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Fintech for humans: How technology is putting customers back at the heart of banking

In the days before banking, there were cows. Not surprisingly, these 600kg financial assets were quite cumbersome to store and use as units of trade, so coins were invented around 1 000BC as a more convenient way to exchange goods and services.

But coins also needed a safe storage space, away from marauding thieves, so were often stored in religious temples and looked over by priests, who were assumed to be honest and reliable. And so, modern banking was born – to make trade and money-lending simpler for people and help them keep their earnings safe – and it has been endeavouring to do the same for hundreds of years since.

For a while there, though, it became decidedly less simple. What we now refer to as ‘legacy systems’ were introduced to increase security and ensure dependability, but this meant slow processes, reams of red tape, long queues at brick-and-mortar branches and the filling in of countless forms for our financial needs to be met.

Fortunately, financial technology has always tried to enhance and simplify banking services. In the 1950s, in an effort to make buying on credit less laborious, it pioneered credit cards, and 1967 saw the introduction of ATMs to offer customers faster and more convenient financial services. Fast forward to the 1990s and internet banking was introduced, and a decade later contactless payment technology.

Thanks to fintech innovations disrupting traditionalist banking systems, financial services have come full circle to focus again on what is truly important: consumer-centric services that are seamless, convenient, and accessible to all. And financial institutions are coming around to the benefits these disruptions can have on their business models too.

But how exactly is fintech doing this?

  • Traditional banking model: Legacy systems and the regulatory environment impede a bank’s ability to implement new technology quickly. As a result, banks are unable to develop new services or solutions as fast as fintech companies can in order to meet client needs.

  • Modern financial technology: Fintech companies can speed up the time-to-market process exponentially by creating mutually beneficial relationships with banks and other financial institutions.

It’s putting customers first
  • Traditional banking model: Most banks require you to be physically present in order to create an account or apply for financial services, and many of them still lack the technological capability to verify your identity via the internet through Know Your Customer (KYC) technology.

  • Modern financial technology: Fintechs make these processes convenient and quick to utilise because customers do not need to be present to transact or use financial services.

It’s cutting costs
  • Traditional banking model: Banks have far more expenses, what with running physical branches and paying numerous staff, so fees for various financial services are higher.

  • Modern financial technology: Improved financial technology uses less manpower, and with fewer or no branches, is able to pass these savings on to the customer, thus lowering services fees significantly.

It’s sharing the risk

  • Traditional banking model: Stricter regulations reduce risk, making traditional banks a safe option.

  • Modern financial technology: To remain competitive, attract a larger audience, and provide a better client experience it is essential for banks to implement modern financial technology solutions. Payment gateways must, however, be compliant to ensure that both merchant and consumer data is handled safely in credit card transactions.

While traditional banks can sometimes find themselves behind the curve when it comes to innovation and advancement, fintech companies are stepping up to the plate and filling in the widening gap between what traditional banks are providing and what modern customers have come to expect. Ideally, the partnership between these two entities is essential for the future of banking.


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