The FinTechs are coming but its different this time

If you ask anyone about Fintechs they will inevitably refer back to the Dot Com bubble (1995 – 2001) which fuelled the rapid growth of the Internet.

However, back then the investment was funding the building blocks of web technology with the most of the money going into Web Infrastructure, Security, Portals, Consulting, Marketing and Content. Unbelievably during this time there was no broadband and we were all having to deal with “Dialup” (In the UK Broadband was first introduced in 2000 and even by 2006 it only had 13 Million users compared to 2016 where 87.9% of adults have access i.e. 45.9 Million users), no real smartphones or tablets existed (The first iPhone arrived in 2007 and the iPad in 2010) so the main access to these technologies was via the desktop. The frenzy also saw massive investments in companies who were filing for IPOs without any revenue.

If we skip forward over 15 years we are now seeing an enhanced level of funding once again in FinTechs however this time its very different. In 2015 we saw the total level of Global deals reaching $14.8Bn and by Qtr. 3 2016 this had increased by 27% (this is in sharp contrast to only 5 years prior where only $2.59Bn was invested (2012)). In the UK $191m was invested in 2012 and by 2015 this had also increased to $1Bn (60% of investment in the UK are going to Challenger Banks, SME Financing, Money Transfer, FX, Digital Currencies and Blockchain).  Also companies filing for IPOs are now showing revenues in excess of $100m.

So why is it different this time? There are numerous reasons why a perfect storm is brewing and I will explain a few below.

  • FinTech Technology – During the Dot Com Bubble you needed to procure Servers, understand security and have funding to support and develop your offering. Now with the rise of Cloud Service like AWS, Azure, Google etc. anyone can build an application with a credit Card and pay by the hour.
  • Building Block Technology – Fintechs no longer need to create everything as you can plug and play the payment, billing, map software etc. (Think UBER)
  • Consumer Technology – During the Dot Com Bubble the barrier to entry was also on the consumer side as you needed internet connectivity (Dial up) and a Desktop. Now technology is widespread and its commonplace for people to carry multiple devices all with Internet Connectivity (Tablets, Smartphones, Wearables etc.)
  • Generational Changes – During the Dot Com Bubble 40 Million Gen Xers came of age. Now there are 85 Million Millennials, all of whom are digital natives.
  • Global Social Community – We are all now a global community over one world wide web
  • Regulation Changes – The regulators are now embracing emerging technologies and offering sandboxes and incubation to start-ups
  • Data is King – With the emergence of data Science and open data initiatives, Big Data and new modelling techniques are changing how we cost propositions and offer/sell insight.

In a recent report from McKinsey & Company entitled “Bracing for seven critical changes as fintech matures” they cite 30 emerging areas which are seeing Fintech growth.

So what should everyone do? Another article from Mckinsey & Company Cutting through the noise around financial technology suggests to some of the capabilities Banks should be making.

It’s all not doom and gloom though for the incumbents. Anyone can adopt FinTech methodologies and the Financial Services industry still needs regulation, oversight and to engender trust.  Everyone therefore needs to become fighting fit, embrace change and not forget a lot of these new technologies will come with a lower price point and enable greater automation with insight for the future.


Augmented Reality becomes a reality


Even though there has been a tremendous amount of hype around Augmented and Virtual Reality a real useable application for the masses has yet to emerge (excluding games).  This month however Visa brought us a glimmer of hope that AR could be used for purchases when it showcased its Proof of Concept with House Of Holland .  The concept of using mobiles to purchase items is not new and has been used via QR codes for years.  Back in 2011 Tesco Homeplus in South Korea launched a Virtual Shop where commuters could order groceries via a QR Code in the subway and the same year eBay opened a pop up shop in London (following similar schemes run by Amazon, House of Fraser and even Marks & Spencer) to encourage shoppers to view physical items and then order them via their handsets to prevent the need for tills or for the items to be carried home.

The Visa POC however has taken this concept one step further and for this demo partnered with Blippar to allow attendees of a fashion show to use advanced image recognition to identify garments they liked via  their mobile camera when seen on the runway and then purchase via the app.  The Blippar app can now “recognise” and provide more information on more than half a billion everyday objects ranging from a type of flower to an airport.  This type of identification and payment technology could offer numerous possibilities and not just in the consumer shopping space but across the whole supply chain.  How long could it be before we stop filling in forms and can just identify an item we want to buy or insure?

