The FinTech Chemist: Everything is Almost Digital

Welcome to this week’s industry analysis with the FinTech Chemist. While I may not be literally mixing solutions and preparing reagents, I am studying and testing out the latest and greatest in FinTech. I recently attended American Banker’s Digital Banking Conference in Austin, Texas, and here’s what I was able to formulate over the two days I was there:

Let’s go back to ancient Rome. When you think of innovation, the Roman Empire produced prodigious builders and savvy civil engineers. Their civilization created incredible advancements in technology, culture, and architecture. From designing the aqueducts, welfare programs, and surgical tools, many of their inventions are still used today. This brings me to the concept of libra. In ancient Rome, this was a weight measurement, which was the forerunner to the pound, or 12 ounces if you want to get specific. Fast forward several thousand years, and libra is more than a weight or zodiac sign.

Libra, or Facebook’s new virtual currency, was announced last week and monopolized much of the conversation at the conference. The response to the announcement was tepid, at best. Tanisha Sinha of Fremont Bank in California was quoted saying, “Another one? I was still skeptical about all the other cryptocurrencies out there.” While many attendees were doubtful, especially since Facebook has been riddled with scandals as of late, bankers didn’t seem too concerned about the potential impact. In fact, many of the experts were more apprehensive about Amazon and/or Google breaking into the banking and credit union sector. However, much like an endothermic process, which absorbs heat and cools the surroundings (aka a positive reaction), the news actually emphasized the conference’s major themes of competition, digital transformation, and disruption.

While conversations around how technology will continue to improve the customer experience reigned supreme, it was almost ironic to hear that human touch still matters. While the industry is hyper-focused on digitizing customer services, there’s still a strong desire to embrace the hybrid model, which marries human interactions with digital elements. Sure, you can apply for a loan or open an account within minutes on a mobile phone, but customers still want to have the ability to call an agent or advisor if they have issues or questions. I think Pepper, the beloved robotic greeter from HSBC, would agree that the industry is experiencing a wave of mutualism, a symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit.

A final highlight from Digital Banking was having the pleasure of being a FinTech demo judge. Two days and 19 demos later, my fellow judges crowned SpyCloud Best in Show. SpyCloud is a leader in account takeover (ATO) prevention, and they showcased how important this issue was to the financial services industry. Their solution provides FIs and enterprise businesses with an automated way to prevent fraud and breaches that stem from account takeover. I also got to witness their unique investigation capabilities that arm investigators with revolutionary tools to identify criminals' true identities – an important element in combating business email compromise fraud. Now, onto my next scientific… I mean FinTech hypothesis adventure. And, as always, remember to take your vitamins!

Read the previous edition of The FinTech Chemist