FinTech is a new industry. New technological developments like artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and blockchain are ripping up the rulebook before it’s even written. FinTech is changing and proliferating, creating new demands on businesses and employees.
So how do we predict the future of such a volatile, innovative industry in a constant state of flux?
We leveraged our knowledge and understanding of FinTech, built over years of working with some of the top firms in the UK, US, and Singapore. And we leaned on the vast experience of some of our clients to gain further nuanced insights from the top of the industry.
Let’s dive in.
A bumpy ride
We know that FinTech is growing. The industry is currently worth around $165 billion globally, and a Global FinTech Market report predicts it will be worth around $305 billion by 2025. Some sources estimate that revenue will reach £1.5 trillion by 2030.
But despite sharp growth over the past few years, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. Both revenue and funding have dropped since peaking in 2021.
We expect this to be a short-term correction following the stellar expansion of the preceding years, with increased growth to follow once the market has stabilised. But it demonstrates a vital lesson for companies planning short-term rapid growth. While there is vast, untapped potential in FinTech, it is still highly competitive and susceptible to fluctuation.
Michael Chin (CEO of Broadway Technology) suggests that FinTech’s aiming to grow should have a laser focus on what will benefit their customers the most right now and what will help them in the future. FinTech companies achieve substantially better customer satisfaction than traditional finance firms, and this customer-centred approach could be a key differentiator in the future.
One of the core tenets of FinTech is innovation. The industry is built on disruptive, creative products and services that cater to customer needs in a way that traditional solutions cannot. But innovation and creativity must be balanced with operational and developmental costs, especially in an uncertain financial landscape. FinTech’s need to be pragmatic in their planning and ensure that innovation is both focused and tied tightly to their customer base and their needs.
Another key area for expansion is the international FinTech stage, with massive opportunities globally. Over three-quarters of adults worldwide are unbanked or underbanked, and with smartphone penetration currently at 89% globally, there is enormous scope for FinTech’s to bring financial services to fresh markets with clear needs.
Back to the future
To predict how the FinTech industry will evolve, we must first identify past trends.
Debra Walton Ruskin (Investor advisor and coach, former Chief Revenue Officer at Refinitiv) notes that the past five years have seen an acceleration of trends from the last decade and more. While some trends appear to be reaching their natural conclusion with massive penetration levels in home markets, there remains potential for substantial growth.
Driven in part by the changes forced by Covid-19, there has been a surge in the use of digital payments and wallets. Contactless payments and app solutions like Apple and Google Pay have become commonplace, offering day-to-day convenience and simplifying cross-border transactions.
AI and machine learning exploded in 2023, with new apps and refinements appearing on the market daily. The ramifications of AI in FinTech are likely to be extremely far-reaching and potentially reshape how we interact with technology completely.
FinTech and blockchain have always been linked due to blockchain’s origin as the tech behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. According to a PwC analysis, blockchain currency has the potential to be adopted on a global scale by 2025, and new uses for blockchain are being constantly developed.
As regulation became more complex and stringent, a new sub-sector emerged: RegTech. RegTech is the key to automating and simplifying compliance in an ever-changing financial regulatory landscape. As FinTech diversifies globally and regulations become more disparate, automating and streamlining compliance will become an essential, embedded facet of the industry.
The buy now pay later (BNPL) market has recently ramped up. Disruptors like Klarna offer new ways to spread payment, and established brands like PayPal have introduced new offers to compete. New-style BNPL providers have saturated the market, but there are still opportunities in developing markets and the potential for competition and innovation.
Cloud technology – both storage and computing – has helped shape FinTech. Combined with the rise of AI and the continued development of blockchain, cloud tech will continue to be a key driver in the future of FinTech.
Quantum computing has become vital in FinTech. Although its applications are currently limited and it is outperformed in many ways by traditional computers, quantum computing brings an incredible level of complexity and power to security and encryption. As the technology improves, we expect to see quantum computing utilised in more and more areas.
ESG stands for environmental, social and governance. It is a movement in the finance sector to allow socially conscious investors a better understanding of the impact of their investments. ESG has become a critical focus for many FinTech’s as they create the technology required for businesses to demonstrate their positive credentials and has the potential to shape the sector in the future.
FinTech is technology. Successful FinTech’s are always at the forefront of innovation, adapting and evolving technological advances to serve customers in new and exciting ways. FinTech drives innovation in technology, but the reverse is also true; new technologies create new opportunities for innovation in FinTech. The relationship is symbiotic, and that’s why understanding and predicting changes in technology is essential to predicting the future of FinTech.
