A Review of Emerging Technology Trends


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The emergence of a vibrant financial technology sector has dramatically changed the banking industry by enabling new products and services that cater to the needs and preferences of consumers in today’s digital age. In preparation for FinTech Week, an event that FinXTechis holding April 25-26 in New York, here is a look back at our recent coverage of emerging technology trends and innovation strategies for banks. These stories have appeared on the BankDirector.com website, and in digital and print versions of Bank Director magazine.

ARE YOU A BANKER OR A VISIONARY?
The power of digital banking goes beyond a fundamentally different, more satisfying customer experience.

MAKING SENSE OF FINTECH LENDING MODELS
What type of fintech lending solution should your bank pursue? In this video, Mike Dillon of Akouba outlines what management teams and boards need to know about these lending models, and how each can benefit the bank.

PAYPAL’S BIG BET
The former eBay subsidiary is turning itself into a global payments powerhouse with mobile at the heart of its strategy.

CYBERSECURITY: A BOARDROOM CONVERSATION
Radius Bank CEO Mike Butler sits down for an interview about how to manage the risk of doing business with fintech companies.

COMMUNITY BANKS TO FINTECH: WE NEED YOU
Banks attending the Acquire or Be Acquired Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, discussed ways that technology companies could improve profitability and the customer experience.

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF MOBILE
If you’re on a bank board, it pays to ask some questions about mobile.

HOW STRONG IS YOUR CORE TECHNOLOGY?
Changes in customer preferences and pressure from fintech competitors are forcing banks to innovate. Is your core provider up to the task?

2016 BANK DIRECTOR’S TECHNOLOGY SURVEY
As the banking industry struggles to innovate to meet shifting consumer expectations, 81 percent of bank chief information officers and chief technology officers responding to Bank Director’s 2016 Technology Survey say that their core processor is slow to respond to innovations in the marketplace.

Innovation Spotlight: BankMobile


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Dan Armstrong, Managing Director and Chief Digital Officer, BankMobile

In his role as chief digital officer, Dan Armstrong is responsible for co-leading BankMobile Labs, which houses BankMobile’s technology development team focused on user experience and innovation. In this interview, he discusses how BankMobile has taken ownership of its technology to provide a curated consumer experience. In early March, BankMobile announced its acquisition by Flagship Community Bank in Clearwater, Florida, for $175 million. Previously, it had been a division of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based Customers Bancorp.

Who helps execute the innovation strategy at BankMobile?
We have BankMobile Labs—a whole division of programmers, business systems analysts, graphic designers, onboarding and fraud specialists and more, all in-house. We also have a student labs division in New Haven, Connecticut, managing the BankMobile Disbursements business and the BankMobile Vibe app for students. We have so many people charged with innovation, and it’s pretty much the core of our consumer proposition.

How does BankMobile keep a pulse on changing consumer expectations?
I suppose the same way other banks do: media, conferences, trends, recommendations, reading and participating on panels. We have a very strong strategy of testing other fintech products in the market, too, to see what we can learn about making a better customer experience.

When it comes to implementing a fintech solution, would you rather buy, build or partner?
In May 2015, BankMobile set up a fintech software and services development division, so we build 90 percent of our technology in-house. We do have vendors for elements of our solutions, like cards, remote check deposit, photo billpay and P2P payments, as well as risk, fraud and credit-scoring—but they are all integrated into our in-house technology, platforms and apps. We don’t put vendor/partner technology directly in the hands of customers, as we strongly like to create and curate the customer experience, and differentiate where possible.

Smart Data Emphasizes Quality, Not Quantity


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International Data Corp. (IDC) suggests that worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will grow from $130 billion in 2016 to more than $203 billion in 2020. The commercial interest in data comes as no surprise given the immense role it plays in facilitating innovation in the financial services industry and beyond. After all, for banks of any size, data is at the core of their vital business decisions. It enables the appropriate risk assessment of every financial operation and allows banks to accurately estimate the creditworthiness of existing and potential customers, among other things.

The value of data, however, has long been correlated with its quantity rather than quality, laying a foundation for big data analytic tools and intensive data generation in relationships between companies and consumers. While we can’t deny the value of such an approach in displaying major industry trends and assessing customer groups on a general level, financial technology startups nowadays are proving that innovation in the financial services industry will likely come from a smart use of more limited, but higher quality data rather than its scale. In addition, given the diversity of sources and ever-accelerating speed of data generation, it becomes more difficult to drive meaningful insights.

