Personal Finance. Money. Investing.

The rallying call from Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group, comes as world leaders, CEOs, academics, influencers and celebrities head to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos for the 50th annual World Economic Forum (WEF), starting Tuesday.

Mr Green comments: “As it celebrates its landmark 50th year, the World Economic Forum 2020 has the opportunity to champion and enhance the transformation of business, which has been dubbed the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution.’

“We’re living through a pivotal moment in history in which increased and advancing technology is monumentally and profoundly changing the way we live, do business, and interact with one another.” 

He continues: “We can clearly see seismic shifts happening in the financial services industry – a sector trade and commerce is deeply reliant upon.

“The vast majority of this change is being driven by financial technology, or 'fintech.'  Mobile banking and investment apps, peer-to-peer lending, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, robo-advisers, and crowdfunding are all part of this fundamental shake-up of the space.”

Mr Green goes on to add: “The momentum and energy of this evolution now needs to be harnessed by delegates in Davos.

“They need to commit to fintech by using their time, energy and resources for its research and development for three principal, positive reasons.

“First, it benefits society. Fintech can speed up the pace of global financial inclusion. It can provide access to financial services for millions of people who live in remote areas and/or who might normally not be able to use financial services because of historical biases of traditional financial companies. Helping individuals, firms and organizations successfully manage, save and invest can only result in better, stronger and more stable communities for us all.

“Second, fintech offers companies the opportunity to be agile, to diversify, to cut costs, and to meet regulatory requirements all whilst improving the client experience. This will help them thrive in rapidly challenging times of change and disruption.

“And third, the revolution is happening with or without them. As consumers, we increasingly want all our financial services needs to be dealt with online and/or on their mobile devices. We demand personal service and instant access anywhere and at any time. This trend is only set to grow as we all become increasingly dependent on tech.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Davos 2020 is the ideal forum in which to unite the best political and business leaders to galvanize the positive potential of the fintech revolution.

“With a slowing global economy, it is an opportunity that the world cannot afford to miss.”

Here David Orme, SVP at IDEX Biometrics ASA, discusses with Finance Monthly how Gen Z is set to chat the face of modern banking, as well as how banks can address fraud and security challenges and the role of biometrics in combatting fraud.

Consumers in Generation Z (those born after 1995) are the biggest market disrupters right now. They are predicted to make up 40% of all consumers by 2020, and will account for 32% of the global population overtaking millennials (31.5%, born between 1980-1994). As this generation’s spending power grows, they will change the consumer world in many ways.

Now, Generation Z looks set to transform the face of modern banking too. Our recent research into Generation Z’s attitudes towards banking and online security and biometrics found that nearly eight-in-ten (79%) 16-24-year olds think banks should do more to protect their customers from fraud.

Additionally, the youngest consumers in our study were 16-17-year olds, the target age for many new banking customers. Of this age group, a huge 95% think banks should be increasing fraud protection for their customers.

Why is Generation Z so concerned about fraud?

Having grown up around the threat of cybercrime, those in Generation Z are more aware of the risks of fraud than the more security-lax millennials (born between 1981 and 1994). Our research found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of 16-24-year olds believe it is too easy to find someone’s personal information online nowadays. Also, more than half (52%) of Generation Z are worried about someone stealing their identity.

I recently observed a focus group of 18-24-year olds to support our research and noticed a high level of awareness about banking and online security from the respondents. Interestingly, many of the young consumers showed they don’t just jump to install the latest banking apps simply because they are new or cool. They are thoughtful with their consumer decisions and assess how well services or technologies fit their security and financial needs first.

One respondent, Nikki, who is 24 and from London, stood out for rejecting mobile payment apps, the opposite of the perceived image of someone in Gen Z: “I only use my bank card to pay for things,” she said. “I deliberately keep my phone separate because I don’t want spending money to be too convenient.”

The security challenge

Like Nikki, many Generation Z consumers are more cautious while banking or shopping than retailers and banks often believe. The research shows that, far from being over-sharers of their personal information, more than three-quarters (76%) of Generation Z accept that it’s their responsibility to look after their data and keep their identity safe. In return, these consumers expect their banks and service providers to work just as hard to deliver a high level of protection for them.

Although new challenger banks, such as Monzo and Starling, are growing rapidly among young consumers, that doesn’t mean Generation Z trust them more when it comes to security than the high street giants. Michael, a 19-year-old student from London also in the focus group, summed up the care with which Generation Z approach digital banks: “I feel the online banks have to push up their security because there’s no physical presence,” he said. “So they’ve got to be more secure to be on top of their game.”

Although new challenger banks, such as Monzo and Starling, are growing rapidly among young consumers, that doesn’t mean Generation Z trust them more when it comes to security than the high street giants.

Our study also reveals a wider lack of confidence in all banks, as only half of Generation Z shoppers (54%) are certain that their bank would refund them any losses if someone fraudulently accessed their bank account and stole any amount of money. The new generation of banking customers expect greater security and responsibility from high street banks, which in turn is driving their consumer choices.

The biometric banking solution

The findings also show that Generation Z wants to see banks adopting new technology to combat card and online fraud. Nearly two-thirds of them (62%) think all banks should offer biometric payment cards to help reduce fraud.

