Financial technology (Fintech) is used to describe new tech that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services.
There are four broad categories of users for fintech:
1) B2B for banks,
2) their business clients,
3) B2C for small businesses, and
Trends toward mobile banking, increased information, data, and more accurate analytics and decentralization of access will create opportunities for all four groups to interact in heretofore unprecedented ways. As for consumers, as with most technology, the younger you are the more likely it will be that you are aware of and can accurately describe what fintech is. The fact is that consumer-oriented fintech is mostly targeted toward millennials given the huge size and rising earning (and inheritance) potential of that much-talked-about segment.
Some fintech watchers believe that this focus on millennials has more to do with the size of that marketplace than the ability and interest of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in using fintech. Rather, fintech tends to offer little to older consumers because it fails to address their problems. When it comes to businesses, before the advent and adoption of fintech, a business owner or startup would have gone to a bank to secure financing or startup capital. If they intended to accept credit card payments they would have to establish a relationship with a credit provider and even install infrastructure, such as a landline-connected card reader. Now, with mobile technology, those hurdles are a thing of the past.
Regulation and Fintech
Financial services are among the most heavily regulated sectors in the world. Not surprisingly, regulation has emerged as the number one concern among governments as fintech companies take off.
As technology is integrated into financial services processes, regulatory problems for such companies have multiplied. In some instances, the problems are a function of technology. In others, they are a reflection of the tech industry’s impatience to disrupt finance.
For example, automation of processes and digitization of data make fintech systems vulnerable to attacks from hackers.
Recent instances of hacks at credit card companies and banks are illustrations of the ease with which bad actors can gain access to systems and cause irreparable damage. The most important questions for consumers in such cases will pertain to the responsibility for such attacks as well as misuse of personal information and important financial data.
There have also been instances where the collision of a technology culture that believes in a “Move fast and break things” philosophy with the conservative and risk-averse world of finance has produced undesirable results.
Regulation is also a problem in the emerging world of cryptocurrencies. Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are a new form of fundraising that allows startups to raise capital directly from lay investors. In most countries, they are unregulated and have become fertile ground for scams and frauds. Regulatory uncertainty for ICOs has also allowed entrepreneurs to slip security tokens disguised as utility tokens past the SEC to avoid fees and compliance costs.
Because of the diversity of offerings in fintech and the disparate industries it touches, it is difficult to formulate a single and comprehensive approach to these problems. For the most part, governments have used existing regulations and, in some cases, customized them to regulate fintech. They have established fintech sandboxes to evaluate the implications of technology in the sector. The passing of the General Data Protection Regulation, a framework for collecting and using personal data, in the EU is another attempt to limit the amount of personal data available to banks. Several countries where ICOs are popular, such as Japan and South Korea, have also taken the lead in developing regulations for such offerings to protect investors.