Old financial services, new tricks: How 15 classic brands are tackling fintech

28 Apr 2017

The long-established players in the financial services game need to stay nimble to keep ahead of the fintech pack. Image: Runa Kazakova/Shutterstock

With a bit of flexibility, forward-thinking and cooperation with fintechs, long-established financial services show there’s life in the old dogs yet.

Fintech Week

With so many hot new fintech kids on the block, these days, staying ahead in financial services means a bit of ‘Keeping Up with the Card-cash-ians’. Yes, the new breed of banking and finance is informal, mobile and totes millennial-friendly.

Pop culture references aside, disruption has rankled the financial services industry, which was primed for a makeover following a financial crisis that made people the world over wonder if the old way was still the only way to do things.

But to truly know our fintech future, we must look to the past and see how legacy banks and long-established financial institutions are shapeshifting for this disruptive new era. Instead of fighting back, they’re ready to team up with the new class of fintechs and learn the new tricks of the trade.


Global management company Accenture provides professional services to its clients through consultancy, strategy and technology. Founded in 1989, Accenture has been incorporated in Dublin since 2009.

As well as working with blockchain tech at The Dock, Accenture hosts the Fintech Innovation Lab, a 12-week accelerator that brings fintech start-ups and leading financial institutions together. The lab was first launched in New York in 2010 and has since expanded to Dublin, London and Hong Kong.

Earlier this year, Accenture’s Fintech Innovation Lab in London reached record highs, with more than 300 applications. Many of the start-ups selected focused on insurtech, blockchain and financial literacy.

Bank of Ireland

One of Ireland’s leading brick-and-mortar banking institutions, Bank of Ireland was established in 1783 and offers traditional banking services to a wide range of personal and business customers. It has certainly diversified in the intervening years. The bank is now heavily involved in the start-up space – in Ireland and New York – placing it at the cutting edge of technology development across several sectors, including fintech. The bank’s biggest start-up success stories have been transactions-focused: Deposify and Plynk.

Outside the start-up sector, the bank’s innovation division is focused in part on new banking technologies, such as PSD2 and blockchain. In addition to a blockchain proof of concept developed with Deloitte (below), Bank of Ireland also supports hackathons that work with new technology – AI, machine learning and bots – which may have a very real impact on the fintech sector.


With 48m customers and a presence in banking dating back to the 17th century, Barclays is one of the more established, old-guard banks. It’s also one of the more forward-thinking.

For example, the Barclays Accelerator is considered one of the best of its kind in the world, giving this bank the perfect opportunity to embrace the disrupters, learning before it’s too late.

Moves amid Brexit uncertainty prove Barclays’ fintech intentions even more. As many are wary of what the future will hold, Barclays’ London-based fintech funding is on the rise – its Rise start-up workspaces currently sit in the likes of New York, Mumbai, Tel Aviv and other strong fintech hubs.


While one of the behemoths of global banking, much of the fintech work undertaken by Citi can be put down to the work of its CEO of global consumer banking, Stephen Bird. In 2015, Bird went to Silicon Valley to meet tech luminaries who told him that the banks were going to struggle against bright, young fintech start-ups in the years to come. With this knowledge, Bird and Citi created the Citi Fintech Lab in the hope of fostering a start-up mentality to develop ideas faster than a traditional bank would.

With this ethos now spread throughout the company, Citi runs a number of annual events, including next June’s Tech for Integrity Challenge to create solutions for greater transparency and accountability in the public sector and beyond.


Since its founding in 1845, Big Four firm Deloitte has focused on professional services, such as audit, consulting and financial advisory. This is still Deloitte’s main function, but the firm has now added innovation to the mix.

Deloitte carries out extensive research into growth areas and emerging technologies, and how they might alter the face of business. This gives the firm an important insight into future fintech tools and tech, making it an authority on everything from robo-advisers to automation.

The firm’s work in this area isn’t all research-based. Last year, Deloitte opened Belfast and Dublin-based labs dedicated to the development of blockchain technology. The firm also teamed up with Bank of Ireland to test a proof of concept that could see the ledger technology used to trace transactions. More recently, Deloitte began work on a proof of concept using blockchain for regulatory financial reporting.

Deutsche Bank

A well-known figure in the banking arena, Deutsche Bank was established in Berlin in 1870. Headquartered in Frankfurt, the group recently announced net income of €575m for Q1 2017. Deutsche Bank currently has four innovation labs in New York, Berlin, London and Silicon Valley, focused on new and emerging technologies.

In an interview with Business Insider last year, chief digital officer Markus Pertlwieser outlined Deutsche Bank’s fintech strategy, which forecasts a total investment of €750m by 2020. Key points of this plan include: treating fintech companies as partners, recognising the opportunity of insurtech, partnering with robo-advisers and looking to Asia as a potential fintech hub location.

Fidelity Investments

A leading provider of investment management, brokerage and many other financial products, Fidelity Investments is quickly becoming a major player when it comes to fintech.