Additionally, nearly half (45%) of Generation Z can’t believe credit and debit cards don’t already use biometrics for payment and ID security. Again, this is even higher among 16-17-year olds, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of them expecting banks to already use biometrics for payment card security. As high street banks often thrive on signing-up new customers while they are young, appealing to this new generation of consumers is vital for the industry.


Therefore, financial institutions must now add biometric technology to the payment card market to attract young and potentially loyal customers. In fact, nearly half of those in Generation Z (46%) would choose a bank that offered biometric payment cards over one that didn’t.

Most importantly, Generation Z consumers are willing to pay for added security as two-in-five (43%) would expect to pay a little more for a biometric payment card, with a third (33%) willing to pay between £3-5 per month for it.

Banks need to act now

While many traditional banks have been slow to respond to the needs of Generation Z customers, it’s important for the success and future of the financial industry that they don’t ignore the demands of this generation of customers any longer. Unless high street banks act now to address the security concerns of those in Generation Z, they’ll soon be overtaken by fintechs and digital challengers who can innovate faster.

It is apparent under 24s expect to be using new, secure biometric technology today for increased payment security and convenience. Banks must now introduce innovative biometric payment cards to attract young customers, protect users from fraud and build trust with the consumers of tomorrow.

As John Murdock, CEO of business intelligence experts Centage, explains below for Finance Monthly, this has begun to shift over the past decade due to technology and automation.

Companies like Botkeeper and are fully automating tasks like entry and validation of transactions, line items, compliance and auditing corporate books. Other companies offer platforms that streamline budgeting, surface trends hidden in data, and a wide variety of classic financial team functions.

As these functions move into software, one of two things will happen: accountants will lose their jobs, or automation will prompt them to radically transform the office of finance. Even if  CEOs prefer people to AI, they may have trouble finding qualified accountants to staff their financial teams. According to Accounting Today: “Accounting, like many professions, is experiencing a shrinking talent pool as boomers retire and younger generations are opting for other careers.”

This evolution is going to kickstart some serious changes in the industry, which is why the AICPA, through its CPA Evolution project, is working to ensure CPAs continue have the skills needed to support the accounting profession. I see that there are five distinct transformations occurring in the office of finance that are a direct result of financial technology.

1. Finance teams are becoming business partners

Back office automation allows the financial team members to move in a more strategic, front-office role by offering their talents to the managers and department heads who run the day-to-day business. For instance, the financial team of a retailer can help the company optimize revenue per square foot, or understand the profitability of each product in order to tweak the brand’s merchandising strategy.

The financial team of a retailer can help the company optimize revenue per square foot, or understand the profitability of each product in order to tweak the brand’s merchandising strategy.

Personally, I see this as a positive development. I never saw the benefit of sequestering such an important role in the office of finance. The finance team is responsible for ensuring company priorities are funded. How can they do that if they don’t understand how or why those things become priorities to begin with?

2. Finance teams will recruit more graduates with business and operational knowledge, not just accounting degrees

The more the financial office moves to the front-office, the more executives will value people who have degrees and backgrounds in business strategy, market differentiation, and competitive positioning. These are the skills that inform strategic decision-making and can help the business chart long-term strategies.

This is a reversal of a trend that began after the 2008 financial crisis and the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley. According to the executive search firm Spencer Stuart, the number of CFOs with CPA certification rose from 29% to 45%. But now that compliance and auditing can be automated, I believe that CPA certification will be less of a priority for management teams.

The accounting industry itself is undergoing a similar shift. Non-accounting college graduates accounted for 31% of new hires across public accounting firms in the US in 2018. The Journal of Accountancy cites the need for tech skills as a primary driver of the shift: “Increased demand for technology skills is shifting the accounting firm hiring model,”  Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA President and CEO and the CEO of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, said in a news release. “This is leading to more non-accounting graduates being hired, particularly in the audit function.”

3. More CFOs will have a non-traditional path to leadership

The other day I listened to a podcast of the Boston Red Sox, Tim Zue, describing his rise to CFO. He didn’t come from a finance background (he studied mechanical engineering in college). But after working for the Red Sox organization for more than 18 years, he developed a keen understanding of the business, which more than made up for his lack of a finance degree. He knew the right questions to ask in order to make strategic business decisions. As a result, he now believes that the only way to gain such a deep understanding is to get into the front office and work with the people who are running it day-to-day.

The only way to gain such a deep understanding is to get into the front office and work with the people who are running it day-to-day.

I agree wholeheartedly with Zue, not the least because I experienced the same trajectory in my own career. I earned my bachelor's degree in engineering and worked in sales and marketing prior to becoming a chief revenue officer. My experiences as CRO positioned me to become a CEO.

4. Technology will increase the demand for strategic thinkers

This may seem counterintuitive, but as AI merges with business intelligence to alert the finance teams to trends inside the business as well as trends within their markets, companies will need CFOs who are highly strategic thinkers. After all, if everyone uses the same software to guide decisions, they’ll all make the same decisions. We see this phenomenon in our everyday lives all the time. For instance, Waze does a great job of informing drivers of traffic congestion and suggesting alternative routes. But if enough drivers take that alternate route, it just creates another traffic jam.