Is it time to ask, “Where exactly was my data stored” ?

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As the urge to hoard becomes less and everyone becomes more comfortable using web services in the cloud to run applications and store data how confident are you as to where your data is and could it be viewed without your knowledge? Financial Services have always worried about which jurisdiction the hosting servers came under and whether they were covered under regulation plus enterprises are now beginning to ensure that there is data governance and ownership for all their data. However how often should you review this?

This week the European Court of Justice has ruled that the 15 year old deal between the US and Europe (The Safe Harbour Agreement) was invalid meaning that many Businesses will now be scrambling around to put replacement measures in place to ensure that correct privacy rights are in place plus asking “did we ever use a service that was covered by Safe Harbour in the last 15 years?”

Interestingly, the ruling was not brought about by a Business but an Austrian law student against Facebook following the Snowden NSA surveillance revelations. Does anyone really know when they download an App from Apple or Androids App Store where this data is being stored? Do organisations know where the live and DR servers are located for every cloud provider, hosting company or SAAS product just in case privacy laws change? Should we? As more and more technology moves to the cloud maybe providers will offer transparency as to where data is being stored so choices can be made however as IT becomes a Global commodity there certainly will not be data centres in ever jurisdiction on the planet any time soon so in the meantime just keep a note where you kept that data as you may need to review it sooner or later.

Digital Convergence is key but where is all our Data?


Since the inception of the internet back in 1991 we have all been on a journey to digitise our lives. In the early days (Dial up started in 1992 in the UK) you could go off and make a cup of tea whilst your email downloaded however the transition from paper had started. Things got a lot faster in 2000 when broadband arrived however you were still very constrained by how much you could afford to spend on a PC and your knowledge of the Internet. Everything changed however over the next decade as numerous products launched e.g. iTunes, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Instagram to name but a few; hardware became immensely cheaper and thoughts of cybercrime didn’t even enter our minds. In the 15 years since it is unbelievable to think how far we have come and of course where it will go, however just a scary thought can you even count have many sites have you signed up for with a handful of email addresses and provided all of your personal details? (Hopefully you don’t use the same passwords for your Banking as you do on social sites). As technology both in the enterprise and the consumer space becomes cheaper and everything moves to the cloud it is extremely important to think about your data (especially what you are giving out, to whom and how you will get it deleted). As a greater number of the established players buy up competitors it does mean you are required to sign up for less to get greater coverage however that does mean they will all have more visibility of your data. Apart from the normal considerations when you sign up for a Cloud Service i.e. Usability, Security, Jurisdiction etc., I bet the one thing you do not consider is how can I leave (This is naturally what they hope for too as the more cloud services are used the harder it is to leave unless you have a plan from day 1 as the data becomes too intertwined to extract).
I have had a few instances recently where it has taken months to exit cloud providers due to data removal, plus some recent cyber events like the hacking of Ashley Madison have highlighted that even companies who charge to remove your data sometimes still don’t actually remove it. Therefore as we all move more and more of our data to the cloud don’t forget to keep your eye on your data so as “Digital Convergence” becomes the next buzz word you will know where everything is and have suitable plans to ensure you can close everything down before you migrate to bigger and better things. Your reputation may just depend on it.

What is the future of communication


Over the last decade there has been a battle raging between email and social as to which is the preferred method of communication and engagement.  There has been peaks and troughs as technology evolved, form factors became more prevalent and privacy concerns raised their head.  However, has this allowed an outsider to slip through?  As more of the western world starts to settle on the mobile form factor (you are already seeing iPad sales slowdown) is it time for the instant messaging platforms to rise like a phoenix?   In China (Wechat) and Japan (Line) Instant messaging platforms are at the forefront of the communication battle; however Instant Messaging is not what you will remember from the past with the likes of MSN, AOL, Yahoo Chat etc these platforms have voice and video integrated, allow gaming and you can even pay and order services.  This is probably why companies like Facebook are snapping up popular platforms for a premium like WhatsApp.  Even this week Twitter has announced that even though the platform will still support 140 characters, Direct Messaging will increase to 10,000 Characters.  You may be thinking is any of this really important; however it could change the way Businesses communicate with customers forever.  Today communication it is via post, email, websites and applications however will this evolve to include instant messaging?  The only grace organisations have currently is that in the western world everyone is always looking for the next best thing and generally never settle on a single platform however the tide is changing and so is communication.

