Maybe it’s time we ditched fintech and Open Banking for something that makes sense to consumers

Lynsey Barber
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Customers don't care about fintech, even when industry does (Source: Getty)

No one orders their weekly food shop on Amazon Prime with cries of “oh, I’m just going to do some e-commerce now”. It’s just shopping.

Many of us now have a chatbot or app alert that tells us exactly how we’re spending our money - we don’t even have to make the effort to ask. It's fintech, but it's not.

The term has been a useful one over the years, bubbling up at a time in 2014 when the digital revolution had yet to touch the realms of banking and financial services in any significant way.

Read more: EBay just ditched PayPal for a European fintech startup

Much like any portmanteau in technology (healthtech or agritech anyone?) it’s a signal of the newness of it all - when an industry previously reluctant to innovate and yet to be disrupted by technology, starts feeling the eyes of entrepreneurs all over it.

The most significant event in the etymology of fintech so far - at City A.M. at least - was the decision to cap down the F and the T. It’s the same thinking that spurred the New York Times in 2016 (following other notable publications such as the AP and Wall Street Journal) to drop the capitalisation of internet.

Maybe it was also that as the frequency with which I was writing the word increased, I wanted to reduce the time it took to type it - try writing FinTech versus fintech and see for yourself - but it was also starting to seem out of step, as the NYT explains.

“Uppercase internet also reflected a common tendency to capitalise newly coined or unfamiliar terms. Once a term becomes familiar and quotidian, there is a tendency to drop the capital letter,” wrote standards editor Philip Corbett at the time.

The same could now also be said for the word fintech itself.

I know others have steadfastly refused to use the term and perhaps rightly so.

But it’s been a useful go-to shorthand, a bat signal of sorts shining across the City and beyond to those coming from both the finance and technology sides of the word that it's “a thing” - an exciting, important one at that.

But beyond this niche, it’s just jargon to most.

Read more: What is Open Banking? Everything you need to know but were afraid to ask

The same goes for Open Banking, an umbrella term under which banks have been forced to create APIs for data sharing, in essence, and which startups and others can use to create new finance apps and more.

We may have been talking about it in business for more than a year and found it a useful reference to “ship it”, as they say. But the concept’s shortcomings become apparent to the point of redundancy when it comes to explaining it to anyone outside the bubble.

It’s like saying that some sort of portmanteau of the horse and cart industry and combustion engine after the industrial revolution would have described the car. It’s so myopic looking at the technical detail as to miss the bigger picture.

The apps, tools and services sprouting from fintech face their biggest challenge yet if they are to fulfil their promise, pursue profit and become the Amazons of finance: how to explain themselves outside this bubble beyond Old Street roundabout in a compelling way.

We salute how far it's taken us, but fintech’s days are numbered.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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