Finance and trade is one of the oldest skills that mankind has developed after shaping the most preliminary forms of community. Since then, finance has been undergoing developments and revolutions to match the evolution of the human society.
As the next industrial revolution matures, many areas in banking and finance are being transformed. Here are some of the trends that are helping reshape the future of the industry.
There’s virtually not a field that Artificial Intelligence hasn’t touched, and the financial industry is no exception. Machine learning algorithms are particularly adept at analyzing huge amounts of data and finding patterns that would go unnoticed to humans.
Already, hedge funds and stock exchanges are making use of AI algorithms to become more efficient in forecasting the stock market and make smarter decisions. Numerai and Sentient are two Silicon Valley–based hedge funds that are challenging the giants of Wall Street with their AI-powered trade systems.
AI is also finding its way into banking. An Accenture survey of 600 top bankers found that AI will become the main way banks interact with their customers in the next three years, easing the workload for employees and enhancing the consumer experience.
ABN AMRO is one of the banking firms that is investigating the potential advantages of AI in providing better user experience and facilitating staff work. The firm’s Grip app, for instance, uses machine learning to make an automatic breakdown of income and expenditure into categories.
ABN AMRO is also currently experimenting internally with AI-powered assistants in order to better understand how the technology works and what it takes to train these virtual assistants. Two of the company’s bots, while non-Artificially Intelligent, show how automated communication could enhance client interaction.
Artificial Intelligence can also play a pivotal role in preventing fraud in banking and other online payment systems. E-commerce fraud prevention company Riskified is using deep learning and behavioral analysis models to enhance the process of stopping fraudulent transactions. This means the company is better positioned to find intricate fraud schemes while reducing false declines, a phenomenon that is no less damaging than fraud itself.
The traditional model of financial transactions relies on trusted intermediaries to guarantee the integrity of monetary exchange, which is a slow and costly process. That all changed with the advent of Bitcoin, the digital currency that enabled peer-to-peer monetary exchange without the need for trusted brokers.
Bitcoin itself didn’t gain the mainstream traction it initially promised. But blockchain, the distributed ledger that powers Bitcoin, has risen to prominence in recent years. In a nutshell, blockchain is a database that is replicated on multiple independent nodes instead of being stored on a centralized system.
By removing intermediaries, blockchain dramatically reduces the costs and delays associated with completing transactions. This makes it especially convenient for micro-transactions and the exchange of valuables in inconsistent and trustless environments. Among others, the Internet of Things (IoT), supply chain, music and gaming industries are exploring the advantages of blockchain.
After shunning Bitcoin for years, the finance and banking industry is now embracing blockchain as an inevitable game-changer. According to Accenture, blockchain can possibly remove the need for clearing houses and redefine the reconciliation process, resulting in a $8 to 12 billion cut in annual infrastructure costs.
Ripple, a blockchain provider, is using the technology to provide low-cost instant payments in transactions that involve different currencies, different banks and different countries. Last year, the startup successfully tested the platform with 12 banks, including ABN AMRO, UK’s Barclays, the Royal Bank of Canada and the National Australia Bank. After its launch in October, banks from various countries have joined the Ripple platform.
What this means for consumers and businesses is faster and more fluid transactions, lower costs, and wider options for remittance and international payments.
As banking firms try to match the speed and efficiency of the modern connected world, the Open Banking Standard has emerged as a framework for creating, sharing and accessing banking data in a fast, secure and cost effective way.
Open Banking forces established firms to be more competitive with smaller and newer banks. This can result in lower costs, better technology, and better customer service. It also enforces transparent and unbiased publication of information to enable consumers to evaluate the service quality of financial firms. Open Banking APIs allow third party developers to create helpful services and tools that customers can utilize. These APIs give businesses more accurate and up to date information on finances and better management of the their data.
Open banking has yet to launch in full scale, but it can eventually provide the cooperative environment where banks, fin-tech startups and other players in the finance industry can collaborate and provide their customers with full 360 degree view of all their financial data.
The future of banking
These are some of the ways technology is redefining the financial industry. The common denominator of these trends is ease of accessibility, a smarter more streamlined customer experience, faster paced transactions and better business opportunities. Some interesting times are ahead. We’ll be watching the space.