To complete the metaphor, successful companies will need CFOs who can see the out-of-box alternative route to long-term sustainability and growth.


5. Finance and engineering will merge

Financial degrees are already becoming more data and tech centric. This past October, the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University announced it will offer a masters degree in financial technology. There is compelling reason why these disciplines are merging: both center around data. Fintech is still in its infancy, and it offers significant opportunities for engineers to build out automation around financial rules. It makes sense for engineering schools like Pratt to train their students in the ins and outs of finance. I can’t emphasize enough how radically the coupling of these disciplines will transform accounting and finance over the next decade.

Accountants and finance teams shouldn’t fear technology. It will certainly change the way they think about their roles, but that’s a positive, not a negative development, especially for ambitious people who are eager to play a more strategic role in their corporations.

New challenges are being laid down and to remain relevant, businesses are facing tough decisions on how to best align to the current economic climate.

With significant change comes great opportunity. As we step into 2020 and the next decade, Stephen Magennis, MD for UK Quality Business at Expleo, acknowledges that in spite of market challenges, it is an exciting time for businesses who are looking to use technology to drive their future success.

The Biggest Change of the Past Decade: Fast money

Currency has been used to trade in exchange for goods and services for millennia. Each evolution has been prompted by a shift in convenience. Bartering? Too variable. Bronze replicas? Too cumbersome. Metal coins? Too heavy. Paper? Too bulky.

For a long time, plastic cards seemed to have cracked the problem: easily portable, quick, convenient. Then Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, which represented a seismic cultural shift in how we go about our daily lives.

This one device enables us to stay connected and productive in so many ways, that it was inevitable it would also be the catalyst for another evolution in the story of currency. Contactless payments are designed to be seamless and convenient. One tap, and the shopper is on to their next errand. Simple.

Arguably, of all the technologies which have emerged over the last ten years, contactless payment has claim on being the most impactful on our daily lives.

Arguably, of all the technologies which have emerged over the last ten years, contactless payment has claim on being the most impactful on our daily lives.

Here it is worth thinking of the proverbial swan, calm and collected floating on the lake’s surface, yet paddling away under the water. The technology used to deploy, integrate and support contactless systems is complex. Layers of data and functionality are in play, with security constantly being tested, reviewed and enhanced so users can remain confident that their money is protected.

Across travel, retail, entertainment and beyond, experts are already looking for the next technology evolution in the payment space that will ensure customer experience remains paramount. In the early 2020s, we are likely to see regulation technology move into the spotlight while biometrics become mainstream.

The businesses leading the charge will be those who can ensure systems are fit for purpose, delivering a simple user interface and offering rigorously-tested security.


The Differentials to Come in the Next Decade:

  1. Winning the data war

Managing data in a way that combines and analyses knowledge from across global organisations is still a major challenge. Stricter data integrity and protection laws, heavy fines and lower customer trust won’t make this critical opportunity any easier to grasp.

However, those that can master big data, real-time analytics and enhanced cognitive capabilities will be better equipped to counterstrike the Fintech threat and remain relevant.

  1. Guaranteeing financial resilience

Since the 2008 banking crisis, regulators have forced institutions to swell their reserves in case of another crash. With the growing dependency on technology – and the potential threat of disruption from cyber terrorism, outages and data breaches – Financial Institutions (FIs) may soon need to guarantee their operational resilience too. Or they may choose to advertise resilience as a competitive advantage.

  1. Making use of robotics

AI assistants and humanoid robots are constantly evolving. These technology advancements are key for FIs becoming cognitive – replicating the human ability to learn and respond to the preferences of customers.

That said, there is still work to be done in convincing customers that a personalised service from a chat bot who can understand your speech, gestures and even your facial expressions is a good thing.

  1. Do not write off the human touch

One of the many benefits of digital transformation is its ability to automate the most routine office tasks. Undoubtedly, this upheaval will cause widescale restructuring in FIs. However, employers will still need people with the soft skills, who can create a human experience for customers and keep the brand relevant to everyday community life.

To the future

As technological advances revolutionise FIs, efforts to drive efficiencies, improve processes and overhaul supply chains will become central to delivering best-in-class customer service.

The challenge for FIs, is to assure that whilst these innovations offer significant benefits to businesses and consumers alike, transparency and trust is set to become the ‘crucial’ offering.

Below Finance Monthly hears from Jayakumar Venkataraman, Partner at Infosys Consulting on the key predictions for 2020’s finance sphere, considering key topics including the rapid growth of the API Economy and data, as well as operational resilience, fintech acquisitions by banks, the growth of Regtech and new ways to reduce costs.

1. 2020, the year of the Ecosystem Approach and the API Economy

In 2020, we will see the rise of the ecosystem approach in creating new propositions and delivering banking and financial services to customers. Globally, open banking and PSD2 have enabled newer players to enter the market and gain access to customers’ data that was previously the sole preserve of the banks. This has given rise to many third-party providers (TPPs) that are developing more exciting product propositions for customers, particularly in personal financial management, using customers’ financial data from the banks.

