Factors like the financial crisis, a global pandemic and an uprise in alternative finance solutions have forced the industry to evolve at an accelerated pace. Is this speed of changing the defining characteristic of the next stage of financial services? Or are there more profound underlying changes happening to reveal a paradigm shift? 

How Innovation And Sustainability Carve The Future Of Financial Services

How Innovation And Sustainability Carve The Future Of Financial Services

Change is a powerful feature. It reshapes global business and society (as a whole). As the emerging technologies turn human-centric in their nature, financial services are also facing a breakthrough in their conventional mechanisms. This is pivotal in its evolution into a more sustainable and inclusive industry altogether. This evolved version promises to restore public trust, with almost no trade-offs between yielding profits and ensuring positive social impact.

The financial services are undergoing disruptive innovation due to key driving factors- evolving customer expectations, rapidly advancing technologies, and changing landscape of regulatory grounds. Fintech innovations like cryptocurrencies, Big Data, and peer-to-peer lending are grabbing the attention and imagination of investors and customers.

Creating the Future: a Hacker’s Guide to Financial Services is a comprehensive report powered by Finastra FusionFabric.Cloud, where over 50 contributors have shared over a hundred predictions on the financial future. The report by Fintech Talents (by VC Innovations Ltd.) creates a relevant narrative, depicting some of the intriguing insights over what trends are going to redefine the future of our existing financial and banking system.

Path-breaking solutions to carve out better financial systems

ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) for a sustainable finance

Over the past few years, the ESG criterion is a popular key metric that investors use to evaluate businesses. The parameters that decide the ESG criteria differ as per the industry standards. The environmental criteria could include everything from energy usage to how waste is disposed of, and even the treatment of animals.

On the other hand, the social criteria are primarily related to a company’s conduct with its stakeholders and its business relationships. This includes its treatment of the suppliers, the relationship with the surrounding community and the social impact it makes on them, or even the conditions of its employees.

Governance criteria, however, have traditionally been an afterthought. Nevertheless, its true meaning is changing, being relatively pertaining to environmental and social issues. Everything from executive pay to shareholder rights, or internal controls- are all relevant to investors within this criterion.

Contributors to Fintech- investors, consumers, and incumbents believe that the industry plays a central role in finding unique solutions to the challenges posed by ESG. The EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulations were introduced in March of last year. This was followed by a roadmap published by the Treasury in the month of October that outlined new Sustainability Disclosure Requirements.

This is to continue with the development of the frameworks for appropriate regulation and reporting of ESG in financial services. Gartner reported that 85% of investors considered ESG factors in their investments in 2020. This illustrates the rapidly growing importance investors place on ESG issues.

While sharing his concern about the inadequate upgradation measures, Dinis Guarda, founder of intelligenthq, citiesabc, and openbusinesscouncil says for the report by Fintech Talents, “According to an estimate by OECD and World Bank, an investment of 6.9 trillion will be required by 2030 to meet the ESG targets for climate and development. The current spending on infrastructure is no more than USD 3.4 – 4.4 trillion, lagging significantly behind what is required”.  

The year 2022, for Mohamed Moullouze, Chief Innovation Officer at Attijariwafa Bank, will be the year for FS firms to make a progressive effort in bringing ESG products and services within the market. From green loans and mortgages to carbon tracking capabilities, and sustainable account checking- the innovative financial features are much awaited in the markets.

Embedded Finance ensures Bank as a Service (BaaS) experience for the consumer

Embedded finance is a seamless integration of financial services into a platform that has been functioning non-financial traditionally. For example, a ride-hailing app (like Uber) can accept cashless payments being made by its users on its digital platforms like apps and websites.

Adding the FS feature to business, retail, and corporate customers to a point where they would prefer the consumption of services is BaaS. This makes it convenient for the customers to access these services even at third-party interfaces. Now, to remain relevant, the banks must adapt to this evolving trend by collaborating with service providers, distributors, and enablers. To meet the scalability targets, an open API platform-based approach could be implemented.

Almost every vertical of the finance ecosystem has been impacted by embedded financing. From offering insurance for home appliances at the point of purchase to buying parking through Google Maps- everything is possible with the ingression of embedded finance.

