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The 2017 FinTech Almanac

It's that time of year again! Our news feeds are filled with articles and blogs predicting the year ahead. But if there's one thing I enjoy more than reading everyone's predictions for 2017, it's going back to December 2015 and reading everyone's predictions for 2016 to see how they've done! ;) As you'd expect, accuracy of prediction is inversely proportional to level of detail. In my book, you get few marks for simply taking an existing trend and extrapolating it a bit. "Blockchain is gonna be big next year", "Banks will work more with fintech startups", "We'll see more Insurtech". YAWN! 😴 

So here's my go at calling 2017. Instead of those wishy-washy generic predictions let's go super-specific...


January 2017: #Lifestreaming

Live streaming had quite an impact in the citizen journalism and events spaces in 2016 with Periscope and Facebook Live being the predominant platforms. In January 2017 a youtube vlogger in the US takes a modified version of Snapchat Spectacles and announces they will start live-streaming their life 24/7/365 on, aka #Lifestreaming. Rather than the choreographed edits we're used to seeing from bloggers, this is real. This is life. Warts and all! It proves an instant hit. As more and more lifestreams come online, the subscribers become interactive, offering advice to the streamer (using Teamspeak tech) on situations they find themselves in. What outfit to wear, what makeup to use, what to buy, how to budget, what to say, who to date etc. Professional 'Watchers' emerge giving premium advice, e.g. if you're off to buy a second hand car then hire a watcher to review the vehicle and feed negotiation prices to you. Regulators and law enforcement agencies grapple with the notion of shared responsibility for actions. History will record this moment as the next step of human evolution towards a 'hive minds' but for 2017 it's just a lot of fun.

February 2017: #Cappuccoin 

Could a typo change the world? In February 2017 a spelling error in a powerpoint slide does just that. The slide in question was part of a Starbucks strategy deck. Legend has it that when questioned on her misspelling of cappuccino, the intern styled it out and ran with the cuppuccoin idea - the rest is history! Starbucks, realising they have more customer money held on pre-paid cards and apps than most banks hold in deposits, launch cappuccoin. Initially it was a tax coup as, holding funds in their own currency bypasses many capital control rules and removes the need for foreign exchange. From the consumer point of view it made total sense. A simple app update made pre-paid coffees giftable to any other app user, peer-to-peer venmo-style but bypassing any existing banking networks. It quickly grows into a western version of M-Pesa, except using coffee as collateral rather than mobile phone airtime. By Autumn 2017 the capital held in Star-bucks (as the currency comes to be called) overtakes Bitcoin, as it turns out most public care less about Bitcoin's decentralised-antiestablishmentarianism as they do about convenience and freebies. StarBank is born!

March 2017 - The Last of the Mohicoins

In March 2017 the most sophisticated coin in human history is launched in the UK by the Royal Mint. The 12-sided Pound Coin is jammed full of anti-counterfeiting measures and is an engineering masterpiece. However it's fate was sealed 12 months earlier when the Royal Mint put out the first statement in its 1100 year history saying that coins were here to stay. As other countries start withdrawing their low denomination coins questions begin to be asked about the relevancy of coins. The deadline to turn in old pound coins is 16th October 2017 but in a shock announcement banks say they won't accept counterfeit pound coins, of which it turns out a >20% are! It looks like the end of the road for coins until Facebook causes a stir when it buys a company that is running a kickstarter campaign for a coin-shaped Bitcoin cold-store wallet with BLE connectivity and ePaper display - kind of a fixed-denomination version of MintChip.

April 2017 - #PPL

Whoa! For a while we've been underwhelmed by Apple product announcements but it turns out they've have indeed been working on the next big thing. In April 2017 Apple becomes a software company with the launch of a social network called PPL (teen-speak for 'people'). It operates like a closed network such as snapchat but with integration into iCloud, such that data is held on individual accounts rather than centralised, with hardware level integration into iPhone devices. It's biggest USP is privacy and lack of advertisements. iMessage integrated into Apple Pay soon becomes a Venmo competitor in the US and Peer-to-Peer ApplePay contactless payments are a game changer. Finally Apple's announces its iPad Commerce edition with built in card-reader, entering the PoS Terminal market which up until that point had been largely constrained by existing card network standards. Also in April Google+ is withdrawn - nobody notices!

