Five ways to diversify fintech for future consumer
To seize the opportunities of the future, fintech firms must adapt their services for increasingly diverse markets. We outline five key themes
Fintech could help diversify finance, opening the field to historically underserved populations. So how can firms boost accessibility – and what challenges do they face?
The sector has already transformed the way we make, manage and spend our money on a day-to-day basis. According to industry publication FinTech Futures, in June 2021 there were 24% more fintech start-ups than at the end of 2020, with the global sector expected to be worth $324bn (about £240bn) by 2026.
Traditional banking still exists, of course. However, fintech has helped the industry diversify its client base and progress towards a more innovative and inclusive financial ecosystem.
Diversity in fintech – from people to programming – is essential to create products, services and solutions that are accessible to all and meet the ever-evolving demands of a digital-first world. “The risk of the lack of diversity in fintech is that companies will end up stuck inside their own echo chambers,” says Nabilah Hussain, head of FinCrime at global online banking service 3S Money. “Challenging the ‘normal’ way of thinking not only enables firms to question current and future strategies within the workplace … it also provides a perfect catalyst for sector innovation,” she adds.
Here are five ways that fintech companies are diversifying and adapting their core business strategies to better serve future consumers.
1. Customer experience
The banking and financial industry has long been accused of favouring the wealthy and white, while excluding ethnic minorities who stereotypically face challenges when it comes to managing money. But in a millennial age, access to financial services is vital for people from all backgrounds. That makes the next generation one of the fastest-growing client bases for fintechs.
“The key to improving financial inclusion is the offer of personalised products, services and adaptable customer experience” says Sofia Nunes, co-founder and head of diversity, equity and inclusion at cloud banking platform Mambu. She points to Mambu research from 2020, which found that 37% of ‘banked’ and 35% of ‘unbanked’ consumers globally rely more on online search for information on the right products than they do on their bank. However, “both groups feel their financial situation would be improved if their bank provided better education on how their finances worked,” she adds.
“Enabled by technology, fintech players and neo-banks are leading the market with personalised service models and a customer-centric approach by providing users with the tools and knowledge they need to manage their financial lives and promoting a more inclusive financial experience for all.”
As much as fintech offers faster, quicker and more efficient financial services than traditional banking, there are still gaps when it comes to making the sector more inclusive, including accessibility.
“Fintech, like many sectors, still has a way to go to improve the diversity of and equity for talent, but I think there is a huge opportunity to create more accessible technology to ensure that finance is accessible to those with disabilities and neurodivergent individuals,” says Dr Joanna Abeyie, founder of Blue Moon, an inclusive executive search business and inclusion consultancy practice.
Since financial technology is constantly changing, updating and evolving into more advanced versions, fintech companies – both established and emerging – must acknowledge that today’s ethically conscious consumers seek services that are suited to them and those around them. Consumers differ in identity, Abeyie notes. While you might have a customer profile and a target audience in mind, failing to see them as more than one homogenous group will only lead to business, service and product failings, she says.
“Fintech firms must perform web and mobile accessibility audits across all platforms and ensure useability, tested by those with disabilities, not only to ensure that products are created through a lens of accessibility and inclusivity, but so there is also proof of concept to ensure that modifications and alternative processes are considered,” Abeyie adds.
3. AI and algorithms
Fintechs are backed by artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms, so it’s crucial to diversify the data used to ensure services are free of biases based on the racial or socio-economic backgrounds of consumers.
There could be challenges for fintech companies that heavily rely on old data collected to predict the patterns and purchasing habits of future consumers. “One way fintechs can tackle biases present in pre-programmed technology is by accepting and promoting diversity within their data science teams. The field can rise beyond stereotypes presented in these algorithms,” says co-founder and chief operating officer of Camino Financial, Kenneth Salas.
From the start, new fintech firms must think about ways to improve their data sets and design a model to account for data gaps. In light of any shortcomings, they must limit where or how they use the model, he says.
“Business and organisational leaders must ensure that the AI systems they use improve on human decision-making, and they have a responsibility to encourage progress on research and standards that will reduce bias in AI.”
4. Services and solutions
Fintechs can be used for an array of financial services, from personal banking to buying digital money or managing investments. Although consumers can easily download numerous applications for functional purposes, there’s a huge opportunity for fintech firms to diversify their products by offering multiple services in one place.
“Given the interconnectedness of services and products and new entrants to the market, a future customer of fintech is going to require a holistic product suite or one-stop platform to service their financial needs,” says Salas.
Over the next few years, financial products will become an embedded part of the purchase journey, adds Nunes, rather than a standalone service. “We will see a shift towards ‘lifestyle banking’ as services are becoming more embedded into customers’ lives through technology-enabled integrations,” she says.
5. Customer communications
Once a fintech company has established a product or service that’s ready to market to current or future consumers, it’s essential to strategise on the best ways to communicate and reach target audiences, ensuring the message resonates and ultimately sells. From digital advertising to social media and influencer marketing, there are various ways that fintechs can create a buzz around their brand.
The first step, however, is to research cultural differences. Companies can miss the mark if they attempt to capitalise from the masses rather than truly connecting with consumers.
Language and tone of voice are often huge barriers, Salas notes, so adding multilingual content opens fintech system access to wider audiences.
“Having culturally relevant content will allow for deepening relationships across a more diverse audience,” he says. “For example, if we are targeting a more text savvy versus email savvy audience, we should look towards adjusting communication models to fit this trend.”