The State of Fintech in 2017

A new year, a new trend—especially in the tech world. Fintech has been around for a few years, surfacing after the massive stock market crash of 2008 to 2009. However, with the boom in use and applications for big data software and AI software, fintech has grown from bit player to significant force of nature.  

The proliferation of a mobile state of being and instant gratification has affected even business finance software, an industry that has long monopolized the distribution of products and services. “Long seen as a highly technical, highly regulated industry dominated by giant banks that resist disruption,” Inc. Magazine explained, “Demand for upstarts’ services is strong.” Those upstarts are part of the fintech industry, and they have made waves across multiple business segments. The technology that fintech has harnessed and the services they provide have significantly influenced the finance industry as a whole.

What is Fintech?

Fintech is short for financial technology. It is also the general term that refers to finance-related startups that use technology to disrupt and reinvent the existing institutions, services and products that currently make up the landscape of finance. Examples of tech industries that are disrupting financials are: payment gateway software, crowdsourced funding, human resources software, e-commerce marketplaces, digital currency exchange, online lending and wealth management/financial services.  

Fintech startups are reacting to that established finance landscape and pointedly finding solutions for any weak points in that market. And while the Economist reassured the financial industry that “the fintech firms are not about to kill off traditional banks. No fintech product comes close to matching the convenience and security of a current account at a bank…nonetheless, the fintech revolution will reshape finance—and improve it.”

Fintech companies harness data and innovation to give wider access to financial services among the traditionally underserved, like those with bad credit scores due to college debt or startups that don’t register as financially stable as larger corporations. Data has always played a role in empowering companies with information that helps them understand why a product is doing well or why they lost a customer. Analytics platforms have helped companies measure things like the performance of their products and marketing efforts so they may tailor products for various customer segments. According to GoodCall, a consumer-focused education and personal finance website, “it’s not only [fintech’s] fresh perspective on financial markets that is making this industry possible. It’s also a convergence of technology and big data, enabling all sorts of companies to harness and analyze information in new ways.”

What Ripple Effect Does Fintech Have?

As Centric Digital, a business management consulting company, eloquently puts it: “If you can’t beat them, consider [joining] them.” Banks and sector businesses that partner with or absorb fintech companies have realized that they themselves will benefit from the technological tools that power fintech leverage. Some of the benefits include the holistic look at customers’ needs and expectations, ways to improve inefficiencies without risking their already-existing services and the retention of a younger demographic that approaches personal finance differently than previous generations.   

Predictions for Fintech in 2017 and beyond?
  • Artificial intelligence software will continue to be a game changer. Fintech companies will harness AI technology to improve their products and services, leverage data and even further personalize customers’ banking and finance experiences. 
  • Virtual wallets will supercede physical wallets because of the proliferation of mobile use and access to finance-related services. Accordingly, security measures will become more pronounced and airtight, thanks to advancements in biometric security. 
  • The expectation of instantaneous service will continue to rise. The gratification that comes from instant payouts and ‘round-the-clock support from robo-advisors will change the way both fintech and traditional institutions approach innovation in customer satisfaction. 
  • The world has turned its eye to the U.S.’s fintech activity, and fintech will have to scale accordingly. The Bank of Korea has “argued that new technology will allow more small firms to enter the market and lower people’s reliance on a small number of large financial institutions.”  

The evolution in peer-to-peer lending, thanks to products like Venmo that are steadily gaining ground, will result in more hurdles for the fintech industry. Partnerships between fintech services and traditional finance institutions will need to consider whether peer-to-peer lending, for example, will create opportunities to further disrupt established technology and processes.