London has been recognised internationally as a global fintech capital. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) noted recently that the UK and Ireland ranks as the fastest growing region for fintech investment. Deal volumes have grown 74 percent a year since 2008, compared to 27 percent globally and 13 percent in Silicon Valley. Whilst 2014 was focused on cementing our place in the sector, 2015 is likely to bring a new wave of fintech innovations.
The rise of the ‘non-bank bank’ marks the start of a new trend where affinity groups and other ‘brand’ players are able to seriously enter the financial services market. For example, companies like Asda have entered the financial services sector by creating the equivalent of ‘branded banks’, offering everything from credit cards to pet insurance. These banks are the financial equivalent of the MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). French company Sygma runs Asda's credit card business, and much like how Tesco Mobile utilises O2’s network, the brands use third-party banking infrastructure to facilitate their financial services offering.
This year, this trend will be catalysed further by the alignment of a number of stars such as new agile development technology, a favourable regulatory environment that encourages innovation through initiatives like the FCA's ‘Project Innovate’, and better access to information for both SMEs and established players, through organisations like Innovate Finance and what we aim to achieve every day with Level39.
In retail tech, the rumours of the death of physical retail in 2015 are somewhat exaggerated, with customised, personal experiences emerging as the next frontier in customer engagement. The rise in consumer demand for enhanced personal retail experience – everything from smart mirrors through to beacon promotions and way-finding – have led to the development of exciting hybrids such as the Canary Wharf Crossrail station development that will contain four high-quality retail floor, with frictionless technologies that engage with and respond to the needs of the consumer. We will begin to see a seamless blending of online technologies like indoor mapping and the physical equivalent of Google search for individual products and deals, becoming part of the enhanced customer experience.
However, the biggest leap forward in 2015 and beyond will come from the smart cities sector in terms of finally starting to unlock the potential of true interoperability, as once imagined by famous sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Sir Arthur Charles Clarke. Projects like Cognicity and Intel’s collaboration with California’s The SmartAmerica Challenge demonstrate how procurement power and emerging standards can be used to positively discriminate towards solutions and technologies that make our cities smarter, safer, more efficient and happier. As innovators are given greater access to deploy their technologies into our cities, we can look forward to simple things that make us smile, such as having to queue for a lift, and having an indoor ‘microclimate’ set to your personal preference, so you never argue with coworkers about the temperature, while saving huge amounts of energy.
Transparent and frictionless technology that adapts to your needs without being asked to do so will soon be a natural reality, rather than a science fiction fantasy, as these technologies are currently being imagined and created by pioneering entrepreneurs. Finally, all this efficiency will inspire a huge growth in the understanding of the ethical custodianship of people's data. New standards will emerge outlining best practise that both protects individuals, whilst enabling people to enjoy a more safe, sustainable, connected environment.