Top 10 financial services and fintech stories of 2023

With spending on IT in the finance sector expected to emerge from the doldrums, we kick off our review of Computer Weekly articles with research from software giant Finastra and its prediction that investment in IT will begin to flow in the second half of next year.

Furthermore, for the first time in a few years, a tech term other than fintech is perhaps the first word spoken when financial services IT professionals talk about the change in the sector: generative artificial intelligence (GenAI).

The past 12 months has seen term rise to the top of the agenda across multiple sectors, with the financial service sector, as a pioneer of tech, unsurprisingly investing heavily. Finastra found that 83% of almost 1,000 global banks are interested in what GenAI can offer their businesses. It’s about improving the customer experience, the banks say.

But while GenAI is the current buzzword, it is just part of the wider fintech revolution, which is maturing by the year.

Also in this yearly review, we feature an update on Visa’s acquisition of open banking pioneer Tink. The payments giant, along with rival Mastercard, which took over open banking fintech Aiia – previously the Nordic API Gateway – have invested billions in the technology. We look at what Tink’s future holds as part of Visa.

Sticking with the evolution of the fintech sector we feature an interview with fintech pioneer Jaidev Janardana, who in 2005 set up peer-to-peer lender Zopa. Nearly 20 years on, the company has morphed into a digital bank. Read about Janardana’s “emotional” journey in an interview with Computer Weekly.

Twenty years is a long time in the finance sector, and the past 20 has seen a lot of change. The biggest event was in 2007/08 when the financial services sector crashed following the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers. The “credit crunch”, as it was known, was not only responsible for the finance sector improving its use of tech, but it was also the breeding ground for future talent, when tech experts were brought in to fix it.

One such talent is Goldman Sachs’ chief data officer, Neema Raphael. He told Computer Weekly in an interview that he made his break, during the crisis, in finance tech as part of a team creating a database to help the company understand its exposure to risk.

It’s not just investment banking giants that are leading the way on adopting the latest tech since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, as the UK’s Nationwide Building Society demonstrates. For the past decade and a half, the mutual society has been digitising its business, with many a tech milestone reached.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Nationwide’s payments director, Otto Benz, talked about its latest generational transformation project, which will see it migrate of its payments to a cloud-based software platform.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 financial services and fintech stories of 2023.

According to Finastra’s Financial services: State of the nation survey 2023, technology investment is currently constrained for 78% of financial institutions, but 69% expect investments to resume in full in the first six months of 2024. Most of almost 1,000 global banks questioned said they were excited about the pace of change in relation to the latest fintech.

Global recessions have a habit of stalling the tech startup sector and the innovation it brings, but for open banking pioneer Tink, the large wing of Visa is shielding its ambition from harm. In fact, rather than slim down, Tink currently has an ambitious plan to expand internationally. The Swedish company, which was acquired by Visa for £1.8bn in 2021, is adding to its invisible services.

Neema Raphael left San Francisco in 2003 and headed to New York to apply his tech know-how to the enterprise sector. He soon landed a job at Goldman Sachs, and within five years, the self-confessed “tech nerd”, who knew nothing about the finance sector, was part of a team helping the banking giant survive one of the biggest crises it has ever faced.

Zopa spent 15 years pioneering the peer-to-peer lending sector, only to drop that business to become a bank. CEO Jaidev Janardana tells Computer Weekly how he helped make one of the first fintech firms even more fintech. Janardana joined Zopa in 2014 as chief operating officer (COO), before becoming CEO a year later. At the time, it was a peer-to-peer lending financial technology firm, having pioneered the sector since its formation in 2005.

Nationwide Building Society has embarked on a project to move its payments to a cloud-based platform in its latest “generational tech transformation”. In 2008, in the fallout of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which brought the global finance sector to its knees, Nationwide Building Society set out its stall to be a digital leader.

About a year ago, faced with the end of support of a tool used to sync instances of its ServiceNow platform, Zurich Insurance turned to ServiceNow development partner for a replacement, which has saved its development team days every time new applications are developed and rolled out.

TSB has called on social media giant Meta to do more to prevent online fraud that emanates in its platforms, which it said could see UK consumers lose £250m to scammers in 2023. The UK high street bank’s CEO, Robin Bulloch, has written to Meta calling on it to introduce fraud prevention measures because 80% of the money the bank has refunded is to customers defrauded by scams originating on the social media firm’s platforms.

Orchestrating suppliers and IT teams during a major digital transformation is what Russ Thornton finds himself doing in his role as CTO at UK lending and savings bank Shawbrook. Bringing together a large group of people with different skills and getting them to collaborate is not new to him. A musical conductor by education, Thornton “fell into computers to pay the rent”.

When Ron Kalifa reported to government on the future of UK financial technology in February 2021, he depicted a “now or never” moment for the government to put measures in place to ensure the fintech industry plays a key role in the UK’s future economy.

Travelex entered administration after the Covid-19 pandemic and a major attack by cyber criminals caused major losses. Today, it is plotting its future, with digital technology at the core. A combination of declining demand as the travel sector slowed during Covid-19 restrictions and the downtime and losses that resulted after the Sodinokibi cyber crime group ransomware attack put the company on the brink.

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