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Thursday, 11 August 2016 00:00
Book review: Crowdsourced opinion on the future of Fintech
It is difficult to avoid the subject of Fintech. It has become synonymous with guilt. Everyone from bankers to businesses knows that there are elements that will transform everyone's lives and become the default of tomorrow. But which bits. Should they act now or wait?

Even outside of the Ubers and the Airbnbs of this world, which of the vast number of new offerings will stand the test of time, and which are worthy of either investing in, partnering with or using as a product?

Because of the complexity of the subject, authors Susanne Chishti and Janos Barberis did the Fintech thing, and used the crowdsourcing principle to gain contributions from 85 authors on the subject of financial technology and its uses.

Their argument in "The Fintech Book - 1st globally crowdsourced book on fintech" (Wiley, price £23.99) was that no one person can cover all the facets and nuances of FinTech, but 85 have more chance of covering the options.

The principal is interesting, but it has drawbacks. How do you know if the 85 individuals have got it right? How does one know if all the important options have been covered (who would have thought that the taxi business model could be changed, or that hotels would be threatened by a B&B site?).

There is also the question of how soon the book will seem dated. Our experience as journalists is that this stuff is changing very quickly and tomorrow's news is inclined to be laughably inaccurate with the value of hindsight. Take mobile payments for example. It really didn't happen like everyone said it would. Take Smart Cities and IoT. Connectivity is coming, but much slower than everyone thought and there are massive security issues. What about RegTech? This is technology that is being invented to deal with the problems of compliance in a FinTech world. A sort of second story development. No-one expected that as a sector. And investment is slowing, as people realise there are too many unicorns and the market is over-cooking.

It is also disappointing that the book sticks very rigidly to financial services, rather than looking at how FinTech developments could help marketing, retail and business generally.

The categories included in the book are FinTech Themes, Hubs, Solutions, Emerging Markets & Social Impact, Capital & Investment, Enterprise Innovation, Success Stories, Crypto-Currencies & Blockchain, and The Future of FinTech (that one will be a giggle in a year or so).

So overall, is it worth buying? Yes it is, because it will fill in your knowledge gaps, and introduce some interesting opinion even though the marketing, loyalty, general business and to an extent mobile sectors are notable by their absence.

Should you rely on it? Hell no. That said, I am unsure exactly who does know where FinTech will lead. Certainly the banks are aware of the threat that de-regulation and the arrival of new players using nifty and economical new technology will bring but whether the prophets of doom will be proved right is another matter. Banks have survival and longevity built into their DNA.

The boss of BBVA predicted a couple of years ago that half of the world's banks would disappear by 2020. Only four years to go then. We should be ready.
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