Canadian adoption of FinTech products set to triple in a year

logo-cropped-11Canadian FinTech set to sore in coming years.

Source: Financial Post

TORONTO • Canadian adoption rates of financial services products developed by non-bank online firms, which operate under the umbrella of fintech, could triple in a year, according to a report Thursday from EY.

The consulting firm framed the results as a heads-up to banks, whose business is the primary target of disruptive fintech firms, but the expected increase is due, at least in part, to low awareness that has kept adoption rates low to this point.

“Only 8.2 per cent of digitally active consumers in Canada have used at least two FinTech products within the last six months,” said Gregory Smith, a partner in EY’s financial services advisory practice. “This puts Canada’s behind five other countries surveyed, including the U.S. and the U.K.”
“As the trend continues to catch on, traditional financial services companies will have to be much more aggressive and creative to keep their customers,” Smith said. “A big piece of the customer pie will be at stake here.”

Last year, a report on the global banking industry from McKinsey and Co. said losses to fintech attackers have been “little more than a rounding error.” But the report went on to predict that 20 to 60 per cent of bank profits in five business lines will be at risk by 2025, with consumer finance — including mortgages and retail payments — the most vulnerable.

Even if just a small portion of these businesses is captured by the fintechs, the McKinsey report said banks stand to lose large amounts of money due to margin pressure from the prices offered by their sleek new competitors.

Market observers have warned that banks are also vulnerable to being separated from their customers and the valuable data they provide, making it more difficult to sell them a range of financial services.

So far, Canadian banks are responding to the fintech threat by developing their own technology hubs and taking tentative steps to team up with the same fintech firms challenging their traditional businesses.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, for example, entered a referral partnership with small business lender Thinking Capital late last year.

Sean O’Connor, vice-president of partnerships at Grow, an online fintech lender formerly known as Grouplend, thinks other banks will follow suit this year, along with credit unions courting a younger demographic.

“In some cases, this may mean cannibalizing areas of their core businesses in order to keep up in the technology arms race,” he said.

O’Connor acknowledged that Canadian fintech is more “evolutionary than revolutionary” at this stage, with no new player even approaching the level of disruption a company like Uber is causing in the transportation-for-hire business.

He said fintech players that want to succeed longer term, particularly in the Canadian market dominated by a handful of major banks, will have to offer more than just a slightly cheaper, faster, and more convenient financial product or service.

“In 2016, innovation on the margin will no longer cut it for these newcomers,’ O’Connor said. “To be competitive in the market with large and well-heeled banks, or attractive from a partnership perspective, truly game changing products will be need to delivered.”

Getting discovered will also be key.

EY’s report says more than half of the “digitally active” Canadians who didn’t use two or more fintech products in the last six months simply weren’t aware the products existed.

The consulting firm also found some evidence of hesitation because the new technology-driven products and services aren’t trusted – but not as much as expected. Just over 10 per cent of the people surveyed gave that as a reason not to use fintech products or services.

“This finding shakes up our understanding of how far Canadians’ trust goes, and is certainly something for traditional players to make note of,” said Smith.