2016 has been a year of major changes in finance technology. Despite the many changes to payment processing methods, brand-new systems that were ushered in not long ago are already are widely used for everyday cash flow. For retailers who are interested in staying on top of the latest technology and the convenience that their customers expect, here are the nine top fintech trends that we at Softjourn noted in 2016 that are likely to continue into 2017. Some of them we originally saw at Money 20/20 in Copenhagen in April.
1. Banks and Distributed Ledger Technolgy (DLT)
Banks are now using the same blockchain data that is collected on cryptocurrency. As banks come up with alternative uses for blocking technology, third-party transactions will become more trusted and secure while offering a much less costly method for transfer between accounts. Blockchain technology could also work in drafting contracts, executing different kinds of permissions and transfers, and much more.
At Softjourn, we decided to try out blockchain for ourselves and developed an in-house loyalty system based on a cryptocurrency called SJ Coins with smart contracts. Check here for the full success story and what Softjourners are saying about blockchain as users.
“We’re talking not specifically about blockchain so much as about distributed ledger technology, which has enormous potential to disrupt business models that have been used decades. We are living in interesting times when the financial sector is actively investigating what it could build using DLT. The spirit of innovation is leading to new use cases every day and we should see the first DLT production systems within a matter of months or at most a year or so.” —Anatoliy Okhotnikov, director for development at Softjourn.
Know your Customer (KYC) is possibly the most popular application of DLT today. Companies like Alloy counter false positives, which can cause a service to lose revenue by rejecting potential customers who are actually creditworthy. KYC and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance mean that every service has to remain cautious, but the flexibility offered by tools like Alloy’s means that companies can easily customize their own rules for verifying identity when taking customers on board. PS Softjourn especially loved their dashboard. At FinDEVr in Santa Clara, in October, this was a hotly talked-about topic. You can read our complete review of this conference here.
2. Moving from cash to bank cards
With many mobile payments linked directly to credit cards and to tap the technology and enhanced security available on many cards, consumers are moving away from cash. Not only do providers offer amazing bonuses for regularly using and paying down a credit card—it’s just much more convenient to carry one card that can handle every purchase. Customers are not only using plastic to pay for products online but also linking it to social media for money transfers. As mobile payments continue to grow and the ease of using cards at payment processing terminals becomes more evident, customers are switching to banking cards over cash. One Softjourn client, a prepaid business Visa card service provider called PEX Card, also developed mobile applications as an extension to their card service.
3. NFC mobile payments spread
Contractless mobile payments have become extremely popular throughout Europe and elsewhere. Mobile payment systems using Near Field Communication or NFC are now widely recognized for basic consumer uses, such as the London tube, cafés and restaurants, and more. “Contractless” is the hot term that’s being used to push this form of payment. With many ATMs across the UK increasing limits for contractless digital payment to £30, the convenience of this type of NFC technology is growing. Although the NFC payment option has been around since 2008, many supermarket chains are still not on board with this new trend. As contactless NFC payments become more versatile, we expect to continue to see demand for this type of payment grow. At Softjourn, we learned how not to get lost with mobile payment apps: you might want to try it, too!
4. Cryptocurrency on the march
As a way to manage online payments, cryptocurrency is of huge interest to investors. Bitcoin remains at the top of the heap as a trusted cryptocurrency and as it becomes more widely accepted and valued, cryptocurrency can only continue to grow by leaps and bounds through 2017. With more and more types of cryptocurrency being developed, it’s only a matter of time before we start to see the wide acceptance of other cryptocurrencies and potentially even a financial institution will come up with its own version of a cryptocurrency for customer use. For the most part, consumers appear to enjoy the convenience and the security of using this alternative payment method.Softjourners explored this particular trend at CeBIT 2016. You can check out our recent article about the impact of crypto-finance on financial services.
5. Cloud servers and “big data”
Moving data sets that are especially large or complex to cloud servers with point-of-sale (POS) applications and financial institutions could offer a number of huge changes that will have a positive impact on customers. This data could help improve security on every transaction, simplify the shopping experience, and make applications for loans or registers for new accounts much simpler. With wider access to big data on each consumer, marketers can enjoy better information to sell products and consumers can enjoy a much greater level of user-specific design and experience. Of course, the big challenge with big data is to manage security and privacy alongside data capture.
6. Online business lending
By using big data, a catalog of credit ratings, secure information and more on every consumer, the process of online business lending is becoming much easier. A number of financial institutionshave set up sites for small loans, and banking and credit card applications all aimed at small businesses and individuals. Rather than having to go into a financial institution to apply for a business loan, it’s now possible to fill in forms online and receive almost instant approval to start up a business. Third-party companies are using this same system to provide more opportunities and greater competition in the commercial loans market. With improvements to this technology and with big data being collected on each consumer, Softjourn expects the nature of online business lending to change. Not only is it easier to transfer money to clients, but through crowd-funding and resources like social media payments, it could become easier for a business owner to gain support from the average customer or investor.
7. Online transfers can improve credit ratings
Online money transfers are becoming easier than ever before thanks to online digital wallets and the development of payments over social media. In the past, using many digital wallets would not affect credit ratings. Today, however, digital wallets like PayPal are enacting a big data chain initiative that will actually affect their customers’ credit ratings. This means that when users send and receive payments through their digital wallet their credit ratings could actually improve when the digital wallet is linked to their credit card. As what we call the digital wallet is re-engineered, we are beginning to see how future online payments could change the average consumer’s finances and credit history. See how Softjourn dealt with iKobo’s online money transfer service.
8. UX—not just a buzzword
User experience is not only just a buzzword commonly used in application design: it also plays a key role in the research and development of virtual payments. Customers are demanding responsive technology that can actually improve their lives and increase the convenience of financial transactions. Applications like Amazon and Uber have designed a user experience in payment processing that is the new industry standard in customer service. Customers are now interested in informative applications like Netflix, which offer recommendations on the types of shows that the customer might want to watch with added convenience. Consumers are reacting positively to the availability of easy virtual payments via an application or a service-based product. With a less confusing payment strategy that’s all in one app or user experience, customers can save both nerves and time.
9. Fingerprints to reveal financial fraud
In 2015, there were a number of huge data breaches in the global financial sector. With new types of technology being introduced in cash systems, it won’t be long before Big Data is implemented with fingerprint technology at points-of-sale. With a record for each consumer that includes their fingerprint, it will be possible to better verify payments and to reduce fraud at POS terminals. To some, this may seem like an extreme measure, but it’s the future of preventing financial losses for everybody.
Keep these trends in mind when considering the next fintech changes coming in 2017. When you’re ready, contact us at Softjourn to brainstorm your ideas and decide how to bring them to life.