Aug 1, 2017
The financial sector is going through a seismic transformation, and this change is gaining momentum at an astounding speed, thanks to the growth of the Fintech industry. In the past 11 years, the number of Fintech enterprises worldwide has increased from 1000 in 2005 to 8000 in 2016, and during the same period, global funding in Fintech reached a staggering $78.6 Billion from a mere $5.5 Billion.
Fintech has reshaped, reinvented and redefined the financial services industry with cutting edge technologies overtaking the redundant processes and introducing innovative customer-centric solutions.
In this article, we will talk about why Fintech is the future of financial services, how Wearables is augmenting the Fintech space and finally, we will outlay five lessons from financial enterprises which built successful Wearable solutions.
Today’s 24X7 connected customers are looking for financial partners who meet their technology expectations. According to Capgemini’s World Fintech Report of 2017, 50.2% of customers say that they have already opted for at least one non-traditional financial firm. It is apparent that tech savvy consumers are supplementing traditional services with Fintech offerings.
The verdict is loud and clear; it is high time for the financial sector to adapt to the digital technologies faster than ever to stay relevant. The good news is financial firms realise this fact.
According to a report by PwC over 80% of financial institutions believe their business is at risk to innovators and 82% expect to increase Fintech partnerships in the next three to five years.
Given these statistics, the future of Fintech is promising, and the need for financial services to adopt Fintech solutions is irrefutable. It is common knowledge that unlike telecom, retail, etc. the financial services industry has been rather slow in keeping up with the pace of digital revolution. While banking has recently managed to move to a digitally mature or digerati stage, insurance still falls into the conservative group and has to catch up.
Growing penetration of smartphones and technologies like AI, IoT, Data Analytics, etc. are reshaping the overall financial spectrum. Further, smartphones and smart devices are at the heart of some of the trends which are currently getting traction like – Apps, Digital Wallets, NFC, Wearables, etc.
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Wearable technology is not a standalone phenomenon and is a part of the larger wave of the ‘Internet of Things’. Globally the Wearable devices market is projected to reach $20.6 Billion by 2018, with an annual growth rate of 36%. Wearables have found usage across industries like healthcare, fitness, retail, banking and insurance to manufacturing and travel. Fintech wearables include items such as NFC rings, smartwatches, stickers that interact directly with payment gateways or a mobile phone, etc.
However, Wearable technology is still not a priority for consumers and financial services alike. According to a survey done in 2015, 82% of respondents had no plans to buy a Wearable device in the next 24 months, and a third of owners abandon their Wearables just six months after buying them. Similarly, only 15% of the banks already have or are currently rolling out a Wearable app.
The reason for this sluggish acceptance of Wearables is due to the inherent challenges of limited screen size, battery life, dependence on smartphones, etc. that comes with the devices. Further, Wearables as a technology hasn’t been able to offer much innovation and differentiation for customers. However, technology advances will soon enough surpass these challenges.
In this scenario, whether Wearable technology is hype or hope still needs to be seen. Nonetheless, financial enterprises are optimistic about this emerging trend and are looking forward to making the most out of it. Here are some statistics which reinstate the positive outlook of the industry towards wearables.
Image Source: Centricdigital.com
If done right, Wearables present a great opportunity for the players to stand-out from the crowd. Most importantly, catering to the digital natives – Millennials and Gen-Z mean needing a lot more digital prowess for businesses, than ever before.
US population comprises 70 Million+ of Gen-Zers, even outpacing Millennials. The way Gen-Z will live, spend and borrow is going to be very different from Millennials. For instance, Millennials are known to use 3 screens at an average, and Gen-Z has outpaced their predecessors by using an average of 5 screens at a time. Even the concept of credit, wealth management, and living habits of Gen-Z will differ from how the current generation looks at currency and leverages it today.
It is safe to say that financial services will have to get into Wearables to engage with the most connected generation of people that will be their customers in the future. And, getting into Wearables when the hype is ripe makes a strong case to reap out the benefits and cater to the Millennials and being future ready for the Gen-Z.
Many financial advisors believe that it is the right time to get into Wearables. The fact that a rather cautious investor Warren Buffet, who has shied away from investing in the technology space has invested in Wearables technology and Ratan Tata showing trust in a Wearable startup, is a testament to the fact that Wearables are here to stay.
Here are some opportunities that Wearables present for the financial sector including banking, insurers, trading, etc.