We will see this approach growing significantly in the world of Trade Finance. As well as this, banks will bring together multiple players such as shipping companies, local chambers of commerce and insurance companies to create richer product and service propositions for their customers. We will see blockchain-based solutions continue their pivotal role in helping bring a digital ecosystem’s players together.

All of this will be underpinned by rapid growth of the ‘API economy’, where banks and the other players in the ecosystem are exposing APIs for all their key capabilities, using this to integrate and orchestrate new products and services for their customers.

2. In 2020, data will drive more customer insights than ever

In the last few years, we have seen a significant rise in digitalisation and the amount of data that is collected on customers and their preferences, transactions, and market and industry data.

In 2020, we will see the emphasis shift to using this data to drive a much richer understanding of customers, predicting and responding to their needs and transactional patterns. This will generate much greater insight into their lifecycle stage, and help create personalised offers that address their needs. Equally critical will be the use of this good quality data in risk assessments, compliance and fraud monitoring, to deliver safe banking services to customers.

For commercial customers, banks will bring together the vast amounts of transactional data across multiple product lines – such as lending, trade finance and payments – to create a much richer understanding of transactional patterns, business seasonality and the resultant impact on their financial needs. This means that they too can proactively engage their customer with tailored propositions.

To make this intensive, customer-centric approach to data work, we will see more banks adopting AI and machine learning technologies across their businesses to make sense of all their data. These initiatives are currently constrained by the availability of good quality data, which does not help in building models that are robust and yield correct decisions. In 2020, we will see banks scale their investment in data initiatives that focus on improving the comprehensiveness, availability and the quality of data, so that AI and ML can be used effectively and reliably.


3. Operational resilience needs the right technologies

Operational resilience is emerging as one of the top agenda items for senior executives in banks – and also for the regulator, to avoid the threat to their individual and organisational brand. Certainty and continuity of service availability is very important for customers, so it is important for regulators too. Operational resilience relies on tightening controls and governance around business and IT operations, while continuing to invest in the infrastructure for the future.

Modernisation and transformation of the IT infrastructure in banks – in particular the adoption of cloud and migrating the hosting and delivery of key capabilities in the cloud – is emerging as a major strategic direction. As well as eliminating the costs from maintaining their own data centre operations, migration to the cloud also offers resilience, agility and flexibility, advanced analytics, and innovative applications that are built on a cloud-first approach. All of this significantly improves integrated working and removes some serious challenges.

4. Fintech acquisitions on the horizon for banks

The trend of fintech firms disrupting the way banks and financial services players deliver products and services to their customers is here to stay. The way banks think about the fintech players has also undergone a significant shift. While they were once seen as fringe players, this year, banks will be looking at using fintechs to fill gaps in their own offerings, giving much richer propositions to their customers.

Banks are acting as investors, incubators, collaborators and strategic partners. Banks have set aside formal bandwidth to engage with the fintech community to identify the upcoming stars, to understand how their capabilities can be integrated into their product propositions, and to ensure they don’t fall behind their competitors. In some cases, banks have also bought out the fintech firms outright, as a move to gain competitive advantage over their competitors. Santander’s acquisition of ebury is one such example, and we will see many more acquisitions of fintechs by banks in 2020.

Banks have set aside formal bandwidth to engage with the fintech community to identify the upcoming stars, to understand how their capabilities can be integrated into their product propositions.

5. Regulatory compliance and the growth of Regtech

Regulatory compliance will continue to be a top spend area for banks, as the need to comply with existing and emergent regulatory and industry initiatives continue. There are plenty on the agenda: FRTB, EU Anti-Money Laundering Directives and other industry initiatives such as ISO20022 adoption and IBOR Transition, as well as a slew of other national and regional requirements. With all of this, banks will have their hands full in 2020. Banks will be looking to be efficient about how they approach these initiatives, to then structure their programmes of work so as to minimise duplication and rework in their efforts.

The emergence of RegTech firms is a key development that can aid the banks in their compliance initiatives. Estimates on the size and the growth of the RegTech industry vary significantly, but we know that this sector is set for rapid growth. Regtech firms are focused on developing solutions in data collection and reporting, decisioning, predictive analytics and risk identification and management. Like with fintechs, we expect banks will co-opt these firms to aid their compliance initiatives.

6. New ways to reduce costs

Given the recent trend of results posted by the banks, cost reduction and rationalisation will be an important focus for 2020.  As opposed to outsourcing and offshoring of work to lower cost locations, and the adoption of automation and RPA to drive costs down, in 2020, cost rationalisation will focus on a more fundamental operational transformation.

This will involve a radical rethink of the way banking processes are designed and delivered, and the adoption of an automation-first approach. This approach will be supported by a much smaller team of multi-skilled expert operations teams that oversee business processes, and can jump in to manage any exceptions or incidents with expertise.

As well as a radical redesign of operations, we will also see banks drive operational costs down through the monetisation of assets and mutualisation of costs. Banks will carve out operations and technology capabilities to a strategic partner that also offers such services to other banking clients. We have already seen some of these deals executed, and we will see these conversations picking up scale in the coming year.

