London is one of the largest financial capitals of the world, and last year was ranked the world’s best financial centre, topping every category in the index measured by Z/Yen Group. This included the best financial business environment, most impressive infrastructure, best human capital, most developed financial centre and overall top reputation.
With this in play, it is only natural that it is also a hub for fintech innovation, with the City and its large financial institutions investing in tech start-ups and accelerator programmes.
It is a boom area and Britain is leading the way in pedigree across Europe. Eileen Burbidge, the government’s fintech envoy, said a year ago: “The UK is emerging as the fintech centre of the world and London is the jewel in the crown of the UK’s fintech success story.”
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Investment in London-based fintech companies was over £357 million last year, according to London & Partners, the organisation set up by the Mayor’s office to encourage investment into the city.
How this story continues post-Brexit remains to be seen – but for now, London is in a good place.
A whole new set of fintech start-ups are emerging, dealing in innovative services from Bitcoin trading to micro-loans and crowdfunding. All of these have communication and transactional needs, between the organisations and their customers.
Meanwhile, larger incumbents look to become more ‘agile’ to compete with these young upstarts, while national and European legislators want regulations to be followed, and for transactions to remain safe and traceable.
Organisations at both ends of the spectrum are increasingly moving to a ‘mobile first’ model as well, which is being dictated by changing consumer demands. The need to be mobile ready is therefore having the most dramatic impact on the services that are now being offered.
But mobility is just one of four complementary trends and issues that are impacting the sector, along with trust and security, efficiency and context.
While all of these are impacted by back-end IT systems, process automation and data communications, there is also often a related need for people to communicate in real-time. Away from the high street, voice – and increasingly video communications – is being blended with app-based interaction, notifications and messaging.
Real-time communication (RTC) technology has enabled this and permits the ‘democratisation’ of communications, for which banking, insurance and related sectors have been at the forefront of commercial adoption to date.
This reflects a high level of investment in mobile and digital applications across the finance industry, and is encompassing the perpetually-evolving role of human-led communications, as the industry’s products and processes change.
Adoption vs. disruption
While all industries are heading rapidly down the path of that mobile first model, fintech has positioned itself at the front of the adoption curve.
Mobile banking apps are getting ever-more sophisticated, with payment apps (both third-party and device-integrated) gaining plenty of traction.
Tools for professional investors and employees to manage their assets on the go are also becoming increasingly prevalent. But there is a growing need for better in-app virtual support and communication emerging in parallel.
Recent advances in communication technology means that banks and financial service providers actually have a relatively straightforward path to the provision of customer-centric user experiences.
Customer interactions that take place in real-time – VoIP calling, video chat, instant messaging, encrypted file- and screen- sharing, virtual presence and recording – can all be made available at the touch of a button with RTC.
Juniper Research predicts that, by 2017, there will be a billion mobile banking customers around the world. 40% of these will still ring call centres or visit their bank’s high street branches for certain enquiries, all the while accessing their accounts via an app or mobile optimised website on their phone.
There is an increasingly large proportion of the world’s banking population, who in the next few years will have virtually no inclination to physically interaction with a bank.
Convenience is key. Consumers want tailored solutions that replicate the experience they have become familiar with through messaging services such as WhatsApp and FaceTime. It’s vital for organisations to adhere to any such consumer preferences to ensure business success and market share.
>See also: Is FinTech a bubble?
RTC will be increasingly important in the financial services vertical, across retail banking, insurance, capital markets and various emerging fintech applications.
While it will often include video-based communications, much of the value will also come from enhanced in-app voice interaction, back-end recording and processing, real-time data exchange and integration with messaging and legacy systems.
As fintech is changing the financial services industry from the outside in, financial institutions and tech companies are stepping over one another for a chance to carve out their slice of the action.
This new competitive playing field is blurring the lines between traditional finance, tech, e-commerce and even telco companies. And however uncertain the UK’s place in Europe and the global economy now looks, we can take some comfort in the strength of such a burgeoning sector.
Sourced from Maria Hudson, head of corporate marketing, Xura