The human side of Fintech: Why digital-only doesn’t need to be the new industry norm

The human side of Fintech: Why digital-only doesn’t need to be the new industry norm

By Adam Smith, CEO of Saxo Markets Australia

For a long while, Fintechs have been on a mission to build digital platforms that essentially run themselves. With the rise of powerful open APIs, automation, machine learning and eerily accurate chatbots, we have found ourselves in an industry where human contact sometimes seems superfluous.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this ‘digital-only’ vision in what Ian Bradbury calls “a splash of petrol on an already lit fire,” with lockdowns forcing Australia’s financial services sector online. But despite the welcome rush of technological innovation, a resultant lack of human connection has left consumers wary.

At the same time as technology has enhanced connectivity and customer experience, with events like the pandemic or the recent national cyberattack deeply impacting consumer confidence, more and more people are asking – is my money or data safe with this platform? Who is working to protect my funds? Can I be confident in giving this company my wealth without speaking to a person?

Without a human side to fintech, consumers are less equipped to make informed decisions about their money or data, or feel empowered about adopting new technologies.

Connection as currency

Earlier this year, some of Australia’s biggest telecommunications companies were so severely affected by the pandemic that they were forced to suspend call centre services, with many offshore operations shutdown. Even those with onshore customer service teams didn’t have the resources to address client concerns and many are still rejecting non-urgent calls. Human contact with customers was all but lost, as was their loyalty.

Financial services pushing for a digital-only norm now run the same risk. Why should an investor choose a broker that cannot service them in person? An automated chat bot does what it needs to do, but it can’t instill the deeper sense of trust required to hand over something as important as your money.

The wealth manager in your pocket

A few years ago, industries were fearful that bots would ‘steal’ our jobs. But I think what we’re now waking up to is the fact that humans need to stay, even while the remarkable digital transformation and innovation continues.

What if we could merge the human expertise of a traditional wealth manager, with the powerful efficiencies of Fintech and open APIs? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Building a new chatbot to point people in the right direction is good during the onboarding stage. Subsequently, combining that with experienced relationship managers or customer service consultants who can provide personalised services to investors and help them manage risk or navigate new markets will greatly value-add the experience fintechs can offer. This is more critical than ever as we emerge from COVID into a world where consumers are craving interpersonal connections. Yes, even with their broker.

A barrier to entry for new investors

Over the last four or five months, we’ve seen a natural spike in interest from those looking to protect their wealth or start investing while the market is volatile. A major barrier to entry for those both novice and experienced is the lack of support provided by brokers to help people understand where their money is going, or what solution is best for their portfolio.

For the most part, customers need to do their own due diligence to make sense of capital markets. But even those with sophisticated knowledge in trading derivatives or professional backgrounds in finance often don’t have the time or literacy to find the best solution for their portfolio.

For example, some might be experts in trading on the ASX, but are unaware of the opportunities available with international trading, or how to access them. Many would be navigating myriad platforms to trade multiple assets without knowing single-source multi-asset trading platforms exist. Some simply want to engage deeper with the industry.

When it comes to opening up access to investment, we need to provide consumers with the ability to ask questions, understand options and know what’s right for their portfolio in order to feel confident about their decisions. Here, personalised human support in combination with smooth and intuitive platform experience is imperative to the success of both brokers as well as investors.