The UK is a hotbed of fintech activity, and it has not escaped the attention of investors worldwide. so what can we expect in 2018?
Last year, almost £3bn of venture capital found its way in to the UK’s tech sector, a record high and nearly double the figure for 2016. British fintech firms attracted almost four times more funding in 2017 than Germany, and more than France, Ireland and Sweden put together. This year promises to be even bigger, but what are the exciting developments driving those investment flows?
Here’s what to expect in 2018 across five key areas we’ve identified:
One of the most exciting developments to land in the UK financial sector is Open Banking. Under these new rules, which came in to force in January this year, banks must share their customers’ financial data with other FCA-authorised institutions, if customers request them to. This includes bank and credit card transactions and information about spending habits, for example. The aim is to improve competition in the marketplace and ultimately help consumers get a better deal. It should also foster much greater innovation, as new alliances are forged between traditional financial services firms and fintech startups. This is already starting to happen – First Direct has partnered with fintech firm Bud, Barclays is working with Flux, and NatWest has teamed up with FreeAgent. Banks are working hard in-house too: HSBC, for example, has launched a beta app which will allow customers to see all their accounts on one screen, even those from rival providers. Expect more innovation and unlikely partnerships in the banking sector this year.
Wealthtech refers to the specific type of fintech which is used to solve problems and improve user experience in the wealth management and investing world. The definition includes robo-advisers like Nutmeg and Wealthify, as well as micro-investment services and digital brokers. They focus on the under-served mass market of people who would like to invest but only have small savings pots to play with, or who perhaps can’t afford financial advice or wouldn’t be economically viable clients for traditional financial advisers to take on. Robo-advice and micro-investing tools help to democratise investing and make it accessible to a much wider consumer base. Although some of these companies may take time to become profitable, the assets they manage are set to grow rapidly. Deloitte estimates the $2 billion in assets under automated management globally today may grow to as much as $7 trillion by the year 2025.
So strong has been the hype around cryptocurrencies that some listed companies in totally unrelated sectors have linked themselves to the space by changing their names or the focus of their businesses. Just adding the word ‘blockchain’ in somewhere has proven enough to send their share prices soaring (see Long Island Iced Tea Corp, now called Long Blockchain). But there may already be signs that the bubble could burst – highly volatile Bitcoin has fallen a long way from its lofty highs, and there is a regulatory threat from financial watchdogs globally following a crackdown by South Korea. There could be interesting developments to come in cryptocurrencies this year as companies navigate the new landscape.
Regtech refers to the use of technology to help financial services firms better comply with regulation. It’s been dubbed ‘the new fintech’ and it is a fast-growing area. Regtech businesses help other firms to meeting their reporting and compliance obligations, monitor transactions, and manage risk. Firms like Funds-Axis, DueDil, and Silverfinch are part of this growing movement. Deloitte says: “RegTech has a very bright future, with a huge amount of opportunity for those developing this type of technology to automate and enable the world of regulatory assessment and control management, bringing clarity and control to an area of the business that is so incredibly important, but so often cumbersome and time-consuming.” With the Financial Services industry under more regulatory pressure than ever and drowning in legislation, Regtech should be a fascinating area to watch.
When you think of AI, you might think of chatbots being used to replace customer service people, or voice command technology like Amazon Alexa. But the applications of AI in fintech go much further. It can be used to spot suspicious transactions and cybersecurity threats, or predict consumer behaviour and make more accurate predictions based on these insights – for example, whether someone will be a future credit risk. Machine learning can be used to create a customised investment portfolio based on someone’s personal interests and preferences, updating it as their preferences change over time. The possibilities are endless, and who knows how the FS industry could change when AI reaches its full potential?
As always, only time will tell when it comes to forecasting the future but one thing is sure, the UK fintech market is thriving now and will continue do so for a long time.