Financial technology (Fintech) is used to describe new tech that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. At its core, fintech is utilized to help companies, business owners and consumers better manage their financial operations, processes, and lives by utilizing specialized software and algorithms that are used on computers and, increasingly, smartphones. Fintech, the word, is a combination of “financial technology”.
Broadly, the term “financial technology” can apply to any innovation in how people transact business, from the invention of digital money to double-entry bookkeeping. Since the internet revolution and the mobile internet/ smartphone revolution, however, financial technology has grown explosively, and fintech, which originally referred to computer technology applied to the back office of banks or trading firms, now describes a broad variety of technological interventions into personal and commercial finance.
When fintech emerged in the 21st Century, the term was initially applied to the technology employed at the backend systems of established financial institutions. Since then, however, there has been a shift to more consumer-oriented services and therefore a more consumer-oriented definition. Fintech now includes different sectors and industries such as education, retail banking, fundraising and nonprofit, and investment management to name a few.
Fintech now describes a variety of financial activities, such as money transfers, depositing a check with your smartphone, bypassing a bank branch to apply for credit, raising money for a business startup, or managing your investments, generally without the assistance of a person. According to EY’s 2017 Fintech Adoption Index, one-third of consumers utilize at least two or more fintech services and those consumers are also increasingly aware of fintech as a part of their daily lives. Fintech also includes the development and use of crypto currencies such as bitcoin. T hat segment of fintech may see the most headlines, the big money still lies in the traditional global banking industry and its multi-trillion-dollar market capitalization.
Some of the most active areas of fintech innovation include or revolve around the following areas:
1. Cryptocurrency and digital cash.
2. Blockchain technology, including Ethereum, a distributed ledger technology (DLT) that maintain records on a network of computers, but has no central ledger.
3.Smart contracts, which utilize computer programs (often utilizing the blockchain) to automatically execute contracts between buyers and sellers.
4. Open banking, a concept that leans on the blockchain and posits that third-parties should have access to bank data to build applications that create a connected network of financial institutions and third-party providers. An example is the all-in-one money management tool Mint.
5. Insurtech, which seeks to use technology to simplify and streamline the insurance industry.
6. Regtech, which seeks to help financial service firms meet industry compliance rules, especially those covering Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer protocols which fight fraud.
7. Robo-advisors, such as Betterment, utilize algorithms to automate investment advice to lower its cost and increase accessibility.
8. Unbanked/underbanked, services that seek to serve disadvantaged or low-income individuals who are ignored or underserved by traditional banks or mainstream financial services companies.
9. Cybersecurity, given the proliferation of cybercrime and the decentralized storage of data, cybersecurity and fintech are intertwined.