Technology is moving at a crazy pace, with new gimmicks and innovations seeing the light at every turn. But one industry which has been more stubborn at accepting innovation is undoubtedly financial services.
Of course there’s a reason for this – the financial services industry is simply bound more tightly by legal and consumer regulations than other industries. And, of course, there’s the matter of privacy and security. We are dealing with money, after all.
But this hasn’t stopped the innovators from innovating.
In fact, financial services providers with their fingers on the pulse of technology have proven to be popular with consumers. But what are they up to? South Africa is not far behind the rest of the world when it comes to banking innovations, which means you could be seeing some of these around in the next few years…
In April 2015, Citibank released its first Apple Watch Banking App. At the time of its release, it was the only mobile banking app for the Apple Watch, though several other providers have followed suit.
The app allows users to view their balances and recent transactions and it displays real-time credit card transaction notifications.
South Africa has since followed suit with ABSA beating Standard Bank to their Apple Watch banking app launch.
Biometric innovations used to be limited to movies like James Bond and Mission Impossible. But individualised personal identification systems have been seeing rather futuristic enhancements in the last few years.
Users can expect to see a lot of voice and touch authentication around in future. In South Africa, TransUnion is among the many providers considering voice authentication – and they wish to create a national voice bank with the help of Nuance – a company specialising in biometrics. In an effort to curb fraud, Capitec Bank has even partnered with the Department of Home Affairs to combine their biometrics databases.
Standard Bank is one of the providers who is already using fingerprint (touch) identification on its mobile apps, and is planning a retina-identification, something which is already being used offshore.
Keeping in touch with the age of digitisation, Bank of America debuted their new ATM video teller offering the convenience of an ATM interaction and the personal touch of a teller. In addition to this, users will be able to draw exact amounts and change, such as $1s and $5s.
Paying for your products is becoming a lot easier these days. There are e-wallets, SnapScan, mobile vouchers, you name it. And with companies like Wallettec, who specialises in integrating PoS systems with any mobile/e-wallet solutions, on the rise – there’s no doubt that we’re heading to a paperless, wallet-less future.
One of the greatest (and most convenient) innovations in the tech world is undoubtedly the birth of digital annotation. Android devices and iPhones all have annotation apps which allow you to sign and enter information on forms without the grueling task of printing, signing and (we can’t believe we’re saying this) faxing the documentation back. In addition, Google Drive (cloud storage) as well as other Google software all use DocHub for easy web annotation and markups.
Open source virtual currency
Of course, we cannot talk about e-wallets without talking about open source currency. One of the greatest issues with banking is that it relies on a transfer of currency and is controlled by authorised institutions. But innovators have been playing around with the idea of a ‘free’ virtual currency for a while now. Consider Bitcoin, for instance, which is a virtual currency which cannot be printed. As a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is decentralised, open source and uses peer-to-peer technology to operate. Whereas traditional monetary systems were based on the price of gold or silver (theoretically, if you handed over some cash to the bank it could buy some gold or silver with it), Bitcoin is based on maths. This system of ‘mining’ essentially means that each new person (or machine) added to the mining alliance collaborates with the other machines. No single authority can sink the ‘ship’ and it’s completely transparent.
Back to bartering
In line with Bitcoin’s open source principles, many individuals are now relying on peer to peer lending and services, and some even resemble old-school bartering. Yes, it’s true! Bartering is a thing again. Though it has always been part and parcel to sites like Craigslist, there are now official sites (in America at least) like the Hudson Barter Exchange where professionals can barter their services and products in exchange for other services or products. Of course, money still changes hands during some transactions, but a ‘service-for-service’ currency is really something which the world could use more of.
Social media banking
DenizBank was the first business to bring social media and banking together, and it is said that their social media branch is used by at least 10% of their online banking customers. The concept was born from the fact that most people spend a lot of their time on social media – so why not cater for them?
It remains to be seen what the world will deliver in the next few years, luckily we have front-row seats to the future of financial industry innovation – and so do you!
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