Founded in 1946, Fidelity Investments created the Fintech Sandbox for start-ups in 2014. The initiative is based in Boston, where the company’s headquarters is located. The Sandbox will help start-ups to access financial information and sample datasets provided by founders such as Fidelity Investments and other supporters.

Earlier this month, Fidelity Investments also became the first financial institution to join the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts, a group of academic institutions and tech companies looking to develop blockchain technology.


HSBC has been heavily invested in figuring out how exactly its global banking business will be affected by the fintech revolution, which it sees as morphing from a threat to an opportunity.

One area where the company has attempted to embrace this change is within the ability to manage large cash balances in a low-interest-rate environment. It has also begun working with cloud-based treasury and risk management system vendor, Kyriba, to allow its users to create faster connections with their bank.

In October of last year, HSBC opened a dedicated fintech R&D lab in Hong Kong, making it 12 in total for the company. At its launch, chief executive Peter Wong described how fintech is now within all areas of the global banking business.


When you have so many fintech start-ups nipping at your heels, the best strategy is to release detailed reports on who are the biggest movers and shakers in the industry. KPMG does this through its Pulse of Fintech reports, which revealed to some nervous investors that 2016 proved a troubling year for an industry rocked by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president.

Within the UK and Ireland, Anna Scally leads KPMG’s fintech endeavours and works closely with the sector in her other position as director of the Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland (FPAI). The goals of the FPAI, and Scally, are to unite Ireland’s widespread fintech community and to ensure the country is seen as a place in which to build and develop fintech companies.


Another 18th-century bank, Lloyds Banking Group’s emergence at the forefront of future thinking has gained credence in the past year. For example, last year, Lloyds created a new position called ‘head of fintech discovery’ as part of a £1bn digital transformation plan over three years. Lloyds is also building out its own start-up ecosystem and dramatically redesigning its branches for one generation of customers (though it’s shutting hundreds this year) and pouring money into mobile banking for another.

Beyond its own fintech start-up mentoring programme, Lloyds also partners with accelerators such as Startupbootcamp’s fintech and insurtech streams.


At the time revolutionary, Mastercard’s 1966 foundation came with the support of several banking behemoths. Originally billed as an ‘interbank card’, US financial institutions saw the company’s promise. Since then, with payments cards now at their peak, reinvention is perhaps key.

Mastercard runs its own accelerator, called Start Path, looking beyond its comfort zone of payments. For example, of its recent cohort, artificial intelligence was the most prominent aspect of business. Elsewhere, it is finding ways to keep its standard card up to date, bringing in biometric authentication as recently as this month. From signatures to PIN codes to fingerprints, this company is keeping up with the times.


PwC is a professional services and technology consultancy firm that has been a leader in the fintech industry for a while now. The company invested heavily in blockchain at the start of last year, when it launched a blockchain research lab in Belfast with a team of 25 experts delivering fintech solutions for its clients.

According to Seamus Cushley, director of blockchain, fintech and digital at PwC, Belfast will be a blockchain hub for multiple industries. In November 2016, Cushley said around $1.4bn had been invested globally in blockchain start-ups in the previous nine months.

PwC also frequently publishes comprehensive reports on the fintech industry, with John Murphy, its fintech lead in Ireland, as a major contributor.


Founded in Spain in 1857, Banco Santander has a long legacy in the world of financial services. According to Crunchbase, it is the largest bank in the eurozone and one of the 13 biggest in the world. It has more than 100m customers, as well as subsidiary banks in the UK, Portugal and Brazil, to name a few.

In July 2014, Santander InnoVentures was launched to stake a claim in the growing fintech industry. The London-based global venture capital fund aims to provide support for start-ups in the fintech sphere, and has invested in such companies as Kabbage, iZettle and Elliptic. Initially armed with a $100m fund, Santander InnoVentures doubled that figure in 2016.

State Street

A leading financial services provider, State Street Corporation is based in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1792, it is one of the oldest US financial institutions and is responsible for 11pc of the world’s total assets. State Street has acquisitions such as GE Asset Management and Complementa Investment-Controlling AG under its belt and, in 2015, it established its Emerging Technologies Centre.

The American company takes a bold approach to the challenge of fintech, with CEO Jay Hooley assuming an ‘adapt or die’ stance. State Street has embarked upon a five-year programme to expand its data capabilities and capitalise on the growth of innovations such as blockchain, all the while maintaining the importance of human contribution to technology.

Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank is another of Ireland’s leading banking institutions. Established in 1836 – and now a subsidiary of The Royal Bank of Scotland – Ulster Bank has historically provided a range of banking and insurance services to personal and business customers. The bank is now investing heavily in the future of finance, supporting both the Accenture-led Fintech Innovation Lab and the fintech programme at Dogpatch Labs. Earlier this year, Ulster Bank partnered with the latter to host a sold-out fintech hackathon focused on open banking.

Ulster Bank is also one of only two banks in Ireland to have partnered with Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payments service. Services such as these are widely seen as the next major steps in banking and fintech.

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