Like most industries, the financial services industry is striving to become more tech-savvy, more convenient and most of all--simpler. This week's announcement of Apple Pay further highlighted the fact that technology provides an opportunity to change almost every facet of the financial services experience. Banks, lenders and now tech companies are adopting more "start-up" thinking in order to be able to respond to consumers' evolving financial services needs. Along with mobile payments, here are several trends driving the industry through this year and beyond:
Mobile and Online Banking
Over half of all Americans bank online, while one in three transact bank business on their mobile phones. Today's consumer wants to be able to research, purchase and manage their finances from almost any location, and banks will have to continue to respond to the demand. For example, banks like Chase, Citi and Bank of America, have integrated mobile check deposit technology into their apps--making it easy to deposit a check by just taking a picture on your smartphone. And most banks today have already developed self-service apps that allow customers to check account balances, pay bills, transfer money between accounts and more. Banks will continue to invest in virtual banking solutions that offer most of the services available in branch locations. These apps will shift from being a "nice-to-have" feature to cornerstone necessity.
Mobile wallets are poised to transform the way consumers pay for everything they buy. Mobile wallets allow consumers to store and manage their credit, debit, prepaid and gift cards on their smartphone instead of carrying around a stack of physical plastic cards. Some of the leaders in mobile wallet service are technology companies like Paypal, Square, and Stripe, while more established players like Google and now Apple are also joining in. For example, Apple Pay, set to be released in October, allows users to pay for almost anything by simply placing a finger on the new iPhone 6 fingerprint sensor. With Apple making a big push into mobile wallets, it's certainly more possible that one day mobile payments may render plastic credit cards obsolete.
Keep it Simplified, Stupid
Banks and lenders will be looking to find ways to improve profitability while meeting higher customer expectations of personalization and better service. Consumers will expect loan decisions to be turned around in seconds, electronic documents signed instantly online, bank account funding to be instant, and payments to be easier than sending a text. Banks and lenders will see a renewed focus on innovation, synergy and digital customer experiences that make purchasing as easy as possible. For example, the financial services industry is witnessing a growth in aggregation and comparison websites like NerdWallet and cuStudentLoans. Aggregators like these simplify the purchase process for credit cards, mortgages, student loans, savings accounts, and insurance, and will continue to become more popular.
Automated Financial Tools
Knowledge is becoming more and more automated, and that's especially true for tedious activities like money management. Consumers are looking to save time and automated financial tools like Mint, Betterment and LearnVest will continue the trend towards automation and convenience in consumer finance.
Into The Data Cloud
Banks are focusing on developing new uses for big data and cloud services. Borrowing from data-driven companies like Amazon and Google, financial institutions are using their massive stores of consumer data to perform predictive analytics in order to strengthen decision-making, understand their customer's behavior, offer personalized solutions, and enhance their customer experience. And "the cloud," with its ability to deliver digital power and storage at low cost and in small increments, is optimizing the way banks and lenders operate. As security and confidence in the cloud improves, banks will increase their adoption of cloud services.
Crowdfunding and Alternative Lending
According to crowdsourcing.org, in 2012, $2.7 billion was raised globally via crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending to finance over a million projects. Startups like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo are pushing P2P reach to mainstream consumers. We're now seeing crowdfunding models for real estate investing, scientific research, and angel investing. Expect to see more iterations of this lending model in the future.
Lastly, banks and lenders are expanding their offerings with new personal financial management tools, savings products, and P2P payment tools that have a social media touch. For example, P2P mobile payment startup Venmo's popular social media feed lets users get an intimate and sometimes amusing peek into what their friends are spending money on.