We are back with part 2 of our series of articles about breakthrough technologies that are changing the modern world in various industries. Previously it was about the opportunities that the digital transformation of health care brings, which innovations in this field are now the most talked about and which of them can really change our lives. And since we have been discussing this topic recently, following a simple scheme of human desires, today it's time for money - in this article we will look at the FinTech industry.
It cannot be denied that financial technologies, known as FinTech, are radically changing the industry. This is the next example of digital transformation which additionally accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A World Bank Group study of 1386 FinTech companies showed that in 2020, growth in the sector of services such as digital asset exchanges, payments, savings, and wealth management averaged between 11 and 13 percent compared to the same period in 2019. In the Middle East and North Africa these increases have even reached 40 percent. Before we move on to specific technologies and discuss successful projects, it is worth starting with the fields in which FinTech operates. The most important are:
On the topic of Venture Capital, which is on the list, it is worth pausing here for a moment and paying attention to an interesting point. While the consumer market developed tremendously due to the pandemic, it was somewhat different from the perspective of investors. According to a report created by KPMG, CB Insights, and The Block - FinTech companies acquired $25.6 billion globally in investments in H1 2020. The coronavirus outbreak caused FinTech VC funding to drop to $6.1 billion in Q1 of 2020. Since less money has been spent, one can risk the theory that investors have become more cautious. And here we come to what we really invest in when we talk about FinTech. Why do some people get funding and others don't? What is software development based on? What innovations are changing the industry? Which FinTech companies are currently making waves? We will try to look at this in the following paragraphs.
Contemporary Fintech, which competes with traditional financial methods, is distinguished by many products and technologies that are much talked about in the industry. Cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, mobile payment methods, or blockchain are words that are effective bait for investors today. We will come back to them in further paragraphs, but first things first. Our external software development team would not forgive us if we did not start with a brief analysis of frameworks and programming languages that constitute a solid foundation for modern innovations in the world of FinTech.
Most of our developers, when asked about the first programming language that comes to their mind for FinTech, point out Python first. Without a doubt, programmers creating code for the financial industry, banks and investment projects often choose this solution. It works well when it comes to managing transactions, pricing or managing risk. Many people indicate that this dynamically developing language offers many more possibilities than the equally popular Java. The big advantage of Python is the huge amount of supporting open-space financial libraries. Thanks to this, programmers do not have to create projects from scratch, being able to use ready-made solutions such as SciPy, pandas, ffn, pyalgotrade, or scikit-learn. Python code is also transparent, which reduces the number of bugs that need to be fixed later. In the case of the financial industry, this is especially important - if you enter the comments section on Facebook of a bank, where customers have suddenly lost access to their accounts in the mobile app, you will know what we mean. You can only imagine what is happening on the other side, as the developers struggle against time and look for the cause of the fault.
Even though the developers mentioned Python's greater capabilities, we still cannot forget Java, which is still very popular in the world of digital financial services. Specialists appreciate the high level of security solutions based on this coding language. Java uses an API that facilitates the quick detection of suspicious code in virtual machines. According to the "safety first" principle, it is an invaluable asset for corporate banks and financial institutions. What else is this language praised for? Developers talk about high-speed performance, easy object-oriented programming, and support for multiple threading. Compatibility with many popular operating systems is also important here.
We would also like to point out slightly younger solutions that are gaining more and more popularity nowadays. On our list of programming languages ideal for FinTech, we could not exclude Kotlin (and it’s not because of the fact that delicious ketchup is produced under the same name in Poland). It's a cross-platform, statically typed, general-purpose programming language with type inference, which made its debut on the market in 2011. This is a modern open-source solution that will work well in such projects as mobile applications, web applications, or backend. Many experts say it's a very good replacement for Java. It is worth adding here that Kotlin is designed to interoperate fully with Java.
... and we do not forget about the oldies which have been with us for over 40 years. C ++ debuted in the early 1980s, but developers creating software for the financial industry will still appreciate this language. This grandfather still can boast of speed and high efficiency - all thanks to tight data structures and metaprogramming. It is a coding language that will work in complex quantitative and qualitative analysis. It has a huge catalog of tools tailored to every task. When working on complex projects, it is worth appreciating the possibility of rewriting and reusing codes.
