What the Tokyo Paralympics can teach us about financial services digital transformation

The postponed Tokyo Paralympics 2020 is now well underway, showcasing the pure inclusivity of sport, with athletes competing across 22 events. The Games are also proving to be the most technologically advanced to date, with a wide range of technology being brought to the fore. Advanced innovation – from driverless cars to robots – is playing a crucial role in helping the Paralympics run smoothly and make experiences more interactive and immersive for athletes and viewers alike.

The adoption and development of new tech for the Paralympics mirrors the efforts being made by organisations and industries across the globe, that are using tech in innovative ways to improve the customer experience whilst also underpinning performance and profitability. And the financial services sector is no exception, with digital transformation bringing game-changing benefits for consumers and businesses alike.

An ever-evolving tech landscape

Japan’s status as a leader in innovation has long been known. Technology has totally transformed Tokyo, making it a hub for tourism and business – indeed it is considered one of the top cities in Japan for startups – not to mention an incredibly exciting place to host the Paralympics. There is a piece of artwork at the Games that encapsulates this – the ‘Constant Garden’, an infusion of tech and art. The way it works is, a computer analyses footage from different sports, abstracting movements frame by frame. It applies this to an algorithm which then drives a robot, making patterns in the sand to represent the athletes’ movements. The ‘Constant Garden’ is a different celebration of the Games – one that has tech at the heart of it.

Similarly, technology is transforming financial services. In the same way ‘Constant Garden’ uses data to produce new patterns, Fintechs and payments firms are harnessing the power of data too. There is a vast amount of data that is captured when just one person makes a payment – where it comes from in the world, what the sales channel is, how much the transaction was and more. As such, savvy merchants are targeting shoppers through data insights and personalised paying experiences. Payment business and Payment Service Providers (PSPs) are leading the way, empowering merchants to give consumers exactly what they want – whether that is digital wallets, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) or even alternative payment options.

What’s more, we’re seeing a shift towards embedded finance where e-commerce platforms and tech companies — like ride-sharing apps, social media platforms and online retailers — offer additional services, alongside their usual offering. Therefore, giving consumers even more options and a greater personalised experience. Technology is ever-changing, and financial services is too.

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Entering the AI era

At the Paralympic Games, some of the technology being used is still considered futuristic, with AI playing a large role in this. In particular, robot assistants and driverless cars have generated a lot of hype. The Tokyo 2020 Robot Project produced a range of machine powered friends: support for wheelchair users with Human Support Robots, mascot robots welcoming athletes with human-like movements and Field Support Robots equipped with autonomous functions to assist at throwing events, to name but a few. What’s more, Toyota’s vehicles are providing automated, loop-line transportation in the Paralympic village for athletes and related staff.

What financial services can learn from this is, emerging tech, and particularly AI, doesn’t have to be scary. AI can provide a seamless experience for service providers and customers and adopting this mindset could change the industry forever. For example, AI can transform how the sector approaches anti-money laundering (AML). It can alleviate admin heavy processes while enhancing fraud detection far beyond human capabilities. From our own experience we know it increases rules precision, highlighting patterns and red flags the naked human eye could never spot. If that wasn’t enough, it also cuts down false positives – of which the industry can see rates of a staggering 99%.

It’s all about the customer

With spectators unable to attend the Games this year due to rising COVID-19 cases, the Olympics and Paralympics have bolstered the viewer experience to make fans feel part of the action. For example, 3DAT is a technology that provides an inside view into the results of a race and how Paralympians perform and compare against one another. Visual overlays can show viewers the exact moment each sprinter, for instance, reached their top speed. What’s more, to help audiences understand the challenges involved in sport climbing and paraclimbing, the Olympics Broadcast Services created 3D representations of the holds and walls. Augmented Reality technology is switched between the (real) camera shots and the virtual. All of this enhances the viewer experience and sets a precedent for future Games.

Likewise, organisations in the payments sector are facing a rapidly growing demand for instant access service options, driven by the world becoming more digital and consumers becoming more comfortable with transacting online. This trend is quickly becoming an expectation in the B2B payments space too, with not only traditional banks finding themselves in this new digital ‘instant access’ realm; payments businesses of all kinds are having to pivot to respond to this challenge. Consumers are ultimately the driving force behind innovation in the industry.

Technological breakthroughs are happening all the time, but this year’s Paralympics and Olympics have showcased this on a global stage. Tokyo 2020 has embodied what it means to be a forward thinker, something financial services can surely be inspired by. From online banking and Buy Now Pay Later to embedded finance and facial recognition payments, the financial services space is in the midst of a huge digital transformation journey, and it’s time for all financial institutions to embrace this.

Written by Anders la Cour, CEO and co-founder of Banking Circle

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