UBS unveils global fintech challenge

Failure to keep up with disruptive technologies is leading more and more financial services firms to partner with fintech start-ups, according to a new report from KPMG.

Specifically, executives with banks, insurance and asset-management companies believe that technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and “the Internet of things” are changing the very nature of financial services. As a result, their firms are looking to partnerships increasingly to gain a competitive advantage.

Among the executives with more than 160 financial institutions in 36 countries surveyed for the report, 72% believe fintech start-ups will lead innovation in the field over the next three years. As such, 61% said their firms have taken a partnering approach to fintech in the past while 81% said their firms intend to partner with fintech firms in the future.

Still, about half of survey participants said their firms will use a “build strategy,” to create their own fintech services.

“Fintech is not the exclusive domain of start-ups and the survey results indicate that institutions also see themselves as being able to launch their own fintech products and services in certain areas,” says Ian Pollari, global fintech co-leader with KPMG International, in a statement.

Despite these intentions, many financial services firms struggle to match the fast pace of technological innovation on their own. For example, only 46% of survey participants said their firms have a clear fintech strategy, 42% said one is in the works and 10% said their firms have no strategy at all.

“We’re seeing many financial institutions continue to struggle to build and execute a comprehensive strategy around fintech,” says Murray Raisbeck, global fintech co-leader with KPMG International, in a statement. “In many cases, fintech innovation is left to individual functional areas, without any kind of overarching strategy across the organization.”

For now, 70% of executives surveyed said their financial services institutions have put a priority on “enhancing customer service” as their top objective while 48% see “transforming existing capabilities” as a key objective.

“The majority of fintech innovation remains focused on transforming the front office and strengthening the customer experience,” says Pollari. “This won’t go away, however. As the sector matures, we also expect to see a greater focus on middle- and back-office functions and capabilities. These types of initiatives will drive greater efficiencies, which can also lead to improved customer and regulatory outcomes.”

In term of specific fintech areas in which firms are looking to focus on in the next three years, the greatest interest is in big data and analytics and application program interfaces (APIs), with 67% and 55% of survey participants, respectively, ranking them first or second in interest.

“There’s no silver bullet when it comes to fintech success,” Pollari says. “The most important success factor is having a fintech strategy that aligns closely to the organization’s objectives, has senior sponsorship, recognizes the need to executive on a number of fronts simultaneously and, above all, has a focus on realizing demonstrable value, including customer, cost and regulatory outcomes.”

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