Is the Fintech Sector Your Cup of Tea?

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CEO Today reached out to Anthony Morrow to get his views on the fintech sector and where it’s headed. Anthony is CEO of evestor.co.uk, an online personal finance and investment adviser designed to help people of all ages, experience and wealth take control of their financial affairs.

What qualifies as Fintech?

Fintech is a term that covers every kind of financial service that uses digital technology. Most services can now be done digitally – including making payments and managing your savings.

Currently, fintech is one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, adding more than £6.6 billion to the nation’s economy each year and attracting more than £500 million of investment.

This is because customers increasingly want to engage with their financial service providers on their own terms and at their convenience. At a time when costs are increasingly under scrutiny – and rightly so – tech enables services to be provided at a much lower cost for the end user. The FCA’s recently published terms of reference for its platforms market study sets out to consider whether platforms are really offering value for money and are supporting investors in their financial decision.

Robo-advice is an offering which has emerged as part of the growth of fintech. It offers consumers a convenience and affordable platform to manage their personal finances.

Why did you decide to launch a robo adviser?

We launched our online investment platform, evestor.co.uk, in April this year based on the idea that investing and buying financial products is simply too expensive and convoluted for the new generation of consumers. Just because a customer isn’t investing large sums of money doesn’t mean they don’t deserve personalised and FCA regulated financial advice at an affordable price.

Our customers have access to a team of highly qualified financial advisors, who they can contact through webchat or email. Our aim is to make things easier to understand, and more affordable.

What should people look out for when using a robo adviser?

Not all robo-advisers actually offer advice. Some simply act as a portal for taking people’s money, claiming to offer tailored advice when, in reality, customers only receive a generic questionnaire.

This is a concern as consumers may end up investing in an unsuitable financial product with no one to hold accountable. I believe robo-advisers that offer no regulated financial advice should instead be referred to as ‘robo-investors’.

What is your take on the perceived trend of companies seeking funding for a product only to build it up and sell it quickly?

I’m not convinced that the ‘build and flip’ model is as prevalent as some think. There appears to be a lot of similar products out there seemingly waiting for a trade buyer or venture capitalist to deploy desperate cash. Personally, I view use of Crowdfunding in this sector cautiously. It’s fairly safe to assume that anyone looking to raise millions of pounds will have explored traditional sources first and failed. If professionals don’t fancy it then retail investors should tread with caution.

What developments can we expect to see in the fintech market in the next 12 months?

This environment is going to get interesting because of PSD2, or the Revised Payment Service Directive. Next year, banks will need to allow their traditional customer base to use third party providers to manage their finances. This will transform banking relationships, particularly as businesses engage increasingly with third party APIs, such as Facebook or Google.

PSD2 started as an EU initiative to break down banks’ monopoly on their user’s data. It allows merchants, like Amazon, for example, to retrieve customers’ account data from their bank with their permission. That means they can make a payment directly for the customer, without having to redirect them to another service like PayPal or Visa.

What does the future hold for fintech?

Fintech has benefited from a very benign environment, with low cost of credit and record levels of venture capital money looking for – and accepting – low cash multiple returns because of low interest rates. At the moment, that environment could be argued to be propping up less successful companies, but natural wastage will take its course sooner or later.

The consumer market is currently so varied in terms of trust and confidence in financial technology. Sector growth depends on buyers understanding of tech but also trust in security. Cyber security and regulatory issues on data are obvious hurdles in the road but they will be overcome.

In my opinion, continued access to cash, understanding shareholders, an evolving product, an abundance of patience and prudent cost management, will be the essential ingredients for long term success.

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