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Fintech or Techfin?

The banking industry is experiencing disruption at an increasing pace. Over the past few years, traditional financial institutions and non-traditional fintech firms have begun to understand that collaboration may be the best path to long-term growth. At the same time, big tech firms are offering financial services, creating techfin solutions.

The rationale for collaboration is the ability to bring strengths of both banks and fintech firms together to create an stronger entity than either unit could bring on their own. For most fintech organizations, the primary advantages are an innovation mindset, agility (speed to adjust), consumer-centric perspective, and an infrastructure built for digital. These are advantages that most legacy financial institutions don’t possess.

Alternatively, most banking institutions have scale, a stronger brand recognition and established trust. They also have adequate capital, knowledge of regulatory compliance and an established distribution network.

According to the World Fintech Report 2018 from CapGemini and LinkedIn, in collaboration with Efma, “Most successful fintech firms have focused on narrow functions or segments with high friction levels or those underserved by traditional financial institutions, but have struggled to profitably scale on their own. Traditional financial institutions have a vast customer base and deep pockets, but with legacy systems holding them back.”

The challenge will be the ability to establish an environment where collaboration can flourish as opposed to stifling the beneficiary attributes of either partner.

Fintech vs. Techfin

The difference between fintech and techfin is based on the origin of the underlying organization. Fintech usually references an organization where financial services are delivered through a better experience using digital technologies to reduce costs, increase revenue and remove friction.

A basic example of a fintech offering is the mobile banking services that most traditional banks offer. More commonly, fintech refers to non-traditional financial offerings such as PayPal, Zelle and Venmo in the U.S. and digital-only Starling Bank, Monzo and Revolut in the U.K.

Alternatively, techfin usually references a technology firm that finds a better way to deliver financial products as part of a broader offering of services. Examples of techfin companies include Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (GAFA) in the U.S. and Baidu, Alibaba & Tencent (BAT) in China.

A couple years ago, Jack Ma, technology visionary and co-founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, described the difference between Fintech and Techfin.

“There are two big opportunities in the future financial industry. One is online banking, where all the financial institutions go online; the other is internet finance, which is purely led by outsiders,” said Jack Ma.

In both instances, success of these organizations in finance will be based on the ability for the institution to collect and analyze massive data sets, learn from the insights to improve personalization and digital engagement in real-time, and expand offerings in response to consumer needs.

A New Competitive Landscape

Even with the best collaboration, the ability for legacy financial institutions to compete in the future banking ecosystem will be challenged by the techfin powerhouses. Built on digital platforms, these huge technology organizations are efficient and have already found ways to reduce operational costs and monetize their business models.

According to Bain, “Many of the tech giants possess the ingredients of success: digital prowess, large customer bases, organizations well versed in improving the customer experience, and ample leeway to extend their corporate brands into banking.” More concerning may be that some of these firms are generating a level of trust previously reserved only for traditional banks and credit unions.

As a result, an increasing percentage of consumers are willing to use financial products offered from these non-traditional firms – especially where the experience is superior to that offered by legacy organizations. A potential to shift revenues from other businesses (such as retail) to enhance banking offerings can completely change the competitive equilibrium.

It is expected that demand for products and services from fintech firms and large tech companies will only increase as more consumers become familiar with new digital offerings. This is especially true for younger consumers, who have grown up with digital devices.

Techfin firms start with technology and wonder how that can be used for commerce and trade. Alternatively, fintech firms start with existing trade structures and wonder how to make them cheaper and faster with technology. I liken it to fintech firms are making faster horses whereas techfin firms are working with airplanes. – Chris Skinner

More and more, people will get annoyed when they’re forced by bank policies and processes to use non-digital channels for everyday banking business. Traditional banking organizations cannot rely on providing checking accounts and loans only. Competitors are already eating away at significant parts of the banking value chain with the potential of limiting banks to becoming nothing more than utilities.

The future of the banking industry will depend on its ability to leverage the power of customer insight, advanced analytics and digital technology to provide services that help today’s tech-savvy customers manage their finances and better manage their daily lives.

As financial and technology organizations embrace a broader view of banking, offering both banking and non-banking services, the ultimate winner will be the consumer regardless of which provider they select.

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