Smart Data’s Value as Raw Material
Smart data represents a more sophisticated approach to data collection and analysis, focusing on meaningful pieces of information for more accurate decisions. Coupled with advanced capabilities of AI and machine learning, smart data presents an opportunity for startups to efficiently derive deeper insights from limited, but relevant data points. Professionals from Siemens and an increasing number of organizations across industries believe that smart data is more important than big data. Moreover, in the future, the most important raw material will be smart data.

For banks, smart data represents an opportunity to change the way a prospective customer’s creditworthiness is assessed, hence, a chance to expand credit to new groups of population that have previously been overlooked. In fact, financial inclusion starts with the use of smart data. While national financial institutions are looking for reasons to deny someone of access to financial services, tech companies like Smart Token Chain, BanQu and others are looking for reasons to expand connectivity and open new opportunities for those excluded from the financial system. Those companies aim to leverage a different set of records for inclusive growth and a better tomorrow.

The Anatomy of Smart Data
Mike Mondelli, senior vice president of TransUnion Alternative Data Services, listed property, tax, deed records, checking and debit account management, payday lending information, address stability and club subscriptions as some of the sources for alternative data. As he emphasized, “These alternative data sources have proven to accurately score more than 90 percent of applicants who otherwise would be returned as no-hit or thin-file by traditional models.”

Other alternative sources of data used by technology companies include web search history, phone usage, social media and more. Sources can be combined into clusters, which some professionals distinguish as traditional, social and online.


Source: Forbes, LetsTalkPayments.com

The data sources emphasized above are certainly not exhaustive and their combination can vary depending on the goal and availability. In any case, the goal is to find the most relevant, even though limited, data that corresponds with the goal of its use. Fortunately, there is a variety of fintech companies leveraging the benefits of alternative data for inclusive initiatives, credit extension and more. Such examples include ZestFinance, Affirm, LendUp—all of which use data from sources such as social media, online behavior and data brokers to determine the creditworthiness of tens of thousands of U.S. consumers who don’t have access to loans.

Companies like Lenddo, FriendlyScore and ModernLend use non-traditional data to provide credit scoring and verification along with basic financial services. Those companies are creating alternative ways to indicate creditworthiness rather than relying on traditional FICO scores. For banks, such companies open up opportunities to expand their customer base without compromising their financial returns and security, while leveraging technological advancements for adopting innovative ideas and enhancing community resilience.

How Can Your Bank Tap Into the Internet of Things?


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The Internet of Things (IoT) has officially moved beyond hype. IoT is now well known and defined—basically putting data-gathering sensors on machines, products and people, and making the data available on the Internet—and companies are already using IoT to drive improvements in operational performance, customer experience and product pricing. Gartner predicts we’ll see 25 billion IoT data-gathering endpoints installed worldwide by 2020.

While IoT is delivering on its promise in a wide range of industries, many bankers are still struggling to find the value in finance, an industry largely built on intangibles. We see two primary IoT opportunities for banks:

  • Direct use of sensor data (location, activities, habits) to better engage customers and assess creditworthiness.
  • Partnering with companies that manufacture or integrate sensors into products to provide payment services for device-initiated transactions.

Engaging customers and assessing creditworthiness
Like most businesses, your bank can simply use IoT to understand—and serve—customers better. Banks are already implementing smart phone beacon technology that identifies customers as they walk in the door. Customers who opt in can be greeted by name, served more quickly and generally treated with more personalized care. You can also take advantage of sensor data outside of the bank to market more relevant services to customers. For example, data from sensors could alert your bank when a customer’s car goes into a repair shop; after the third service call, you might offer the customer an auto loan for a new car. This type of tailored service and marketing can change a customer’s relationship with your bank dramatically: Pleasant experiences and valued information are a time-tested path to loyalty.

