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Rich Wagner, CEO, APS Financial

Please give us a bit of background on yourself, and how your organisation plays a leadership role in the financial technology space.

I’m the CEO of APS financial, a data-driven digital banking services pioneer which aims to transform the UK’s banking sector and be the first choice digital challenger to banks for SME and consumer customers. We’ve been leading the fintech challenge to traditional banks for more than 10 years and in that time we’ve helped over a million customers, including 70,000+ start-ups and small businesses with proprietary technologies, award winning products and superior in-house data analytics. 

How well are financial companies adapting to the rapid pace of fintech development? What fields are furthest ahead of the game, and what sectors are being left behind?

I think we’re at an incredibly exciting time in the industry. 2016 saw an accelerated impact of ‘neo’ banks – the new breed of digitally focused challenger banks that are successfully taking on traditional incumbents and their high street challengers. This new wave of fintech firms are major contenders in the industry for 2017. They’re the guys who are using data in a smart way to better understand what customers want, in real-time, to enhance the customer journey.  

They’re also being smart about who they collaborate with. The Post Office, a partner of ours since 2015, has just announced a new industry-wide agreement with British banks which will allow customers to manage their day-to-day finances at their local Post Office branch. Banks will need to remain responsive to these types of demands from customers as the landscape of British banking continues to evolve. Only those that are dynamic and nimble enough, coupled with strong expertise and knowledge to withstand the pressures of the market, will stay in the game.

The UK sharing economy will be a particularly interesting to watch this year. The 2016 Autumn Statement showed us the real value of the ‘sharing economy’, which increased by 92%* in just one year and is set to expand by at least 30%* a year over the next decade. There is a great opportunity here for banking challengers to help start-ups in this space grow.

What challenges do you see for fintech development and disruption, both from a user's perspective and from a regulatory standpoint?

The main issue for regulators is that they’ll struggle to keep up with such a fast pace of innovation in the industry; there’s a real need for speed. The introduction of Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) will have a profound impact on the industry by giving bank data access to a host of third party payment service providers (TPPs) to enhance the banking experience for customers – this can ultimately be used to provide a richer and frictionless payment experience.

At the other end of the spectrum, consumers will continue to look for simplicity, ease and convenience in their banking. They’ll also favour firms that offer money management advice and who suggest new products that really work for them, rather than a scatter gun, one size fits all approach.

What impact do you think Brexit will have on the broader financial technology industry in the UK?

London is arguably the leading global hub of fintech and there’s been a lot of talk about its status following Brexit. 

There are two main ways that this could affect the UK fintech industry: market access and investment. If access to EU markets is restricted, companies in the industry who outsource a number of their services to other countries in Europe – known as ‘near-shoring’ – could result in a skills gap if visas become harder to obtain.

Restricted access to markets could result in a decline in foreign investment into the UK fintech industry which may result in start-ups moving their headquarters to other states, where financial backing is more certain.

While the above are both real possibilities, I’m pretty confident that the current strength of the industry coupled with solid regulatory control and support from the government and investors will result in the impact not being too hard felt. 

*http://www.pwc.co.uk/issues/megatrends/collisions/sharingeconomy/outlook-for-the-sharing-economy-in-the-uk-2016.htm

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