5 Fintech Trends to Track in 2019

Financial technology, or fintech, is helping reimagine how consumers interact with their banking institution.

Nicola McIntosh Feb 7, 2019

To borrow from Mark Twain, the death of the bank branch has been greatly exaggerated.

While almost half of all consumers did not bank at a physical branch in 2017, the majority still consider a local branch when choosing their bank, according to audit, tax and consulting firm PwC.

It’s a “phygital” (physical + digital) world, but with increasing emphasis on the digital, as consumers have been conditioned to expect streamlined and efficient online experiences thanks to retailers like Amazon and Zappos.

Those expectations, along with the rise of financial technology — or fintech — are helping to reshape the banking industry. We sat down with Zions Bancorporation’s senior strategist Alex Jimenez to discuss 5 fintech trends to watch in 2019.

Fintech trend to track #1: Accelerated experiences

Call it the “the Amazon effect.”

“Mobile devices are getting easier to use, and websites like Amazon and Zappos are training us to expect better experiences,” Jimenez explains. “Now we’re trying to do the same thing for banking. It used to be that was the purview of the retail customer, but small businesses are also expecting very intuitive experiences.”

And he notes that it’s not just Millennials or Gen Z driving the change: “A lot of us older people are now expecting that stuff, too.”

Zions Bank is working to incorporate Fintech into its daily workflow, including a new, online mortgage application process that gathers information from consumers in an interview style. It offers a significantly improved client experience by automating processes and approvals that were previously done manually.

A new application system for business loans will help transition Zions Bank completely away from paper applications to an online platform. The bank is also updating its Treasury Internet Banking for larger customers to offer an improved user experience that is accessible through desktop and mobile devices.

Fintech trend to track #2: Gamification

Fintech is also changing how consumers approach their finances. “We, the industry, are trying to figure out ways to help people be more intuitive about the things they should be doing, such as setting money aside, setting goals,” Jimenez says.

Through “gamification,” he explains, financial institutions could simplify the investing process. For example, allowing consumers to make a payment and then “round up” with the difference being invested automatically into a mutual fund.

“Driving better behaviors, that’s some of the more exciting stuff,” Jimenez says. “Truly most of us don’t want to sit down and talk about what our investment goals are. But we can start using technology to get people excited about it.”

Fintech trend to track #3: Open banking

The European Union and the United Kingdom are taking the lead in this area, Jimenez says, noting that the EU has created a rule requiring banks to allow consumers to use their bank data for services.

“The banks are building marketplaces where you sign into your bank and then you can use your banking credentials to make purchases,” he explains. The benefit of having a bank host the marketplace (compared with a social media site) is safety and security.

“You know that your identity is safe because you’re on the bank site,” he says. While the model is still in the early stages, it has the potential to extend banks’ relationships with their customers.

Fintech trend to track #4: Artificial Intelligence

“There are already banks testing this,” Jimenez says. “In the future, you may have the ability to interface with a chatbot that understands what you say to your computer or mobile device and responds.”

Jimenez says the development “could make dealing with your bank faster and easier because you’re not going to be on hold with a call center and you’ll have access to your accounts 24-7 from anywhere in the world.”

Even today, we have the ability to use smart devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa, to check our account balances or move money between our checking and savings accounts. “Right now it’s a little clunky, but very soon you’re going to be able to do that in just normal speech,” Jimenez says. “One day you’ll be sitting in your self-driving car talking to machines. Banking is going to have to be there, too.”

Fintech trend to track #5: Biometrics

If you use face ID or touch ID on your phone, then you’re already taking advantage of the benefits of biometrics.

Jimenez says as we move away from passwords in favor of voice and fingerprint recognition, we’ll be better able to help secure our experiences like banking. “That’s really exciting, from both the consumer experience as well as a security standpoint,” he says.

While he acknowledges that biometrics can invoke a feeling that “big brother” is watching, gathering and storing our information, he believes the tradeoff for security is worth it. “In some cases, we’re going to have to make some compromises as a culture.”

Whether you prefer banking at a physical branch, or conducting transactions online, Zions Bank offers 121 convenient banking locations plus more than 200 ATMs as well as a suite of digital banking services.

Nicola McIntosh is the social media manager for Zions Bank.

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