Generative AI and machine learning will almost certainly be a focus of the future of FinTech, but technology like blockchain, RegTech and quantum computing will also be vital. The key for FinTech’s seeking to maximise impact and profitability will be strategic implementation, with an innovation focus on customers and outcomes.
Generative AI and machine learning
Generative AI is a technology built around a neural network that can process existing data and create original content. That’s how ChatGPT or Google Bard is able to summarise an article or write a LinkedIn post for you.
The leading FinTech companies of 2030 are already integrating this style of AI into their business models.
Generative AI is already being used to automate low-level tasks and free up human capacity for higher-level decision-making, and AI-based prediction tools are demonstrating success in analysing markets and trends. Some top finance firms have begun benching analysts and freezing recruitment to use more efficient, more accurate AI tools. Chatbots and automated phone systems have been used for years, enabling companies to employ fewer, better-trained operators to provide a better customer experience.
This customer-centric implementation is how we predict the future of AI in FinTech will look. Generative AI will permeate the sector, from customer service to market prediction, data analysis, and RegTech. Rather than replacing human employees, it will allow better-trained staff more capacity to focus on higher-level tasks, creativity, and innovation.
In the short term, the large-scale adoption of AI may lead to significant job losses, but it can also create specialist roles in other areas. Forward-looking companies upskill staff to work with new AI technologies and implement new, customer-focused strategies. They will use generative AI technology to enhance human creativity and productivity rather than replace it.
According to Debra Walton Ruskin, the key aspect of a successful FinTech application is providing customers with the information they need to make the right trading and investment choices. Being a trusted source of information is vital. So, the implementation of AI or any other disruptive technology must be done in such a way as to retain and bolster trust.
It is also vital to implement AI ethically, without human biases. Used correctly, AI could level the playing field for FinTech customers, regardless of factors like gender, race, or sexuality. No matter how well-trained employees are or what they may think consciously, human brains are built around unconscious biases. If AI can be trained to avoid these biases, then a fairer, more inclusive financial system could be the result.
The financial industry is bound by the power of regulators. As banks and other financial providers seek to expand into diverse global markets, each with its own unique set of complex financial regulations, they face potentially crippling regulatory headaches.
Recently, the emergence of RegTech as a solution to this problem has been a quiet revolution in FinTech. As the logical next growth step for many companies is the global stage, demand for RegTech services is set to explode. Working with a RegTech solution provider allows banks to focus on their core strengths of creating the products and services that their customers need.
A RegTech solution uses cutting-edge technology – including the AI and blockchain tech prevalent in FinTech – and works with financial institutions to ensure that it is always up-to-date and compliant with regulations. It will integrate with other systems used by client firms to make compliance as simple and efficient as possible.
In the long term, businesses that invest in RegTech can expect increased agility as the pressure of keeping up to date with multiple sets of complex financial regulations is eased. This will allow for faster, more accurate prototyping and implementation of new products and the potential for increased profitability.
We predict that the steady uptake of RegTech over the past decade will ramp up quickly as more firms seek to expand into new markets with unique regulatory challenges. Forward-thinking RegTech providers will already be analysing global markets and reaching out to potential clients while building the regulatory frameworks of more territories into their solutions.
Blockchain and distributed ledger technology
AI is a huge buzzword, but blockchain has the potential to be just as important. It sits behind the scenes of many innovative, disruptive new systems and is being developed in many areas way beyond the cryptocurrency it is traditionally associated with.
Blockchain works a bit like a traditional database in that it is a way to store and retrieve information.
The critical difference is in how the data is stored. A conventional database stores data in a centralised, non-linear table. This means that, with the proper knowledge and tools, data can be corrupted or removed without the knowledge of the database owner.
Blockchain is different.
Data is stored in groupings (called blocks) which form the links of a chain – hence the name, blockchain. When a block is filled, it is given a timestamp. This means that any edits to the chain will create out-of-sequence timestamps, making tampering easy to spot.
But the security potential of blockchain goes way beyond this.
Instead of a single copy on centralised storage (with perhaps a couple of cloud or off-site backups), a blockchain is stored on an open, peer-to-peer network. This means that editing the data contained in a block on one node of the network will immediately create an error as it no longer matches the other nodes.
This means that blockchain is an incredibly secure way to store data. It was initially developed in 2008 as a way to power Bitcoin and has since expanded to include other cryptocurrencies. But applications for blockchain go way beyond cryptocurrency, as we’re beginning to see. Over 40 of the world’s most prominent financial institutions have formed a consortium to investigate potential uses for blockchain. Its scope for changing the financial landscape is enormous.
