January 13th was the final deadline for financial services companies to comply to the FCA’s newest European legislation, the Payment Services Directive (PSD2). The run up has been a time of huge introspection and preparation for European banks, that are
only too aware of what the new rules are striving to achieve. Forcing change in the industry, it’s been a catalyst for traditional banks to urgently assess their business models and marks the start of a new journey as they seek to define the future role they
will have in the industry, and in their customers’ lives.
In the UK, competition is already increasing as a result, as new challengers emerge from the worlds of e-commerce and tech. From a customer perspective, the power is now placed firmly in their hands, opening up more choice and improving their overall banking
experience. It’s clear that the future success of banks will be dependent on how well they can adapt and evolve to meet the needs of customers, particularly through digital channels, products and services.
Whilst change in the market is inevitable – PwC predicts that
“2018 is set to be a game-changing year for retail banking”, banks have already begun to explore new models to ensure they will stay relevant to customers in the years to come.
PSD2 is set to accelerate this further, as banks adapt to the reality of the new regulation and witness how customers are responding to the changes.
Both fintechs and traditional banks embracing change
Both established banks and fintechs have already started to change their business models. We’ve seen the millennial-focused start-up
Monzo, which started life as a digital-only banking service, being granted a banking licence last year. Part of a wider trend of start-ups becoming finance platforms, it aims to become a hub for people's financial lives by selling
third-party products like insurance and loans through the app, and taking a cut of each sale.
As the next step in the start-up’s journey, Monzo now offers fintechs the opportunity to partner with it to develop their own apps and
“start to build experiences themselves”, according to its Head of Partnerships Phil Hewinson. In the world of high street banks, Santander is leading the charge for fintech partnerships. Recently,
it announced it’s working with fintechs Pixoneye and Gridspace to bring predictive personalisation, connected finance technology and conversational intelligence to its customer offerings.
There is a growing customer appetite for an alternative way of doing things in today’s digital world, where ecommerce and tech giants are increasingly encroaching banks’ territory. A
recent study by Accenture identified a new wave of Nomad customers who are open to non-traditional banks, with 78 per cent saying they would be willing to bank with a tech firm like Amazon or Google.
Traditional banks and challengers coming together
While there is indeed competition between the old and the new, there is a growing trend of banks creating marketplaces and partnering with fintechs and third parties to offer services through a branded platform, akin to Amazon’s in the world of retail.
By moving from a position of seeing each other not as competition, but potential partners, they can capitalise on each other’s strengths, meet the needs of today’s customers and drive forward innovation. The industry is increasingly open to collaboration;
a global survey by PwC found that 82 per cent of banks, insurers and asset managers intend to increase the number of partnerships they have with fintech firms over the next three to five years.
According to PwC partner and fintech head Steve Davies, “Every bank in Europe is now running its own incubator or accelerator for fintechs whose technology it hopes to benefit from”. In the UK, for example,
HSBC has partnered with the fintech Bud to offer its customers a range of financial management tools under its online-only brand First Direct in a new trial.
Working together in this way provides a clear opportunity to capitalise on the strengths of both. High-street banks have worked tirelessly for years to build trusted brands and achieve consumer loyalty, while fintechs offer the digital agility and expertise
traditional banks often lack, held back by regulations and legacy infrastructures.
A golden opportunity for banks
But challenges remain in integrating banks’ legacy systems, often constrained by regulatory conditions, with the cloud-based technology that these fintech start-ups are powered by. These complex integrations can take their toll on the fintechs too, taking
up time and draining their limited resource, which can impact profitability.
Banks’ procurement protocol can also be a significant obstacle to overcome for start-ups. They often require prospective partners to have at least two or three years of accounts, which some start-ups may not be ready to offer.
Developments like PSD2 are forcing change in the industry, whether traditional banks like it or not. Now’s a crucial time for them to start fuelling their own innovation and clearly differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market; through dedicated
incubators, acquiring or partnering with a fintech. With tech giants eager to occupy the role banks have within customer lives, it’s time for collaboration to be at the heart of the finance industry.