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Disruptive digital solutions is rewiring the DNA of Banking

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By Kennedy Mubita, Africa Head, SC Ventures.

Imagine a bank whose customers can tap on a wearable device to make a payment, regularly receive updates on changes they could make to their investment portfolio through AI-generated insights. A bank that enables its customer to own their data through the application of blockchain technology and share it with lenders as a validated credit history when applying for a loan anywhere; that bank is likely to remain fully operational for the long term.

According to a PWC global CEO survey, 70% of financial services leaders stated that the speed of technological change is one of their biggest concerns. Clients demand more convenience and customization from their banks, delivered through technology-driven innovation. This trend will accelerate as other industries digitize, allowing microservices to be monetized. New technologies are tooling up non-traditional players such as Neobanks, mobile network operators, e-commerce platforms, and supermarkets with the means to tokenize exchange and intermediate supply chains exclusive of traditional banks. These new entrants in the financial sector are a competitive threat to conventional regulated players. For banks to survive and win in this new paradigm, they will need to adopt technology-driven business models; they must develop an internal culture that is tech-minded, encourage idea generation and execution across all departments. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. For impactful transformation, banks will need to involve their clients, employees, and communities to build solutions that meet evolving needs across a broad social spectrum.

Collaboration is a crucial ingredient

Digital transformation can only be optimal through a collaborative effort by partnerships with the clients, the Fintech community, regulators, service providers, and other financial services providers applying digital tools to meet their financial goals. Hence, we see traditional banks partnering with FinTechs, MNO’s, and digital marketplaces by design or necessary survival. These alliances are symbiotic in that the Fintechs see three evolving challenges. First, as they build new digital business models, their activities are becoming economically significant; hence the Central Bank, other regulators, and Governments are getting concerned about potential downside credit and systemic risks. Their days of minimal or no regulatory oversight are coming to an end. Secondly, traditional banks are not sitting back and are beginning to incorporate digital solutions in their processes and strategies. Thirdly, at scale, traditional banks still dominate the sovereign, corporate finance, and long-term lending markets.

On the other hand, while banks lack agility and sufficient qualified and digitally literate managers, they have trusted compliance capabilities. They are accustomed to the regulatory minefield and can help FinTechs navigate that space. Partnerships with banks lend credibility to the Ventures they participate, and in so doing, there is a reverse transfer of skills from the banks to FinTechs. Banks can “stand in the gap” between Regulators and FinTechs interpreting the use of new technologies to address regulatory concerns. For instance, Financial institutions can address the issue around authenticating a person’s human identity when opening an account through the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies use various metrics, including location services, user image movement, facial recognition, and temperature checks, to determine whether the person operating the device is an actual human.

Standard Chartered recognizes that technology-driven enablement and partnerships can facilitate the resolution of challenges facing various sectors. For example, small and medium-sized enterprises require access to finance, markets, and simple digital business efficiency tools. Guided by this, SC Ventures, a Standard Chartered business unit, was set up to promote innovation, invest in disruptive financial technology, and explore alternative business models. The business unit provides a platform for collaboration with Fintech, clients, and partners across our markets, connecting them to staff and SCB departments as appropriate.

In Africa, we leverage digital capabilities to resolve social challenges and accelerate economic growth for different market segments. For instance, in Kenya, SC Ventures is currently piloting a digitized and automated water infrastructure system for a water and sanitation company. The Internet of Things-enabled smart water meter solution will reduce leakages, improve revenue collection, provide a platform for remote connections management while aiding in reducing operations and maintenance costs.

SC Ventures at Standard chartered is committed to working with local and global financial technology players who are innovating and developing curated products for these underserved or unbanked market segments that were erstwhile, not reachable due to lack of infrastructure and digital platform.

The community of stakeholders in financial services sectors and other industry verticals enabled by the 3rd and 4th industrial revolution technologies creates a global data lake that will be a massive enabler of innovation in the financial services sector. By gaining API access to various data sources, banks can create customized solutions for different clients across the region. Digital access will minimize direct contact with banks. Soon, data portability, possibly using distributed ledger technology (DLT) through data banks, will allow customers to use their data as an asset by being part of a community or use it to receive bespoke services.

The future of finance is commoditized services on a network of data connected to value; this enabled by ever-increasing research and technology advancements such as 5G and quantum computing. These tools will vastly change the financial ecosystem, and banks that evolve quickly will be better positioned not only to survive but to thrive.

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