With FinovateAfrica officially in the books, Finovate’s 2018 calendar of events is now complete. While the next event (FinovateEurope, February 12-14 in London) is right around the corner, it’s worth taking the time to pause and assess what we learned over the 2018 shows. It’s never easy to condense one show down into a handful of concrete takeaways, let alone the full cohort of six. There are more angles and storylines than I could possibly do justice to here.
But over the course of our shows in Europe, America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, there were a few common threads that should shape every financial institution’s thinking for 2019. Here are my top three action items for banks and financial institutions based on the 2018 Finovate series:
- Focus on your customers. Over the past 12 months, we saw more companies win best of show with customer-experience applications than any other, which is a strong indicator that both innovators and financial institutions recognize the value of creating and maintaining positive customer interactions. Users’ expectations have been raised by tech giants and web retailers across the globe, and those expectations absolutely extend to the financial arena. Quality online account opening is a must, as is customer care, mobile money management, and customer-friendly payments. Fintech innovators have been working in this space for many years, but the industry as a whole took a big leap forward in 2018. The difference between leaders and followers in this area will be increasingly visible as the next year unfolds.
- Demand more from your core providers. One of the recurring themes over the past year has been the way that new fintech innovations are making themselves accessible to traditional technology stacks through the use of APIs or other easy-integration solutions. In fact, a new class of fintechs is emerging whose sole focus is around taking innovations and bringing them into the real world. As more and more innovators are taking real steps to make sure their products play nicely with others, it’s vital that every bank pushes on their existing technology providers to make sure they are ready to integrate well with new technologies. If your core providers can’t smoothly accommodate the new tech you’d like to offer, it’s time to put pressure on them. You may not know exactly what you want to update yet, but you already know you’ll want the flexibility to move quickly when you see something new that you like.
- Broaden your horizons. Fintech is breaking down barriers all over the world, and financial institutions who think big will reap the rewards. Fintechs are focusing on making services available to unbanked and underbanked populations in a wide variety of geographies, and for banks who feel like they have tapped out their potential customer bases, this should be a breath of fresh air. Opportunities exist all over the world, but don’t overlook what’s happening in your own back yard. It’s likely there are underserved demographics that you can target more efficiently and effectively than you currently are no matter where you are in the world. It can be scary to extend beyond your comfort zone, but if you don’t use technology to reach out for your share of the next generation of banking customers, it’s a sure bet that someone else will.
2018 has been an transformative year for fintech (and for Finovate), and I’m genuinely excited to see what 2019 has in store for us. Here’s to another great year of fintech innovation!
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