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Railsbank news round-up: US bankers worry about fintechs

Week 10: a brief look back at some of the fintech news that’s not always picked up.

US bankers upbeat about future, but fear fintech

A survey of bank executives in the US reveals that they are confident about the future, but fear fintechs.

New payment/money transfer platforms are particularly viewed by many as a serious threat to the sector's overall profitability.

The Promontory Interfinancial Network's proprietary Bank Confidence IndexSM reached 52.9, its highest point since it debuted five years ago, climbing nearly three points since the previous quarter, according to its fourth quarter Bank Executive Business Outlook survey released recently.

The Index is based on expectations for access to capital, loan demand, funding costs and deposit competition for the 12 months ahead. The survey was based on responses from the leaders of 543 unique banks nationwide.

"Bank leaders headed into 2020 with a positive outlook on loan demand and more confidence about the state of the industry," said Mark Jacobsen, President and CEO of Promontory Interfinancial Network. "That good feeling stretched nationwide, as well as across all four regional groupings of Federal Reserve districts."

The survey said that more than three-fourths (76%) of bank respondents said they fear new payment and money transfer platforms, like ApplePay, PayPal, Stripe, and Venmo, more than any other type of fintech competitor. Half expressed a high level of fear.

Banks given “evolve or die” message

There was a blunt message from a leading business banking firm which said that banks have to evolve, or die.

Bruc Bond issued a warning that UK banks must embrace new open banking practices to survive.

The firm explained that the movement to a more open and interconnected financial world, which started with Europe's Payment Services Directive (now in its second iteration, the PSD2), opened up the banking system to the entry of non-bank financial institutions (NBFI), who have taken large chunks of the labour previously done by banks.

NBFIs have reduced banks' workload while introducing additional revenue streams, providing a much-needed buoyancy float to a sector struggling with downsizing pressures.

Eyal Nachum, Bruc Bond's fintech expert and board member has a message for the banking sector: "Current corporate banking practices are not fit for purpose and SMEs are now longer willing or compelled to stand for it. If the big institutions want to remain relevant they need to evolve or die and let the new breed of flexible service providers take over!"

However, integration could be taken much further, continued Nachum: "If we look at the Chinese giants Tencent and Alibaba, we see a model banks may wish to imitate to a degree. The two companies operate Super Apps, WeChat and Alipay, respectively, which are much more than just payment services. These are so-called "lifestyle apps", which allow users to do anything from ordering a taxi, through making interpersonal money transfers, to, in some Chinese provinces, paying utility bills and more. It's easy to imagine the convenience that such centralisation brings."

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