Challenger banks such as Monzo, Starling and Revolut are built to scale, evolve and improve their offerings easily and quickly, and are doing great extending their customer base. According to Ian Bradbury, CTO for Financial Services at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, they are also now beginning to slowly move towards becoming a full service bank for their customers, as well as branching out their offerings to SMEs.

The way banks make their money is by keeping administration costs low, managing the lending risk and investing wisely to receive good returns. Other income avenues include offering “added-value” services, such as payments, for which they take a handling fee (particularly useful when market returns are under performing, for example in the case of low interest rates).

Four digital-led factors to disrupt banking

Four interrelated digital-led factors are fundamentally transforming traditional financial services: new distribution models; cloud native computing; data enrichment in a hyper-connected world; and exponential increase in the rate of change. These four factors create new ways for banks to operate, to do business and to enhance their offerings for consumers - but they have not fundamentally changed their money-driven banking business model – yet!

Regulators have recognised the value that can be bought by these four factors to banking customers, and have sought ways to encourage the uptake of them – often also encouraging new digital-native entrants into the marketplace. Regulators have also sought to ensure that high-margin services can be “unbundled’, allowing new competition to compete in these areas.

In theory, it should not be difficult for banks to not only survive the arrival of these four digital-led factors – in fact with their financial backing, existing customer base, technology assets and regulatory status they should be able to thrive in this competitive landscape.

This is especially true as other potential non-banking competitors have to overcome complex regulatory challenges – besides not being set up to offer the basic banking business model.

Legacy problems

In reality, traditional banks are struggling to keep up with how the market is moving. The reason for this can be summarised in one word – legacy. Legacy culture, legacy skills, legacy controls, legacy distribution models, legacy systems.

Slowly, this is changing, but until these legacy bottlenecks are removed, banks will struggle to keep up. Those that do not move quickly enough to deal with this challenge are unlikely to survive.

Assuming that traditional banks can overcome these legacy challenges and become the truly agile, low-cost, open-driven, customer-obsessed, data-powered, highly automated businesses promised by the digital-native challenger banks then their traditional banking business model may well also change.

The banks of the future

Banks currently operate a fairly simple two-sided marketplace – they take money from depositors and give it out to borrowers, generating trust in the process. But what they really do is provide a two-sided marketplace for ‘value’ – which is currently focused on money.

Digital transformation potentially allows for other ways to exploit this value-based marketplace, with the data-insights and enrichment coupled with new distribution models creating potentially new services.

Besides this, the notion of value is changing in the digital age, with areas such as data, identity, reputation, authenticity and even perhaps social purpose falling within it. These types of values can potentially be digitally stored, secured, exchanged and exploited in a marketplace - just like money. Maybe for example the banks of the future will become the custodians of your valuable data, both protecting it and helping you generate benefits from it.

To answer these questions and to put a perspective around various drivers responsible for encouraging more women to join the fast-growing blockchain industry, we caught up with Marie Tatibouet, CMO at Marie is also a blockchain influencer and a thought leader in the space.

  1. How did you develop an interest in blockchain technology? Can you tell us about your background?

I majored in finance and marketing, and since then I have loved how the two subjects drive change in today’s world. After completing my education, I worked with the consumer technology space. Later, I founded a marketing consultancy that helped tech companies with their marketing strategies. It wasn’t until 2016 that I fell down the wonderful rabbit hole that is blockchain technology and subsequently returned to the finance world. It was 2016, and I joined an online platform called 21, mostly using it for fun and I then started researching how to withdraw the BTC a few months later and found myself hooked to the idea. Two years later, I was offered this exciting role at Gate Technology, where I love how I engage with the larger community to spread the word about

  1. What do you think women in the industry have achieved and what do they want to achieve in the future?

We are seeing an increased number of women emerging as blockchain influencers. Some like Neha Nerula are putting their technical skills to work and others like Angie Lau and Molly Jane Zuckerman are asking the right questions to ensure that we understand both sides of the (crypto) coin. However, industry calls for more women to take up leadership roles, reducing the gender gap and encouraging diversity. Apart from seeing a greater number of women in the industry, I would like us to create a space where women feel appreciated not just for their technical skills but also for their ability to use design thinking in various applications of blockchain technology.

  1. Why is the blockchain technology space so male dominated?

The roots of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, tech and finance are still struggling to become gender balanced. This trend kept women at the back foot when blockchain technology was introduced a decade ago. It is undeniable that every technological application needs diversity to scale and succeed. Women are also more risk-averse than men, which keeps them from entering the industry. However, as the sector becomes more mainstream, we need to take more steps to eliminate these barriers to improve gender diversity. However, we are seeing more women coming into space because their contribution to the finance industry is something the sector cannot ignore.

  1. Why are women key for innovation in blockchain technology space?

Women bring unique experiences and expertise to the table. Research has shown that women have an inherited quality to keep going back to the fundamentals, which is a better approach to learning, and an incredible quality to foster innovation. I firmly believe that blockchain technology’s mass adoption is almost impossible to achieve unless all diverse minds put their thoughts and experiences together. They are also great community builders, something that the crypto industry thrives on. All these qualities can help businesses and communities understand the intricacies of various applications so that solutions can be tailored accordingly.