Ruby is praised primarily for its powerful framework and ease of code writing. This programming language has a huge number of extensions and modules that developers can use, making their work easier. Ruby's great flexibility cannot be forgotten. In a situation where the customer wants to change something in the product's functionalities, code modification doesn’t take ages. The programming itself runs very smoothly from the very beginning. Ruby and Ruby on Rails often speed up the work on projects that could take much longer with other programming languages. It also offers built-in protection against XSS, CSRF, and SQL Injection attacks, which will once again be a big advantage when it comes to using in the financial sector.
Imperative programming does not always provide all of the solutions that are required by FinTech and so, in such instances, you are looking for alternatives. That's when banks and companies offering technological solutions for the financial sector often use functional programming languages such as Haskell. Experts indicate that its biggest advantages are strong typing, which protects against making errors and derivative algorithms. This type of code is more readable and easier to find bugs in it, which minimizes the risk of exploits. Functional programming works with these projects, where we meet with concurrency. When you need to perform complex tasks based on parallel actions, Haskell will work perfectly.
Digital transformation has changed the rules of the game in the financial market. The risk is now being shared between the new FinTech players and the banks, which in many cases have missed their moment and now need to do their homework on technological innovations quickly. There are many changes and improvements to traditional services. It often happens that FinTech startups offer ready-made solutions to banks and larger players. As research conducted by Tipalti shows, as much as 60% of credit unions and 49% of banks in the U.S. believe that FinTech partnership is important. The importance of mobile and internet banking is growing. And all innovations such as Big Data, cloud, real-time information processing, artificial intelligence, and process automation are opening up completely new opportunities for the industry. Until a few years ago, financial services were the domain of branches, sellers, and computers (mainly stationary ones connected to external monitors). Mobile technologies have turned it all upside down. And while big international banks want to be part of this revolution, spending more on the development of new technologies may not be enough. Many FinTech startups are not constrained by corporate structures. They are pumped by the fresh blood of young programmers who think completely differently from bankers in suits. We recently talked about the problem of implementing change at the mental level in large corporations during one of the interviews that allowed us to create the "Failures in digital transformation" series:
“The organizational culture should be built from the beginning on the basis of mentalizing and guiding employees towards creativity and digital seek. Looking back at the case studies discussed in the previous paragraphs, it is a very accurate diagnosis. People should be able to manage change. Nowadays, we have access to countless tools. People just have to learn to use them. The whole transformation is about change. If you can't lead people to change, you will fail with any tool - even the most innovative one.”
However, it cannot be denied that banks learn quickly. We could discuss the philosophy of change for hours, but that is not what this article is about. Instead, let's take a look at the technologies that arouse great emotions in the entire financial industry today.
Entities that can benefit from FinTech can be divided into 4 main categories:
It turns out that all the innovations discussed in the following paragraphs can be successfully used in each of these sectors. Moreover, they enable the integration of all these segments of the financial market at a level that was not possible in the past…
The plans of the Japanese megabank for the coming years perfectly show how big changes are associated with digital transformation. Mizuho Financial Group plans to eliminate 19,000 full and part-time positions by the end of 2026. Employees will be replaced by computers. And all thanks to the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning. According to analyses, the verification of identity compliance costs banks huge amounts of money. Replacing people with artificial intelligence will bring huge savings. Changes are already visible now. Chatbots appear in call centers and replace customer service professionals. Communication between people and robots becomes more and more reliable. It is no secret that when it comes to FinTech, artificial intelligence is used wherever you can opt-out of the work of people.
The financial industry appreciated blockchain technology primarily due to the secure storage and exchange of transaction records and many other confidential data. The use of these modern solutions significantly reduces the success of any cyber-attacks due to the fact that the exchanged data is effectively encrypted. Data is stored on thousands of servers around the world. The database grows continuously as new recordsets or "blocks" are added to it. Old blocks are kept forever and new blocks are added to the database, which prevents the forgery of documents, transactions, and other information. Put simply, the falsification of one entry leads to the falsification of the entire chain. Blockchain is therefore decentralized, transparent, and secure. According to the calculations of market analysts, this technology will reach a value of $ 20billion by 2024.
