leaving the human analysts in the dust… hopefully not literally!

Don’t go it alone

One thing really stands out when you try to survey the multiple threads of technological progress that are weaving to form the future: there is simply too much going on for one specialist or one sector-specific business to keep track of… let alone develop innovations for. This means the key strategic posture to be “future-ready” is to welcome collaboration, systematically and throughout the organisation. Being closed-off means missing out.

No organisation can stand alone and thrive in the ultra-fast, ultra-complex near future. Like the APIs and microservices which are accelerating the open banking revolution, the business as a whole needs to plug into hundreds of other specialist services and experts, and in turn contribute its own expertise in more autonomous, distributed, and focused ways throughout the ecosystem. The business of the future has to look much more like a swarm than a mainframe.