Barriers exist everywhere. Barriers for women entering the workplace are as real as barriers to international trade, or the ones that exist for the undocumented citizen. So how can these barriers be broken? One of the aspirations accompanying the democratisation of technology is that disruption will bring about opportunities to address historical imbalances. By challenging traditional business models and offering greater choice, FinTech can break down barriers in different ways.
Breaking barriers in trade relations
The new FinTech companies offer an alternative to the legacy of big banks, relying on their agility and speed to exploit opportunities that larger organisations cannot meet. For example, apps built off distributed ledgers such as blockchain can cut costs and processing times by removing the need for physical authentication. This lays the ground for a major shake-up of traditional trade relationships.
The potential for identity solutions
FinTech can also help the 1.1 billion people around the world who don’t have a documented identity and are unable to access government services, healthcare, education and finance. Technology such as biometric authentication bypasses identity fraud and forged cheques. Such technology, closely linked to financial inclusion, can help those on the margins find jobs and liberate untapped human capital.
FinTech and female empowerment
In reducing entry barriers to financial careers, FinTech is bringing women into the fold. The Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund helps women scale the financial inclusion pyramid in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. Here in Bahrain, we have launched a ‘Women in FinTech’ network, and in 2018 it is estimated that over 60% of computer science and programming students at the University of Bahrain are women.
Careers in investment are no longer restricted to those who’ve spent years studying balance sheets; FinTech attracts engineers, coders, data analysts and even social media influencers. The Dutch bank ING estimates that FinTech could create more than a billion jobs in Asia and Africa, and in the shift to an innovation-led industry, FinTech helps enable diversity, creating value regardless of gender, race and religion.
The aspirations that position FinTech as the great agent of change may well be justified, even if it will take time for real change to happen. The wider impact is still emerging – but the momentum FinTech carries means that as the tech evolves barriers are likely to fall faster than ever before.