IoT sensor data can also supplement traditional methods for predicting creditworthiness and protecting against fraud, especially for customers with little or no credit history. For example, if a small business HVAC contractor applies for a commercial loan, you can request access to data from shipping and manufacturing control sensors to track the flow of actual product into buildings. This can help the bank confirm how the business is doing. For product manufacturers, you can track and monitor goods, including return rates, and if the return rate is high the bank can adjust the loan pricing and decisions accordingly. Leveraging alerts on credit cards and processed payments can provide information about where and how often an individual or business is making purchases, providing clues about creditworthiness without requiring access to detailed credit card records. In short, with billions of sensors all over the world, IoT will offer you more data that can help you assess creditworthiness and prevent fraud.

Providing payment services for device-initiated transactions
To illustrate the potential of IoT, proponents often cite the “smart” refrigerator, which senses when a household is low on milk and automatically orders more. Similarly, in the commercial space, sensors can automatically trigger a call for maintenance when a piece of equipment is due for service. In these device-initiated transactions, your bank could partner with the providers to offer payment services as an integrated component of the IoT package.

On a more local level, as small businesses begin to take advantage of IoT sensors to automatically reorder supplies—paper, toner, medical supplies, salon products—your bank can tie payments into the IoT-triggered reordering system. In addition to broadening your market for payments, being part of this solution can strengthen attachment to your bank among small businesses in your community.

Start with the end in mind
This is undeniably an exciting time in banking. Between fintech offerings and IoT applications, it’s tempting to move quickly for advantage, but we all know that investments are far more likely to pay off when you treat the process with rigor and resist the urge to grab bright shiny objects. IoT is no different: Before you start buying systems and aggregating data, know what problems you’re trying to solve and what data you’ll need for the outcomes you want to achieve. In banking, the most promising returns on IoT investment are likely to be found in improved customer experiences and marketing effectiveness, reduction in loan default and fraud, and growth in your payments business. But with all the dramatic changes unfolding, who knows what innovations might be ahead—your bank might find opportunities for IoT no one else predicted.

 

Contributed by: John Matley, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP;Akash Tayal, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP;William Mullaney, Managing Director, Consulting LLP

How Fintech Can Improve the Customer Experience in Construction Lending


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One of the most underserved areas in financial technology is construction lending, which exposes banks and non-bank lenders to unnecessary risk, costs shareholders money and negatively impacts the client experience for borrowers. For an asset class that is finally gaining steam after punishing many lenders during the Great Recession, this is an area that can’t be ignored.

The problem? Once a construction loan closes, it’s booked into a loan servicing system. But to be properly serviced, that requires paper files, spreadsheets, emails and phone calls between lender staff, borrowers, builders, draw inspectors (people who go out to the job site and validate that the work is being done before a bank can release loan funds from a draw request) and title companies throughout the construction period. This coordination between parties is critical for lenders to mitigate risk and ensure that every dollar is actually going into their collateral. However, this reactive rather than proactive process is not only slow and costly, but it prevents even the most sophisticated internal systems from providing lenders with real-time visibility into what’s going on, much less their clients.

The concept of applying technology to a problem within lending in order to greatly reduce risk, increase transparency, eliminate friction, improve the customer experience and drive cost savings did not make its way into construction lending until recently. Most lenders don’t realize there is a better way.

This is the perfect example of how fintech can help solve a problem faced by banks and non-bank lenders alike.

Where Fintech Can Help

Risk: Construction loans are often perceived as the riskiest loans in a bank’s portfolio. As such, they garner significant attention from regulatory agencies that want to ensure risk is being properly managed. Technology applied to construction lending allows key information to be transparent and consumable in real-time. This reduces the opportunity for human error, ensures loans aren’t being overfunded and helps a lender maintain a first lien position throughout the life of a construction project. And perhaps the most exciting byproduct of bringing these loans into the digital world is the data. Analytics can now be used to help lenders make better decisions about the loans they make as well as proactively manage risk in their active portfolio. For instance, imagine proactive notifications to alert appropriate lender personnel that a construction project has gone stale or that a borrower has materially changed their behavior based on historical data.

Efficiency: Construction loans require more post-closing support and ongoing administration effort to be properly serviced than any other type of lending. While critical, this effort costs lenders more money than they likely realize. By bringing collaboration and automation into construction lending, lenders can now connect with their borrowers, builders, draw inspectors, and others in real-time, allowing each party to push things forward while knowing where (and with whom) things stand in the process. This eliminates countless steps and saves everyone significant time. Not only does this improve a lender’s efficiency, but it also gets borrowers their money safer and faster–creating happier builders and allowing lenders to accrue more interest.

