If you can think of a way to make your financial life less obnoxious, chances are there’s already a Fintech company working on the solution.
From mundane activities, such as paying bills online, to the more avant-garde ones, like developing blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, the idea of Fintech encompasses all processes that make handling our finances easier by using digital technologies and algorithms.
It all started back in 1918 when the US Federal Reserve Banks introduced the Fedwire Funds Service, the first electronic fund transfer system, which relied on now-archaic technologies such as the telegraph and Morse code. Then came the creation of the first Diners Club credit card in 1950, by Frank McNamara, and the launch of the first ATM, by Barclays London branch, in 1967.
The most crucial stepping stone in the Fintech Revolution, however, was the advent of the Internet. It quickly led to a myriad of revolutionary inventions, such as online bank accounts and mobile payments. It also sparked the inception of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, in 2009, which led to 2017’s worldwide Cryptomania, during which Coinbase — an online cryptocurrency exchange — exceeded $1.5 billion in value.
Today, most experts understand that financial institutions will have to invest in Fintech to avoid becoming obsolete. The consumer banking sector is leading the way when it comes to being the most disrupted industry, at 72%. However, some predictions indicate that in the next 3–5 years 84% of insurance corporations will begin to cooperate with Fintech companies, making them the champion of this digital innovation.
Some of the most significant disruptions originated with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain technology, cloud storage, and crowdfunding. Today, around 46% of large Fintech companies are powered by AI. Nevertheless, estimates show that, in addition to its use in the back-end processes, AI will also take part in customer interactions, driving 95% of all communication with users by 2025. There are already very powerful robots capable of chatting with humans, such as Sofia. It’s estimated that their capacities for human interaction will increase, while their prices will decrease, prompting companies to switch to automated clerks to lower costs and improve customer satisfaction.
Using blockchain technology is another way for big banks to cut costs. It’s projected that by deploying the technology, $12.3 billion can be saved each year, reducing the infrastructure by 30%. Ripple, a cryptocurrency designed specifically to be compatible with the existing financial structure, is leading the way by operating with 15 out of 50 global banks, including UBS, Bank of China, and Santander. Given the benefits the technology brings, it comes as no surprise that 77% of fintech firms are expected to adopt blockchain by 2020.
The outlook of the Fintech industry seems very exciting, and one area where we can expect improvement is security. We should witness an introduction of advanced authentication methods, such as iris and fingerprint scanners, which will replace the unreliable and cumbersome passwords.
However, the major improvements lie in making financial services more user friendly and less resource hungry, while at the same time tailoring them to the individual. As Joy Schoffler, the Executive Chair of FinTech Professionals, says: “At the core of everything is simplification and personalization.” It’s possible that voice recognition technology will allow you to order things and pay bills just by saying a few words, while micro-embedded wearables will enable you to shop without ever using a cash register.
Whatever the future brings, one thing is certain: the more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to ride the wave of disruption and stay oahead of the curve in the digital age.
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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.