Wearables in banking can create customised solutions for their customers with additional functionalities like balance enquiries, transaction alerts and real-time receipts, mini statements, mobile payments, etc. Further, it can also help in optimising the operational loop of banks.
For e.g. major banks in India like SBI and YES Bank have rolled out smartwatch apps which can help users with information like tracking transactions, account balances, mini statements, ATM locations, etc. on the go.
Some banks are also using Wearables as a payment making device. For e.g. Barclays has introduced its bPay solutions and has partnered with brands like Topshop, Garmin and Mondaine to design devices compatible with its bPay chip. With bPay, customers can make payments with a range of Wearable devices. The bPay pre-paid account links to major credit or debit cards and integrates with the bPay mobile app for instant connectivity.
Wearables can provide a wealth of insights into user’s lifestyle, preferences, choices, etc. opening up new vistas of opportunities for insurance firms to learn and apply this information to provide innovative and customised solutions for their customers. In the me-too insurance market, Wearables can prove to be an invaluable asset for firms to stand out, create better engagement and retention value.
Here is how a few insurance firms are already leveraging Wearables to their advantage:
In 2014, AXA started offering its customers a free Withings Pulse fitness tracker and giving a 100$ discount on insurance policies to customers who walk over 7,000-100,000 steps a day, consistently for a month. The program offers a win-win solution for Withings, AXA and also the customers.
Another such example is John Hancock, a leading life insurance firm in the U.S. which partnered with Vitality to provide policyholders additional benefits and discounts on their insurance policy. Participants could use Fitbits with iOS devices to track healthy behaviours like exercising to earn ‘Vitality points’ and get discounts and other rewards.
Another interesting example of Wearables in insurance is Beam Dental, a U.S. based company which provides a smart toothbrush to their customers for monitoring their oral health and subsequently base their pricing according to the information recorded.
Technology advancements have made trading easier, faster and more flexible for investors. Trading companies are continuously innovating solutions to address the ever-changing needs of investors driven by developments in the technology landscape.
One of the first-mover in this space was Fidelity Labs which announced its investing app for a smartwatch in 2014. Similarly, London-based brokerage and spread betting provider, IG Group; with their Apple Watch app allows for trading in CFDs (Contract For Differences) and stocks.
For the Indian markets Motilal Oswal, a leading online share trading company launched India’s first smartwatch app that would enable investors to stay up to date with the most vital information which they frequently track.
Right now, Wearables as a technology itself is developing and refining with every passing day. For e.g. Smart watches even though are getting sleeker, present a limited functionality and connectivity dependencies on mobile.
It is imperative for organisations to take into account the evolutionary limitations of the technology and devise solutions to not just work around these constraints but rather provide innovative and customised and personalised offerings for their customers.
Over the 20 years of our experience and developing over 1500+ apps we at Robosoft, have been continuously learning and have understood a lesson or two about developing seamless mobility solutions which solve real problems for our clients.
Here are 5 of our top learnings from the wearables solutions we have developed for some of the leading players in the financial domain:
One of the key challenges that the Wearables app providers have is to optimise the functionalities in the limited real estate while maintaining the usefulness and also offer differentiation. The first step in solving to overcome this challenge is to understand the end user well.
In 2016, Robosoft partnered with Motilal Oswal Securities Ltd. to develop India’s first smartwatch app which is convenient to use and provides fast updates. Given the limited real estate and functionality which a smartwatch offers we had to be careful with the features that could be included in the app.
While Wearable apps bring trading, banking or monitoring of insurance details on their customers’ wrists, security of sensitive financial data remains a major concern for most of the developers. Above all, user trusting the security measures is the most important factor when it comes to financial apps.
Fortunately, innovations are being made to deal with the security threats. For instance, GPS technology and biometric identifiers (fingerprints, voice, heart rate, etc.) are being coupled together to make unauthorised payments or access nearly impossible. These measures are way more secure than traditional security measures like passwords, PINs and signatures, etc.
Further, to make the security process even more stringent, the methods of encryption of data are also changing. For e.g. Cryptosecurity organisations such as the FIDO Alliance are continuously developing new authentication methods for password-less security options like voice and fingerprint verification. They also revise these protocols regularly to stay ahead of phishers and hackers.
At Robosoft, ensuring robust security measures for every Wearable app we build is of prime importance. One such method to make the security of our solutions stringent is that our IP on Apple Watch Solutions has a feature which ensures that the app seeks a passcode if the watch is removed from the owner’s wrist.
