By Nikolaus Suehr on Tuesday 15 October 2019
Nikolaus Suehr, CEO of KASKO, points out the multi-billion pound financial technology juggernaut right under our noses.
Fintech (Financial Technology) is the use of technology to offer financial services in new ways. Harnessing data to make better decisions and improve efficiencies.
We’ve heard it a million times, Fintech is changing everything. With Monzo and N26 breaking America, Fintech has got so big that it’s all-encompassing, any industry handling data and financial handover is being touched by Fintech.
With challenger banks, we’re seeing how valuable ecosystems can be for growing new and old businesses. Users want simplicity. Otherwise, why would they replace the norm? Revolut’s phone insurance has been a runaway success, it knows the age, make, and model of your phone, selling a product that you can buy instantly, without talking to anyone or signing anything paper. Everyone is partnering up for an ecosystem showdown now, remember VHS vs. Betamax? It was about who partnered with whom, who had the best product was less important than who had the biggest distribution network, that was nothing more than ecosystems at play.
There is however, a Fintech startup that we can all relate to that’s never been called a Fintech, one that connects France’s 6th largest city, and the world’s greatest city (according to CNN), London.
This might need explaining: TfL needed to increase efficiencies, and cash money was a sticking point. There were staff running ticket offices and repairing broken ticket machines, it was confusing for tourists working out what zone they needed their passes for etc.
England might be the home of the queue, but it was too much. We queued for tickets, adding minutes or even hours to commutes. Ever been on the underground at rush hour? You’ll know that people can’t wait for the train just behind, one must cram onto this one, no matter whose personal space you invade.
Worse still, we used take buses and pay in cash - if we didn’t have the right change then the bus driver would help us. It was friendly and great....
It was slow.
The tube carries over five million people daily. That’s astonishing for a network that not that long ago, had steam trains. TfL went and created the Oyster Card, a contactless payment system that works everywhere within its network - you could top up online, in stations or corner shops. Tap-in, tap-out, and at the end of a day/week, you’ll have only paid for what you used. No need for confusing zonal 1 to 2 travel cards.
Now, we all tap in with contactless bank cards and smartphones, aside from ‘that guy’ using his Apple Watch. Thanks to contactless, there is now no topping up, and it’s brilliant.
Launched in 2003, Oyster has gone from Tube-only to working on all forms of London’s public transport, from the self driving DLR to the Emirates Airline.
Oyster makes London tick.
There are countless businesses that operate off its back. Citymapper started as a mapping and journey planning aggregator, showing people how and when to get where they want in the shortest time possible. It now operates in 36 cities.
TfL even has its own accelerator, building the apps and platforms of tomorrow; constantly improving the way we navigate London.
TfL has refined contactless payments at scale, so much so that it proves its concept five million times over - daily. Now it’s in that position all Fintech startups aim for. Scaling and selling its product under licence, globally. Brisbane, New York, and Boston are deploying elements of TfL’s code, whilst TfL takes a slice.
And the Data?
Every tap-in or tap-out for the last 16 years is a data point. Something that they have adapted for faster, more convenient iterations of Oyster and contactless payments. Hundreds of millions of data points annually.
So, a Fintech?
Built to improve an old system
Increased efficiencies with technology
Harnessing data, improving processes
It’s not only a Fintech startup, I think it is the biggest, most experienced one out there.
James O’Malley, writing for Wired, pointed out the next big step in the TfL data mine, harvesting Wi-Fi data about where you go. Originally it knew start and end points through your payments, now, Wi-Fi beacons will follow you around stations, recording where you walk and what shortcuts you take… To further improve services...
Big-brother-esque, but amazing.
Why stop there? TfL has dominated Contactless-as-a-Service, I would love to see what they could do with InsurTech-as-a-Service included. Contactless card protection? Travel delay cover to the airport? The world is their/our Oyster.