There Is Something Rocking the Fintech Industry and It’s Not Brexit

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What are really the concerns, risks or benefits of incoming Brexit changes? Below Finance Monthly hears from Todd Latham, CMO & Head of Product, Currencycloud, who explains what’s truly rocking the fintech sector.

Am I the only one who has had enough of all the “Brexit is coming; the UK is doomed” headlines dominating the news?

The truth is, no one can really know what impact Brexit will have. Combine this uncertainty with the fast pace of modern business, and you might be tempted to throw your ten year plans out of the window.

Should businesses really be worried? Or are there, in fact, more pressing things to be concerned about?

The concerns

The main concern for the fintech industry post-Brexit is that the UK is going to lose its fintech crown, becoming less attractive to both business and workers. Will companies migrate their head offices to the continent? Will the world’s top talent still want to work in the UK? These are the questions keeping some of our fintech leaders awake at night. In reality, contrary to what the scaremongers would have you believe, the fintech industry in the UK is thriving, with firms attracting close to £3bn in venture capital funding in 2017. At Currencycloud, for example, we are expecting to double in size this year, and we had our first ‘billion-dollar month’ in terms of cross-border payments processed in December 2017.

Despite the rocky political times, it’s clear that the strength of fintechs means they are unlikely to be deterred. In addition, our home talent pool is impressive, and many industry essentials are exclusive to the UK. Whether it’s specialised legal firms, a friendly regulatory environment or something as basic as the time zone, there are many factors that are difficult for other nations to replicate, meaning the influx of job seekers to the UK’s fintech sector is unlikely to be affected.

But unfortunately, Brexit will not be all plain sailing. The regulatory and financial hurdles surrounding the loss of passporting will certainly result in logistical challenges for firms operating out of the UK. However, it’s important to see this as just another bump in the road for the fintech industry – no more so than previous obstacles from regulation and investment.

What is clear is that in this volatile business climate, predicting what effect Brexit will have in the future is a minefield of speculation, and ultimately, a waste of time. Instead of worrying about the what-if’s, the sector should be diverting its attention to a regulation that is affecting the industry right now: open banking.

Open banking – The fintech revolution nobody knows about

Open banking, part of the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) requirements, is aimed at increasing opportunity in the sector, as fintech companies can now offer traditional banking services – but with a faster, more seamless and exciting user experience.

Fintechs can provide the fresh ideas and agility the banking sector desperately needs, while capitalising on the customer trust and ability to scale the traditional institutions’ offerings. The regulation also ensures that any third party wishing to have access to customer data is subject to greater regulation in accordance to data protection laws – providing a safety net for businesses and customers.

A potential partnership between UK banks and fintechs, if executed correctly, could see a global revolution of the financial industry, and could lend a hand in securing the UK’s place as a top competitor in the market – regardless of EU status.

Innovate – before it is too late

As well as being a safety net for businesses, the key reason open banking is being hailed a monumental change for the fintech and wider financial sector is because it is enabling innovation in a previously stale market and is creating opportunities for fintechs to capitalise on.

In this age of AI and machine learning, customers have grown to expect a level of personalisation, which the traditional banking industry currently lacks as is shown by growing customer interest in alternative banking methods, such as Revolut, Starling and Monzo.

Open banking presents an opportunity for the sector to respond to these customer demands by tailoring traditional banking services to individual customer’s needs and wants. This could be through things such as detailed spending graphs or gamification techniques such as nudging for improved user behaviour.

Although the benefits are clear, this drive for innovation has created a pressured environment for businesses. Our research found that 49% of businesses believe their offer will lose appeal within just two years from launch and 60% of businesses agree that their companies will eventually become irrelevant if they don’t innovate constantly. Working with external organisations could offer businesses a solution to bridging the gap between idea and action. This is where the partnership between banks and fintech could be beneficial for both parties.

Brexit may, or may not, have an impact on where consumers bank down the line – but fintechs should be focusing their attention on the possibilities in the market now. By investing the time and energy on open banking, the fintech sector could have the public shunning high-street bank branches for AI and robo-advisers sooner than we think.

Change is happening – be it political, regulatory or otherwise – but you must determine which change will have the most impact on your individual business. With all the focus on Brexit, it’s easy to understand why less consideration has been given to the impact of open banking regulation. However, perhaps this is where you should be diverting your attention, as the opportunities are endless. As more and more fintech companies are jumping on the bandwagon, the initiative is picking up momentum and, we believe it will soon transform the banking industry as we know it.

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