The biggest FinTech stories of 2018

It’s been a busy year for financial services technology, but what were our most read stories over the last 12 months?

Read on to find out which topics and trends proved most popular across the website:

Blockchain applications

The most clicked story of 2018 was on the news in June that a collection of 39 banks, institutions and financial firms completed a trial of more than 300 transactions on a Know Your Customer (KYC) application built on R3’s Corda blockchain platform.

The transactions were conducted in 19 countries across eight timezones, with banks able to request access to customer KYC test data, whilst customers could approve requests and revoke access.

On a similar theme, research from Intrinsic Insights found that 87 per cent of technology professionals believe blockchain will be as transformative for business as the internet has been. The study asked 279 IT professionals in the UK and US about the impact of the distributed ledger technology (DLT), finding that the main benefits of the technology are greater data security and protection against cyber threats.

Banking experimentation

Several of the biggest stories across the site concerned incumbent financial institutions dipping their toes into new tech ventures.

In March, Belgium’s KBC bank announced plans to convert 66 of its Flanders-based locations into unmanned branches where customers can complete banking transactions at self-service terminals. The previous month, KBC became the first financial institution in the country to offer customers the ability to chat with the bank through the WhatsApp messenger app, as part of a service intended to provide quick answers to general banking and insurance questions from live staff.

In January, Metro Bank launched instant online account opening for its retail current account, enabling customers to sign up via their desktop or mobile – becoming the first High Street bank in the UK to offer this service using ‘selfie’ technology. The following month, it confirmed plans to recruit for 900 posts during 2018, including new roles in its expanded IT apprenticeship programme.

Meanwhile, Santander was also innovating, enabling its business customers to join the European networks of Chinese payment wallet providers via a partnership with merchant acquirer Elavon. It also launched Santander One Pay FX, the first blockchain-based international money transfer service across four countries.

Data breaches and GDPR

Not all technology was working well for banks though, with news of TSB’s botched IT upgrade making waves in April, and again in September, leaving thousands of customers unable to access their online accounts.

The General Data Protection Regulation came into force on 25 May, causing headaches across the industry - from marketing departments to IT and legal - with everyone looking to avoid being the first penalised under the new and more financially severe system.

By July, the new rules had already claimed a couple of victims.

Luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason admitted the loss of some 23,000 customer records - which included emails, telephone numbers and delivery addresses of customers who filled out a survey - due to the use of a third-party survey provider. Meanwhile, Travelodge was also forced to announce that 180,000 personal details of its clients were taken, including date of birth, passport numbers and billing information.

Under the regulations - which require disclosure within 72 hours of a breach - both companies have had to contact each person whose data has been lost.

Digging deeper

FStech’s feature-length investigations also proved popular this year, as we delved deeper into what exactly is happening in different sectors of the industry.

In August, we looked at asset management, where after cost and communication criticism from the regulator, firms are increasingly turning to technology for efficiencies enabling fee reduction and accessing the next generation of investors.

The month before, we shone a light on wealth management, where a push towards automated financial advice by a variety of startups in recent years has reached the stage where incumbents are looking to partner and acquire the technology to use with their client bases.

Finally, back in April, there were predictions of further saturation within the digital-only banking space as the Open Banking changes took hold, along with analysis of how the High Street banks would react to challenger competition.

While new products and services under the second payments services directive (PSD2) have been thin on the ground, there have been some moves by the CMA9, with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) announcing the launch of a standalone digital bank called Bo in September.

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