Disruption. That’s the new term for big change that comes to industries as a result of technology. Consider just the changes in communication and services as a result of technology. The internet, smartphones, social media, education, entertainment and beyond, have all changed dramatically in the last decade, showing how technology marches on at an incredible pace.
Disruption in the financial services industry was inevitable. And it is upon us in major ways. What we witnessed in 1998, with the founding of PayPal, we are now seeing on a huge scale, with banking, investments, lending and insurance affected by huge disruptions that are being embraced as quickly as they come. As both financial service providers and consumers look to the near future, here is what to expect.
1. Fintech becomes a solution for the little guy
Traditionally, only investors with deep pockets could enter the banking and financial services industry. This is no longer the case. Lean start-ups, focusing on specific areas of financial services, do not need the kind of money that traditional institutions needed and are eating away at the market share that were traditionally the monopolies of large financial institutions.
Pushing this along, obviously, was the financial crisis of 2008 – people lost their trust in the big banks and welcomed new and innovative services that allowed them to have more personal control and choice.
Everything from transferring money to buying insurance, investing to bank accounts, even getting a mortgage loan can now be accomplished online through companies that do not have the large overheads that traditional institutions do. All they need is talent, and there is plenty of that.
And consumers love this new form of “shopping” for services, especially because they can compare all in one place. In a recent PwC Global study, respondents from traditional financial service institutions stated that by 2020, they expect to lose 25% of their business to FinTech enterprises.
2. Matching investors with those in need of capital
Time was, if an individual needed venture capital, they had two choices – family or traditional banks. The problem with traditional lending institutions was a lack of access unless all “hoops” were jumped through and all conditions met; as an industry, moreover, large institutions enjoyed a concentration of power and, often, a lack of transparency.
To compete with the venture capital industry, savvy disruptors created crowdfunding platforms and what is known as equity crowdfunding. In the former, smaller investors can contribute to a start-up venture with the anticipation of receiving a payback at interest. The latter involves individual investors putting up money for an equity position in the new venture.
Peer-to-peer lending models include such companies as Indiegogo and Kickstarter in the U.S. and Crowdcube and Seedrs in the UK. Additionally, larger companies, like Barclays and Accenture, have been attempting to find new and innovative financial solutions through acquisition, reducing the risk potential or need to conduct the research themselves. Smaller market infrastructure firms such as NEX. NEX have been successful in competing with the larger venture capital institutions and banks by partnering with growing fintech companies.
3. Data science
Data analytics have come a long way. From e-commerce businesses tracking who comes to their websites and what pages they visit and how many move into the buying funnel, technology has moved to the collection of huge amounts of data about consumers and their behaviours. From those aggregate collections, sorting that data into information that large institutions can use to make decisions about what products they offer, to whom they offer those product to, and even when they make such offerings.
This has meant a big paradigm shift from focus on products, to focus on consumers and what they want and value. Financial services institutions that use big data to drive their decisions will win the competitive race in the long run.
4. Investments – more consumer participation
Financial investment services have traditionally lain with brokerage houses and financial advisors who evaluate personal investors’ finances and make recommendations regarding investments. Then along came “day traders” who thought they could compete with the “big boys,” cut out the middleman, and make their own fortunes. In most cases, this was disastrous – they just did not have access to the research and information that the career professionals did. And, again, like banks, these career pros had a monopoly on bringing individual investors into the markets.
The mystique is now gone, and individual consumers are demanding the same information that the investment services industry has and getting it. They are also demanding personal participation in investment decisions and their own asset management. Digital robo-advisors hit the scene, and brokerage houses and investment counselors were caught off guard.
Investment institutions will have to make the change to more user-friendly platforms if they intend to keep a decent market share.
Charles Schwab realized this earlier than others. It began in the 1970’s as a discount brokerage house, offering cheap trading prices to individual investors. But when disruptors like Wealthfront and FutureAdvisor came along, the company had a choice – be beaten or change its business model.
They took some time to analyze this robo-adviser disruption and see if it was viable. It was. And so, the company became a FinTech startup itself by launching Schwab Intelligent Portfolio. It was a huge success and today it outperforms other startups.
5. Insurance and IOT
Insurance companies have also become more consumer-driven, given that customers can shop for their insurance needs online and compare products. This of course has forced insurers to modify products and become more competitive. One of the biggest disruptions in the insurance market is the internet of things (IoT). From home and car security devices to remotely controlled temperature and appliance turn-ons and shut-offs, to devices placed on cars to monitor safe-driving habits, insurance companies can use digital information to set individual rates.
6. Public cloud services will streamline banking operations
The more cloud-based computing becomes mainstream, the more comfort financial services institutions will have using it. And SaaS apps are continually improving. As this happens, core activities of financial services will be taken to the cloud and automated. As this continues to occur, the need for people services within company infrastructures will certainly be reduced. It is predicted that by 2020, core functions, such as payments, statements, billings, and even credit scoring/worthiness will no longer require human/manual work. The implications for underwriters alone, in the mortgage lending business for example, are pretty big.
7. Cyber-Security – A continuing risk of increased technology
Executives in the financial services industry continue to worry about security, especially due to the increase in the use of mobile devices and IoT technologies (particularly older devices that do not have the latest security) on the part of consumers and the potential for cyber criminals to “back door” into their systems. Cloud-based technologies can help some, but are not immune to attacks either.
These are only seven disruptions that technology has brought to the financial services industry. There are more to come – the shift to Asian technological innovations, blockchain technology which is still a bit of a “mystique” to most financial services executives, and the technological advances in the regulatory sector. And there are more to come, for certain. FinTech startups are trying to out-pace traditional institutions. Traditional institutions will need to make decisions to step up their game or to find ways to collaborate with those startups that prove to be successful. If Charles Schwab can do it, so can others.