This month at The Fintech Times our focus switches to reflection as we look back at developments over the last 12 months. 2022 has certainly been a challenging year for everyone with global economic activity experiencing a severe slowdown, with inflation higher than seen in several decades.
Our community of fintech CEOs and leaders have shared their thoughts on this year’s major fintech trends, including Mojaloop Foundation, Earnest, Highline, Provide Finance and Zuto.
Paula Hunter is the executive director of the Mojaloop Foundation, a nonprofit organisation focused on increasing financial inclusion by empowering organisations creating interoperable payments systems to enable digital financial services for all.
Hunter says the biggest fintech trend of 2022 was the increased interest in wholesale central bank digital currencies.
“There were new projects, new partnerships, and new collaborations initiated by the central banks of many countries, including the Federal Reserve here in the US. Covid-19 was a big impetus for this trend; the pandemic certainly made cash and the disbursement of cash more challenging.
Governments have always been aware of how expensive it is to create, maintain and disperse the supply of cash. In the past few years, however, the added sanitation concerns and the fact that more people needed aid during Covid contributed to the interest in an alternative to cash, as governments were trying to look at new ways to electronically transmit funds to their citizens and people in need.”
Geoff Brown is the co-founder and CEO of Highline, a payments fintech that unlocks payroll-linked lending and billpay. He suggests consumers now view banks and non-banks equally when they compare and take advantage of emerging services.
“Whereas a few years ago, consumers may have approached non-banks with some concerns about security or legitimacy, that is no longer the case. On the one hand, this has created an explosion of new financial products for consumers to choose from; on the other, it is creating greater complexity and frustration for consumers as they now need to manage an ever-growing set of financial products, services and transactions. Fintechs that can find simpler and less-frustrating ways to deliver their services will reap big benefits from appreciative consumers.
“The other major trend is the more-challenging playing field that emerged this year. As access to capital has tightened, staying power has become central to every fintech’s strategy. Additionally, many banks and other financial services firms are turning inward as they assess their risk profiles and controls; this is another headwind for fintechs, whether they sell to banks or rely on them in their solution delivery. Unfortunately, this is already driving consolidation in a number of product categories and niches, and we expect that to accelerate through 2023.”
Miranda Khadr, founder and CEO of Provide Finance, is a proponent of the importance of technology in finance and the need to provide easy to understand client solutions. She discusses the importance of customer experience.
“In lending, we’ve seen the rise of the challenger banks, many of which are digital-only, and they have become an essential source of funding for SMEs. In 2022, traditional banks withdrew from lending to SMEs and the challenger banks spotted this gap in the market and have taken their opportunity.
“Challenger banks are investing massively in their digital systems which has given them the edge as they are agile, quick to respond and work with real time data so they can provide a competitive lending solution swiftly.
“However, I think where digital-only banks might occasionally fall down is in offering face-to-face customer service. While the pandemic accelerated the demand for digital-only services, due to the need for social distancing, I think there is a happy medium to be found. Borrowers like the convenience of digital banking but they also appreciate a friendly expert at the end of the telephone line.
“This a position that I have taken in my own business. Clients liked the efficiencies of the Provide platform but occasionally they needed guidance from a finance expert. So, we evolved from a platform only fintech in 2022 to a platform with a dedicated finance team and online resource centre.”
For David Green, the CEO of fintech Earnest – a lender focused on making higher education accessible and affordable – 2022 has seen customers speak with their wallets.
Green says: “Customers are reacting well to embedded finance options outside of traditional banking websites and apps. Buy now, pay later has been growing, I think in response to customers choosing to spend their time and money in ways that they can manage.
“Lastly, it appears that fintech firms that are thriving will place transparency and responsiveness to customer inquiries at the top of their solutions lists. Great products are great, but not if new-to-fintech customers struggle with engaging with them. Fintech may sound technical, so having staff that can problem solve with customers makes all the difference.”
Jim Wilkinson is the co-founder and CEO of Zuto; the Manchester-based fintech. Wilkinson founded Zuto with the mission of transforming the car finance industry, to bring more transparency and trust to customers. He shares three fintech trends:
“One, embedded products, such as insurance and finance products, has been a growing area that I’ve watched with interest this year. These are products that are complementary to the customer and will be beneficial to them. Embedded insurance products are something we are building into our platform, and it is making a huge difference for our customers so they can purchase everything in one journey.
“Two, ESG initiatives and becoming a purpose-led business is something that more organisations are starting to consider. Historically, many companies have tossed the greater good to the side in pursuit of commercial gain but committing to being a force for good doesn’t mean you have to forfeit success in other areas of your business. A commitment to ESG is becoming more and more important for companies from a competitive point of view.
“Three, open banking has transformed our decision-making technology. We see it as a great development which benefits not only consumers – where it brings simplicity and transparency – but will also promote further innovation in the fintech sector.”