FinTech or Financial Technology has improved and automated the delivery and use of financial services. It has and still is helping companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives by utilizing specialized software and algorithms that are used on computers and, increasingly, smartphones.
When fintech emerged in the 21st Century, the term was initially applied to the technology employed at the back-end systems of established financial institutions. Since then, however, there has been a shift to more consumer-oriented services and therefore a more consumer-oriented definition. Fintech now includes different sectors and industries such as education, retail banking, fundraising and nonprofit, and investment management.
Fintech and New Tech
New technologies, like machine learning/artificial intelligence, predictive behavioral analytics, and data-driven marketing, will take the guesswork and habit out of financial decisions. “Learning” apps will not only learn the habits of users, often hidden to themselves, but will engage users in learning games to make their automatic, unconscious spending and saving decisions better. Fintech is also a keen adaptor of automated customer service technology, utilizing chatbots to and AI interfaces to assist customers with basic task and also keep down staffing costs. Fintech is also being leveraged to fight fraud by leveraging information about payment history to flag transactions that are outside the norm.
FinTech users can be categorized into B2B for banks, and for their business clients, B2C for small businesses and consumers. Trends toward mobile banking, increased information, data, and more accurate analytics and decentralization of access will create opportunities for all four groups to interact in heretofore unprecedented ways.
As for consumers, as with most technology, the younger you are the more likely it will be that you are aware of and can accurately describe what fintech is. The fact is that consumer-oriented fintech is mostly targeted toward millennials given the huge size and rising earning (and inheritance) potential of that much-talked-about segment. Some fintech watchers believe that this focus on millennials has more to do with the size of that marketplace than the ability and interest of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in using fintech. Rather, fintech tends to offer little to older consumers because it fails to address their problems.
When it comes to businesses, before the advent and adoption of fintech, a business owner or startup would have gone to a bank to secure financing or startup capital. If they intended to accept credit card payments they would have to establish a relationship with a credit provider and even install infrastructure, such as a landline-connected card reader. Now, with mobile technology, those hurdles are a thing of the past
ACTIVE AREAS OF FINTECH
Some of the most active areas of fintech innovation include or revolve around the following areas:
- Cryptocurrency and digital cash.
- Blockchain technology, including Ethereum, a distributed ledger technology (DLT) that maintain records on a network of computers, but has no central ledger.
- Smart contracts, which utilize computer programs (often utilizing the blockchain) to automatically execute contracts between buyers and sellers.
- Open banking, a concept that leans on the blockchain and posits that third-parties should have access to bank data to build applications that create a connected network of financial institutions and third-party providers. An example is the all-in-one money management tool Mint.
- Insurtech, which seeks to use technology to simplify and streamline the insurance industry.
- Regtech, which seeks to help financial service firms meet industry compliance rules, especially those covering Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer protocols which fight fraud.
- Robo-advisors, such as Betterment, utilize algorithms to automate investment advice to lower its cost and increase accessibility.
- Unbanked/underbanked, services that seek to serve disadvantaged or low-income individuals who are ignored or underserved by traditional banks or mainstream financial services companies.
- Cybersecurity, given the proliferation of cybercrime and the decentralized storage of data, cybersecurity and fintech are intertwined.