May 2017 - #LinkedUp

In May 2017 LinkedIn starts its journey to become the world's largest Consulting and Outsourcing company by the end of the year, overtaking Accenture, Deloitte, EY, McKinsey etc . It does this by becoming the 'AirBnB' of consultants. It starts when Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) is migrated onto the platform but really takes off when LinkedIn lassoes the millions of sole-trader 'Digital Nomads' on the platform by allowing individuals or groups to create their own consulting/services pages and taking care of backend tax/payroll/admin. Most interestingly for the recruitment sector are changes in hiring - companies start to hire ready-optimised teams/squads rather than individuals. E.g. Have an idea for a #FinTech startup but lack the talent to execute? Hire a ready-made startup team including Frontend/Backend dev, CTO, CX, Design, Legal, Product Manager etc. The reputational element of Endorsements and Testimonials fuels the gig economy and pretty soon every professional is moonlighting as a LinkedIn consultant in one form or another. While Google's vision has famously been 'Organising the world's data', Microsoft aligns their strategy behind organising the world's talent.

June 2017 - #Secconomy

In June 2017 UK FinTech startup Secco Aura expand their public beta globally following successful UK trials. Secco creates a reputational economic system where wealth is the contents of your character, not the size of your wallet. Using the Aura app, Secco users can literally create their own crypto-currencies, with their reputation as collateral, exchanged via a hyper-proximity location system, on a proprietary blockchain implementation called BlockTree allowing both online and offline blockchain transactions. The lines between money and data get blurred as users start to earn interest on how interesting they are, not how much money they hold.... [Okay you got me, that's my startup! But hey, they do say the best way to predict the future is to create it! 😉]

July 2017 - #vCommerce

In July 2017 vCommerce becomes a thing as Virtual Reality progresses from "ooh look that's cool" to the "let's make money" phase. VR environments start having gates, selling tickets, flogging virtual items and monetising experiences. The difficulty comes as real-world and eCommerce authentication methods tend not to work so well in VR - biometrics fails when you become a virtual avatar! Enter a whole range of comical and absurd fintech and cybersecurity startups purporting to have solved the vID problem with everything from behavoioral-biometric secret handshakes to blockchain-registered cat avatars. Meanwhile an Australian bank launches a virtual reality bank branch experience - and quickly realises that few want to go into their REAL branches so a virtual version is even less fun. For VR to work in Financial Services banks must play to the strength of the channel, not recreate old channels virtually. 

August 2017 - #RegBot

In August 2017 the UK Financial Services Authority trial a #RegBot in their sandbox. #RegBot is the brain-child of a London-based machine learning fintech startup in collaboration with the FCA and is in response to the growing number of FinTech chatbots and APIs going live. Given a new chatbot or JSON API spec, RegBot interacts with it like a normal customer or application and checks compliance against over 300 Financial Services regulations including security standards, accessibility standards & conduct standards. It does this many times a second across 1000s of Fintech interfaces 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What's more, it learns! Yes it really learns. Using machine learning it adapts to interfaces as they evolve and is able to produce reports on areas of highest risk regarding attention either on an individual bases or industry wide. 

September 2017 - #FreedomOfCommerce

Freedom of speech is a well established human right, but what about freedom of commerce? Cash provided an offline anonymous traceless means to transact. As more nations shift aggressively towards cashless societies under the guise of AML/CFT we start to witness the 'black mirror' dystopia of cashless, namely economic censorship. What starts as a law enforcement mechanism (e.g. stop criminals purchasing weapons) quickly moves to a social enforcement (e.g. limiting alcoholics from buying alcohol) then turns dark (e.g. political prisoners not being able to pay for their own legal defence, or even a sandwich!). Freedom of commerce becomes a new human right. In India and China this leads to social unrest and black markets as citizens realise, a little too late, the benefits cash had. In the US, constitutional lawyers get to work on whether a clausein the US constitution intended to restrict 19th century trade with native American indian tribes is grounds for stopping a suspected terrorist from buying a Krispy-Kreme donut within 10 miles of Washington DC. 