FS Innovation Article Roundup – January 2014

Emirates NBD lets customers shake their mobile to save

Emirates NBD has added a ‘shake n save’ feature to its mobile banking app, letting customers move money to their savings accounts with a wiggle of their handsets.  Subscribers to the app can select a range from between AED 50 and AED 2000 which can be moved from their debit account to a savings place with just a shake of their mobile phone.  With each shake a random amount is displayed on the screen, and the customer can continue until they are happy with the sum that has been transferred. The money is moved immediately and the balance updated instantly. Read Article & See Video

Barclays to pilot mobile cheque deposits as UK Government proposes rule change

The UK government is to begin consultations on new legislation to permit the use of smartphones for remote cheque deposits.  Under the proposals, UK banks will be able process cheque images for the first time, suspending the current requirement for banks to physically see the paper version before agreeing to honour the payment.  The Treasury says the new rules should cut cheque processing times from six to two days.  Barclays Bank says it will begin pilot trials of remote cheque deposit technology early in 2014. Read Article

Brits too embarrassed to wear Google Glass

While geeks worldwide salivate over the upcoming public launch of Google Glass, the vast majority of regular Joes say they would be too embarrassed to don the hi-tech googles in public.  Set for launch in April, Google’s smart glasses have grabbed the attention of gadget-lovers and pioneering banks worldwide. However, a survey of 1132 people by UK discounting site lovemyvouchers, has uncovered a number of potential stumbling blocks to mass-market adoption of the technology.  Chief among the concerns is the embarrassment factor, with only one-in-three agreeing that they would feel comfortable wearing the space-age specs in public. A further 64% fear that their privacy would be violated when talking to another person who was scanning their glass apps, with only 11% unperturbed by privacy issues. Read Article

Nedbank using social media to win over rival bank customers

South Africa’s Nedbank is using social media analytics tools to win customers from rival banks by monitoring their chatter on popular forums such as Twitter and Facebook.  Nedbank partnered with IBM and local supplier Olrac spSolutions to develop a predictive modeling system that integrates social media analytics into the bank’s systems.  Whereas before the bank used a number of tools and external resources to mine social media for customer feedback purposes, the marketing team now have access to a visual dashboard of social chatter reflecting customer preferences, sentiment and satisfaction that can be used to craft and deliver more effective sales promotions and customer messages. Read Article

Online and mobile gaining ground over telephone and branch-based banking – YouGov

Close to two thirds (64%) of people online who hold a current account with a bank or building society would prefer to conduct their banking on the Web or via a mobile application compared to just 29% who prefer telephone or in-branch banking.  The survey of 2300+ UK adults by YouGov on behalf of Genpact also showed that 29% of respondents had not used their bank’s call centre service, indicating the rising importance of direct access for personal banking.  Predictably, technology savvy ‘Generation Y’ is the most likely to prefer banking online or via a mobile application (75%) and the least likely to want to visit a branch (11%). However, over a third of over-55’s surveyed would still choose to visit a bricks-and-mortar bank than go direct.  The preference for virtual banking is more pronounced among the professional class of LinkedIn users (74%) compared to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ dabblers. Read Article

BBVA taps Wincor Nixdorf for next-generation ATMs

Spanish financial institution BBVA is working with Wincor Nixdorf on the roll-out of a new generation of touch-screen ATMs and trials of self-service videoconferencing technology for in-branch consultations with bank experts.  Approximately 100 of the new cash machines have so far been installed across the bank’s locations in Spain.  The ATM offers account access using an electronic identity card and a password from, the ability to complete transactions with a contactless card that is based on NFC technology, and account statements printed in DIN A4 format. The bank’s objective is to establish the new touch-screen terminal gradually as its standard ATM. Read Article

