There are plenty of defining years in the history books, and as 2020 draws to a close, it’s almost certain that the global pandemic will ensure that this year is featured prominently. With events cancelled, launches delayed, and country-wide lockdowns, the way we work has changed forever. Still, for financial technology and surrounding industries, this was also a year of challenge and opportunity.
This December, The Fintech Times is asking industry leaders for their ‘View from the Top’ to gain an insight into the decisions behind the last 12-months. Today, we’re looking at the issue of processes, hearing from Matěj Ftáčnik, Sanjay Gupta, Santosh Tripathy and Aaron Holmes on their 2020 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2021. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
It goes without saying that the fintech industry and its companies and organisations are full of processes. Whether its individual companies internal processes or regulatory processes, like Know-Your-Customer or AML, that are crucial in order to operate. In this View from the Top, companies Vacuumlabs, Mitek, SmartStream and Kani outline their own 2020 experience.
Matěj Ftáčnik is CXO at Vacuumlabs, providers of engineering teams and product design services specialising in fintech, online marketplaces and digital products. In his opinion, this year has been “fundamental in accelerating the change and digital transformation within the banking sector.”
“We could have witnessed this especially in the community banks sector within the US and Europe. A great example that speaks for all is Daylight – the first LGBT+ digital banking platform in the United States.
“I believe that in 2021 we will see more affinity banking, especially in places where niche communities need to be understood and served better. By establishing a strong relationship with customers and understanding their daily needs a lot of institutions will become better at providing services that are more tailored to customer use. I also think we will witness better decentralisation, and due to the lasting worldwide Covid-19 epidemic a lot of banks and fintech will focus on delivering digital-first approaches and tools to everyday functionalities and features, so they can ensure better customer service and minimise customer need to visit retail branches.
For Sanjay Gupta, VP of Corporate Development at Mitek, a digital identity verification company, he thinks that the year has seen an acceleration of the uptake of contactless payments.
“The transition away from cash in many parts of the world has numerous benefits: improved convenience and customer satisfaction, accelerated technology adoption, and even increased GDP (printing and distributing cash can cost up to 1.5% of a country’s GDP).
“Contactless payments were already gaining momentum before the Covid-19 outbreak, and that’s accelerated during the pandemic as consumers strive to minimise their exposure to germs. In fact, according to a Mastercard survey from April 2020, 79% of people worldwide reported using contactless payments, citing safety and cleanliness as primary reasons.
“The trend has also encouraged countries to embrace technology that further enables a cashless society, such as AI-powered mobile deposit, digital onboarding and other digital banking solutions.
“India is a perfect example of how going cashless is both feasible and beneficial, even for a country with 1.4 billion people. The Indian government recalled large bills about four years ago to combat tax evasion and money laundering and asked citizens to deposit their cash in banks and only use small amounts of cash moving forward. Critically, they not only encouraged but also taught people how to download banking and peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps on their phones. In a short amount of time, the transition has already proven to be extremely successful. I visited family in India a couple of years ago and even street vendors didn’t accept cash anymore.
“Sure, cash will always be necessary to some extent, especially among demographics without access to digital banking technology and for those who simply don’t trust technology. But so far the shift away from cash has worked extremely well in India, as well as Sweden, Canada, the UK and to a lesser extent China –which have all benefited from convenience, cleanliness and accelerated adoption and acceptance of AI technology. It’s a matter of time before other countries follow suit.”
Santosh Tripathy is the global practice lead for Digital Payments at SmartStream, a provider of financial transaction management solutions. For him, global payment trends have been a highlight of this year.
“The main trend of 2020 that we are seeing is how global payments have evolved, and that we are no longer restricted to one market. Also worth highlighting is the effect that challenger banks are having, by putting pressure on incumbents to bring about digital transformation – something that is most required.
“Depending on the geography, there will be slight variations to how every country will approach the next 12-months or so, as some countries are still experiencing the impact of Covid. Leaving it aside, the growth in payments says that these technologies have been there for a while and are now maturing. Harnessing the real power of technologies such as AI/machine learning/cloud and blockchain will help to sustain the growth, and become more mainstream.
“It is now far more important for these payment companies to become more than just a transaction wallet if they want to sustain growth and become profitable. And there will be no point in launching products if they do not fit with the businesses core strength.
“Of course, there is a conversation to be had around cloud and regulators, they have to work together as data privacy is important, but adapting to the latest technologies will definitely help the ecosystem. Open banking and real-time payments will continue to grow and expand into B2B thanks to the traction coming from card companies. Both cross-border payment speed and the entire transaction journey will be part of the conversation over the next few months.”
Kani’s CEO Aaron Holmes founded the SaaS service in 2018. He thinks 2020 has seen an influx of new processes.
“We’ve learned a lot this year – especially through working with Railsbank and their acquisition of WireCard, the sheer volume of data we have had to handle means that our scale of growth is on a steep incline. Luckily the right foundations are being laid. Fast forward to the next 12-24 months and we will probably be handling around five to six times more volume of data so I’d say we’re in a position to scale. It currently takes 8-minutes for our platform to write a report, so we’re seeing a demand for real-time payments increase, whereas hands-on manual report writing in the back office will certainly fade away in favour of more managerial roles.
“On the processing side we are seeing potentially some new trends. Certainly, a few years ago there was talk about the consolidation of processes, but now and especially since the global pandemic, we’re seeing the opposite. A surge of new processes with really great technologies behind them. Certainly, as more and more processes are coming to market, we’re seeing some amazing and mature technologies behind them. While we are designed as a company and processor to be data source agnostic, there is certainly an influx of new sources to consider.”