  1. How is contributing in this realm?

Gate Technology is headed in the right direction when it comes to striking the right gender balance in an organization. Forty percent of our workforce are women, holding important positions across horizontals like product development, marketing, communications, and technology. A gender diverse team is key to being inclusivity to business solutions, especially while designing and creating strategies around user experience, marketing, etc.

But it’s not just about convenience at home. With recent research revealing that 91% of businesses are now investing in voice technologies, the benefits of using them are being realised by offices all over the world. Whether it’s easing administrative duties or enabling companies to provide a smoother, more convenient customer journey, voice technologies are changing the game.

However, not all sectors are reaping the rewards just yet. Whilst financial services (FS) companies have led the charge in some areas of technological adoption and know-how when it comes to voice technologies many of these organisations have a long way to go. By failing to embrace change and invest in voice-led innovation, FS businesses really are missing out on a world of possibilities, says Mark Geremia from Nuance.

Time is money

Earlier this year, a research report discovered that speech recognition technologies could save FS businesses a staggering £40,000 per employee each year. Although not the sole answer to increasing productivity, it was found that these technologies can actually be used to speed up over half of the tasks currently being undertaken by employees within these organisations.

Speech recognition technologies could save FS businesses a staggering £40,000 per employee each year.

Responding to emails, writing Business Studies papers, writing up meeting notes, crafting client communications and recommendation letters... All are jobs on the to-do list which, although important, eat up precious time unnecessarily. And, as the saying goes: in business, time is money.

By deploying speech recognition technologies, the time and therefore cost associated with these administrative duties is reduced significantly – from an average of 275 minutes to just 73 minutes per day. As a result, the burden often associated with admin is reduced and employees are able to channel their efforts into other areas of the business or take on a higher number of clients to create additional income.

Of course, there are some tasks for which speech recognition cannot be used. Client meetings will always require the human element, as will product and provider research. But, given that we talk up to three times faster than we type, there is an undeniable potential for speech recognition to support productivity within FS organisations.

But that’s not the only benefit voice technologies could bring to FS businesses.

Looking after your most valuable asset

In today’s gig economy, employee expectations are at an all-time high and loyalty is far from guaranteed. If FS businesses are not meeting these expectations, they risk losing their talent to their competitors.

The goal for every business, regardless of size or sector, is to create a workforce which is happier and – therefore – more motivated. Achieving this will likely lead to increased investment from individual workers and a boost in overall business productivity.

Voice technologies can support these efforts for FS businesses by granting employees the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. If implemented in a way that involves employees from the offset, encouraging transparency and ensuring that they are aware of all the potential benefits - voice technologies can help to engage an entire workforce.

In fact, recent research showed that employees working in environments where advanced technologies – such as voice solutions – are in widespread use are 56% more likely to say that they are motivated at work. This could have a huge impact on overall business output.  After all, everyone knows that a happier workforce is a more productive one.

Employees working in environments where advanced technologies – such as voice solutions – are in widespread use are 56% more likely to say that they are motivated at work.

Looking ahead

In today’s competitive landscape, there’s no denying that increasing employee productivity is a core goal for any business – regardless of size or sector. It’s almost a given that those failing to meet this goal will miss out.

By providing employees with the tools which will enable them to effectively use their time and do their jobs FS businesses can boost productivity significantly.

Voice technologies could offer an answer to some challenges which have plagued the financial industry for years. With these solutions playing an ever-increasing role in our personal and professional lives, it’s time for FS businesses to realise their potential and embrace the power of voice.

In 2010, people owned 12.5 billion networked devices; whilst it is estimated that by 2025 this number will have climbed to more than 50 billion.

While the IoT has already impacted sectors such as manufacturing and healthcare, it is still a nascent technology in the world of banking. Research has found that banks have still not implemented IoT technologies within their organisations or in their products or services. In the long term, however, this is set to change. Reports have shown that 40% of financial services businesses are currently experimenting with IoT and big data.

Given the wealth of statistical data which can be gathered from a range of devices within an IoT network, the applications of IoT and big data can go hand in hand. For example, retail banks can combine IoT and big data to offer increasingly personalised services to customers. Rather than providing a ‘one size fits all’ approach, banks can create personalised offers to customers by using IoT capabilities to analyse various aspects of its customers’ behaviour - including the regularity in which they visit merchants or purchase from them - and offer bespoke budgeting plans or financial products relevant to their lifestyles. Furthermore, the data from wearable payments technologies, for instance, could be used to help build detailed customer profiles and enable fraud detection. The same data could also enable banking institutions to build partnerships with brands that can push relevant deals through to banking customers in the area, enabling even closer relationships with customers and providing more useful perks.

The benefits of IoT services within the financial sector aren’t just limited to retail banks. Insurers can use IoT capabilities to aid interactions with customers and to accelerate and simplify underwriting and claims processing, as well as default prediction.

The benefits of IoT services within the financial sector aren’t just limited to retail banks.

