What’s next for fintech in 2023?
At the start of last year, fintech investing was booming. But as the current cost of living crisis hit and interest rates rocketed, investment slowed down rapidly. In fact, KPMG tells us UK fintech investment dropped to $9.6 billion in the first half of 2022 – down almost threefold from $27.8 billion in the same period in 2021.
Fintech are resourceful beasts though, and in times of crisis propositions tend to get sharper and smarter. There will undoubtedly be some casualties; companies that over stretched or lost some focus may struggle. But those with strong leadership and that have kept a keen eye on cashflow will probably emerge stronger. Plus, appetite for awesome products doesn’t tire. And there’s plenty of exciting developments going on in the fintech space right now.
Indeed, innovations in fintech over the past few decades have made an immeasurable difference to our lives. And the scale at which we now rely on new technologies to shop, communicate and manage our finances have accelerated due to the covid pandemic.
However, while many welcome the pace at which fintech continues to grow, others will find the new technologies – plus the sheer pace of change – over the coming months and years overwhelming. With this in mind, here’s some of the trends to look out for going into 2023 and beyond, plus my thoughts on what organisations should prioritise.
Closing the digital divide
While new technologies have made life easier for many of us, for those who didn’t grow up in the digital age – or missed it completely – they can be especially tricky to navigate. For example, if you grew up in the 80s or 90s and have children, it’s likely they will be almost entirely dependent on digital platforms. Consider the news. For older generations, a newspaper may be the preferred method to keep up to date. Their children and grandchildren, however, have numerous online sources – such as websites, forums, blogs, and chatrooms – available to them.
The same applies to banking. While some will think nothing of opening an app to check their balance or taking a selfie to prove their identity, for the less tech savvy – or those with disabilities – this process can cause unwanted stress. The problem is, the more digitally dependent society becomes, the more crucial these skills will be. It’s particularly worrying, then, that 10 million UK adults say they can’t access the internet by themselves. And 11 million people lack the essential digital skills now needed for everyday life, according to data from Lloyds Bank.
Going forward, the advancements we’re seeing in fintech will likely increase an already large generational gap. Unless, of course, the issue is tackled head on. It’s vital that organisations work to inform those who aren’t confident using digital platforms and equip them with the skills they need – lest risk them being left behind altogether.
Given this, our Digital Helpline offers customers digital training over the phone. And our Digital Champions programme saw 20,000 colleagues volunteer to help individuals, businesses and charities become more digitally-savvy.
Digital currencies and blockchain
Last year, the cryptocurrency market plummeted in value. And numerous digital currency firms went out of business. So, we’re likely to see regulators take a closer look at cryptocurrencies over the year ahead – they may even devise a global regulatory policy approach, although this idea has been discussed for a while now.
Whilst crypto currencies have developed a mixed reputation, the technology they operate across (known as Distributed Digital Ledger Technology (DLT) which can be used interchangeably with “blockchain”) has demonstrated its potential for real impact in our everyday economy. Financial institutions, central banks and governments are looking at this together to understand what this could mean. Now, if you’re rolling your eyes, I get it. blockchain can be especially difficult to get your head around if you’re not already clued up on cryptocurrencies. But the easiest way to think of it is a series of digitally held information blocks, containing data that can’t be changed.
The question is, then: what will this mean for traditional financial institutions, central banks and governments in 2023? Well, for starters, I expect to see more financial organisations investing in blockchain technology – or in fintech associated with it – over the coming months and years ahead, plus greater levels of regulation to boot.
"Whilst crypto currencies have developed a mixed reputation, the technology they operate across (known as Distributed Digital Ledger Technology (DLT) which can be used interchangeably with “blockchain”) has demonstrated its potential for real impact in our everyday economy."
The importance of inclusivity in fintech – or any industry, for that matter – cannot be understated. Organisations across the board should be asking themselves if they have a true culture of diversity – one that considers neurodiversity, race, culture, gender, ability and age. This is vital if fintech firms are to truly reflect society. And why I think this trend will undoubtedly extend well beyond 2023.
Real change, though, can only be driven from within the leadership of an organisation – from the top down. And role models are extremely important so that those underrepresented in society feel they can achieve. As I say, though, inclusivity is important across every industry. In the case of Lloyds Banking Group, our Race Action Plan details our commitments to a truly diverse workforce. And our Black Business Advisory Committee aims to support Black entrepreneurs across a host of industries, too.