Today, there is virtually no part of the finance ecosystem that hasn’t been impacted by embedded finance. Everything from offering insurance at the point of purchase for home appliances to purchasing street parking through apps like Google Maps has been made possible due to the spread of embedded finance in everyday experiences.

Big players like JP Morgan (who is using some of its $12bn of its tech budget over the next year for developing embedded finance), Goldman Sachs (announcing its own BaaS portal for developers), and Barclays (launched Rise Start-Up Academy for fintech entrepreneurs) are coming up with innovative ways to make the most of the upcoming trend.

“I think more specialisation per underserved industries will see new embedded finance collaboration occur in 2022. Aside from just payments and investments, I think the next evolution ventures into the area of royalties and affiliate compensation solutions that leverage the same concepts for creators” Australia Hoover, III, CEO, CDC Federal credit union.

Open banking and embedded finance, combined, could open up numerous gates for an inclusive ecosystem. This means the lenders and borrowers from all financial backgrounds could be allowed to participate equally on common grounds. With an increasing number of use cases for embedded banking, every business can potentially become a Fintech that provides more frictionless and personalised services.

Decentralised Finance (DeFi)

DeFi is the umbrella term for all blockchain-based financial apps. These apps offer (and perform) conventional banking services over a platform that is mostly based on smart contracts. These smart contracts negate the involvement of any middleman or broker for the culmination of financial transactions.

“Decentralisation is the term of the day – everyone is speaking about it,” says Dinis Guarda, Founder of intelligenthq, citiesabc, and openbusinesscouncil. “DeFi is not just a trend; it is clear that an average person is tired of centralised money supply control; the unprecedented growth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies proves that.”

It is his belief that the advent of a new financial era with the rising DeFi and Web 3.0 trends offers new avenues for the diverse user base to engage interactively with finance. Speaking specifically in the context, Guarda adds “The current financial system is not working for everyone, it is clear. The communities that have been unable to build generational wealth are looking for a meaningful alternative”, for the report by Fintech Talents.

There have been significant barriers to entry with conventional financial systems. Traditional financial institutions consensually required complex infrastructure, well-trained staff, and intricate IT backend systems to ensure regulatory obligations. DeFi simplifies this system overall. Users can engage themselves in frictionless transactions- borrowing, lending, insurance, liquidity, and compound- all on one platform. DeFi is evolving as the innovation advances, though, there are still many challenges that DeFi will need to address.

Platformification

The accelerated digitalisation of products, services, and processes has altered the traction banks followed for over years. The pandemic itself was enough to project the loss of agility in the traditional banking system.

The API-enabled fintech ecosystem dramatically changed the outlook of financial services. This clearly depicts that a platform provides the required flexibility and innovation while imparting the simplicity of transactions in a most cost-effective manner.

Platformification enables financial institutions to offer a wider range of products and services to their customers using a plug-and-play business model. Collaboration and innovation are at the heart of a successful platformification plan. With a product mix, the traditional financial institutions can benefit from the innovations and embrace APIs. As easy as it is said, achieving these goals could be quite challenging for these institutions.

As more and more customers are getting accustomed to taking advantage of countless services at their fingertips, accessing a wide array of financial tools at a single platform is a preferred mode. This is why despite established brand names, banks operating in traditional ways are unable to support the features that users expect.

“The Banking as a Platform model allows FIs to securely expose their platforms to fintech and developers in the cloud via open APIs. Trusted third parties can access and build on top of existing FSI platforms and FIs can augment their services with third-party offerings and make these new services available to customers through their Super Apps or channels. It’s all about becoming part of their customers’ lifestyle rather than simply being a banking app”, says Özkan Erener, CEO of VeriPark.

Platformification establishes an ecosystem that offers the right products for the clients on a single platform like WeChat. This ensures retention and resilience amongst the customers even in an increasingly competitive environment. Specialised services that particularly target the niche audience create fintech sub-sectors like wealthtech and insurtech that could leverage the financial services for a better future.

Financial services are evolving for a sustainable future

The community of innovators is quirky to be able to see what is coming for the future, not just what is happening now and here. They are able to capture and predict the impact new services and products will make on the evolving needs of the customer. What the stakeholders’ demand is more transparency and accountability from FIs. This requires improved financial performance while meeting regulatory compliance. Nevertheless, the most important attribute for a successful financial process is the ability to articulate the unique culture of the society and amalgamate it with the evolving trends.