Customer Experience: Today, the customer experience for a borrower managing a construction loan is sadly lacking. If a borrower or builder wants to make a draw on their loan, or wants to know where a loan currently stands, it requires a phone call or an email to their lender. This triggers a domino effect of events that usually results in stale information and disrupts the lender’s workflow. Through technology, borrowers and builders have full transparency into what’s going on, and can often self-serve from their phone or computer. That ends up being a better customer experience even though there is no human-to-human contact. Technology also means faster access to draws, which means that projects can be pushed forward faster.

The best part is that with the right technology solution, lenders don’t have to choose which of these three areas is most important because they can have their cake and eat it too. As with most areas of the financial services industry, fintech’s introduction to construction lending is changing everything for the better.

Departing Administration Leaves Gift of Fintech Principles


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It may strike some as odd that President Barack Obama’s White House’s National Economic Council just published a “Framework for FinTech paper on administration policy just before departing, but having been a part of several conversations that helped to shape this policy perspective, I see it from a much different angle.Given that traditional financial institutions are increasingly investing resources in innovationalong with the challenges facing many regulatory bodies to keep pace with the fast-moving fintech sector, I see this as a pragmatic attempt to provide the incoming administration with ideas upon which to build while making note of current issues.Indeed, we all must appreciate that technology isn’t just changing the financial services industry, it’s changing the way consumers and business owners relate to their finances—and the way institutions function in our financial system.

The Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Adrienne Harris and Alex Zerden, a presidential management fellow, wrote a blog that describes the outline of the paper.

I agree with their assertion thatfintech has tremendous potential to revolutionize access to financial services, improve the functioning of the financial system, and promote economic growth. Accordingly, as the fabric of the financial industry continues to evolve, three points from this white paper strike me as especially important:

  • In order for the U.S. financial system to remain competitive in the global economy, the United States must continue to prioritize consumer protection, safety and soundness, while also continuing to lead in innovation. Such leadership requires fostering innovation in financial services, whether from incumbent institutions or fintech start-ups, while also protecting consumers and being mindful of other potential risks.
  • Fintech companies, financial institutions, and government authorities should consistently engage with one another… [indeed] close collaboration potentially could accelerate innovation and commercialization by surfacing issues sooner or highlighting problems awaiting technological solutions. Such engagement has the potential to add value for consumers, industry and the broader economy.
  • As the financial sector changes, policymakers and regulators must seek to understand the different benefits of and risks posed by fintech innovations.While new and untested innovations may increase efficiency and have economic benefits, they potentially could pose risks to the existing financial infrastructure and be detrimental to financial stability if their risks are not understood and proactively managed.

A product of ongoing public-private cooperation, I see this just-released whitepaper as a potential roadmap for future collaboration.In fact, as the fintech ecosystem continues to evolve, this statement of principles could serve as a resource to guide the development of smart, pragmatic and innovative cross-sector engagement much like then-outgoing president Bill Clinton’s “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce” did for internet technology companies some 16 years ago.

Trends in Financial Technology to Watch


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The FinXTech Advisory Group is comprised of several respected fintech leaders from around the globe, and we are honored to have Christa Steele, former CEO of Mechanics Bank in Walnut Creek, California, as a part of the group. During her time with Mechanics Bank, she improved core earnings 43 percent in a single calendar year, doubled the stock price, evaluated three separate and vastly different M&A combinations and in 2015 led the company through its successful sale to a Dallas-based investment firm at a market premium of 1.64x tangible book value. Since then, she has been involved in a variety of initiatives including alternative lending, robo-advisory, mobile/digital payments and blockchain. As a director for a mix of public/private company boards, and as an advisor to two blockchain organization, we asked Christa to share her thoughts on the future of banking and how blockchain will impact financial services. Here are her written responses.

What trends in financial technology should we all be watching?
The banking industry must adhere to the required paradigm shift being caused by digital, mobile, e-commerce and other robust cloud-based technology trends. The traditional bank financial model is under siege by competitors from outside the industry.

