As 2021 draws to a close, it’s safe to say that this year has been full of ups and downs. With the world very cautiously emerging from the global pandemic, one thing has remained constant: the innovation and growth the fintech industry continues to bring. While the year has been a whirlwind for most, the fintech sector has seen many challenges and opportunities that will no doubt continue into the next 12 months.
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 hear from Michael Chin, Yusuf Ozdalga, James Booth, Julie-Ann Haines, and Samir Pandiri on their 2021 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2022. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Michael Chin is CEO of Broadway Technology, and believes that “After years of relative stagnancy, fixed income trading went through something of a renaissance in 2021.
He continued: “One of the well-documented pandemic outcomes for bank trading desks was the accelerated pace of electronification in fixed income trading. Virtual trading environments continued and required shifts in how liquidity was sourced for asset managers, how traders interacted with their colleagues and how the banks themselves interacted with clients. Banks realized how critical their workflows were to connect risk, sales and trading functions so they could focus on optimal pricing, response times, execution quality and innovation.
“In 2022 financial institutions will focus on how to integrate tools and data – both internal and third-party – more directly into their trading workflows and leverage that intelligence to improve execution quality and decision-making. They will push their own developers and service providers to build with interoperability in mind, emphasizing open frameworks more than in the past to either protect IP or ensure stickiness. Banks and service providers will recognize the value of using existing software or data where trading activity is commoditized, and turn to custom, specialized or preferred applications for trades where IP creates a competitive edge.”
Yusuf Ozdalga, the London and EU Partner for QED Investors said the trends of the year revolved around embedded finance:
“In 2021 embedded finance became mainstream. Non-fintech businesses increasingly used embedded finance as their monetisation route even though fintech was not their core business. We may see the mirror image of this in 2022 – companies going fintech first, and then building non-fintech businesses on top. For example, using fintech tools to attract customers, and then building marketplaces on top.
“Web 3.0 and Metaverse were also big trends in tech and their reflection in the fintech universe were NFTs that posed the question; What does it mean to own something that only exists digitally? In the art world, Beeple was at the forefront of tackling this question, and profited handsomely, becoming multimillionaires overnight.”
James Booth, VP Head of Partnerships (EMEA) at PPRO believes that digitisation was still key in 2021, and will continue to the future.
He said: “In 2021, the world has truly gone digital. Seventy-five per cent of people have said they’re now shopping more online, compared to before the pandemic. As an effect of this, more merchants and companies than ever before are realising a digital-first approach must guide their businesses—and this includes payments.
“Digital payments give customers the flexibility and ease of experience that’s no longer a “nice-to-have”, but an essential part of any experience involving payment.
“Specifically, with digital payments, we’re seeing that buy now, pay later (BNPL) has taken off. Just in this last year, the leading five BNPL services have garnered a staggering 100% growth overall. E-Wallets, like PayPal, WeChat Pay, or AliPay, are also on the rise, accounting for 40% of transactions globally, and 60% in APAC.
“Generally speaking, digital payments are the future. But soon they’ll just be “payments” because some form of digital payment will be a part of everything. Payments, increasingly, are moving even more towards the background and eventually will be part of a wider buying journey that we barely notice—”frictionless,” as we like to say.”
Julie-Ann Haines, CEO at Principality, believes collaboration and partnerships have been a key feature in 2021.
“It has been a great year for collaboration across the sector, with a number of bigger businesses partnering with early-stage fintechs, working on new solutions for customers, learning how smaller, more nimble fintechs operate, and helping them to hone concepts that they can then scale. For instance, this year at Principality we’ve been supporting the new Fintech Wales Foundry – an incubator for start-ups and an accelerator for scale-ups. It’s really helping to put Wales on the map as a driving force behind new technologies for financial services.
“We’ve also seen a real broadening of the support networks for fintech in Wales this year, with more of the well-established financial services players starting to see the benefits of working with and mentoring dynamic young fintechs. Going forward, we’re really confident that we can continue fostering these support networks available to fintech firms locally – both in terms of finance and infrastructure but also mentorship.”
In terms of the future, Julie said: “As the digital revolution within financial services continues at pace, we need the high-skilled workforce to match. There’s a real and pressing need for talent with skills in coding, UX and data analysis, as well as a greater appreciation for cybersecurity expertise. In 2022 the skills shortages are only likely to accelerate. Indeed, the 2021 Kalifa review of Fintech in the UK was a real eye-opener for some, having identified that skills shortages and lack of retraining programmes as a real barrier to the growth of the sector going forward.
“I’d also expect to see a greater focus on opening up the sector in 2022. The sector as a whole undoubtedly trails behind other areas in its representation of women and BAME talent. We can only truly unlock the potential of fintech with a more diverse talent pool, so 2022 needs to be a year of real talk and action.”
Samir Pandiri is President at Broadridge International believes the “outbreak of Covid-19 put a fresh spotlight on the challenges that financial services firms have been facing for quite some time.”
He said: “These include increased regulatory requirements, and the need to digitally transform and modernise legacy infrastructure. These are tricky obstacles to overcome while simultaneously looking to minimise costs and maximise returns. As a result, the industry has seen an increasing number of banks partnering with managed services providers to adopt a mutualised service delivery model.
“In 2022, the accelerated adoption of technologies such as AI, Blockchain, the Cloud and Digital will certainly continue – and across the full spectrum of financial sectors. At the moment it is universal banks and full-service financial institutions that are leading the way and are the most likely to have scaled adoption across their organisations. However, commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies are quickly catching up and are investing in these technologies for a range of different uses.
“Blockchain will also play a critical role when it comes to new payment technologies. There have been lots of national pilot schemes this year that have been evaluating the potential around central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), and it will be interesting to see how this will continue into the new year – and the impact it will have on the popularity of cryptocurrencies. I also believe that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on our everyday payments habits: contactless payments, digital wallets and QR code payments will become even more popular in 2022.”