The financial sector is an industry ripe for technical disruption. It is well-financed, has many multifaceted requirements and the vast majority of us need its services on a regular basis. The last couple of years have created a plethora of startups and product offerings to service the financial sector and the financial needs of consumers. It even has its own buzzword, 'FinTech', to really prove it has arrived.
Finovate is one of the pre-eminent events for the FinTech space and holds yearly gatherings in Europe and the USA. Some developments in the FinTech space have interested me and many involve mobile devices and apps relevant to this channel. Thus I took a trip to London's Old Billingsgate Fish Market to get some ideas of trends, technologies and developments that may interest you.
Services to the Financial sector
This was obvious, but it took many presentations for me to realize how big this sector is and how may product offerings there are. Developing tools and software for banks, planners, funds and the like is a growing market as they all grapple with the best approach to meet clients growing technical expectations. I always assumed that banking software we use was largely developed in-house, this may not always be the case and there are many companies you've likely never heard of developing software for some of the largest financial institutions you have definitely heard of. A lot of focus in demonstrations was on leveraging technologies that reduce steps customers need to go through and on reducing call center staff. Maybe the two are somewhat related. Mobile is playing a big part in most of these offerings — from optimized apps to authentication and input devices.
Touch ID and Authentication
Many mobile FinTech apps have incorporated Touch ID for a level of authentication. Whilst it has had mixed appeal and success so far, it is big in FinTech for obvious reasons and simplifies transactions. If you have any interest in developing apps that have an element of authentication, then learn how to implement Touch ID. Going beyond Touch ID, there were other impressive technologies from voice, to complex visual analysis, documentation verification and more.
BitCoin grows up
There are still many 'nefarious' BitCoin offerings, but there are an increasing amount thinking about how to bring Crypto Currency to the masses and make it useful. Australia's CoinJar is growing its European reach and delivered a solid pitch to launch Hedge accounts to stabilize BitCoin Transactions. They allow multi-currency accounts to allow BitCoin to facilitate currency transactions, using your coins as 'real' money and several other features to appeal to consumers such as a debit card.
BitBond takes the peer-to-peer lending concept and mixes it with cryptocurrency, but I wonder if this is still too unstable for lending purposes. In summary, don't be afraid to incorporate other less-standard cryptocurrency support into your apps, even if it's a new idea.
The concept of beacons has always interested me, but I'm yet to see an application of them that interests me. Many of the examples displayed at Finovate were much of the same. High Street applications that broadcast relevant nearby offers. Many are accomplishing similar things without beacons and utilizing location services, NFC or even QR Codes. I still feel there is much more room for more innovate usage of beacon technology, such as in MONA in Hobart.
This trend surprised me, but in the era of the 'over sharer', then why not? From trading (more obvious) to banking and financial advice, several products gave the ability to share your data for feedback and advice amongst your peers and experts. This will hopefully lead to better decisions and insights into your investments and actions.
APIs and SDKs like HealthKit, Google Fit, HomeKit and many others have led to the maturing of useful aggregation services and the same is happening to financial information. The aggregation of information from multiple accounts, cards and sources to give you detailed 'Personal Financial Management' (or PFM) suited to you. Mobile is a big part of this and often customized widgets and notifications put even more information at your fingertips. Some of these offerings are B2B, others B2C, others both.
Mobile Money and Wallets
Mobile devices are perfect for paying for things on the go. So unsurprisingly there were several offerings in this field. My main issue with many of these has always been the need for your recipient to have an account with yet another service. This removes flexibility and portability. Some of the presentations claimed to remove this requirement, without specifically mentioning how, I guess that's a positive! One of my main concerns with the future of Mobile Wallets is market saturation, it will be difficult for retailers to keep up with the best option for them and their customers. A great developer opportunity would be to create better, more integrated wallet options, perhaps integrating several popular options.
Finovate demonstrated that Financial Technology is a big opportunity for developers. This is nothing new, but what is new is the potential for startups and innovate thinkers to have some impact on the sector. I would love to hear any ideas you have on disruptive technologies that would make your financial life easier.