By Matthew Dove (Digital Editor)
The Tobacco Dock in London’s Wapping played host this week to Finovate Europe. The Grade I listed venue may seem a touch anachronistic given the high tech nature of the conference but it’s perhaps fitting that two massively disruptive market forces should grace it, albeit two-hundred years apart.
The dock was constructed in 1811 as a store for imported tobacco; the smoking, chewing, and snuffing of which had become a major industry in Europe and its colonies from the 18th Century onwards. Early exponents of the leaf proffered elaborate accounts of its many restorative virtues which allegedly included the opening of the body’s pores and passages as well as protecting it against “grievous diseases.” But enough about poisonous weeds spouting noxious fumes, what were the bankers talking about?
Customer loyalty is becoming more elusive in a market where the consumer is spoilt for choice. With that in mind, Benoît Legrand CIO, ING, spoke of the importance of focussing on the user’s problem, not the company’s. Joel Perlman credited Oak North’s success to provision of certainty, loan flexibility and speedy response times in an era where many banks seem to do the opposite.
Christophe Joyau, VP Business Development at Tink, echoed the need to support the customer and warned of the trappings of getting too comfortable in a fast-paced industry. Joyau believes consumer data should be harnessed to provide a personalised user experience thus decreasing the likelihood of unsubscribers (think Netflix and Spotify).
Investments platform, Hargreaves Lansdown, sent their baby-faced strategic innovation lead, Philip Cottis, into the fray to pitch an extension of open banking called open wealth. The system, intended to allow customers to “find, create and manage their entire wealth,” is set to combine existing open banking protocols with open pensions, open savings and open investments. However, after Cottis asserted ominously that new innovations in big data, AI and DLT mean, “we can start to help [our customers] without them even knowing about it”, some may find themselves eyeing the nearest open door. Elsewhere, Cottis noted that “wealth is a very personal thing.” Agreed, as is the privacy of personal data and one’s ability to control exactly when and how it’s being used.
The focus on data bingeing continued during a panel featuring Philipp Buschmann (founder of AAZZUR) and Starling Bank’s lead engineer (open banking and payments services) Sam Everington. Not content to confine the limits of open banking data sharing to purely financial matters, the pair waxed lyrical about the fledgling field of “non-banking partnerships.”
These collaborations, we were told, could feasibly include fintechs working with ride sharing apps, device providers and social media companies to provide seamless service to users. The cost? A little peak at your data, that’s all. The two chimed in unison that consumers are becoming increasingly generous with their private information and Everington was especially happy to report that, “people will share data for surprisingly little.” At least Buschmann was good enough to acknowledge that all this, “openness has an element of risk attached to it.” The size and fallout of said risk is, as yet, unknown but as the proliferation of such technologies continues at breakneck pace, we may be finding out sooner rather than later…