Cryptocurrency and digital currency like Bitcoins, Litecoins, Namecoins, NXT, and PPCoins have grown in popularity significantly in recent years. It's still a niche, but financial experts already know that these technologies are not apparently an exotic curiosity, but something that will continue to develop. People are slowly embracing the idea of digital currencies, and governments and financial institutions must respond to this. It is also a great opportunity for global business. The speed and security of digital currency transactions caught the attention of technological and financial giants. A few years ago, Seba Crypto AG, s Swiss financial services company, raised about $104 million from a consortium of investors to create the world's first crypto bank. In 2020, the cryptocurrency exchange Kraken Financial became the first crypto company to obtain a bank charter. In the same year, Unicas announced the launch of the world's first physical branch of a cryptocurrency bank in Jaipur, India. In turn, at the beginning of 2021, Anchorage became the first national cryptocurrency bank in the United States. As you can see, the revolution has already begun.
Regulatory technology (RegTech) is another great opportunity for FinTech. It is about automating solutions related to regulatory monitoring, as well as compliance management and reporting. Complicated compliance processes for financial institutions may therefore be much simpler. RegTech allows you to manage huge amounts of data faster and more economically. Innovation connects financial institutions, regulatory organizations and consumers, protecting the interests of each group.
As reported by Statistica, in February 2021 there were 10,605 financial technology startups in the Americans, 9,311 in the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), and 6,129 in the Asia Pacific region. We have selected a few that particularly caught our attention and about which there may be a lot of noise soon. If you are interested in the topic, let us know in the comments - we will be happy to prepare a separate series of articles in which we will analyze more examples of technologies that will change the face of digital banking and finance in the coming years.
The Robinhood app gained prominence in early 2021 as the media started writing about how Reddit's "little investors" led to a situation where big companies started losing millions of dollars. It is a platform that is used to invest in stocks, gold or cryptocurrencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinhood gained many new users who, without any additional fees for brokers, could manage their money on the stock exchange from the level of an intuitive interface. However, it is not known what the future of the application awaits after the incident when the option to buy some shares was blocked (this applies to the scandal described at the beginning of the paragraph). The company's actions were criticized by Elon Musk himself, and many people decided to file a lawsuit.
KiaKia provides access to consumer loans and loans for small and medium-sized businesses. The app can be used by Nigerians who do not have access to banks, do not have their own accounts, or do not meet the generally accepted eligibility criteria. The Nigerian loan platform uses its own risk assessment and credit scoring algorithms. KiaKia also allows users to invest money.
Boku is a salvation for those who are still afraid of sharing their credit card details (e.g. Visa and Mastercard) or using PayPal. It is a mobile payment method that allows businesses to collect online payments through both carrier billing and mobile wallets. The online purchase fee is simply added to your monthly phone bill. At the moment, the service is already supported by 160 different network operators, and the number of verified users is slowly reaching one billion. Technology not only makes consumers' lives easier but also helps merchants grow and protect their businesses.
Symmetrical is a Polish technology company that builds core infrastructure for fast, flexible, and empowering payroll. An innovative solution is "pay on demand", which allows you to prepay part of the salary due to the employee. The service is available in the form of a payroll-as-a-service API. Symmetrical also finds itself well in the non-wage benefits market and may eventually become a tool that helps employees make financial decisions.
The American company Lemonade offers a unique formula of social insurance combined with charity. About 20% of the insurance premiums are allocated to financing the company's day-to-day service and reinsurance. The remaining amount is to be used for compensation. If any surplus funds appear, Lemonade users can vote in the application to which charitable foundations the money will be allocated. Americans love Lemonade and it can be expected that the platform will get louder and louder.
Research shows that the lack of a market for given services is the main reason why startups fail. The next reasons are the lack of funds and growing too slowly. However, it must not be forgotten that the basis of everything is still a good selection of technology and the team that will develop them. If you are looking for help with FinTech or any other project please let us know. We will make sure that carefully selected specialists help you achieve success.