RBS to beam targeted ads to Sky TV viewers

The Royal Bank of Scotland has signed up to a new tailored TV advertising service from broadcaster Sky which will let it target viewers based on considerations such as age, income and location.  Following a six month trial, Sky is now rolling out the AdSmart service to its viewers – representing more than a fifth of UK households – who will now see personalised TV ad breaks. 
The technology works by sending a library of adverts via satellite to Sky+HD set-top boxes and then selecting those which best match a household’s profile and inserting them into live breaks.   The ads are based on customers’ postcodes and publicly available data drawn from third party providers such as Experian.  The system lets advertisers break down potential targets by income and ‘financial strategy’, which discerns between groups including ‘young essentials’, ‘stretched finances’, and ‘sunset security’.  Other factors which can be weighed are household composition, age, whether the viewer is a homeowner, and what their ‘mosaic lifestyle’ is – ‘rural solitude’, ‘industrial heritage’, ‘liberal opinion’.  Sky hopes that the service will help attract smaller, local advertisers but has also signed up major brands, including RBS, Tesco and Audi. Customers who don’t want targeted ads can opt out online or over the phone. Read Article

London Unveils World’s Largest Solar Bridge

The world’s largest solar-powered bridge was unveiled to commuters this month in London, England.  Half of the energy for Blackfriars Station is now produced by 4,400 photovoltaic panels covering Blackfriars Bridge, which sits atop the River Thames, according to Network Rail, First Capital Connect and Solarcentury, which have been working on the project for about five years.

“Electric trains are already the greenest form of public transport—this roof gives our passengers an even more sustainable journey,” David Statham, managing director of First Capital Connect, said. “The distinctive roof has also turned our station into an iconic landmark visible for miles along the River Thames.”  First Capital Connect expects the panels to cut the station’s carbon emissions by 511 tons a year, or the equivalent of 89,000 car trips. further reducing the carbon footprint of its train routes to the south east of England. Read Article

Barclaycard gets down with the kids in Apps for Good challenge

Barclaycard is supporting the launch of two new apps developed by schoolchildren as part of the UK’s Apps for Good education initiative.  Barclaycard is the sole sponsor of Apps for Good‘s ‘Saving, Spending and Giving – making the most from your money’ category, and has worked closely with the two winning schools to bring their app ideas to life. As part of its involvement, Barclaycard has offered support at each stage of the process, from conception through to the development of the apps and finally bringing them to market. Read Article

More Th>n telematics app slashes insurance costs for safe drivers

UK insurer More Th>n is promising car owners up to 20% off their premiums if they use a new telematics app which assesses their driving style.  Aimed at experienced drivers, the free iPhone and Android app assesses the user’s style on the road for 200 miles, providing feedback after each journey.  A discount of up to 20% is then generated based on factors such as acceleration, braking and speed, and can be applied to any new car insurance quote received through the app. Read Article

Mint PFM platform to track bitcoin transactions

Money management app Mint has struck a deal with Coinbase that will let users view their bitcoin transactions alongside more traditional financial accounts.  Intuit-owned Mint links its 14 million users to more than 20,000 different banks, credit cards, loan and investment accounts, allowing them to view their financial statements in one place.  Now it is moving into the fast-growing crypto-currency sphere through Coinbase, America’s largest bitcoin wallet, which already claims more than 870,000 customers.
Mint users will be able to link their Coinbase wallets, letting them view all of their bitcoin transactions and data alongside their bank account and card information. Read Article

Microsoft discontinues its InfoPath electronic-forms product

As had been rumored for a while, Microsoft is discontinuing its InfoPath electronic forms product.  Company officials confirmed the news in a January 31 post to the Office Blogs site. From that post on the future of electronic forms technology:  “In an effort to streamline our investments and deliver a more integrated Office forms user experience, we’re retiring InfoPath and investing in new forms technology across SharePoint, Access, and Word. This means that InfoPath 2013 is the last release of the desktop client, and InfoPath Forms Services in SharePoint Server 2013 is the last release of InfoPath Forms Services. The InfoPath Forms Services technology within Office 365 will be maintained and it will function until further notice.” Read Article

Form Factor will be the next Customer Battleground

Over the last few years every enterprise has become obsessed with becoming Digital albeit the majority of IT systems are already digital. Most digital endeavors are really ecommerce teams looking at App development rather than digitising paper processes or redesigning the Domain Architecture landscapes to monopolise on technological advances based on the organisations strategy and vision. Although the rise of App Stores is Innovative they are only a new Customer engagement medium due to the evolution of mobile technologies and limitations of web browsers.

