How Fintech is shaping the future of banking depends on who you ask.
On a wintery day in Davos, a Spanish banker, a Swedish regulator, a Chinese disrupter, an American mogul and a British expert in finance and risk, sat down to discuss the implications of the ‘Global Fintech Revolution’.
The diverse panel of banking experts were quick to agree that digitisation and cloud technology would shape their industry for years to come, but had markedly different views about how change would unfold. Their input may help us to orientate ourselves on the future of finance.Disrupter and CEO of Ant Financial, Eric Jing, was enthusiastic about using Fintech to “bridge the gap”, and reaching underserved parts of the world. Jing is responsible for running the Alipay mobile wallet in China, which has an excess of 450 million users – a figure that they hope to increase to 2 billion in the next decade. He is spearheading a national revolution in rural community development, with a focus on “the little guys” and SMEs who need finance for growth, and job creation.
By contrast, veteran banker, CEO of BBVA Francisco González Rodríguez, described Fintech as a way to remain agile, efficient and relevant. BBVA bankers are a new breed of professional who are one-part financial maven and one-part skilled techie. He warned that banking would be “overhauled” by Fintech and that “the world’s “20,000 banks will be cut back drastically.” The resulting landscape will belong to “a new league of competitors,” and it was clear that BBVA intends to stick around.
As a regulator and Deputy Governor of the Swedish Central Bank (Riksbank), Cecilia Skingsley described how digital payment methods by Swedish citizens had drastically increased and caused Riksbank to consider issuing a “e-krona”, or an electronic alternative which could replace physical currency in the future. “If the market can make use of the new technology to launch new and popular payment services, why shouldn’t the Riksbank be able to do the same?” she asked.
Skingsly also struck a note of caution, arguing that as Fintech becomes more globally prevalent, the probability that it will cause the next financial crisis will only increases. We should be prepared to take a humble approach to Fintech, she warned, lest we forget that the global crisis started with a phenomenon we were all assured was “contained.”
For Paypal CEO Dan Schulman security, privacy, and service are the ingredients that will determine Fintech success or failure. Related to this are matters of generational divides in terms of what the public/private boundaries are in the financial industry and how they become blurred. “Think about where the system is going,” referring to Venmo, an app that has millennials transferring money for last night’s Uber ride. “90% of the users share that movement, and comment on it,” something that most older consumers would never think of doing.
While media consumers of all ages are open to new brands in the financial services industry, there’s a disparity in how quickly older generations will trust and adopt payment methods like Swish and Alipay. Trust in traditional institutions has accumulated for years with older consumers, while the younger generation is naturally more open to new services. “The most precious thing we will be looking after will not be our credit card but our identity,” says President of Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk David Craig.