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The past few years have seen the financial industry drawn into the frenzy of digitization sweeping the marketplace at large. New technologies are emerging rapidly in response to a demand for convenience. Development–particularly in fintech (financial technology)–is progressing at such a speed that regulatory agencies have struggled to keep pace.

Recently, however, regulators’ conservative attitudes toward fintech have begun to thaw, due in large part to the technologies’ potential to spur increased transparency in banking and other financial systems. As the relationship between regulatory authorities and digital tech continues to shift toward symbiosis, fintech will branch into myriad applications, most notably those listed below.

NFC-Enabled Payments

Thanks to NFC (Near Field Communication) payments can be made simply by holding a smartphone or bank card near a scanner–physical contact is no longer necessary. The technology has already seen adoption in a few countries, and it will be exciting to witness how NFC evolves as it trickles into the realm of wearables and other mobile devices.

Disruption via Digital Wallets

In a time where money can be stored safely in cyberspace, it seems increasingly impractical to carry funds in material form. Unlike their digital counterparts, physical wallets are often lost and occasionally stolen. Also, the amount of cash that a leather pouch can safely carry is limited, and having multiple currencies on hand can be a hassle. Digital wallets have been disrupting the field of currency exchange for the past several years, and will likely grow in popularity as wallet apps are refined.

Blockchain Goes Mainstream

Cryptocurrencies–digital currencies that conduct transactions through a decentralized, encrypted blockchain network–received a fair bit of attention last year, and blockchain technology looks to claim the limelight again in 2018. Blockchain bases its security upon heavily encrypted access keys assigned to individual stakeholders. The technology can facilitate the secure transfer of nearly anything–from funds, to real estate, to copyrights and more. It’s no surprise, then, that many financial groups are searching for ways to implement blockchain as a security measure.

Rise of ICOs

Financial interests should also keep a close eye on ICOs, or initial coin offerings. ICOs let customers invest in products or services of interest by exchanging well-known cryptocurrencies for tokens sponsored by a particular product maker. They became a fintech staple last year, showing huge potential in the field of crowdfunding. Numerous companies have benefited from ICOs, and several startups have relied on ICOs to get off the ground.

AI Integration

Most businesses account for a certain amount of human error in operations, however in an industry centered around humans overseeing the movement of massive dollar amounts, the “cost” of simple mistakes becomes quantifiably literal. AI aims to remedy human error in banking. This year, developments in AI technology will likely move AI toward integration into customer service, security, and regulatory tech throughout the finance industry.