FinTech is more than technology. It is a cultural mindset. Companies hoping to flourish need to shift their thinking to better meet customer needs, constantly track technological developments, aggressively engage with external partners and integrate digitization into their corporate DNA. To fully leverage the potential of FinTech, financial institutions (FIs) should have a top-down approach and embrace new technologies in every aspect of their businesses.
Putting FinTech at the heart of the strategy
The majority of our respondents (60%) put FinTech at the heart of their strategy. In particular, a high number of CEOs agree with this approach (78%), supporting the integration of FinTech at the top levels of management. Advances in technology and communication, combined with the acceleration of data growth, empower customers at nearly every level of engagement, making FinTech essential at all levels.
Our survey supports this notion. Among the respondents that regard themselves as fully customer-centric, 77% put FinTech at the heart of their strategy, while, among respondents that see themselves as only slightly customer-centric, only 27% put FinTech at the same level. A smaller but still significant share of respondents disagrees with putting FinTech at the heart of their strategy (13%). This might be a business risk in the long run, as firms that do not recognize the impact of FinTech will face fierce competition from new entrants. As rivals become more innovative, incumbents might run the risk of being surpassed in their core business strengths.
The share of respondents from fund transfer and payments organizations that want to put FinTech at the heart of their strategy exceeds 80%, a high proportion compared with other sectors. At the other extreme are insurance and asset and wealth management companies, where, respectively, only 43% and 45% of respondents consider FinTech to be a core element of their strategy.
Adopting a ‘mobile-first’ approach
Adopting a “mobile-first” approach is the key to improving customer experience. As Section 2 shows, the biggest trends in FinTech will be related to the multiple ways financial services (FS) engages with customers.
Traditional providers are increasingly taking a “mobile-first” approach to reach out to consumers (e.g. designing their products and services with the aim of enhancing customer engagement via mobile). More than half (52%) of the respondents in our survey offer a mobile application to their clients, and 18% are currently developing one. Banks, 81% of which offer mobile applications, are, increasingly, using these channels to deliver compelling value propositions, generate new revenue streams and collect data from customers. According to Bill Gates, in the year 2030, two billion new customers will use their mobile phones to save, lend and make payments.
Significant growth in clients using mobile applications is expected by 2020. While, currently, the majority of respondents (66%) contend that not more than 40% of their clients use their mobile applications, 61% believe that, over the next five years, more than 60% of their clients will be using mobile applications at least once a month to access financial services.
Toward a more collaborative approach
Whether FS organizations adopt digital or mobile strategies, integrating FinTech is essential. According to our survey, the most widespread form of collaboration with FinTech companies is joint partnership (32%). Traditional FS organizations are not ready to go all-in and invest fully in FinTech. Joint partnership is an easy and flexible way to get involved with a technology firm and harness its capabilities within a safe test environment. By partnering with FinTech companies, incumbents can strengthen their competitive position and bring solutions or products into the market more quickly. Moreover, this is an effective way for both incumbents and FinTech companies to identify challenges and opportunities, as well as to gain a deeper understanding of how they complement one another.
Given the speed of technology development, incumbents cannot afford to ignore FinTech. Nevertheless, a significant minority—rather than a non-negligible share (25%)—of survey respondents do not interact with FinTech companies at all, which could lead to an underestimation of the potential benefits and threats they can bring. According to The Economist, the majority of bankers (54%) are either ignoring the challenge or are talking about disruption without making any changes. FinTech executives confirm this view: 59% of FinTech companies believe banks are not reacting to the disruption by FinTech.
Integrating FinTech comes with challenges
A common challenge FinTech companies and incumbents face is regulatory uncertainty. FinTech represents a challenge to regulators, as there may be a risk of an uneven playing field between the FS and FinTech companies. In fact, 86% of FS CEOs are concerned about the impact of overregulation on their prospects for growth, making this the biggest threat to growth they face. However, the problems do not correspond to specific regulations but rather to ambiguity and confusion. Industry players are asking which regulatory agencies govern FinTech companies. Which rules do FinTech companies have to abide by? And, specifically, which FinTech companies have to adhere to which regulations? In particular, small players struggle to navigate a complex, ever-increasing regulatory compliance environment as they strive to define their compliance model. Recent years have brought an increase of regulations in the FS industry, where even long-standing players are struggling to keep up.
While most FS providers and FinTech companies would agree that the regulatory environment poses serious challenges, there are differences of opinion on which are the most significant. For incumbents, IT security is crucial. This highlights the genuine constraints traditional FS organizations face regarding the introduction of new technologies into existing systems. On the other hand, fund transfer and payments businesses see their biggest challenges in the differences in operational processes and business models. The complexity of processes and emerging business models, as explained in Section 1, which aim to lead the payments industry into a new era, have the potential to both disrupt and complement traditional fund transfer and payments institutions. Their challenge lies in refining old methods while pioneering new processes to compete in the long run.
Just more than half of FinTech companies (54%) believe management and culture act as roadblocks in their dealings with FIs. Because FinTech companies are mainly smaller, they are more agile and flexible. And, because most are in the early stages of development, their structures and processes are not set in stone, allowing them to adapt more easily and quickly to challenges.
Disruption of the FS industry is happening, and FinTech is the driver. It reshapes the way companies and consumers engage by altering how, when and where FS and products are provided. Success is driven by the ability to improve customer experience and meet changing customer needs.
Information on FinTech is somewhat dispersed and obscure, which can make synthesizing the data challenging. It is therefore critical to filter the noise around FinTech and focus on the most relevant trends, technologies and start-ups. To help industry players navigate the glut of material, we based our findings on DeNovo insights and the views of survey participants, highlighting key trends that will enhance customer experience, self-directed services, sophisticated data analytics and cyber security.
In response to this rapidly changing environment, incumbent financial institutions have approached FinTech in various ways, such as through joint partnerships or start-up programs. But whatever strategy an organization pursues, it cannot afford to ignore FinTech.
The main impact of FinTech will be the surge of new FS business models, which will create challenges for both regulators and market players. FS firms should turn away from trying to control all parts of their value chain and customer experience through traditional business models and instead move toward the center of the FinTech ecosystem by leveraging their trusted relationships with customers and their extensive access to client data.
For many traditional financial institutions, this approach will require a fundamental shift in identity and purpose. The new norm will involve turning away from a linear product-push approach to a customer-centric model in which FS providers are facilitators of a service that enables clients to acquire advice and interact with all relevant actors through multiple channels.
By focusing on incorporating new technologies into their own architecture, traditional financial institutions can prepare themselves to play a central role in the new FS world in which they will operate at the center of customer activity and maintain strong positions, even as innovations alter the marketplace.
FIs should make the most of their position of trust with customers, brand recognition, access to data and knowledge of the regulatory environment to compete. FS players might not recognize the financial industry of the future, but they will be in the center of it.
This post was co-written by: John Shipman, Dean Nicolacakis, Manoj Kashyap and Steve Davies.