Ever since the world has become one enormous marketplace, we have seen a constant change in how businesses take place. This has been further fueled by new technologies and rapidly evolving customer expectations. Even the highly regulated banking and finance sector in recent times has witnessed constant metamorphosis of its business models to stay ahead in disruptive times.
Hence, when it comes to the financial services ecosystem, the FinTech industry plays a significant role in determining how the sector moves forward. Today, FinTech disruptors are changing how everything works –lending, payments, insurance, credit settlements, and more. In response, banks and traditional financial institutions are either partnering with FinTech companies or developing and deploying their own solutions. Backing that up, a PwC report titled ‘Financial services technology 2020 and beyond: Embracing disruption’ states that global investments in FinTech have more than tripled since 2014 to cross $12 billion. Since FinTech solutions now play a significant role in the financial services value chain; let’s see what’s in store for 2019:
Intelligent Banking Channels
To deliver the next-level of personalization for users performing banking activities, financial service providers are tailoring each channel to adapt intelligently. By studying customer patterns and behaviors, banks can personalize the interface to suit a user’s specific usage preferences. This will translate into a unique usage journey for every end user and early adopter banks stand to gain a competitive edge because of the level of personalization and end user satisfaction offered.
Banks have started offering multi-channel experiences that go beyond branch visits or phone banking. A user can now interact with a bank through multiple channels such as apps, web, smart speakers, digital voice assistants, and more. However, to ensure delightful user journeys, banks will have to ensure seamless consistency across all channels. Apart from all these, going forward, banks will find the need to include augmented reality, virtual reality, and more to stand out as a competition leader.
Voice banking is already popular and soon we can see it also offering support for regional and vernacular languages. We have already seen a rise in popularity of virtual personal assistants (Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant) and smart speakers (Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod). With NLP (Natural Language Processing) becoming more mainstream, the time isn’t far when virtual assistants and smart speakers enabling a user to perform banking transactions would be the most preferred option.
Narrow AI in Banking
AI has slowly made in-roads into a lot of different business landscapes. In the banking and financial services industry, we expect narrow AI (designed to handle a specific task) to improve operational efficiency and accuracy by automating tasks that are repetitive and manpower intensive in nature. This would free up bank resources to focus on activities that are more value generating.
Rise of Open Banking
Open banking is an approach that uses open APIs to enable third party developers to build applications and services around the financial institution resulting in greater financial transparency for account holders ranging from open data to private data. For example, in India, UPI powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application of any participating bank, merging several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments under one platform. Going forward, we can see open banking gaining more traction in many more countries and economic regions.
Traditionally, corporate onboarding of customers would take several weeks in contrast to the few minutes it would take to onboard a retail customer. But if one were to factor that a corporate banker would also be a retail customer, it would be likely that they would share the same expectation when it comes to simplifying the processes involved in corporate onboarding. So far, there has been a dearth of corporate banking apps but this trend is changing. Banks have started partnering with FinTech companies to leverage the power of digital to significantly reduce onboarding times.
Connected Cloud Services
As banks are turning to a mix of public, private, and hybrid clouds for their infrastructure, cloud-based banking is becoming commonplace. No bank will ever move all its sensitive data to the cloud due to compliance and security risks, but a newfound balance is determining the choice between different cloud formats. As significant as the shift towards cloud-based computing has been, it is just getting started. Many banks and financial service providers are opting for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications for non-core business processes such as CRM, HR, and financial accounting along with ‘point solutions’ for security analytics and KYC verification. However, in 2019, some core services of banks will also move to the cloud and this will include payments, remittances, credit scoring, account billing, and more.
Data Privacy Framework
Security and privacy are underlying concerns present in every activity of a bank. How banks handle sensitive data is an issue that will determine where the industry is heading over the next few years. The way banks collect, use, and store Personally Identifiable Information (PII) will thus be key. The Reserve Bank of India is working on norms that will dictate this space both inside and outside India and several updated regulations will soon populate the space. Banks should be prepared for such changes and more. Risks involved will continue to revolve around the use of third-party vendors, complex technologies, cross-border data transfers, mobile technologies penetration, and advancing security threats.
The FinTech industry is one that is built with disruption in mind based on a report by PwC titled ‘Digital Banking Consumer Survey: Mobile users set the agenda’. In 2019, this disruption will come to the forefront and change the banking and financial services industry. Early movers and adopters are sure to see major gains in the future, and users are becoming increasingly clear on their preference for tech-based banking.
By Sudhir Babu
Vice President and Head of Product Engineering at i-exceed