“The sky is falling!” cried Chicken Little. “Do something! Do something now!”
For companies that have not yet adopted Fintech, the sense of head-turning panic in the classic children’s tale probably seems familiar. Surely now is the time to do something – anything – before they’re left behind in the wake of Fintech’s earlier adopters?
To all those companies sitting on the sidelines, we say: be brave and stake your claim.
Yes, it’s important to understand the role of Fintech in your company’s digital journey. But the sky is not falling, and it’s better to do it right, than do it fast. Before you take the leap, consider the following.
Fintech – for all its glittering promises – is not a gift under a holiday tree.
Companies should not dive head-first into Fintech nor should they be doomed to play catch up forever. The use of Fintech actually started some time ago, with the software revolution (Remember the birth of online banking?). Its variety, strength, and speed have certainly grown exponentially in recent years.
Global Fintech financing has more than tripled in the past three years to an estimated US$12 billion annually. This growth, combined with the rise of the computer-friendly millennials – the market that hasn’t even heard of “Chicken Little”– has created a perfect wave scenario for the industries developing Fintech. These companies are enjoying an unprecedented opportunity to generate huge excitement and demand amongst startups and established, larger financial institutions alike.
Frankly, it’s time to separate the reality from the hype.
Remember that Fintech is a tool, not an end unto itself.
Like all tools, it is most effective in the hands of those who understand its potential, and have a plan on how to use it to serve their objectives. Yes, it can streamline processes, resulting in marketing nirvana: increased customer convenience. Yes, it can improve the quality and efficiency of everything from communications to budgeting. But remember: How and when you adopt Fintech must meet the needs of your company, as well as those of your existing customers and the new customers you wish to acquire.
Resist the urge to react without thinking it through.
Develop your unique Fintech strategy, one that builds on your company’s proven strengths and strategy, and reflects your current situation, market, and product.
Case in point: leading department stores like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor. These American retail icons took their time developing online shopping options, building on their mandates of customer convenience and complementing their existing strengths. As a result, those who predicted that their brick and mortar environments would make them dinosaurs are watching as the stores use digital technology to create omni-level shopping environments that even Amazon is challenged to match.
Like top retailers, large financial institutions – with their strong, established brands – have a position of strength, from which they can afford to do due diligence and ensure the Fintech they adopt adds strength to their business plan and value to all their consumers. Millennial and Generation Z customers do not yet represent 100% of the marketplace, and even they value a face-to-face discussion of a major financial decision such as a first mortgage.
The benefits of, say, a 100% digital user interface must be judged in terms of what it offers its clients. The world of finances is one area, at least, in which low interest rates and high investment returns will continue to be more important than whether customers get them online or in person.
In October 2015, The Bank of New York Mellon published a paper : “Innovation in Payments: The Future is Fintech” outlining a 9-point plan for banks exploring the adoption of a payments platform. This plan could serve as a blueprint for adopting any Fintech. It is paraphrased below:
1. Develop and publish an internal “road map” outlining how to identify and respond to market threats and opportunities
2. Identify opportunities to strengthen business through proactive innovation
3. Meet and engage with nimble Fintech startups within the appropriate sectors to understand potential developments
4. Conduct ongoing research to keep abreast of Fintech-driven changes
5. Ensure key staff are educated on developments, threats and opportunities
6. Offer closed sessions/workshops to senior management
7. Develop innovation programmes in partnership with IT, to allow new initiatives to be tested in a ‘safe’ environment
Summing up, even startup companies should remember that it’s more important to use Fintech correctly than to adopt it in haste. Although the potential of Fintech is game-changing, the arena remains focused on customer satisfaction and building on your company’s strengths.