Fintechs And Banks: Collaborating and Building Solutions For The Future

The collaboration between banks and fintech players has significantly evolved, especially in the last couple of years. 

It has given rise to customer-centric digital ecosystems, many regulatory changes, and an increase in customer adoption. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has further triggered digitization in the banking and financial technology sector. 

E-wallets have replaced cash payments and customers are increasingly getting accustomed to using online services to manage their finances. 

As a result, businesses prefer third party payment aggregators for collecting payments

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With the ongoing evolution in customer behavior, Fintechs are acting as catalysts for banks.

They’re equipping banks with cutting-edge technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning to ramp up their services and cater to the changing needs of the end customers. Given the optimism around such collaborations, one can’t help but think how they’re likely to pan out in the future. 

This blog is a TL/DR of a fireside chat between Arun Tikoo, SVP, Business and Strategy, Cashfree Payments, and Amol Pai, Chief Technology Officer, State Bank of India. The speakers walk us through their thoughts on the ongoing collaboration between banks and Fintech startups and their future. 

Here’s a synopsis of this interesting conversation.

What are some of the key factors that are driving collaborations between banks & Fintech companies?

The Fintech sector is creating new products, markets, and business models for today’s fast-paced financial ecosystem. Even during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector grew undeterred, and today has produced many unicorns that are collectively disrupting the entire financial sector.  

But, with such potential in their arsenal, Fintechs lack the investments needed to bring about the change they aspire. This is where banks come into the picture. With huge repositories of funds, banks can help Fintechs innovate and, in turn, leverage from these innovations as well. 

However, the benefits of Fintech for banks go beyond revenue investment. Some additional advantages of collaboration between banks and Fintechs are as follows:

1. Brand reputation – Banks are legacy institutions with excellent market reputations. Fintechs can profit with their stature and status, and build a loyal customer base quickly. 

2. Digital innovationsDigital payment solutions are changing customer behavior. Collaboration between banks and Fintechs can help one another sustain this change and collectively grow in the financial space.

3. Wide consumer base – Consider the collaboration between banks and Fintechs as a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship. Both parties get to tap into one another’s existing customer base, further enabling them to widen their market share and reach a previously untapped segment of customers.  

4. Budget – Banks have huge budgets. Fintechs can leverage bank budgets to enhance their product suites, technology, and other customer-centric services. They can then inculcate newly developed services into the bank’s system, helping them scale and enjoy an edge in the market.  

5. Legal and compliance knowledge – Since banks have all the required legal experience around regulatory things, Fintechs greatly benefit from this knowledge.

benefits of open banking APIs

6. Ability to scale quickly – The collaboration between the two entities can quickly help one another scale up or down, depending on consumer response and overall needs. If their collective initiatives are successful, they can brainstorm ways to introduce more customer-centric features. 

7. Market experience – Consider banks as feet-on-street entities. Their on-ground experience can help Fintechs build and launch products that suit the exact needs of the customers. 

8. Tech-based products – Fintechs can offer technologically advanced financial products to banks that can help them streamline and quicken the banking processes.  

“Partnership with banks is helping Fintechs build tomorrow’s technology for today’s use.”

Arun Tikoo, SVP, Business and Strategy, Cashfree Payments

What are some challenges that banks and Fintech face while collaborating? How can they be countered?

Though banks and Fintechs are working in tandem today and helping one another scale at an exponential pace, many challenges do exist in the entire ecosystem.  

  1. Culture – The culture of the two sectors is seemingly opposite. Where Fintechs are all about innovation and taking faster decisions, banks have their own set of protocols and time periods to settle into something new. The playing ground should be the same for both entities.  
  2. Speed of Operation – From a proof of concept (POC) to actual execution, banks take a longer time – about 6 to 12 months. Fintechs, on the other hand, are nimble and have to launch a new product within 30-50 days. Banks are fairly slow and Fintechs are fast. 
  3. Technology – A majority of banks are still working on legacy technologies. Their systems are incapable of incorporating new technologies into the existing systems as fast as Fintechs can do. A much-needed change awaits the banking sector.    
  4. Market spread – Most Fintechs operate in a restricted market. Banks cater to a wider market spread. Hence, Fintechs can create and offer customized products to suit the needs of their audience. Banks have to look at the larger picture and hence, they have standardized products for the entire national market. 
  5. Security – Fintechs view security from a certain aspect. For instance, if they follow these 3 security rules, they’re good to roll out a new product in the market. Banks have followed a larger set of security compliances. This is because banks are regulated under an entity and Fintechs, as of date, are not. 

