The founders of SoFi had a simple insight: Could alumni be the best lenders for student loans at their alma maters? The founders of Betterment and Wealthfront asked whether automated wealth management might offer clients first-rate financial advice for much lower fees than traditional financial advisers. They, along with other agile fintech companies, are challenging established players in financial services. By developing mobile-friendly services that appeal to the millennial generation and others comfortable with handling their financial lives on their phones, these fintech companies are redefining financial services.
This millennial generation has no interest in doing things the same way as their parents did, and that dynamic is fueling the development of creative apps and solutions, says Jason Paltrowitz, Executive Vice President at OTC Markets Group and a board member of the Crowdfunding Professional Association.
“When I went to college, the first thing you did was open a bank account and get a checkbook, but millennials don’t do that,” Paltrowitz says. “So anything and everything you can distill down to an app on your phone is where these fintech companies are focused.”
That means being able to take out a mortgage on your phone, or buy insurance, or transfer funds, or get financial advice. Think of any financial service you might need, and there's a fintech company out there building an app that uses data analytics, automation and even artificial intelligence to reimagine that service for a connected mobile world.
Fintech companies have been the most entrepreneurial in developing these solutions, but traditional financial services companies are catching up by creating their own mobile, personalization and automation technologies to augment their offerings.
“What you’re seeing now from the large financial services world is that they’re very quickly figuring out how to buy these fintech companies, incorporate them, or create their own innovation labs,” Paltrowitz says.
But creating innovative products is only half the battle. Successful financial services companies also need a network that can deliver fast, secure and dependable access to financial data across multiple sources and geographic locations, according to Randy Reitz, Senior Director at Comcast.
Reitz provides networking solutions to financial services companies like banks and wealth advisors, and he says fintech companies and traditional financial services companies all need the same thing: bandwidth.
The competitive climate in financial services caused by fintech has made enhancing the customer experience a top priority, Reitz says, and a strong, reliable network is essential to provide customers the in-app and in-person services they demand, whether it’s instant access to secure financial data or connectivity while in a bank branch or a wealth adviser's office.
“A network that delivers dependable, fast access to financial data across multiple sources and geographic locations is critical to capitalizing on these new business models in the digital age,” Reitz says.
Comcast Business offers financial services companies and their fintech competitors an agile, intelligent and secure networking technology: SD-WAN, or software-defined wide-area network. According to the Open Networking Foundation, software-defined networking is “an emerging architecture that is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective and adaptable, making it ideal for high-bandwidth dynamic applications.” SD-WAN brings the benefits of software-defined networking — increased efficiency and intelligence with reduced complexity — across a distributed enterprise.
“What SD-WAN is going to do for the banks is that they’re going to be able to take advantage of gig-speed broadband and manage their networks centrally,” Reitz says.
That means a bank can manage all of its network resources across the enterprise, including branch offices, from one central location, adding cost-effective bandwidth while saving time and money. SD-WAN also offers better security control: As new devices are added to networks, the bank can ensure all those devices are safe and compliant because security is centrally managed.
In addition to being able to offer customers better services, these networks are essential in allowing employees to collaborate across the enterprise and to be able to work whenever inspiration strikes. The millennial generation in particular demands this flexibility in the workplace, according to Joshua Meredith, Assistant Dean for the Master of Professional Studies programs in Technology Management and Systems Engineering Management at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies.
“The concept of being able to do your job from anywhere, do it at any time and at a much quicker speed, is something that has really been ingrained in this generation,” Meredith says. “Millennials are the multitask generation in all regards, so the ability to do multiple things at once really allows them to be more flexible in the workplace.”
As financial services companies adopt the practices of technology companies, they are transforming themselves into tech companies, and robust networks facilitate this transformation.
“Because of what they’re designing, tech companies generally have a better process when it comes to innovation and allowing teams to work at a fast pace,” Meredith says.
The most innovative banks and financial services companies are using new technologies like cloud computing, data analytics and the Internet of Things to reimagine and improve financial services, offering apps that deliver everything you need to manage your finances on your phone. They're also rebooting the branch experience to combine the best of personal and digital services, including Wi-Fi connectivity and video consultations with financial advisers, as well as personalized services enabled by data analytics. Of course, these services are only as good as the networks that deliver them, Reitz says, which is why banks are looking to solutions like SD-WAN.
“Banks are very demanding customers,” Reitz says. “They want it seamless and available 24/7. Whatever the transaction, whether it’s a large loan or investment or a check transaction, they don’t want to miss any opportunity to serve their customers simply and securely.”
This article originally appeared on Bloomberg.
Fintech companies are redefining financial services by appealing to the automation needs of millennials.
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