Hard Coding Ethics into Fintech
6th edition (2016/2017)
Ethics / Technology
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Fintech fuses digital technology with traditional finance. The field of digital finance that results is often claimed to be a disruptive hybrid that will displace ‘old’ finance. However, a significant amount of fintech innovation can best be understood as the automation of traditional finance, or the automation of its user-experience layer. Many fintech start-ups build platforms that either replace financial professionals with algorithms – for example, an automated ‘robo-advisor’ wealth manager – or that replace front-office customer service staff with self-service interfaces, as in the case of artificial intelligence ‘chatbots’.
These innovations increase the speed and lower the costs of providing financial services, and may enable services to reach a wider range of people. That said, they do not necessarily challenge the underlying principles of the existing financial system. Indeed, fintech mostly aims to make the existing system faster, more convenient and cheaper for people to interact with. We should thus ask whether the digital format challenges or reinforces established systems of financial ethics. Furthermore, we should consider whether it introduces new ethical issues previously not as prominent within finance, such as data ethics.