When we developed smartwatch app for one of the largest Indian public sector banks, we incorporated rigid security measures like
-Making sure Android Wear does not store any data in the watch, rather the Smartphone app stores the sensitive data in Shared Preference (protected by OS) and detects possible compromise by detecting whether the phone is rooted.
-While the user is not wearing the smartwatch, the app asks for an MPIN to provide access.
At present, most of the Wearables devices are more or less me-too. Additionally, the inherent evolutionary limitations of the devices make it difficult for app developers to innovate. However, most users deem innovation as an important aspect when it comes to engaging with a Wearable device.
According to a survey, when it comes to Wearables half of the millennials feel that there is little difference in the products and services their bank offered and the offerings of other banks.
Robosoft partnered with YES Bank, one of the leading banks in India, to develop their mobile banking solutions ‘YES Mobile 2.0’ for all smart devices (mobile, tablet and smartwatch). Being an innovative and design-driven firm, YES Bank wanted to capture the opportunity presented by the rapid adoption of internet, smartphones and wearables and offer an omnichannel experience to their customers.
We developed the app keeping in mind the need of innovation to drive high engagement value from users. Towards this goal we included some useful and innovative industry-first features in the app like one touch bill payment, speech to text capabilities to enable hands-free complaints/queries registration and on the go bill payments from Wearables including Apple and Android smart watches.
Today’s customers are continuously connected throughout their day across multiple screens, sometimes at the same time. However, they want each of their devices to perform distinct functions. For e.g. while most users research for a particular product on mobile, they might still prefer making the final purchase through a desktop. Similarly, they see Wearables as a means to remind or track their activities. Therefore, it is important for the app developers to understand the users need and not just end up creating another vanity technology.
While creating Motilal Oswal’s smartwatch trading app, one of the most pressing needs of the users we realised was real-time tracking of market updates, and this was especially difficult to achieve for the iOS platform since there was a lag in receiving the data from the socket service from the server and displaying it. This lag was caused since iOS Framework has a regulated frequency of data communication between iPhone and the Apple Watch. We worked around this limitation and tuned the performance to make sure that there is a minimum delay in the updates.
We also engaged with one of the largest Indian banks, to design and develop their smartwatch app. One of the major insights while developing this app was that today most consumers do not want to go to the branch/ATM, or log on to Internet/Mobile banking for simple transactions like seeing account balance or getting a mini statement and would like these interactions available to them on the go. Hence, the Wearable app was developed keeping in mind this need of the consumer.
The app offered minimal but critical functionalities like accounts balances, mini statements, transactional alerts and notifications, intuitive interface for instant mobile top-up, bill payments and fund transfers, capturing drop on floor requests – Cheque Book request, etc.
As mentioned earlier, today’s consumers are using multiple screens at a time. Therefore it is important to understand their engagement with each of these screens and develop seamless user experiences across devices. And understanding customer behaviour or user journey is imperative for this.
Yes Bank’s mobile solution, Yes Mobile 2.0 was aimed at providing a seamless omnichannel experience to customers and be an extension of their revamped website. Further, YES Bank wanted their app to be an all purpose and user-friendly app which can make on-the-go transactions for customers simple and also deliver added value to them with some industry first features.
Keeping in mind the mobile lifestyle of today’s consumer, the app was expected to be compatible with all mobile devices including Android tablets and Apple iPads in addition to smartphones. It also needed to support extensive banking transactions on Apple and Android-based smartwatches.
To meet these expectations our first step was to understand specific user journeys and keeping a note of all the things that would simplify their interaction with the app across platforms.
The app was developed using the IBM MobileFirst Platform. In addition to being compatible with all mobile devices, it is also supported by Apple and Android smartwatches. Further, the app also offered seamless integration across devices. An innovative, easy to navigate and customisable UI, makes YES Mobile one of the most user-friendly banking apps available today.
Smart devices are an integral part of people’s lives today. As the technologies evolve further, financial firms will have to adapt to cater to the ever-changing needs of these consumers.
Though, in a nascent phase today, Wearables are going to play a critical part in augmenting the role of fintech in the future. Industry experts believe this is the right time for firms to get into the Wearables playing ground when the risk is low, and opportunities are ample to experiment and create innovative solutions for their customers.
However, give the inherent drawbacks of the device it is important for businesses to keep in mind the below factors while developing Wearable solutions
While the future of Wearables in Fintech is still unfolding, it is certainly not a trend to be ignored. If done right, Wearables hold a plethora of opportunities for financial firms to create value for their customers and drive engagement and also be future ready for the coming generations.