It can also help insurance companies to determine risk more precisely. Automotive insurers, for example, have historically relied on indirect indicators, such as age, address, and creditworthiness of a driver when setting premiums. Now, data on driver behaviour and the use of a vehicle, such as how fast the vehicle is driven and how often it is driven at night, are available. These new data sets can help insurers provide premiums that more accurately reflect their consumers.

Another application of IoT within the financial sector that has the potential for huge implications is in trade finance. International trade flows are currently expensive and predominantly paper-based due to the inefficiency of the supply chain in moving goods. IoT within trade finance can be used to make these processes quicker by tracking movement, supply and demand. This can significantly improve the efficiency of the process by reducing the cost and risk for the enterprise. However, in order to have any meaningful impact on trade finance, there would need to be a large scale, global adoption of IoT - allowing every part of the ecosystem to be accounted for and creating a seamless process.

If key issues around cybersecurity can be overcome, the IoT presents a huge opportunity for the banking sector. And there will certainly be disruptors willing to provide that access - so the time is now for banks to start thinking about technology development that will take advantage of this before a competitor gets there first.

Authored by David Murphy, Managing Partner, Financial Services EMEA at Publicis Sapient.

Of course, the rise of Human Factors Analysis Tools (HFAT) has forced financial services firms to push the envelope, but AI is gradually beginning to be integrated into the operations of firms across other industries. Perhaps, one sector which lags behind is insurance. However, according to Nikolas Kairinos, CEO and Founder of Fountech, attitudes are definitely shifting and in large part, this is due to the possibilities presented by AI toolsets.

Indeed, the venture capital community considers the insurance industry to be so ripe for disruption that Lemonade, a US InsurTech company, managed to raise $300 million in seed funding earlier this year. As an AI developer myself, I believe that the technology can drastically improve insurers at all levels, but only if industry leaders understand what AI actually offers and how to effectively integrate it into their organisations.

AI in InsurTech

The first, and arguably, most important part of this process, is having a sophisticated awareness of what AI in insurance actually means. For most firms, the benefits of AI actually come through robotic process automation (RPA); in other words, automating existing processes to save time and resources. For example, insurance AI exists which could remove the need for firms to manually classify documents, write contracts or process claims.

However, the most significant advantage that AI offers to insurance firms specifically stems from the way in which sophisticated algorithms can use vast datasets in order to predict and monitor risk. This would have many applications across the crucial functions of underwriting, pricing and risk management. Going further, the technology could even be used to prevent fraud by detecting tiny inconsistencies in either publicly available data or a client’s financial history.

However, AI doesn’t simply provide a competitive advantage for the forward-thinking firms who employ it, it also benefits policyholders who would enjoy cheaper premiums as a result of lower overheads and reductions in the amount of fraud.

Managing the transition

Still, some within the industry remain apprehensive about the impact of AI on either the employees or customer base of an insurance firm. The first thing is to say that many of these concerns, particularly around data security, are legitimate but it’s important that industry leaders do not see these apprehensions as an insurmountable obstacle. Integrating AI is not about saving resources for the sake of it but rather adopting new tools with the potential to improve the industry as a whole.

I’ve been developing software for professional services companies for years and based on what I have seen, I believe that successfully integrating AI into your services boils down to three things. Understanding the limitations of both the technology and your organisation, working with developers as much as budget and time constraints allow and being critical about where and why you’re integrating AI into your company’s operations.

At Fountech, we think it’s important for firms to understand what AI has to offer the insurance industry, and so we recently released a new white paper which explores how insurers might integrate AI into their business. Ultimately, with a proper understanding of AI’s strengths and limitations, industry leaders can begin adapting their firms to the rigours of the new data-driven landscape.

Towards a more intelligent future

As AI begins to play a central role in the functioning of insurance firms, it’s important that industry leaders remain invested in the technology’s potential to change insurance for the better. At root, this means having a sophisticated understanding of how AI can benefit your organisation but also remaining vigilant to any problems that might arise as a result.

Finally, as we move towards a more data-driven insurance industry, it’s essential that insurance firms begin playing a more active role in the development of new AI either through investment, active feedback, or by providing a breeding ground for new tools to be refined. Now is the time for insurance firms to begin playing a more active role in the development of the tools that are going to fundamentally reshape the industry over the next few years.

But it is the speed at which the technological advancements have reached that has forced traditionally slow-moving financial institutions to heavily invest to remain relevant to their consumers and remain competitive in the marketplace.


Banking is one of the oldest businesses in the world, going back centuries ago, in fact, the oldest bank in operation today is the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472. The first instance of a non-cash transaction came in the 20th century, when charga-plates were first invented. Considered a predecessor to the credit card, department stores brought these out to select customers and each time a purchase was made, the plates would be pressed and inked onto a sales slip.

At the end of the sales cycle, customers were expected to pay what they were owed to the store, however due to their singular location use, it made them rather limiting, thus paving way for the credit card, where customers that had access to one could apply the same transactional process to multiple stores and stations, all in one place.


The way in which we conduct our leisurely expenditure has changed that much that we can now pay for services on our watches, but it wasn’t always this easy. Just over a few decades ago, individuals were expected to physically travel to their nearest bank to pay their bills, and had no choice but to carry around loose change and cash on their person, a practice that is a dying art in today’s society, kept afloat by the reducing population born before technology.

