Anyone still doubting whether fintech is disrupting Chicago’s financial services industry only needs to look at a handful of recent partnerships to see that innovative technology is necessary for large enterprises to stay competitive in an ever-evolving market, lest they become obsolete.
Take the following inked deals, for example.
Amount — a digital credit solution provider — partnered with TD Bank and HSBC last year to help the two large institutions streamline their personal loan services, reflecting a marketplace that grew by $21 billion in 2018 to a record high of $138 billion, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion. Meanwhile, AI-powered financial compliance solution Ascent recently partnered with global information tech company IBM to help banks and other financial entities meet changing regulatory requirements.
These types of partnerships help banks and financial institutions react to market changes and prepare for the future of finance; namely, by giving consumers more of the seamless user experiences they’re used to and leveraging AI to streamline manual regulatory processes, saving valuable time and resources. More on the fintech startups making waves in Chicago tech, below.
Company background: Amount helps financial institutions transition their products and services to customizable, digital and mobile-friendly infrastructure. Founded in 2018, the company was originally a tech arm of parent company Avant, a digital consumer lending company. According to the Chicago Tribune, Amount focused on providing technology solutions to banks, powering their lending activity and running online fraud prevention, along with other services. Amount officially spun off of Avant in early 2020.
Amount’s partnerships in detail: In 2019, Amount partnered with TD Bank and HSBC — the 10th and 14th largest U.S. banks, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — to power their online personal loan infrastructure. With Amount’s functionality, these two banks were able to help users both inside and outside their customer network to digitally apply for personal loans between $30,000 and $35,000. After a soft credit pull, Amount’s technology quickly generates a credit decision, and funds are delivered as soon as the next day for approved users.
What this means for finance: Consumers are requesting more personal loans than ever, and the aforementioned partnerships mark two large banks investing in innovative technology to power a growing financial sector. A record of $138 billion in personal loans was taken out by over 19 million consumers as of Q4 2018, an increase of 2 million people from 2017.
“Fintechs have helped make personal loans a credit product that is recognized as both a convenient and simple way to obtain funding online,” Jason Laky, TransUnion’s executive vice president of financial services, said in a company press release. “Strong consumer interest in personal loans has prompted banks and credit unions to revisit their own offerings, leading to more innovation and choice for borrowers from all risk tiers.”
Consumers are accustomed to fast and convenient user experiences in every aspect of their digital lives, and many feel getting a personal loan should be no different. Leaders at TD Bank and HSBC are using their partnership with Amount to keep up with consumer demands and take a foothold in that marketplace. Wells Fargo and PNC bank — two of the top 10 largest U.S. banks — both have virtually identical personal loan infrastructure. As these loans grow in popularity, it’s likely that more banks will also broaden their personal loan efforts and partner with fintech startups.
Company background: Founded in 2015, Ascent uses AI to automate compliance programs for customers in financial services. According to the company, its algorithms scan a business’s regulatory documents for areas that require attention and action, saving its customers time and money, as well as ensuring greater accuracy and reduced risk. The company services international tier-one and tier-two banks and raised a $19.3 million Series B late last year.
Ascent’s partnership in detail: In July 2020, Ascent and IBM announced a joint effort to help banks and financial services companies stay compliant. IBM’s AI-enabled governance, risk and compliance solution, OpenPages with Watson, helps organizations stay compliant to changing regulations within their business sectors. Ascent is also integrating its automated register of regulation and rule changes with OpenPages to lower the financial risks associated with non-compliance.
The formal partnership was born from the success of a stress test. Ascent and IBM’s combined compliance algorithms analyzed over 1.5 million paragraphs of regulatory text for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The test successfully identified regulatory terms that required review and action, and saved the bank days of manual work.
What it means for finance: The banking regulatory environment is marked by profound change in 2020, with a focus on financial firms ability to navigate trends like technological innovation, as well as adapt to social and political concerns, according to Deloitte. Keeping up with frequent regulation amendments can require time and resources that aren’t readily available to all financial organizations.
“If you can make it cheaper to follow the rules, people will just follow the rules instead of trying to get around them,” Brian Clark, Ascent’s CEO, said in an interview with Crain’s Chicago.
Breaking compliance rules — whether intentionally or by accidental — can lead to costly outcomes and tarnished reputations; over the last decade, financial institutions have racked up $36 billion in fines for non-compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Know your Customer (KYC) and sanctions regulations.
To better serve consumers and operate more efficiently, financial institutions are placing a high value on regtech, especially as the regulatory landscape grows more complex. Partnerships like Ascent and IBM’s, as well as institutions’ other investments in improving regtech, can reduce the cost and effort associated with compliance and can help financial institutions thrive in an increasingly digital world.