Did you know:

  • Online lender SOFI, which started out refinancing student debt and now funds home loans, offers wealth management services for a flat fee of $60 per year?
  • PayPal has more customer money than all but the 20 largest U.S. banks? Did you also know that PayPal’s deposits are not insured?
  • The transaction volume at Venmo, PayPal’s peer-to-peer payment processor, exceeds $1 billion a month and the company is now piloting a merchant program?
  • Mobile banking apps are becoming gamified to enhance customer engagement and attract and retain millennials?
  • Facebook Messenger is processing Bank of America client transactions and is said to be engaged with over 1,000 payment vendors to offer client services that interact through Messenger with a single sign-in process?
  • Over 60 of the world’s largest banks are testing a new technology called blockchain that could single handedly revolutionize how financial transactions are conducted today?

As a former bank CEO, what are some of the challenges that bank leadership teams must overcome during this period of digital transformation?
Each bank is different. Geography, economic trends, client mix (i.e., retail, commercial and wealth management), institution size and product offerings can all be different. My advice is to pay attention and understand how fintech is impacting client acquisition, client retention—and, ultimately, your bottom line. Evaluate whether your current infrastructure and growth strategy meets the needs of a digital world.

Based on your experiences, why is there so much time, energy and resources being spent on blockchain?
We’ve all been using cloud-based technology. I remember when banks were slow to move to the cloud at first because of their initial mistrust. Today we are centralized, but there are endless possibilities about where we go from here, including the use of open access IoT networks, public and a private system of records.

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Blockchain is a software that enables data sharing across a network of individual computers. A blockchain describes computers transferring blocks of records in a chronological chain aka a distributed ledger. A simple way to explain this technology is to think about vehicle assembly. Blockchain is the assembly line in the manufacturing plant. The end product is a car, or in the case of blockchain, an asset token.

How do you see blockchain impacting the banking industry holistically?
The impact of blockchain will not only affect banking, but we will see enhanced record keeping and data analytics, streamlined processes, cost saves and efficiency gains. Over the next several weeks, I plan to share a series of articles centered around the technology of blockchain and how it will directly impact the financial industry. I’ll take a look at how it works, why it matters, how to make it a reality and highlight some major players in the space. I look forward to sharing with you all the interesting and innovative movements around this dynamic technology.

Want to Go Fast, Go Alone. Want to Go Far, Go Together.


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There was a plaque in my father’s office that is attributed to the late David Ogilvy, often called “The Father of Advertising. It read, “Search the parks in all your cities, you’ll find no statues of committees,” which I always interpreted to mean, “YOU need to make something happen; don’t wait on others to get going.”

But going it alone in the banking industry is extremely difficult because of the complexities around regulation, underwriting, competition and the thousands of vendors that serve it. Combine that with record breaking investment in financial technology and the next few years may very well serve as our “big bang” and usher in a new era of banking.

I’ve observed how companies seeking to make a real impact within the industry rarely do it alone. While we need committees in business, maybe what we need more is a “virtual committee,” or community of fintech players, to better understand the nuances within the landscape. The value of this fintech community is to provide industry intelligence, serve as a sounding-board for new ideas and foster relationships to move you faster in achieving your organizational goals.

The fintech community should also include thought leaders, published research and reports—and most importantly, peers from outside your organization. Even competitors can be valuable resources for your company and contribute to your personal development.

The banking segment will likely see more action than the rest of the economy. In the future we will probably witness the following:

  • The adoption of a new fintech charter
  • A relaxation of the regulatory burden
  • Improved bank earnings, helped in part by rising interest rates
  • Increased customer expectations

Individuals and organizations that embrace the industry as a community and foster relationships will have a competitive advantage.

Why Dramatic Change in Banking is Hard
Many of the products and services that banks offer are mature, even bordering on commodity status. Technology advances we see in our industry tend to fall into a few categories:

  • How banks deliver products (channel)
  • Customer insights and recommendations (managing their money better)
  • Ease of doing business (speed, simplicity and service)
  • Tweaks to traditional business models (sources of funding, hyper-focused segmentation)
  • Operational improvements (automated processes, enhanced security and improved regulatory compliance processes, to name three)

Many of the platforms we used today are in the process of being either rewritten or replaced. According to one vendor, the life cycle of fintech moving forward will be five years or less on average.

The technology that the vast majority of financial institutions use today is a result of decisions spanning over many years and engagements with a lot of vendors—typically from dozens to hundreds of relationships.

