It’s been rightly observed that over the past three or four years, London has become one of the world’s major hubs of fintech innovation. Whether that’s firms which offer alternative finance, international money transfer or something else altogether, some of the brightest and most innovative fintech startups in recent times have been British.
My own company Ormsby Street, has recently launched its small business credit-checking tool CreditHQ in Italy, and as part of preparations for a US launch, was lucky enough to be selected to participate at last week’s FinovateFall event.
FinovateFall is a conference for not only the world’s most innovative startups, but also some of the biggest and most established companies in banking and financial technology.
Not only did I get the chance to present to a global ‘who’s who’ of banking, but I was also able to run the rule over some of the world’s hottest fintech startups and see what trends could be making their way to the UK.
Fintech moves to the mainstream
Although FinovateFall is a technology innovation event, with many of the world’s most interesting fintech startups in attendance, one thing that has really struck me is just how many major banks there are here too. It really illustrates just how mainstream fintech has become in the US, in way that we have yet to see to the same extent in the UK.
Both mobile banking and online banking in the UK lag behind other consumer and small business services delivered online, and I think that that’s because banks have been slow to truly engage in digital.
But the presence of so many banks here shows how seriously the established financial institutions are taking the threat from smaller and more agile providers.
UK banks are starting to wake up to this threat too, but I do think there has been an element of paying lip service to changing customer needs. So judging by what I’ve seen here, I think that 2016 will be the year that fintech really becomes mainstream in the UK, with banks increasingly collaborating with younger companies to deliver the type of services and customer experiences that customers are now demanding.
An on-going customer focus
Part of the reason that there is so much innovation in fintech right now, is that many traditional FS providers are simply unable to deliver what customers are demanding – startups are meeting that demand.
It’s clear that banks have to engage strongly in digital in order to remain relevant in the shifting economy, but addressing changing customer requirements directly has a strong theme across FinovateFall 2015. One of the most striking examples that I’ve seen here is Superwallet firm, Finanteq.
Consumers want simplicity and convenience in their mobile commerce and banking, and the idea of many different payment methods is not an attractive one. Finanteq has addressed this in one app, offering true ease-of-use to combine mobile banking with platforms and services such as transport tickets, food shopping, taxis, hotel booking and much more.
Based in Poland and with offices in the US, look out for Finanteq in the UK next year, and also for its extreme customer-focus to be adopted by other fintech startups.
Improving the UX
Providing a slick and simple user-experience (UX) is another quality that has been common across many of the companies here at FinovateFall. In fact, sometimes once you’ve overcome the wow factor of a beautiful UI it’s a bit of a disappointment to find a product that does more of a day-to-day job!
Banks have been so inward looking over the past decade or so, getting bogged down with compliance issues and how to satisfy shareholders and regulators in a changing world.This has meant that many banks have taken their eye off the ball with regard to the experience that customers receive.
The boom in alternative finance for example, has not come because the financial products and rates are better (often they aren’t), but because they offer a much more attractive experience and the whole experience revolved around what the customer wants to achieve rather than being driven primarily by the need to hit all the regulatory compliance needs in any area that the bank operates.
This has really been reflected in the companies here, with UX really to the fore. One company that has particularly stood out is SaleMove.
The SaleMove Engagement Platform has Visitor and Operator interfaces, and the Visitor interface allows FS organisations to better engage with their web visitors and offer them a better online experience – something that should be in much demand.
So while there are many fintech startups at FinovateFall offering a variety of interesting products and services, the main takeaway is that banks are really starting to take fintech seriously.
There’s also a growing focus amongst startups to deliver services focused on customer needs and to improve the UX, and these are all trends that I’m sure will be reflected in the UK sooner rather than later.