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Goldman, JPMorgan seen as fintech winners while AmEx suffers
[NEW YORK] Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co will probably benefit most from the coming wave of financial technology disruption, rather than being supplanted by startups driving the change, according to an Autonomous Research survey.
The two firms have the best track record of implementing technology and will be able to successfully learn from new entrants in payments, blockchain and automated investing, said Brian Foran, an Autonomous Research LLP partner who ran the research firm's survey this month. Eighty-five per cent of the 150 executives and investors predicted selected disruption or a mix of winners and losers, while 14 per cent thought banks face a significant threat.
"Technology doesn't move as fast as people think," Foran said in an interview. "The pace of change will be slow enough that the traditional players can co-opt, whether it's through building, buying or partnering, and acquire the technology disruption." Banks are rushing to offer more technology-driven services, including peer-to-peer payments and same-day approval of business loans, so new competitors don't steal their customers. Bank of America Corp, led by Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan, will unveil an automated investment prototype next year, people with knowledge of the plans said in November. JPMorgan is involved in projects tied to blockchain, big data and robotics, investment-bank head Daniel Pinto said this month.
Bankers have cited the need to learn from other industries that got upended by Silicon Valley disruptors. In November, Moynihan told analysts that if they bungle the tech transition and new entrants become trusted intermediaries, "it may allow part of our industry to be forever taken away from us." JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, the two banks that already produce the most revenue from investment banking and trading worldwide, were picked as the biggest winners along with Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc as mobile payments become more commonplace and blockchain technology lowers costs in many institutional businesses, according to the survey.
American Express Co, the biggest credit-card issuer by purchases, was picked by respondents as one of the biggest losers from technological changes. The firm's stock has declined 25 per cent this year, second-worst in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after losing a key partnership. A spokeswoman for AmEx declined to comment on the survey's results.
American Express has "a higher-priced interchange model," Foran said, using a term for the fees charged to facilitate credit-card purchases. "If financial technology will make transactions have less friction and lower costs over time, the ones with the highest prices are the most vulnerable." Western Union Co and MoneyGram International Inc were also named as losers because coming payment systems could steal their share of global money transfers, according to the survey. Western Union has created new websites and mobile apps this year and will continue to innovate based on consumer feedback, Dan Diaz, a spokesman for the company, said in an e-mailed statement.
"Competition is good for consumers and good for business," MoneyGram said in a statement. "During this exciting time in the money-transfer industry, MoneyGram is strategically positioned for the long term as we expand our global reach and embrace robust emerging technologies that bridge the digital and cash worlds." Next year will be important as banks release their first pilot programs in fintech areas including mobile payments and blockchain to see how viable they are, Foran said. Blockchain, the software ledger that can speed up and simplify how financial transactions are recorded, has the potential to be among the most influential of the new technologies, according to the survey.
"Most banks have a goal of launching something in 2016 as a proof-of-concept," Foran said. "They're all quite narrow in terms of their ambition - stuff like transferring money, branch-to-branch within the bank, or maybe creating the ability to settle a single type of asset class, just to see how it would work."