Media, fintech executives and investors have a tendency to focus on new and shiny technology without an appreciation of how hard it is to run a technology company in the financial industry, much less what it takes to achieve long-term success.

Agents For Change
Vendors looking to grow their businesses seek focused education and networking opportunities. Organizations such as the Association for Financial Technology, or AFT, enable vendors to learn about technologies, which organizations are doing well, and gain industry insights that help provide a perspective for decision-making. This particular fintech community includes companies of all sizes that have implementations in virtually every U.S. financial institution.

Ultimately, people do business with people, and fintech advances won’t happen until two people or two companies agree on a shared vision. Finding your community, and being a good citizen within it, will enable you to grow professionally and help your company succeed and make a positive impact.

Additional resource: “What You Need to Know About AFT Fall Summit 2016” by Kelly Williams.

Blockchain Makes Digital ID a Reality


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The concept of identity has not kept pace in a world of accelerated digitization and data. Nowhere is that more apparent than the cost and friction involved in answering three basic questions simply to engage in commerce:

  • Are you who you say you are?
  • Do you have the mandate you say you have?
  • Can I trust you?

Imagine a world where once these questions are answered the first time, no one else needs to ask them again, or only a subset or new information has to be provided. Archaic identity systems aren’t just frustrating—they’re holding back innovation. The full potential of financial technology and digital global finance, so close at hand, will come about only when a global standard for digital identity does. The technology to make that happen? Blockchain.

A blockchain is a record, or ledger, of digital events, one that’s “distributed” between many different parties. It can only be updated by consensus of a majority of the participants in the system. And, once entered, information can never be erased. With a certain and verifiable record of every single transaction ever made, Blockchain provides the underlying technology to give consumers control over their own portable digital identity.

Blockchain brings digital identity into 2016 (and beyond), opening the full potential of digital innovation to change how we buy and sell goods and services, manage health and wealth, and present our digital identity to the world.

BYO ID
Identity data is everywhere—on all types of devices, applications, private and public networks—but it’s disconnected and doesn’t present a complete, accurate profile of a customer. Plus, it’s personal information: Shouldn’t each person own their identity data and choose what they share and when?

Blockchain is a universal, distributed database that can make it easier for individuals to consolidate, access and reveal what they choose about their own identity data. It’s generally considered more secure, reliable and trustworthy than previous identity solutions because it’s controlled by the user and immutable—protected by a combination of cryptology, digital networks and time stamping on a decentralized network not controlled by any single entity.

Blockchain-based digital ID brings identity into a single record—a persona—that is effectively pre-notarized and authenticated and usable almost anywhere. Individuals control their own ID, adding references and third-party endorsements to verify authenticity, so customers and banks can trust that the content is accurate and secure. It offers an extremely efficient way to capture, share and verify information, and establishes a reliable, secure but relatively easy way for individuals to open a bank account, set up utilities, pay taxes, buy a car—nearly anything requiring personal ID.

Benefits of Blockchain Digital ID
The trust breakthrough: Most customers have a rich online record of what they do, who they know, buying habits, credit—but banks and customers both need better reasons to trust the accuracy, completeness and security of identity data. With customers in control of identity data and a framework for rapid verification, blockchain enables an environment more conducive to mutual trust.

New opportunities: Blockchain provides entry into an ecosystem that increases in value as it expands, providing multiple points of ID verification while creating a more complete description of personal identity. This enables banks to “know” each customer better and offer tailored products that are valued and appreciated.

More loyal customers: Customers typically bear the brunt of inefficiencies, wasting time filling out forms, repeating conversations and gathering documentation. By increasing efficiency, security and accuracy of customer data, next generation digital ID helps make banks more attractive to existing and potential customers.

Improved regulatory compliance: Financial firms spend up to $500 million a year on Know Your Customer and Customer Due Diligence compliance. Next generation digital ID can reduce compliance costs by providing a universal, secure platform for consolidated data collection and records management.

Transparency and better controls: With users controlling their ID and every action an immutable record, you’re less likely to have problems with ID management, theft, security and inconsistency. You can also reduce risks of paper documentation left on desks or digital information with insufficient tracking and controls.

