Philip Hammond says that the UK fintech industry is currently worth £7 billion, employing more than 60,000 people. These massive, tech-driven disruptions are proof that fintech has finally emerged as a mainstream industry. Not only that, but these changes have also created numerous new trends that will benefit both businesses and consumers. Here are some to watch out for this year that will affect the financial industry:

Voice technology will grow in banking

Consumers can already operate a handful of things by voice, including music, TV, GPS, and even home security. Currently, banking is slowly catching up in order to improve customer service and prevent fraud. HSBC have reportedly saved £300 million in fraud through voice biometrics. Customers repeat a phrase after giving the bank their details over the phone in order to provide an extra level of security. Expect more banks to follow suit this year and for voice biometrics to become even more widely used.

Faster payment processing

Bloomberg reports that customers can expect banks to speed up checkout lines through a wider adoption of contactless cards. Payment Relationship Management CEO Peter Gordon said large banks do not want to be displaced so they’ll do what they can to be more efficient. In Singapore, they opened their first real-time and round-the-clock payment system called FAST. Singapore Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung talked about it at the launch of SGQR, Singapore’s single and standardised QR code for e-payment. “We will allow non-bank players to have direct access to FAST. This is to enable their e-wallets to bring greater convenience to consumers,” he said. Expect e-wallets to become more widely used this year.

Blockchain-powered freelance market

The global recession along with the advancements in technology has led businesses to embrace alternative work arrangements particularly for freelancing, which is becoming increasing popular in the finance industry. In fact, the world’s first blockchain-powered freelance market has already been launched in the UK. The Fintech Times highlights how the marketplace gives employers instant access to a talent pool of freelancers. Work and skills are continuously validated and recorded, and the platform allows freelancers to create smart contracts, which ensures they get paid on time. This brings transparency and fairness to the gig economy. And Yoss explains how the current state of freelance recruitment now includes “highly rigorous skills validation and qualification tests,” as the demand for specialists in areas such as AI increases. The blockchain platform will allow companies to find freelancers based on the quality of their work rather than the quantity, which will benefit both businesses and those looking for jobs.

Alternative Finance for SMEs

Resesarch by American Express found that 30% of SMEs find it difficult to access the finance they need, despite the fact that 68% think cash flow is important to their business. In the UK an increasing number of SMEs are moving away from traditional financial avenues like bank loans. This has led to a 13% increase in the use of peer-to-peer lending in the past 12-months. Peer-to-peer collaboration is a much more streamlined way for SMEs to access financial support. For instance, micro-lenders mainly operate online, which helps reduce overhead costs and takes out the middleman.

Chatbots and robots

Apart from speeding up transaction times, fintech is also revolutionising customer service through chatbots and AI. Today’s chatbots are already able to not only understand what the customer needs but also the entire context of the conversation. This will help reduce the amount of time customers spend waiting for answers or on being hold. The technology will also mean that banking apps will become the primary form of communication between customers and their banks in the future. This will reduce costs and allow for a more streamlined service.

The finance industry is not only opening doors to faster transactions and better customer service, but it’s also creating more opportunities to work in a fast-evolving and lucrative industry. Chris Renardson points out that if anyone wants to make it in the industry, it takes more than technical and numerical know-how. So follow the above trends to stay ahead of the competition.