Although the first instances of contactless cards came about in the mid-90’s, the very first contactless cards associated with banking were first brought into circulation by Barclaycard in 2008, with now more than £40 million being issued, despite there being an initial skepticism towards the unfamiliar use of this type of payment method.


Due to the changes in the financial industry leaning heavily towards a more virtual experience, traditional brick and mortar banks where the older generation still go to, to sort out their finances. Banks are closing at a rate of 60 per month nationwide, with some villages, such as Llandysul closing all four of its banks along with a post office leaving it a ghost town.

The elderly residents of the small town were then forced into a 30-mile round trip in order to access her nearest banking services. With technology not for everyone, those that weren’t taught technology at a younger age or at all are feeling the effects most, almost feeling shut out, despite many banks offering day-to-day banking services through more than 11,000 post office branches, offering yet a lifeline for those struggling with the new business model of financial firms.

Future innovations

As the bracket of people who have grown up around technology widens, the demand for a contemporary banking service continues to encourage the banking industries to stay on their toes as far as the newest innovations go.

Pierre Vannineuse, CEO and Founder of Alternative Investment firm Alpha Blue Ocean, gives his comments about the future of banking services, saying: “Artificial intelligence is continuing to brew in the background and will no doubt feature prominently in the years to come. With many automated chatbots and virtual assistants already taking most of the customer service roles, we are bound to see a more prominent role of AI in how transactions are processed from all levels.”

Technology may have taken its time to get to where it is now, but the way in which it adapts and updates in the modern era has allowed it to quicken its own pace so that new processes spring up thick and fast. Technology has given us a sense of instant gratification, either in business or in leisure, we want things done now not in day or a week down the line.


Digital banks raised over $1.1bn in fresh funding throughout 2018 in Britain, a figure that is set to be dwarfed if the current pace of growth continues to demand the attention of investors. Claudio Alvarez, Partner at GP Bullhound, explains for Finance Monthly.

Europe is truly leading the fintech charge, accounting for roughly a third of global fundraising deals in 2019, up from only 15% in the fourth quarter of 2018 according to our data. These are digital firms raising globally significant levels of capital. Adyen, the Dutch payment system, is now one of the frontrunners to become Europe’s first titan, valued at over $50bn. Europe has become a breeding ground for businesses that can go on to challenge US tech dominance, and it is fintech where we will find most success. Europe’s unique capacity for incubating disruptors is a phenomenal trend to have emerged over the past few years.

It’s true, European culture has always been more open to contactless and cashless, in contrast the US, where legislation and the existing banking infrastructure make adopting new technologies in banking slower and more convoluted. Europe has been able to take an early lead, while the US remains fixed on dollar bills.

As the ecosystem evolves, borders will become less relevant and markets more integrated, allowing the big players based in Europe to expand into further geographies with greater ease. European success garners the growth, momentum and trust needed to brave new regions and cultures. Monzo won’t be alone in the US for long.

As the ecosystem evolves, borders will become less relevant and markets more integrated, allowing the big players based in Europe to expand into further geographies with greater ease.

Whilst the Americans’ slow start has allowed European start-ups to become global players, it’s also true that the regulatory environment has distracted the European big banks and opened up the space for innovative and disruptive newcomers. While PSD2 has eaten up the resources of the incumbents, the likes of Monzo and Revolut have focused on consumer experience, product development and fundraising. The result? Newcomers are able to solve problems that older institutions simply don’t have the capacity to address.

However, a word of warning: traditional bricks and mortar banks aren’t dead yet. For one, digital banks will still need to justify the enormous valuations they’ve secured recently, and will have only proved their worth if, in 3 to 5 years’ time, they have managed to persuade consumers to transfer their primary accounts to them, which would allow digital banks to effectively execute on their financial marketplace strategies

Meanwhile, traditional banking institutions have a plethora of options to fend off the fintech threat and most are developing apps and systems that mimic those created by the digital counterparts. Innovation isn’t going to come from internal teams – it needs to be a priority for the old players and they need to invest in third party solutions to excel as truly functional digital platforms in a timely manner. In the first instance, the traditional banks will need to solve the issues that pushed consumers towards the fintechs and secondly, work on attracting consumers to stay by offering, and bettering, the services that make fintech’s most attractive.

Competition breeds innovation. For the fintech ecosystem as a whole, this new need for advancement is only good news – a rising tide lifts all ships. As traditional banks try to innovate and keep pace, we’ll see them investing in other verticals in the fintech market. Banks’ global total IT spend is forecast to reach $297bn by 2021, with cloud-based core banking platforms taking centre stage. Digital banking may have been the first firing pistol, but the knock-on effect of the fintech revolution is being felt across the board.

The fintech boom shows no sign of bust, market confidence is riding high and will continue supporting rapid growth. The aggressive advance of digital banks has opened doors for a whole host of fintech innovation - from cloud-based banking platforms to innovation in the payments sector. The number of verticals that sit within financial services creates a plethora of opportunity for ambitious and bullish fintechs to seize the day.


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