Blockchain-based digital ID fundamentally strengthens identity security and can help ease the burden of regulatory compliance. At the same time, it can improve the customer experience and establish a more solid basis for trust between banks and customers. It also transforms identity data into a rich description of a person, so banks can anticipate customer needs and offer solutions that actually make sense for each customer.

Through blockchain, digital ID is poised to completely change the way we think about and manage identity. It can solve old problems and open new opportunities for banks that are ready to embrace the change.

Embracing Disruption: Why Banks and Fintechs Should Work Together in a Regulated Environment


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At first glance, financial technology companies and banks are competitors with similar products but different business models. Fintech companies need fast growth to survive. They must exercise quick marketing strategies and adaptive technologies. And they excel at reaching customers in new ways and providing more personalized customer service. Banks, on the other hand, rely on well-established customer networks, deep pockets and industry experience for their success. However, if they want to preserve their customer base and continue to grow, banks will have to adapt to what’s happening in the financial technology space.

Fintech companies and banks both face many unique challenges. Fintech companies must often decide how to allocate limited resources between marketing, intellectual property, compliance and cybersecurity concerns. Banks depend on legacy technology, lack market speed and must continue to keep pace with new banking regulations and technologies. Although both fintech companies and banks face significant legal barriers, they have different needs and strengths. Fintech companies need the deep regulatory experience that banks have developed over many decades. Banks need flexibility to adapt new technologies to changes in the compliance landscape. These differing but not incompatible needs present an opportune cross point for partnership.

The following laws and regulations exemplify a small portion of the regulatory challenges and business relationship opportunities for fintech companies and banks. Please be aware that all financial products—especially new financial technology products with uncharted regulatory profiles–may implicate many other laws not discussed below.

  • Money transmission laws: In order for a fintech company to transfer money between two individuals, it must be licensed under federal and state money transmission laws. State money transmitter laws vary greatly and this creates a considerable barrier to entering the market on a national scale. Banks are generally exempt from state money transmitter laws. Fintech companies can meet money transmitter compliance requirements by strategically structuring the flow of money with banks. Alternatively, fintech companies can act as an authorized agent of a licensed money transmitter service provider.
  • Lending and brokerage laws: State law may require a lender, buyer, servicer or loan broker to be licensed to engage in its respective activity. A fintech company may face severe consequences for unlicensed lending or brokerage practices. Banks in many cases are able to engage in these types of activities. Fintech companies and banks can structure a business relationship to ensure that appropriate legal precautions are in place. Even if a fintech company is licensed, it does not have the ability to use and apply the interest rates of its home state, a power that is afforded to national banks. Fintech companies may be stuck with interest rate limitations set by the state where the borrower lives. Thus, a strategically structured relationship between a bank and fintech company may provide other non-compliance advantages for lending and brokerage products.
  • UDAP/UDAAP laws: Unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices affecting commerce are prohibited by law. Both fintech companies and banks face exposure to penalties for engaging in unfair, deceptive or abusive acts. Taking advantage of fintech companies’ adaptive technologies may help banks minimize the risk of committing the prohibited practices. For example, fintech companies may help banks design software that utilizes pop up warnings on a customer’s phones before the customer makes an overdraft.
  • Financial data law: Financial data is a growing industry that has seen increasing regulatory oversight. Both fintech companies and banks collect enormous amounts of data and may use it for various legal purposes. Data is the core part of the fintech business; fintech companies collect data and rely on data. However, fintech startups do not have the legal and technical resources of traditional banks to resolve a variety of regulatory and cybersecurity concerns related to the use of data. Fintech companies can partner with banks, particularly with respect to cybersecurity issues. A bank offering products through or with a third party is responsible for assessing the cybersecurity risk related to that third party and mitigating it, and thus parties should consider some important questions upfront, including where the data is located, who owns it and how it is protected.

Despite the many issues and concerns that may arise from the partnership between fintech companies and banks, cooperation colors the future. Fintech companies can take advantage of the industry knowledge that bankers possess, certain regulatory advantages that banks enjoy and the industry’s cybersecurity infrastructure. Banks can take advantage of fintech companies’ ability to create new products, certain regulatory advantages and adaptability to regulations. With an understanding of the legal and regulatory framework of fintech companies and banks, their different business models can be used as an opportunity rather than a barrier to business.