The portmanteau "Fintech" has been an increasingly large part of everyday language in recent years. Fintech hasn't just changed our language, it's changed our financial culture. New technologies, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive behavioural analytics, have the potential to take the guesswork and habit out of financial decisions.
Financial bodies have succeeded in offering traditional services in a newly digital way, and it's clear that the housing industry would benefit from a similar injection of digital technology. The wider, government-driven Digital Inclusion agenda means that housing associations are having to broaden the breadth and depth of channels they use to engage tenants. This means housing associations and landlords can no longer default to the traditional way of doing things – they need to be online, available and empowering their citizens, in much the same way as financial institutions.
Of course, digital transformation is more of a journey which requires constant course adjustment than a task that can be 'done'. But it's worth the effort. By continuing to place the tenant experience at the heart of their operations, housing associations can enhance the digitisation of their services in a way that not only transform their tenants' lives, but also overhauls their own business operations. One area that would benefit both would be a robust, secure, and efficient network that underpins the payment of rents and deposits, including a real-time, digital account. In turn, this brings peace of mind when mulling over the financial aspects of moving house and renting.
Landlords must also readdress the way they engage with tenants by harnessing the power of technology to evolve communication channels. For example, social media and online live chats are rapidly replacing the outdated legacy call centres.
Also, instances such as that at Grenfell and the subsequent fallout starkly illuminate the need not only for closer engagement but also for tenants to have confidence in both the safety of their homes, as well as the accuracy and security of how their personal details are shared and stored. This point is particularly important, considering the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May.
Ultimately, it's vital to ensure that tenant services and data — such as finances, communication and data storage – are all underpinned by a stable and secure IT estate. If such measures are in place, tenants can rest safe in the knowledge that they won't have to experience disruption when accessing services they depend upon. This means that housing associations can drive digital initiatives and collaboration with their tenants and service providers – all bolstered by a future-proof network.