Customers are a fickle breed so just creating an App because you haven’t got one isn’t a good enough reason if you aren’t prepared to research the target audience and do it right. With the advent of Web2.0 everything an organisation does it visible and commentable. In this world sometimes it is better to wait and do something right than to launch too soon and have your client base realise you do not understand their needs. Plus they will certainly tell everyone else if they do not agree and you get it wrong.

In the past the decision was easy, mobile or tablet App (Single Size). There wasn’t any need to have variant flavors of interface or operating system as the offering was just an extension of the existing browser experience. However this has now started to change and as different form factors emerge just rendering the screen in a different way with some ad removal will not cut the mustard. This technological revolution will certainly expose the teams who are creating apps with no overlay onto a strategy or Customer Product Roadmaps.

These Form Factor Changes will force all enterprises to revisit their Customer personas and encourage everyone to consider li fecycle mapping before any development commences. This will ensure that any work is targeted at the right customer, at the right time of life with the correct spending pattern, as without these characteristics mapped how can you possibly satisfy your target audience by deploying onto the correct form factor with the right amount of tone of voice and interaction.

Today you certainly need a digital strategy which covers all form factors and is closely linked with the Business and Customer Strategy. Soon the app landscape will have to include mobile, phablets, tablets, laptops, smart watches, TVs plus Google glass and that is without the new trend of wearable tech.

Form factor is going to become the next customer battleground and more customer persona intelligence will be needed. Just knowing your customers preferences and age will no longer be sufficient, knowing their life stage, financial standing and what devices they are likely to purchase is just as important if you want to offer an App they will actually use.

Form Factor

CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2013 – Review

Every January Las Vegas hosts the International Consumer Electronics Show; this year it featured 20,000 product launches, over 3250 exhibitors and more than 150,000 attendees.  Even though there is little direct correlation with the financial services marketplace and hence no point attending in person, the show coverage is an excellent way to look at the future trends which will emerge over the next few years and maybe affect the products we sell. 

 Sadly over the years the major players in the technology space have opted out of CES and chosen to announce product releases via their own press conferences, so you will not find the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google or Microsoft there.

 This year’s CES did not disappoint however and a few interesting trends emerged.  One of the most interesting changes was in the Digital Health Space where the number of exhibitors increased by 30% over 2012.   This year we saw a number of Innovations in personal health ranging from Forks which monitor how fast you eat and vibrate to tell you to slow down (Hapifork), Wristbands, Headbands and devices which monitor your steps, heartbeat and now temperature and in real time map them into an app for your review.  Follow this link for a good review of some of the best Health products shown at CES

 In addition to healthcare there were a numerous new products released ranging from OLED and 4K televisions to Laptops, Tablets and Smartphone’s. One new phone concept has a colour screen on one side and an e-ink on the other (Yotaphone). Watches (Pebble) were also announced which sync with your Smartphone and show SMS, Emails, Weather plus Social Media Updates.  There were also advances in in-car systems (Chevy MYLINK) which bring more of the tablet experience to the car.

 At CES new manufacturing parts and processes were also shown and this year the next generation of Gorilla Glass (3) was demonstrated (this is a special type of glass used in Smartphone screens to prevent them from breaking).  HzO showcased a manufacturing process which allows you to coat (Waterblock) an electronic device which then renders the internal workings waterproof.  This product is hoping to enter the manufacturing lifecycle rather than as a post purchase add-on.  There is a fully coated and waterproof Smartphone due to be released soon.

 You may be asking yourself how any of the above will alter the way we sell products however technology is a great leveller and by leveraging the consumer’s choices it could certainly reduce premiums and change behaviours.  The following are hypothetical; however could certainly happen:

  •  Would you offer lower premiums if your customers drove a car with built in monitoring that not only could record the telematics but also engage with you as a driver in real time to affect their driving patterns?
  •  Would you offer lower Mobile phone insurance if the phone insured was waterproof and had Gorilla Glass 3 and hence accidental damage claims were significantly reduced?
  •  Would you offer lower health insurance if the customer guaranteed via a device to take a minimum level of monitored exercise? What if warnings based on the body measurements were being monitored was sent warnings to your watch to alter your behaviour?

