Advances in, and the disruptive influence of, technology over the past few decades have pretty much driven much of all the new developments in the financial services sector over the period. The advances and associated disruption underpin systems combining human- and machine-generated data, and are characterised by the application of complex, and often, unproven technological innovations.
Reflecting on Economics of Financial Technology Conference 2022

However, at the current technological state and pace, the barriers to a widespread and responsible deployment of new technology in financial services delivery may not be their complexity or even their viability as workable systems.

The barriers that deserve attention may be human in nature. These include the ethical, governance, economic, and social issues, such as fairness, transparency, and privacy⁠—and indeed the overall security of intelligent financial systems. Although technology-assisted and autonomous enquiries and decision making can inform the development of innovative solutions, providing better, faster, and more tailored services while being less resource-demanding, and enabling the generation of welfare-enhancing products and services for society, there remain significant but poorly understood ethical, legal and security implications relating to the use of consumer data and the development of technology for consumer-centric systems. For example, in credit decision making, erroneous or biased decisions could severely impact lives and personal aspirations as well as damage reputation and trust.

Issues such as these are at the core of consumer expectations today, and as customer expectations become more reflected in the demand for products and services, addressing the socioeconomic implications of the technological transformation taking place in the finance sector now sits alongside digital transformation at the top of the list of strategic initiatives of every major financial services stakeholder—from companies to regulators and academics. It is clear that the next major phase of the digital transformation of the sector is imminent and will need to address not just cost-saving improvements in services delivery, but also issues such as financial wellbeing, economic welfare, ethics, systems security and trustworthiness.

Research teams from world-leading universities and technology and financial services companies are working on exciting, under-the-radar technologies that address these concerns, and the Economics of Financial Technology conference, organised by the Edinburgh Futures Institute and the University of Edinburgh Business School, this year provided the platform to observe the cutting-edge work of these teams. The conference, which brought together academics, policymakers, and finance professionals to share new insights and discuss the critical issues related to the application of technology to the practice of finance in a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape, for three days in May 2022 became the go-to forum for exploring the issues at the forefront of the technological transformation playing out in the financial services sector.

Conference delegates met with and heard from innovative research teams from world leading universities (such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Edinburgh and Princeton), financial services regulators (such as the Bank of England and the USA's Commodity Futures Trading Commission) and a wide range of leading global financial services companies. Speakers and teams presented the latest research and insights driving innovative product ideas, solutions and regulations in the finance sector. Presentations examined game-changing developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, distributed ledger technologies, open banking and finance, robo-advising and the gamification of investment vehicles, peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding markets, credit risk modelling and RegTech.

As an example, a six-person research team led by Maitena Pineiro at Moody’s Analytics explored the potential of open banking frameworks and data for conducting real-time analytics by small and medium-sized enterprises. Specifically, the team developed a solution to access, process, and utilise Open Banking data to construct real-time financial statements and up-to-date financial metrics.

The Economics of Financial Technology Conference returns to Edinburgh on 21-23 June, 2023. The call for papers is now open:

Gbenga Ibikunle

Gbenga Ibikunle is our Professor and Chair of Finance.