What do RoboCop and robo-cats have in common?

  • United States
  • 12/12/2018
  • Digital Freshfields

Between the RoboCop-style delivery systems, money streaming and connected kittens of TechCrunch Disrupt 2018’s “Startup Alley”, one theme prevailed – the customer (interface) is key. Nowhere is that more apparent than in financial services. Thanks to better connectivity, increased competition and open banking, there is seemingly no end to the newfangled ways that financial services providers are seeking to interact with their clients.

Today, I can have an AI-powered phone call with my current account, an iMessage-style chat with my savings account, and swipe through investment products like I’m on a dating app.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, in recent weeks we have even seen that improved customer service may mean that a person can do less with their bank account.

These changes are not without their challenges, and firms should tread carefully here. Regulators’ rules are often intended to be ‘technologically neutral’ (meaning that regulations neither impose nor discriminate in favour of the use of a particular type of technology), but some have clearly been drafted in an era of snail mail, fax machines and floppy disks.

Just last year, it was so unclear which means of communication satisfied the EU’s ‘durable medium’ requirement (essential for determining how key service-related information should be sent to customers), that local regulators had to step in to clarify the position…

(In case you were wondering, floppy disks can be a durable medium – but I didn’t hear much talk of these from the startups at TechCrunch Disrupt)

“That’s the idea behind features such as Monzo and Starling Bank’s gambling block, which stops customers from spending at high street bookies or online betting sites. Once the mode is enabled, you have to wait 48 hours for them turn off – a bit of friction to discourage bad habits.”