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FinTech and society
FinTech for the greater good?
One of the key themes at this year’s Innovate Finance Global Summit was the impact that FinTechs and digital innovation could have on the wider economy and society as a whole.
In his opening comments, the CEO of Innovate Finance, Lawrence Wintermeyer, described digital as the greatest accelerator in the history of financial services.
Access via mobile phones, intelligence in the form of artificial intelligence (AI), and the always-on interconnected web are creating new forces for society and Lawrence outlined his belief that digital is moving at a faster pace than social anthropology.
Mark Boleat, of the City of London Corporation, explained that the value of FinTech is in how it is evolving and supporting our economy and society by creating fairer, more transparent and more inclusive financial services.
Nick Ogden, executive chairman of ClearBank, later described how even in the UK, we still don’t have full financial inclusion. His hope is that cloud-based technology will help to transform financial services and facilitate the ability to provide current accounts to the currently unbanked.
Deloitte’s Head of Financial Services, James O’Riordan, agreed, and spoke about the opportunities that the FinTech ecosystem presents to society. These include promoting financial inclusion, and encouraging movement of talent and people and a diverse workforce.
James spoke about the need to give young people the skills they will need to succeed within FinTech, particularly as robotics, AI and cognitive automation may replace lower-skilled jobs.
As he put it, technologies such as AI, robotics and cognitive automation are going to pose major challenges to the workforce and businesses will need to ensure these technologies are used in a way that truly augments, rather than diminishes or overwhelms, today’s workforce.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, believes that the replacement of lower-skilled jobs with robotics will be accommodated as they have previously, with people moving into other areas and new jobs being created.
However, as AI moves from simple tasks to tasks that require insight, there are important questions that remain unanswered. He posed the question – “how do you describe to a computer what fair means anyway?”
The issue of talent is a vital one, and the question of how best to grant FinTechs access to a highly-skilled workforce was explored by a number of speakers. As Lawrence put it, “you cannot win championships without world-class players”. He believes that the UK has the blueprint for the best FinTech ecosystem in the world because of its talent and leadership.
FinTechs therefore, have the opportunity to progress society both through job creation and financial inclusion, providing social and economic opportunities for the UK and the global economy. FinTechs are also driving competition, giving consumers greater choice and answering customer needs through technology-enabled innovation.
The scope of the evolution of FinTech was exemplified by the growth of the Innovate Finance Global Summit, with over 2,000 delegates from thirty countries. As Nick Ogden said, “if this had taken place in 1995 it would have been just a few of us down the pub!”
James O’Riordan said that the sheer growth and breadth of the industry made it clear that FinTech would not be a flash in the pan. FinTechs can continue to drive innovation which benefits consumers, the economy, and wider society.
His advice for FinTechs? To quote Samuel Beckett, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better”.