What are some technologies that are making it easier and more productive for both sectors to work together and make the process much smoother? 

Following are some technologies that are helping both sectors to work together and make the process smoother. 

  • API – Application programming interfaces or APIs are all about speed, agility, and personalization. They’re helping Fintechs build products and services that ensure efficiency and accuracy in banking processes. 
  • Cloud – There are myriad advantages of cloud:
  • Online banking – The concept has significantly reduced the burden on the banks in terms of custom flow into physical buildings and management of in-house cash. For Fintechs, it has educated the masses on the use of online services to manage their finances.  
  • Data security – Both banks and Fintechs are becoming agile in the way they approach cybersecurity. They’re implementing advanced analytics, biometrics, and real-time monitoring features to ensure safe transactions across all platforms.

What kind of regulatory support could facilitate better collaboration between the banks and Fintechs?

Certain aspects do need to be touched upon to facilitate better collaboration between banks and Fintechs. Some of them are as follows: 

  1. Compliance – A common set of rules and regulations must govern both sectors to ensure better collaboration and more streamlined processes. 
  2. Utilization of cloud – What type of data can and cannot be stored on the cloud should apply to both parties. Once the base rules are defined, the chances of frictions will tremendously reduce between the banks and Fintechs. 
  3. Knowledge source – Banks have a huge knowledge base that can help Fintechs to innovate better and, in turn, help banks scale faster. 

As banks and Fintech startups work together to bring new-age financial services to customers, how would one assess the commitment to data security and privacy of the clients?

No bank or Fintech compromises on security. They’re quite strict in this case and leave any stone unturned in ensuring that customer data remains safe and secure at all times. Security and compliance is usually the first point of discussion when a bank plans to partner with Fintech. If Fintech tries to compromise on a customer’s data security aspect, the negotiations between them end then and there. All the rules and regulations are clearly stated and once the two parties come to a consensus, only then new products are built and launched in the market. 

However, owing to increasing cybercrime cases, it’s time for cyber experts to chip in. They need to develop new cyber policies and come up with better solutions to manage and safeguard customer data. Banks and Fintechs, both need more robust and hack-proof systems to encourage customers to use their services without any hesitation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a tough time for businesses across the globe. However, the financial sector significantly benefited from the pandemic. What are some of the learnings from this crisis?

“COVID-19 served as a great reset for the banking divide in India.”

Arun Tikoo, SVP, Business and Strategy, Cashfree Payments

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced India to leap to new standards of banking. People have realized the importance and benefits of using digital modes of payment and are now adhering to the paradigm shift. UPI is a perfect example to quote here. UPI alone recorded about 40 billion transactions in 2020. It’s set to record about 80 billion by the end of 2021. New Fintech unicorns are further influencing consumer decisions and helping them manage their finances at the click of a button. 

  • Digital literacy has significantly increased across all age groups 
  • The scale of transactions have increased 
  • Load on bank systems have tremendously decreased 

“The march towards digital adoption has just begun. It will continue and make India one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world.”

Arun Tikoo, SVP, Business and Strategy, Cashfree Payments

Cashfree recently launched Banking-as-a-service solution accounts which is an example of how mass revolution is giving the legacy banks a chance to partner with Fintechs. How are organizations looking to reshape the future of banking and fintech industries? 

Banking-as-a-service (BaaS) has enabled Fintechs to offer core banking services to their customers using APIs. Fintechs have built products on top of the legacy banking infrastructure to enhance customer experience. Such initiatives serve as a win-win situation for both entities. Fintechs cater to customer satisfaction, and banks benefit in terms of increased sales or customer engagement.

Banking as a service for neobanks and fintechs

Cashfree Payments enables you to do a plethora of banking activities without visiting the branch. For example, through the Cashfree Payments platform, you can now open a bank account with ICICI or Yes Bank within a matter of minutes. Such activities are reshaping how people view banking services and feel less hesitant while doing business. 

What do you think the future holds for such partnerships?

The collaboration between banks and Fintechs will thrive with the evolution of new digital ecosystems and customer-centric financial models. Banks need to engage more with Fintechs to leverage their advanced technologies and move out of legacy systems. Meanwhile, Fintechs need the street-smart expertise of banks to understand customer behavior. The two sectors together can reshape the entire financial landscape of India and make it more customer-centric.