What is Financial Technology?
Financial technology, or fintech, is a buzzword that has been getting a lot of attention in the media over the last few years. It’s used as broad catch-all term to describe any company that uses advanced technologies to simplify and improve one of the three major financial-industry sectors: banking, investments, or insurance. Fintech companies according to Fintalent’s Financial Technology Consultants use advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to help customers with things like banking, investing and insurance.
Fintech companies also make it easier for consumers to take on more risk, because they can better manage their money by combining investments and insurance. According to the Financial Technology Association, there are now more than 2,000 fintech firms in the United States alone (some estimate higher). These budding startups provide services like loan origination, digital banking and wealth management, lending money between friends or strangers and other such services. Banks are worried about losing out on revenue as a result of these new companies.
Financial technology has emerged as a new way of thinking about financial services. The term encompasses a wide array of new developments in the world of finance, including stocks, trading, and exchanges. It has proved indispensable to today’s modern banking systems and methods which no longer rely on large bank branches, but instead on financial services that facilitate self-service trades through mobile phone apps and digital platforms. This includes virtual banking as well as smartphones with biometrics to verify identity like fingerprints or facial scans for access to protected accounts. Financial technology does not violate old traditional banking but rather works within the parameters of existing systems in order to improve them for all parties involved in the process.
Financial technology is required to handle the enormous amounts of data that traditional banking is collecting and sharing. In other words, it helps banks bring together data from different sources into an equally valuable package that can predict needs better than any individual bank. Banks are regularly adapting their services according to the needs of the market. This includes connecting with customers more efficiently, providing more personalized services, developing new products, and even adding new markets enabled by finance. Financial technology has helped banks diversify risk in recent years, thus increasing their revenue and profits through new lines of business, such as credit cards and precious metals trading.
Banks are increasingly using software that includes artificial intelligence to help them with tasks such as detecting money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing. Some of these programs work by studying huge amounts of data from social media to spot suspicious behavior. A number of banks are also experimenting with smart contracts in order to reduce the time needed for mortgage approval. This can cut lead times for new mortgages from six weeks to just two days, according to one source. The same source notes that financial technology is also helping banks optimize their resources by using algorithms to manage compliance and risk processes, which prevents human error and duplication of effort. According to this source, “20% of all trades are now being processed by algo traders. All of this is part of the big shift in the nature of financial services.”
The rise in resources and costs for investing can also be attributed to financial technology. Banks and funds are using computer algorithms to manage these costs, but it does not help unless the systems have access to data from social media accounts, searches on electronic marketplaces, and GPS records. All financial transactions need data to be processed efficiently, which is increasingly limited by the amount of metadata available for each transaction, which is why banks and funds will all continue to focus on digital analytic tools that leverage machine learning algorithms in order to better understand customer behavior.
Many of these programs are using the cloud in order to handle the enormous amount of data that needs to be analyzed. Also, many hedge funds now use cloud-based platforms with Big Data analytics tools like Apache Spark in order to improve risk management, which is their key function. Data analytics plays a big role in financial technology as well. No individual bank or fund can produce enough revenue through data analysis alone, but when they share their data with other banks and funds, they can all benefit. Financial technology is also allowing banks and funds to cut costs by combining processes that were previously handled separately.
The Financial Times reports that data analytics tools are helping banks cut costs while working together to grow their business. According to this source, “It’s a big shift in the nature of financial services.” While the rise of financial technology has reignited interest in Wall Street from a role as an intermediary between consumers and providers of new services, it has also led to increased regulation as financial services change the way they function. The Financial Stability Board (FSB) has noted that countries must ensure that regulatory compliance is not hampered by technological innovation.
Other banks and regulators around the world have been influenced by the U.S. regulatory and authorities, which have been especially active in pushing for new regulations that apply specifically to the financial technology industry. For example, in 2013, the FSB issued a report entitled Financial Technology: A Bridge to Sustainable Development that demanded that digital financial services be regulated based on their potential impact on traditional finance, even though it conceded that no single solution is sufficient for all digital financial services.
Within the U.S., the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been quickly expanding its regulatory powers in order to reflect the changes that are occurring in the digital world, so that even those who are not regulated by them will be affected by their actions. The FSB has also been encouraging all countries to move faster and more confidently into exploring how technology can be used as a tool to improve financial services, which is why both the U.S. and Australia have increased their efforts to promote financial technology innovation at home and abroad.