And in terms of neurodiversity, the Group recently took part in the Leeds Inclusive Employers Network – which promotes inclusion. This event gave a platform to those engineers with disabilities who were flourishing, plus the technology that was bridging the gap.
Moreover, we run several initiatives to attract more women and non-binary people into tech roles across the organisation too, such as our Women ConnecTech network, which encourages women of all ages to reskill and pivot their careers into tech. We are also major sponsors of the Athena Hackathon run by ShowCode. And our Elevate Leadership programme focuses on developing our talented colleagues to ensure we represent the society we serve. And even more widely, our gender diversity network, Breakthrough is one of the largest in the UK – with 15,000 members and 4,000 mentors.
Lastly, we have incorporated programmes such as Signly to our public facing website, which provides in-vision sign language translation on any webpage for any sign language user, allowing for easier access to essential financial information. And those who are blind or have low vision can now connect securely with Lloyds Bank through the Be My Eyes mobile app, which provides access to sighted volunteers and organisation reps who can provide assistance.
Digital Identity has been spoken about for years. But we’ve not seen much movement here in the UK. If you consider what has changed most in the last decade of the digital age, it is the reliance we have on others believing who we are via a device. In the past we might have walked into the bank branch and others would have seen who we are for themselves “in real life”. Today, in all digital transactions we are reliant on the system knowing and trusting who we are. We often must prove our identify and that we are “not a robot”. Some of us will have been unfortunate victims of fraud. And if this is the case for you, I am incredibly sorry to hear it.
Identity as a concept is a very complex thing. Each of us has multiple identities, take me for example: I work at Lloyds Bank, I am a mum, a wife, a friend, a sister, in every situation a different, but none the less true version of me shows up. In a digital setting each of us now has numerous digital identities; we may have several social media accounts and bank accounts, subscriptions and access to many online services – it is a complex network of information that opens us all up to the potential for fraud and makes us vulnerable.
Over the last few years, numerous fintech companies have emerged working to tackle different aspects of the identity challenges across fraud, password vaults and authentication. The challenge for all of us is that as the digital world is growing and ever evolving, the identify system needs to be designed to keep up with it. Our digital identity has become our most valuable digital asset and we need to do as much as we can to keep it safe.
So, going into the new year, could we see proposals in the UK to enable a digital identity system some countries are ahead of us here in the UK. In Estonia, for example, distributed ledger technology underpins the national ID system. And digital government issued identity cards exist in countries such as India, Ghana and the Philippines too.
Naturally, this raises the question of the role of governments and financial organisations and the implication for personal privacy.
"Over the last few years, numerous fintech companies have emerged working to tackle different aspects of the identity challenges across fraud, password vaults and authentication."
Web3.0 and the growth of bespoke communities
Many pundits bet that Web3.0 will be the future of the internet. If you’ve not come across the term before, it refers to an iteration of the web which includes decentralisation, blockchain and token-based economics.
You see, thus far, we’ve had two iterations of the web: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Simply put, Web 1.0 was the first generation of the internet – it was static, designed mainly for those searching facts. Whereas Web 2.0 – the second generation – contains more dynamic content; blogs, social media, podcasts, etc – designed with many different users in mind.
With Web3.0, it’s the decentralisation element that’s key. You see, the internet as we know it is owned by centralised entities such as big tech firms. With Web3.0, though, ownership would be spread across builders and users – just like the blockchain (DLT) technology that powers it.
This opens potential for an entirely new model, one that only exists in small pockets today. For example, imagine you and a group of like-minded individuals wanted to create a community (like a Facebook community or a local town club) and then decided that this community should govern itself with its own rules and system of currency. Well in web3, it’s already happening. And could prove to be how each of us engages with all the micro communities we want to be part of in the future. This will not be complete in 2023; it will take longer than that to reach all of us. But it is already happening today and I’d expect there to be more glimpses of the experiments testing things out in this space this year.
Given all the above, we believe strongly in the importance of the fintech industry and know just how important fintech companies are at predicting what’s to come. It’s our hope that by investing in and partnering with them, we can bring the innovation, knowledge and vitality of the sector to support our customers.
Indeed, we have invested in fintech since 2018, and we’ve been able to significantly speed up our interactions with customers, enhance our own platforms and architecture and generally change our services for the better. .
Lastly, rapidly developing technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and Blockchain (DLT) will mean financial services must change the way they think to incorporate – and keep up with – these technological advancements of over the coming years.
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