 CES 2013Technology is certainly starting to become an extension of you that will allow us all to live a more productive, healthier and happier life

Envisioning – The road to desirability

Have you ever wondered why some companies are seen as Innovative and others not? Why some companies can outsell their rivals; even with a more expensive product? Certainly brand marketing and awareness will get you through the door but what makes your clients stay and buy?

At a basic level a company’s reputation is based on the clients interaction i.e. be it with a salesperson/advisor or more likely the experience gained from the companies’ web presence. At this very fundamental level it doesn’t matter how much is spent on marketing, a single individual or experience can alienate your potential client and worst case lose them for good. Additionally, in this new technological age these views can now be transmitted to millions of people on the web to affect their views too.

Before the digital revolution it was adequate to have a “Push Strategy” where all you needed to do was bombard your potential clients with literature and eventually they would concede and buy your product, however with the advent of web 2.0, tech savvy consumers are now able to tune out all white noise and adopt are client oriented “Pull Strategy”. Many Companies now allow you to subscribe to feeds which let the consumer “Pull” the information they like at a time and format they want, this unfortunately means that if you do not market your products in this way you have lost out already.


So how do you ensure your company is desirable enough to be included in a potential Clients “Pull Strategy”?

Initially you need to get the environmental factors right like Good Product, Good Customer Service, and Good Market Presence however these do not necessarily engender desire.

Today’s tech savvy companies are now starting to engender desire through keynotes, Press Conferences or Product Launches; Apple, Google and Microsoft are particularly good at this and have even allocated different months of the year when announcements are expected. Not only do they demonstrate the new products, they sell a lifestyle and show videos on how the consumer’s lives will be better if they buy these products, they explain how talented and Innovative their staff are and how different they are from the competition. They even show how many people are using previous products and how much you can expect to pay through transparent global pricing. Even though most organisations have good customer stories to tell how many actually use them in press releases and launches?

Why not have a launch for less demonstrable products, I am sure more people would buy investments, insurances etc if they were involved in an event that used envisioning techniques which explained why the costs were applicable and how the products would enhance their life, or support them in times of need. The support structures could be explained and what made the products desirable. By following this proven path to product desirability, more people would be happier buying the products at the right price rather than a cheaper offering with reduced features.

Collaborate or a Return to the Dark Ages

Even though technology is evolving at a rapid pace I am still surprised at the lack of collaboration tools which are being adopted by the financial services industry.  It is interesting that as an internet user I have a plethora of tools available to me when surfing the net and speaking to friends however when I am looking to purchase services I am still limited to either locating my chosen products on a usually badly constructed website or to fall upon the sword and actually attempt to go into an outlet who naturally are unable to comment on the products available online.  Of course I do also have the option to ring a call centre and hang on for ages, spend endless minutes choosing different ACD options or even speaking to an advisor who really doesn’t understand me.


Last week I participated in an online discussion on “Web2.0” tools usage within the Industry and I was surprised the hear all of the blockers being sited as reasons not to use them (fear of Brand damage, security Issues, can we trust our staff) I did raise the point that staff are able to blog etc in the consumer space and we could not stop them there so why try internally.  My organisation allows blogging and this encourages Innovation, lets not stifle it.


I was however pleasantly surprised this week when I was listening to an interview with Jean Holme the Chief Knowledge Architect at NASA whose chief responsibility is to organize their knowledge management activities ranging from the internal / external content of their websites, public communications and their engineers collaboration.  She explained that their goal is to contribute to peoples day to day lives.  They achieve this by addressing their community through, online discussion forums; advanced search tools and an internal version of Facebook for collaboration.  In addition to these internal tools they also have an external presence on Facebook and use Second Life for interviews with astronauts and following landings etc.


Therefore isn’t it time that all mediums of customer communication are considered by the financial services industry rather than assuming that the customer is happy with the motto “My way or the highway” as I certainly would then revert back to my favorite brands rather than ones which actually can service my needs on the web.