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Since the financial crisis, there has been much written about restoring trust in financial services, and a number of government reviews have led to changes to regulation that are still in the process of being implemented. However, in general these have not proceeded from any debate about, or clear exposition of, the social and economic purpose that financial services are expected to fulfill.

Over the same period, a vibrant new fintech industry has emerged. Taking advantage of advances in digital technology, including the spread of smartphones, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and mutual distributed ledgers, innovation is spanning insurance, institutional investment, regulation and compliance, payments, and consumer and business finance.

According to CB Insights, 2015 saw $18bn of investment in fintech globally, of which 25% was by corporates and 75% by venture capitalists ($7.4bn USA, $1.5bn Europe and $4.5bn Asia). VC investment in blockchain companies alone grew from $3m in 2011 to $500m in 2015.

Despite the growing body of research available on this sector, there is a lack of comparative analysis between ‘old’ and ‘new’ financial markets in terms of their purpose, the degree of trust held in them, and the impact on regional economies. Studies to date have tended to focus exclusively on the impact of fintech on traditional banks, will little consideration about what it could mean for end users – households, businesses and communities.

The RSA and Grant Thornton’s Big Bang 2 enquiry seeks to plug this gap and explore whether new financial technologies will lead to a more purposeful and inclusive financial industry. 

Will peer-to-peer lenders boost access to finance for businesses turned away by banks? Could AI-powered robo-advisory services open up financial advice to the masses? Will big data lead to more accurate and fairer credit scores? And might mutual distributers ledgers usher in a new era of radically efficient and transparent banking?

Over the coming months, we will be exploring questions such as these, before delving deeper into specific issues and technologies that show the greatest potential for change. You can keep up to date with our research by reading our regular blog posts, or get in touch directly by emailing Tony Greenham at [email protected] and Ben Dellot at [email protected]