Since 2021 several countries – spearheaded by El Salvador – have adopted Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as legal tender. 70% of adults in El Salvador are unbanked. Still, with high smartphone penetration allowing access to Bitcoin wallets, this circles back to the idea that FinTech can be used to bring financial services to untapped markets.
Blockchain’s secure and immutable record of transactions can also reduce fraud and enhance claims management in the insurance sector, boost the efficiency of peer-to-peer transactions for investors, and enable simpler fractional ownership of assets like property or artwork.
Beyond financial applications, blockchain’s potential is even greater. Sectors as diverse as logistics, food safety, records management, medical trials, voting and power grid management could reap the rewards of a simpler, more secure blockchain-based system.
The impact of blockchain technology goes way beyond just financial applications. Examples of blockchain can be found in forward-thinking brands in almost every industry, from food safety to power grid management.
IBM are famously ahead of the game when it comes to innovative uses for blockchain technology. Their blockchain-based supply chain system is quietly revolutionising distribution across the globe. It provides a level of real-time transparency of products and raw materials that allows for a huge increase in efficiency coupled with a significant drop in wastage.
Music streaming service Spotify recently acquired blockchain startup Mediachain Labs. It is using blockchain technology to streamline its music licensing process, making it a simpler, more user-friendly system for musicians.
MedicalChain is using blockchain to store and distribute electronic medical records. They aim to revolutionise the healthcare data system by providing secure, efficient access to digital patient records.
The list of businesses using blockchain technology to improve efficiency is already vast, and as more and more organisations recognise the benefits, it is set to explode further over the next decade.
Quantum computing is discussed as something that could revolutionise the future of FinTech. But what actually is quantum computing, and why is it so important?
To understand the power of quantum computing, it’s crucial to know how traditional computer processing works.
A traditional computer is made up of a series of bits, which can be electronically charged to be in one of two states – on or off, or zero or one. At the most basic level, any instruction in a computer is just a series of zeroes and ones processed very quickly. Adding more processing bits increases the computing power linearly.
Quantum computers work on quantum bits – or qubits. A qubit can also be in two states equivalent to zero or one – but it can also be in any combination of those two states. The really clever bit is that a qubit is actually in every possible combination of those two possible states at the same time – but only until the state is measured. This is called superposition and is absolutely critical to the concept of quantum computing.
Superposition can be demonstrated by the famous double-slit experiment. In this, a beam of light is fired at a barrier which has two slits in it. It is then recorded which slit each photon has passed through when it hits a flat surface beyond the barrier or whether photons have hit the barrier.
So far, so simple.
The clever quantum bit is that it has been demonstrated that every photon in the beam of light actually passes through both slits and hits the barrier until the experiment is measured. After measurement, each photon passes through only one of the slits or is stopped at the barrier.
What does this mean for computing?
It means that quantum computers can process certain complex operations incredibly quickly. A quantum computer with 30 qubits can process ten billion floating-point calculations per second. That’s around six billion times more than a reasonably powerful desktop PC.
On top of that, adding more qubits increases processing power exponentially rather than linearly as the number of possible states increases.
Quantum entanglement also has the potential to alter the way computing and communication work completely. This phenomenon is when two quantum particles (which could be qubits) react instantly to changes in each other’s superposition regardless of the distance between them. This has enormous potential ramifications for the future of communication, as well as the possibility of distributed quantum computers, which could have physical parts in different continents – or even planets – that respond to each other instantaneously.
There are some drawbacks to current quantum technology – but it’s constantly improving. Qubits are susceptible to outside interference and must be stored somewhere cold or in a vacuum. There are also physical limits to how many qubits can currently be used in a quantum computer, which limits the processing power.
Quantum computing is not a replacement for traditional computer processing; for many applications, it is less efficient than a standard CPU or GPU. But for tasks that suit quantum processing, it offers incredible leaps in performance. It is these tasks that will impact the FinTech industry.
Current quantum computers are able to crack in minutes high-security prime-number-based encryption that would take traditional computers years or even decades. While this may sound alarming, access to quantum computers is currently limited. Progress is already being made in creating incredibly complex encryption algorithms using quantum technology that will offer institutions unprecedented levels of security.
Beyond security, which is the most often talked about application for quantum computing, there are several avenues being explored in the FinTech sector. Any processing task involving large numbers and calculations is perfect for quantum technology.