October 2017 - #Monocorn

In October 2017 we witness our first one-person FinTech unicorn when Cambridge Computer Science graduate Andy, raises over £80m for his FinTech API company called 87Inc with immediate talks for buyout valuing it at well over the £1bn mark. What makes it more astounding for some is that this is a company with no customers, no market traction, no business model & no revenue! What 87Inc does is actually very simple. Given 3 years worth of retail banking transaction data for the average customer its machine learning algorithm can calculate, with 87% accuracy what the next 5 transactions will be. Actually as it grows it gets far more accurate than that but it solves the holy-grail of retail banks - a bank statement the goes forward in time as well as back! The algorithm works by not just profiling the customer in isolation but through comparing them to similar individuals living similar situations and having similar experiences. Banks trials show customers are blown away by the results and other institutions like governments and charities seek trials for its ability to identify needy folks early (e.g. 87Inc can identify a homeless person 2 years before them are actually homeless, allowing for a charity/gov intervention!). 

November 2017 - #WorldFinTechDay

The 14th of November 2017 is the first annual World FinTech Day! A celebration of FinTech across the globe with events in London, NY, Singapore, Melbourne, Berlin and Hong Kong. The intention is that each year will have a theme and this year it is Financial Inclusion, specifically around helping the the digitally-excluded use digital banking. At 12 noon in London the FinTech world pub quiz starts, where fintech startup teams around the world compete in the first ever live streamed fintech quiz to win a package of startup investment and mentoring. It's all lots of fun but the highlight of the week is an awesome FinTech music video produced by Tech City UK filmed across 7 co-working and open spaces in London and starring over 200 fintech folks. 

December 2017 - #TamaDotchi

If last year was the year of Pokemon Go, this year will be remembered as the year of Amazon Tamadotchi. In December 2017 Tamadotchi becomes the Christmas must-have toy, although it's far more than just a toy like Furby Connect was. The latest incarnation of the digital pet has come along way from its Tamagotchi predecessor of the 1990s. The palm-size device is actually a skinned kids version of Amazon Echo Dot device in a multitude of cases (lady-bird is most popular!) and a broad array of I/O feeds for tactile, voice, lights, NFC and LCD. From a childs' perspective it's the ultimate digital pet and invisible friend rolled into one. Once paired with the child it evolves with the child in a symbiotic relationship. Questions are raised by parenting groups on the safety of these devices, given they can be internet connected but their closed-loop app-store interface gives complete control over what 'apps' get deployed. Favourite among parents is the Math tutor module that finds fun ways to splice maths problems into every day life. Favourite among kids is the AmazonPay module which turns their Tamadotchi into a contactless payments device for spending pocket money. 

So there you have it! Let's check back in 12 months and see how I've done. Whether my predictions turn true or not, one thing is for sure - 2017 is gonna be an awesome year for FinTech!

Thanks for reading! Please follow me on LinkedIn & Twitter. Here's some other stuff I've written:



Comments: (3)

Andy Agnew
Andy Agnew - Smart Traffic City - Edinburgh 05 January, 2017, 08:38Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Great stuff Chris.  I think #LinkedUp is spot on, an app that can build teams on LinkedIn would be a great startup. I would go further with #RegBot as I can see it enter a product supplier's environment as a transaction and run through the lifecycle gathering data before exiting in compliance reporting - like capsule endoscopy but less messy :-)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 05 January, 2017, 10:43Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks AA! Yup enterprise regbots huge opportunity too

Bhavesh Vaghela
Bhavesh Vaghela - Collinson - London 05 January, 2017, 15:41Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Great read Chris, looking forward to June 2017! Intersting take in May for Linkedup futher push towards the sharing community.

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