FinTech for Breakfast

Held on Thursday, January 12, 2017, 8.30-10.00am

With support from Dentons


  • Izabella Kaminska (FT Alphaville

  • Tim Jones (Tibado)



Could cyber criminals break banks?

Prof Richard Benham, chairman of the National Cyber Management Centre, reportedly declared: "A major bank will fail as a result of a cyber-attack in 2017”. While perhaps sensationalist, that echoes concerns recently raised by the Treasury Select Committee. Banks could do more to help one another – but cross-border differences on privacy can be an impediment. HSBC’s Nadya Hijazi noted that criminals often move funds through countries with high privacy thresholds.

Digital skills

Making sure there are sufficient skilled graduates for the challenges of the next decades is an ongoing problem. This month, the University of Strathclyde launched an MSc in Financial Technology

While the title “master of FinTech” might cause of few shudders, financial services is one of the industries profoundly affected by the UK’s digital skills gap. The lack of news – or official policy – to address the skills gap drew an open letter to Theresa May from tech leaders, while financial services and FinTech leaders presented concerns on immigration and digital skills for the House of Lords EU Committee’s “Brexit: financial services” report.


Blockchain – or La chaîne de blocs – was touted all last year as the next big thing. While a huge number of explorative projects were launched, the principle area of successful application seemed to be at the post-trade, financial markets end of the system (DTCC announced another big test recently).

Credit Mutuel Arkea bucked the trend by announcing a successful branch-based implementation this month (French version here). KYC is one of those tasks where distributed ledger technology has real scope – although, in this case, the legacy systems don’t seem to be entirely overcome (it won’t be a real-time system for a little while).

Robo clerks

As Mckinsey discussed in December, robotic process automation (RPA) has substantial potential for industries with a lot of repetitive screen work like FS - without too much messing around with legacy systems.

Finding financial firms willing to talk openly isn't so easy.  Offshoring was a sensitive topic for industrial relations; persuading staff to teach bots how to do much of their work may be equally delicate. While Raiffeisen was happy to announce it was adopting RPA, it was light on details of the staff implications.

However, Japanese firms seem more willing than most to open the kimono.  Fukoku Mutual publicly announced staff cuts based on RPA, and a number of other firms are reportedly exploring the technology.

The full opportunity for RPA is difficult to gauge – but it looks like Accenture are willing to bet reasonably hard on it.

Alternative credit data

Much has been made of the capacity of social and other alternative data to help the financial inclusion of those with thin credit histories – the CSFI discussed it in detail in our December report “Reaching the poor: The intractable nature of financial exclusion in the UK”.

But it’s not all positive. In the US, Fed Governor Lael Brainard reminded credit data providers that any new data usage has to guard against discriminatory practices, and – in case anyone loses sight of the seriousness of financial services – gave this caution:

"'Run fast and break things' may be a popular mantra in the technology space. It is ill-suited to an arena that depends on trust and confidence...There are more serious and lasting consequences for a consumer who gets, for instance, an unsustainable loan on his or her smartphone than for a consumer who downloads the wrong movie or listens to a bad podcast."



FinTech for Breakfast, and our regular anchor Izabella Kaminska of FT Alphaville, will be back in the New Year. Joining her in January will be Tim Jones, Co-founder and CEO of Tibado and former CEO of NEST.

We have no idea what stories Santa will deliver this year, but – so far this month – we’ve been talking about the following:

  • McKinsey estimated that the cumulative impact of Big Data on retail banking will be $400bn to $600bn – annually;
  • Andrew Tyrie, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, emphasized the importance of tackling financial cyber crime;
  • The Financial Services Consumer Panel published research indicating robo advisers aren’t necessarily good at explaining risks or costs to consumers;
  • Fed Governor Lael Brainard warned US financial firms not to get too excited about alternative credit scoring data; and
  • Facebook secured an e-money license from the Central Bank of Ireland.

If you (or a colleague) would like to join us, and share your own priorities and perspectives, please let us know by emailing or calling the office on 020 7621 1056. Thanks to our friends at Dentons, there will be plenty of tea, coffee and sticky buns to keep us going.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Hilton