Trading could be transformed by quantum computing. As financial markets become increasingly more complex, human analysts and traditional computers can struggle to analyse and optimise trading data efficiently. Quantum computing – particularly integrated with traditionally processed AI technology – could revolutionise financial trading. Forward-looking trading firms are already planning how to incorporate quantum technology into their analysis and optimisation workflows.
Fraud detection could also benefit from quantum technology. Decades ago, early AI and machine learning software was introduced to monitor transactions and flag potential fraud. Today’s fraud detection is more advanced but is still essentially an evolution of decades-old tech. As transaction volumes continue to increase and fraudsters employ more complex techniques, new quantum systems could cut fraud massively.
Finally, quantum computing could fundamentally alter how we deal with risk profiling and management. The financial landscape is becoming increasingly complex, and as FinTech’s look to expand into the global market with wildly different regulations and processes, this complexity will grow further. Using the data-processing capabilities of quantum technology could give forward-thinking FinTech’s an edge by speeding up risk analysis scenarios, increasing precision and introducing the ability to test more potential outcomes.
The internet of things (IoT) and increased interconnectedness
Smart devices increasingly link our homes and personal lives. We know that our phones are constantly connected to the internet, but what about watches, doorbells, heating systems, fridges, washing machines, cars… The list goes on.
All of these devices are feeding back data on our habits and usage. But what happens to that data, and how can it be used?
This varies by country, with some governments being more proactive at equipping people with the tools to maintain their privacy. But even taking this into account, many people are happy to scan or skip terms and conditions and just click the button that lets them use their new toy.
There is an opportunity for innovative FinTech’s to play a part in aggregating and analysing this data to provide increased personalisation in financial services. Things like energy-efficient mortgages and health-based insurance could offer cost benefits to consumers as well as lower-risk, higher-profit products for lenders or insurers.
There are two potential barriers to FinTech providers offering personalised products based on gathered data: the difficulty of processing and analysing the data and complex regulatory frameworks.
Some of the other technologies we have discussed above – such as AI and quantum computing – are likely to go some way to solving the problem of working with the data. And RegTech could provide disruptors with the frameworks they need to be able to gain access to and use the data in target markets.
Open banking – introduced in the European Union in 2015 – has changed how consumers access their finances. It’s enabled apps like Money Dashboard, which help with money management, making it simple and easy to switch bank accounts and more. Open banking 2.0 aims to take that technology as a foundation and build a more usable, powerful system on it.
There is a huge opportunity for all-in-one finance apps where consumers can manage their accounts with standardised interfaces and a simpler, more streamlined customer experience.
It also offers opportunities for innovative FinTech’s providing a customer-centric open banking 2.0 experience to access more accurate data on their customers. This data could be used to build even better customer experiences – but also as a cornerstone of more precise risk assessment for underwriting, fraud detection, insurance, etc.
Meanwhile, in FinTech software, increased modularity will also be a key feature moving forward. Rather than companies developing bespoke solutions from the ground up, they will develop or purchase a core solution, then build outwards using either their own modules or ones bought in from other sources.
Any developer creating software aimed at the FinTech market should be planning with this in mind.
It’s not all about the tech
Both Debra Walton Ruskin and Michael Chin agree that investing solely in new technology – however disruptive and innovative it may be – is not a route to success. The key to building a successful FinTech enterprise for the future lies in a heavily customer-focused implementation of technology and workforce development.
Until recently, the FinTech industry has primarily been focused on consumer payment and financial management systems. Moving forward, we expect to see a new focus on business-to-business transactions and high-end management systems, as well as increased penetration in new and developing global markets.
As with any technology-focused business, it’s easy for FinTech’s to get caught up with the process of innovation and forget that at the core of every successful disruptive product lies the customer and their needs. Before engaging in any kind of development, any FinTech should ask, ‘What will benefit my customers most today and in the future?’
Michael Chin mentions that Broadway’s research suggests that its customer base needs a powerful platform that adds simplicity and boosts efficiency.
Based on this, Broadway has developed a high-modularity, low-latency dynamic platform allowing customers to build their own unique, tailored system with a mix of first and third-party modules. He believes that a system where all solutions can be integrated seamlessly offers the most benefits to customers and sees self-service integration as a future pillar of both Broadway’s business model and of FinTech as a sector.
As mentioned earlier in this article, Debra Walton Ruskin believes that a critical part of any FinTech’s offer must be to serve as a trusted source to customers. They need to provide customers – whether consumers or businesses – with the data they need to make informed financial choices.
Refinitiv prides itself on its relentless focus on the quality of the data it provides to customers. Quality is paramount, from the quality of the input data to the model and analysis integrity and even the format in which data is provided.
