Nelson Wootton:

We will see a surge of interest in ‘BNPL for business’ or Merchant Cash Advance

Much as we’ve seen an explosion of Buy Now Pay Later for consumers, as merchants tighten their belts and the economic outlook becomes even more challenging, we foresee great demand for BNPL style models of finance for B2B in 2023 – in particular, retail.

For example, Merchant Cash Advances will enable merchants to receive stock and pay it off over a period of time – as that stock is sold to customers. This helps them to avoid big upfront capital investment, while the lender is repaid as each product is sold.

This model is extremely low risk for the lender, especially for wholesalers of non-perishable products, where the lending agreement can even include the flexibility to move unsold stock to another merchant. Lenders can also check in on the velocity of sales and track daily (or even hourly) against sales projections to help them understand their risk on the loan. For wholesalers or franchise style models, offering merchant cash advances will help to build new revenue streams, while strengthening the relationships with their key retailers by essentially providing them with stock for ‘free’.

Of course, for this model to work, the lender must be able to access real-time data insights into purchases from their customers. This means using a cloud-native core banking engine to connect modern and legacy infrastructure, create real-time event streams, and generate bespoke data sets.

The UK’s fintech darling status will be put to the test in 2023

It’s been a rocky geopolitical year with the global economic slowdown, the war in Ukraine – not to mention Brexit, the pound crash, and having three prime ministers in as many months. Big fintech valuations have shrunk globally, and funding rounds have been few and far between, as UK fintech investment plummeted from $27.8 to just $9.6 billion in the first half of 2022. So, when we look to next year, many will ask if the UK can hold onto its “fintech darling” status.

But to me, any doomsday hypothesising feels like a knee-jerk reaction.

Investment naturally goes in cycles, and investors are always watching closely to see which areas are getting the best returns and recalibrating before they invest more. The UK fintech scene is bursting with a wonderful blend of finance and tech innovators who are up for the challenge, so I do not think that position in the industry will be lost.

In particular, fintechs who can harness data effectively are the ones to watch. The future is all about data – being able to predict and track changing customer needs, identify areas of trapped value, and gain a single customer view; it is these things that will enable them to gain a greater share of wallet, even during recession.

UK fintechs should also keep in mind that while they will continue to see investment, they will need to be more cautious with their spending as funding rounds may be slower, valuations lower, and investments more frugal than before. So being cost-conscious will be an asset.

FS firms will miss the Consumer Duty deadline if they can’t leverage customer data

July 2023 will see the FCA implement a new Consumer Duty, which will require the financial services industry to deliver products and services to meet real customer needs at a fair price. Under the new regulation, FS firms must give people the support and information they need to make informed financial decisions, which is particularly important in the current economic climate. But, many FS firms will likely miss the July deadline because they don’t have a complete picture of their customers and how to serve them best.

To meet the diverse needs of customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances and financial distress, banks must have a comprehensive customer view. But today, many banks and wealth managers may struggle to achieve that level of customer insight because they still operate under a cumbersome product-centric data model, in which relevant information is siloed.

With a cloud-native banking platform, FS firms are armed with granular real time insights into customer spending so that they can understand customer needs, assess their financial health, and make recommendations effectively. Without this level of visibility, firms will not stand up to scrutiny from the FCA, and could even face fines in cases of serious misconduct.

Next year, cloud-native core banking providers will become the holy grail for FS firms needing to comply with Consumer Duty, by helping to re-architect how core banking services are delivered. The granular level data can be used to drive hyper-personalisation, unearth opportunities to grow accounts, accelerate the design of innovative new products, and improve the customer experience.

Steve Round

FS firms will be forced to improve transparency around sustainability commitments

The UK led the way on green finance at COP26 by committing to create the world’s first Net Zero Financial Centre. Now, a year later, the FCA has proposed a UK sustainability disclosure regime. With the rules under review until January 2023 and expected to apply from 2024, FS firms must lay the foundations for sustainability reporting now to comply with future regulations.

Going forward, any organisation delivering banking services must be able to examine the environmental impacts of business operations, as well as the impact of partners. Therefore, FS firms will feel the pressure in 2023 to become more transparent about their commitment to Net Zero targets and sustainability initiatives.

Consumers have also become increasingly focused on sustainability, and want to know how their purchase decisions affect the environment. By collecting customer payments data and tracking environmental impact, FS firms have the potential to launch greener services and help reduce environmental impact for eco-conscious consumers. For example, using transactional data from customers to analyse the carbon footprint of their purchasing decisions – allowing them to make choices about where they spend their money or even choose to carbon offset against purchases. If FS firms fail to launch sustainable products and services next year, there is a serious risk that market share and customers will be lost to more eco aware competitors.

The rising cost of living will drive a new era of financial inclusivity

As the chancellor admitted in the Autumn budget, we are now in recession. More consumers – even those on middle incomes – may find themselves falling into the financially ‘vulnerable’ category, struggling to keep up with soaring mortgage rates, energy bills, and inflation. In 2023, banks will be under pressure to provide more targeted help and support to those that need it to ensure that people don’t fall through the gaps.  Customer insight, driven by comprehensive real time data, will be essential to allowing banks to identify those who are at risk of becoming vulnerable before it happens and help put plans in place to help the customer and avoid bad debt.

There will also be a renewed focus on financial inclusivity – and it’s critical that banks look at credit with fresh eyes. Expect to see banks focusing on designing practical products and services to help those who are struggling financially. Offering advice is one thing, but banks will also be looking to offer personalised and flexible offerings, such as having multiple wallets to help manage different bills and savings.

To support their customers, banks will need to leverage their customer insights and technology to deliver more flexible banking solutions that make it easier for their customers to manage their finances. Or, they risk losing customers to competitors offering more feature rich products.