Let’s all calm down about ‘digital disruption’

keepcalmmmmmm

Given that we work or have something to do with the world of FinTech, it is very easy for us to get carried away with new technologies. Tim Cook said this year would be the ‘year of Apple Pay’, analysts predicted that everyone would have 17 Apple Watches on their right wrist and a Samsung GS2 on their left, whilst Bitcoin would become the strongest currency in the world.

 

Excitement at the expense of reason

We see the potential of all of these technologies, we imagine them changing how we make payments and thus get excited. That excitement fills the space where patience and reason once resided. It makes us forget that whilst these technologies are new, they may not necessarily be the instant hit we want them to be with consumers.

A YouGov and ACI Worldwide online survey of more than 2000 UK adults found that 82 per cent of people never use mobile payment services such as PayM or PingIT during an average month, and a staggering 59 per cent never use mobile banking within this same timeframe.

In terms of contactless payments, YouGov found that over half of London respondents (56 per cent) use the technology every month- it’s the majority, but a slender one meaning that we shouldn’t sit back and proclaim the technology to be a complete success. We recently explored in more depth whether contactless cards have won everyone over.

 

Banking bust

Banking is another sector that takes a battering in these polls. The portrait of a tech-savvy, highly demanding consumer that will switch bank accounts faster than he would a light switch is misleading. Nine out of ten people surveyed have said that they have no intention of switching bank accounts within the next 12 months. Not only that, they also don’t seem to care about innovation in banking with 78 per cent saying they would not use banking services offered by tech giants such as Facebook, Google or Apple.

So what we really have is a person who reasonably prefers to avoid the hassle of changing bank accounts, doesn’t see the point of mobile banking services and also doesn’t trust them if they are offered by social media or tech companies.

Dean Wallace, global business lead, mobile payments, ACI Worldwide said: “The results appear to fly in the face of the popular ‘banking disruption theory’ and suggest that the majority of consumers are in fact loyal to their banks, that they don’t really like change and are staying put.”

 

But…

But it’s not all bad news, clearly some innovation is welcome as half of the people like to use third-party payment providers such as PayPal, and just over three-quarters (76 per cent) of current account holders use Internet banking at least once a month. But that’s the point – consumers are neither pure technophiles who will immediately jump on any innovation, nor are they technophobes who eschew any advancement. They are reasonable people who prioritise convenience, and comfort (which is slightly different) over shiny new products. Internet banking has been around for much longer than banking on smartphones, but more importantly, Internet has been around much longer than smartphones. It took years for people to get used to the idea of Internet and accessing financial information over it so why would consumers immediately abandon ship because of mobile?

This is meant to be encouraging because it shows that consumers will adopt technological innovation, just not as rapidly as we think they will. The challenge for 2016 therefore is to temper our expectations, douse our excitement with a hint of reality – that way we can more accurately measure the success of innovation and digital disruption.

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contactless card is being held over an NFC terminal
A close-up of an ATM machine with a person's hand inserting a card into the slot. The other hand rests beside the PIN pad.

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