2015 marked a watershed year for fintech as large financial institutions joined a thriving startup ecosystem in embracing the opportunity of disruptive technologies. It may have been some time in the making, but the consensus resounded across financial services as we pulled into 2016: innovate or die.
The most compelling fintech advancements last year centered on consumer lending and payments, areas less encumbered by the regulatory and compliance hurdles which often inhibit technological innovation in sizeable banks and investment firms. Technology that benefits consumers directly has largely been a no-brainer, but B2B forms of fintech have been slower to develop.
With the big players now at the table, partnering with and working alongside increasingly seasoned fintech startups, 2016 is looking more and more like the year we’ll witness the first significant breakthroughs in scaling and commercialising fintech.
The most likely breakthrough in 2016 is around blockchain, the distributive-ledger technology which underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Blockchain, a key area of investment and attention for the industry in 2015, has the potential to overhaul global payments and enable instant, secure transactions at lower costs.
The next level for blockchain, expected this year, is the announcement of successful case studies which improve a process or fix an entrenched problem. These models could then lead to exponential growth in the adoption of and trust in the blockchain and ultimately translate into real commercial products.
Blockchain also has the potential to transform cyber security – increasingly a C-suite and board-level concern. Following a year of high profile cyber attacks, including at TalkTalk, Anthem Health Insurance, Carphone Warehouse and Ashley Madison, all organisations must look at what more can be done to protect their data and customers.
The Bank of England recently instructed financial services firms to focus on cyber risk amidst the serious and growing threat of attacks at the heart of the UK financial system. With this focus, we expect much of the fintech investment will center on identifying and adopting new ways to use technological solutions to secure customer and corporate information.
Finally, we expect to see a number of startup ecosystems continue their impressive contributions to fintech and fuel our growth. It is of little surprise that some of the most exciting mobile fintech developments have emerged from Africa, Asia and Latin America where they have been tested and developed by expectant consumer marketplaces. Closer to the heart of the global financial system, large organisations and startups in London are well positioned to use this experience to address some of the more complex and stakeholder-rich challenges we see in banking today.
With fintech financing, especially at the early stage, growing at nearly twice the rate in London as Silicon Valley over the last decade and a government dedicated to making London a leading global centre for fintech, the UK will continue to narrow the gap between U.S. and European startups in the mid and later stages of their maturity. 2016 is ripe for significant development of UK-based fintechs at the latter stages of their growth.
The power of technology is clearer than ever for financial services. Consumers and clients alike demand technology that makes their lives and work easier and smarter. We are encouraged by the collaboration we finally see across the industry in embracing disruption to grow our businesses well into this new era of fintech.