This focus on quality will become even more vital in the future as generative AI becomes more prevalent. Debra believes rather than relying on AI technology, FinTech’s should be modifying and optimising existing workstreams to integrate AI, building on the trust they have already generated rather than trying to replace it with new, unproven technology.
ESG and social value
The FinTech industry has already made a positive impact on the financial landscape and has famously been a game-changer for emerging markets. FinTech products have provided customers with easier access to their finances, made remote payments more accessible and brought simple financial management to communities where it was previously unavailable.
In addition to breaking barriers to entry for consumers globally, FinTech firms now find themselves best positioned to support other industries in demonstrating corporate good through wider environment, social and governance (ESG) practices. ESG is now a necessity for many global organisations. Enterprising FinTech’s support these initiatives by creating new tools to measure ESG output and keep companies accountable under widespread threats of greenwashing in this new, largely unregulated frontier.
From carbon credits and statistical tools to land registration for green climate projects, AI and blockchain initiatives are already being utilised to bring new ESG possibilities and accountability to this burgeoning landscape. This will only increase as consumer outcry and societal demand for lighter footprints and carbon neutrality continue to grow.
Of course, FinTech is not unaffected by environmental impact. New technologies like AI and quantum computing bring incredible opportunities but can also be environmentally damaging. ChatGPT-3, for example, is estimated to emit around 8.4 tons of carbon each year, roughly double what an average adult produces (4 tons). As AI becomes more prevalent and use increases, this number will grow. Measures must be implemented to balance this, and forward-thinking FinTech’s will take the lead in factoring environmental planning into the integration of AI into their business models.
Global markets and banking for all
The FinTech boom grew from Silicon Valley in the US. While the US remains a key player, other global areas are catching up and demonstrating significant growth, with signs that this will continue unabated.
The Asia-Pacific region is currently outpacing the US for FinTech with a massive 27% growth rate. It is predicted to be the world’s largest FinTech market by 2030. The rest of the world is playing catch up, too, with different global markets presenting various opportunities and challenges to expanding FinTech’s.
In developed Western markets, most adults hold bank accounts and have access to some financial services. Globally, this picture is very different. Over 1.5 billion adults are classed as unbanked (with no access to a bank account or financial services), and a further 2.8 billion are underbanked (with limited access to a bank account and financial services).
Combined with massive smartphone penetration globally (around 89% of adults use a mobile or smartphone), there is an enormous opportunity for FinTech’s to expand into emerging markets.
FinTech could provide safe, secure digital banking to people in countries where reliance on cash is still prevalent, and large transactions can be dangerous. This harks back to the very earliest days of FinTech when Western Union identified a need for a safe, secure way for customers to send money across the expanses of the United States. Enterprising FinTech’s now have the opportunity to implement life-changing solutions for billions of people in developing countries, helping to narrow the gulf between rich and poor.
As mentioned above, past FinTech activity has focused primarily on consumer-level payments and services. There has recently been a shift to more business-to-business-based products, and we expect this trend to continue and accelerate.
As globalisation continues, better cross-border transaction processes will be required. Services like Wise are already well on the way to providing this kind of service with their Business accounts. However, there is still plenty of space in the fledgling market for innovative, disruptive FinTech’s to launch their own customer-centric services.
Blockchain is likely to be the technology that underpins this innovation. It offers the in-built security and transparency that are key priorities for businesses looking to invest in new solutions for high-level capital transfers across borders.
As payment technology has advanced, transfer times have diminished to the point where smaller, lower-risk transfers are close to instantaneous. Larger, higher-risk transfers can take hours or even days to complete. Blockchain, combined with the increased processing power of quantum technology, could potentially reduce these times considerably while boosting safety and security.
FinTech will continue to grow. But in an increasingly saturated market, firms with a drive to succeed must be customer-centred rather than purely tech-focused. New technologies will help drive the market, and deep, focused research into customer pain points will, in turn, drive further technological innovation.
Diversification into global markets will be essential for many players, especially new disruptors, as established firms consolidate and strengthen their position in existing markets. There will be no opportunity for incumbents to rest on their laurels as advances in technology and increased competition necessitate a constant forward drive.
The FinTech arena over the coming years and decades is hugely exciting, both for consumers and FinTech’s themselves. An increased focus on customer needs coupled with incredible technological advances means huge opportunities for positive change abound.
Read more about the history of Fintech – in our Fintech: a Brief History article.
Read more about what you need to be a successful C-suite leader in Fintech – in our Fintech: Leading from the Top article.