This year’s most-read FStech stories

With the end of 2021 in sight, we crunched the numbers to bring you a round-up of FStech’s most popular stories of the year.

As the world continued to adapt to the pandemic in 2021, consumer focus also turned to the technologies and corporate responsibility strategies customers would like to see from financial services firms in the post-pandemic era.

It’s therefore no surprise that long-form features by FStech’s writers exploring key technology trends and industry debates featured prominently in the list of this year’s most read articles.

At the top of the list was a piece published to mark International Women’s Day in March, which asked why there are still so few women in financial services, with women making up just 23 per cent of boards.

To explore this age-old problem, Alexandra Leonards spoke to a group of women leading the way in financial services, discovering some of the challenges they have faced, and exploring why men still dominate the boardroom.

In the same month, the regulators made their first move into curbing explosive growth in the UK’s £2.7 billion Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) market. The Financial Conduct Authority’s Woolard Review, called for stricter limits on providers. Our feature ‘Regulation gets the go-ahead but what happens next?’ examined the impact on consumers, as well as BNPL providers’ responses to the government’s decision to support tighter controls on their activities.

A few months later in June, readers enjoyed Will McCurdy’s assessment of what a digital pound would mean for UK financial services. Coming after UK chancellor Rishi Sunak launched a government and Bank of England-led taskforce into the potential for a central bank digital currency (CBDC), this long-form piece took a closer look at whether the technology could be the key to keeping the City of London competitive and what challenges its introduction might hold.

Continuing with the focus on technological breakthroughs, the next most-read piece, published in July, asked whether the arrival of quantum computing would be as much of a revolution for financial services as billed.

The piece explored the hopes and hype behind the 46 per cent rise in quantum computing startups in 2020, for a total of $365 million valuation worldwide, and assessed whether financial services leaders in the UK are justified in preparing themselves for the disruption wrought by a quantum leap in the technology.

Later in the summer, thoughts turned towards the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow, with financial services players taking it in turns to commit to ambitious net zero strategies and sustainable finance initiatives.

As ESG and greener finance climbed towards the top of the corporate agenda, we took a look at the role the UK’s banks could play in leading the world’s green strategy.

This piece parsed through the ways in which banks, investors, and other financial institutions are contributing to climate change, from owning shares in a company and lending money to mortgage owners, to financing fossil fuel infrastructure and high-carbon industries like oil and gas.

When it came to news stories, all eyes were on the FinTechs in 2021, with Starling’s plans to expand across Europe over the coming year ranking among the top news stories on the site.

The app-based challenger bank announced plans to make its banking as a solution (BaaS) offering available in the European Union in the first six months of 2022 in countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

In July, Starling Bank reported revenue growth of nearly 600 per cent to £97.6 million for the period ended 31 March.

A little later in the year, fellow digital challenger Revolut also attracted attention for a series of strategic moves, including the acquisition of ePOS software provider Nobly POS. The buyout of the ePos system highlighted Revolut’s ambitions to expand its services to the restaurant and hospitality sector, with the company looking to integrate Nobly’s back office app, order and inventory management systems, kitchen displays, loyalty, and online ordering (click & collect) app.

In November, Revolut made headlines again when it signed a deal with CUBE for regulatory technology. Under the terms of the deal, CUBE’s tech will help Revolut to focus on horizon scanning and managing regulatory change at a global scale.

Keeping with the theme of regulatory pressure, many readers were interested to learn that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed it would formally recognise the updated FX global code in November.

The code, which has been maintained and updated by the Global Foreign Exchange Committee, sets principles of good practice standards for the global foreign exchange (FX) market. The Authority has also announced that it is recognising the Global Precious Metals Code (the PM Code) - maintained and updated by the London Bullion Market Association, which sets out principles to promote the integrity and effective functioning of the global precious metals market.

European-wide regulatory changes were also of interest in November, with a number of readers keen to learn about the ECB’s new framework for electronic payments.

The central bank said the framework is designed to make the current and future payments ecosystem “safer and more efficient,” and is part of its statutory task to promote the smooth operation of payment systems.

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