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FinTech Interviews

A series of interviews with the leading lights in FinTech

FinTech Interview Series: Olly Percival of Kyan

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Today our FinTech interview series looks at some of the designers powering the FinTech revolution. Olly Percival has worked on a number of FinTech projects and has been in FinTech since before it was known as FinTech.

Olly is Head of Partnerships at Kyan and loves to find exciting ideas to develop. Olly helps innovators to validate their thinking and take new products from conception to launch. He believes that this process should be customer feedback-led, minimising risk and ensuring the end user sees real value in the final product. It’s about being fast, iterative and proving a concept sooner rather than later.

Kyan

Kyan are a digital agency specialising in rapid product development. We work with clients to help define and refine processes, services and systems. Whether we're creating new propositions or improving on existing applications, the process is the same. Intense, solution focussed design sprints ensure that everyone understands the thinking that goes into the features and functionality. The resulting prototype is then tested with the target audience to validate and improve the work that has been done.

Tell us about yourself?

I don't traditionally work in finance, but I have plenty to do around fintech. Being from an agency, I tend to work across a number of different sectors, FinTech just happens to be one of the most interesting ones. I've come from a background in mobile development, starting 10 years ago. That quickly became all about connectivity and ensuring people could easily access what they needed regardless of the device they're on. The word 'easily' is the key part of that sentence.

I now work to establish how various challenges can be solved for both shiny new startups and large established enterprises alike.

Are the wheels coming off the FinTech bandwagon?

If anything, the wheels are just being put on to the FinTech bandwagon. Painful analogies aside, people who think the 'FinTech wave' is coming to an end are going to be sorely disappointed. It's only really just started.

If anything, it's more a perception issue. I feel a little like 'FinTech' has become something of a dirty word. It's a little like how people are sick of hearing about 'innovation'. Personally, I feel like 'FinTech' was just a term used so we could differentiate something that was newer and funkier versus traditional ways of doing things. Now, however, basically all of financial services needs to be working to improve ways of working, otherwise it's already obsolete.

Sometimes that's overt - retail banking is a great example of this. Often, however, it's internal practice, process and systems that are in need of improvement and solutions to the challenges faced.

Do you see digital/challenger banks and asset managers taking significant market share?

Yes.

There's already stories around how Monzo open more current accounts in the UK than any other bank and there's good reason for that. It's only going to become more pronounced. I get asked occasionally what challenger banks are really doing to earn the 'challenger' title that isn't just having a pretty app. The answer is that they're only just getting going. Bear in mind, they're 150 years younger than traditional institutions and, in only 24 or 36 months of existence, are starting to become rivals to those big names. They're generating goodwill and a brand loyalty that the big guys would bite their own arms off for.

As they begin to scale and, importantly, make some money, you will see some big moves around how they offer services to users; it's not going to follow the same routes we're used to.

What are your favourite FinTech innovations?

As someone who is 'full Monzo', I do love the challenger banks. However the change I find most interesting is the roll out of Open Banking. With the likes of IBM developing their Open Banking Platform I think we're going to start seeing some comparatively rapid change as collaboration and partnerships spring up between more nimble fintechs and the big guys.

What are your favourite WealthTech innovations

I like anything that gets people actually thinking about their long term financial health. There's nowhere near enough done to ensure the consumer market understands what they need for retirement. What's the point in asking a 25 year old what age they'd like to retire at? Few people outside of the industry can give a coherent answer to that sort of question.

It's something that has always been confusing and shrouded in mystery for the majority. That's why I really like what PensionBee are doing. Interestingly, their demographic of users is heavy in the over 50s. Understandably, if you have 5 pensions from 5 different jobs, it can be a nightmare to plan for retirement as it can be hard to know what is actually in those pots. PensionBee can help you to bring it all together simply by entering your employer, the provider and policy number (if you know it). They then take over the hard yards when it comes to actually getting those pensions transferred to one place. That sort of convenience is great and gives users a clear, easy to understand view on what they have and what they might need.

What are the biggest regulatory issues you face?

Regulatory issues aren't necessarily something we come up against too often. More of an issue for us in procurement process. Procurement departments are used to buying technology off the shelf, or perhaps for negotiating one fixed price for a piece of development. However, the best products come from an agile process and continued refinement. It's not a case of being able to say "it will take us this long", it's a case of finding the right answer through getting a few things wrong. The trick is to get them wrong quickly.

When faced with this sort of process, however, procurement can often kick back with a 'computer says no' style response. This is a big issue when it comes to rapid, agile product development, which is how we operate.

Simon Cullen