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Fin companies fear FinTech

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Results from a PwC survey in the financial services (FS) sector has revealed that 83% of respondents from traditional FS firms believe part of their business is at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies.

Traditional financial services (FS) firms believe part of their business is at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies.

A new PwC survey, which assesses the rise of new technologies in the FS sector and their impact on market players, reveals 83% of respondents in general see this as a risk, rising to a staggering 95% in the case of banks.

The report, ‘Blurred Lines: How FinTech is shaping Financial services’, features the responses of 544 CEOs, Heads of Innovation, CIOs and top management involved in digital and technological transformation across the FS industry in 46 countries. Incumbents believe 23% of their business could be at risk due to further development of FinTech. What’s more, FinTech companies themselves anticipate they could capture 33% of the incumbents’ business.

Banking and payments feel most heat from FinTech

The survey shows the banking and payments industries are feeling the most pressure from FinTech companies.  Respondents from the fund transfer & payments industry anticipate that in the next five years, they could lose up to 28% of their market share to them, while bankers estimate they are likely to lose 24%. This compares to around 22% in the case of asset management & wealth management and 21% in insurance.

Top threats from FinTech

Two-thirds (67%) of FS companies ranked pressure on profit margins as the top FinTech-related threat, followed by loss of market share (59%). One of the key ways in which FinTechs support the margin pressure point through innovation is step function improvements in operating costs. For instance, the movement to cloud-based platforms not only decreases up-front costs, but also reduces ongoing infrastructure costs.

Blockchain untapped and underestimated by FS

Blockchain, a distributed ledger technology, represents the next evolutionary jump in business process optimisation technology. According to PwC, it could result in a radically different competitive future in the FS industry, where current profit pools are disrupted and redistributed towards the owners of new, highly efficient blockchain platforms. Not only could there be huge cost savings but also large gains in transparency. Yet it ranks low on the agendas of participants.

While the majority (56%) recognise its importance, 57% say they are unsure or unlikely to respond to this trend.

“When faced with disruptive technologies, the world’s leading companies succeed by rapidly weaving them into their DNA, as part of their ‘business as usual’ process,” says Haskell Garfinkell, US FinTech co-leader, PwC.

“Blockchain and disruptive ledger technologies offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for financial services companies to transform the way they do business. In our view, the lack of understanding of blockchain technology and its potential for disruption poses significant risks to existing business models and the firms that do not take the time to understand the impact will underestimate the opportunities and threats that blockchain can provide.”

To put this into perspective, PwC’s Global Blockchain team has identified over 700 companies entering this space, 150 of whom it says are ‘ones to watch’ and 25 of which it expects will likely emerge as leaders.

Challenges for FinTech companies and incumbents

PwC’s survey shows the most widespread form of collaboration with FinTech companies is joint partnership (32%), which, says PwC, is indicative FS firms are not ready to go all in and invest fully in FinTech.

Asked what challenges they face in dealing with FinTech companies, 53% of incumbents cited IT security, regulatory uncertainty (49%) and differences in business models (40%).

In the case of FinTech companies, differences in management and culture (54%), operational processes (47%) and regulatory uncertainty (43%) were deemed the top three challenges when dealing with traditional FS firms.

Steve Davies, EMEA FinTech Leader at PwC comments:

“FinTech is changing the FS industry from the outside. PwC estimates within the next 3-5 years, cumulative investment in FinTech globally could well exceed $150bn, and financial institutions and tech companies are a stepping over one another for a chance to get into the game. As the lines between traditional finance, technology firms and telecom companies are blurring, many innovative solutions are emerging and there is clearly no straightforward solution to navigate this FinTech world.”

Paul Mitchell, Fin Tech Leader, PwC South Africa, says:

“South African financial services players, old and new, are uniquely positioned in a sophisticated industry on a high growth continent. The opportunities for innovative solutions for a young and adaptable population is huge, and the impact of FinTech in Africa could well overtake what we are seeing in the US and Europe.”

“Customers’ behaviour, and their expectations around how companies interact with them, is changing quickly. The FinTech industry is driving these changes in financial services, and the established businesses in the industry who recognise this are having to learn fast. This is leading to a reassessment of many elements of the customer experience and engagement process that will play out over the next few years.”

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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