Putting the Zing into UK fintech

Four months into 2024 and fintech may already have delivered THE news that we will all recall at the end of the year. HSBC has launched Zing, an international payments app that competes directly with fintech providers, and while it’s a move that has turned a few heads, it also offers these providers a chance to shape a new comms strategy.  

For many fintechs in the cross-border payments / remittance space, the arrival of Zing is an opportunity to move away from an ‘adversarial’ comms approach, positioning themselves as industry collaborators – not agitators. For these companies, being positive about industry progress shows a commitment to solving the challenges that customers care about, putting them – not the product – first. That’s how they will build trust, appeal to governments and regulators, and boost their market share. 

Typically, consumer remittances and cross-border payments have fallen within the domain of disruptive, and now established, fintechs – think the likes of Revolut and Wise alongside Ripple and Nium. In the absence of banking appetite to invest heavily in change, these providers have – and continue to – tackle issues like transparency, speed and fees in the payments space. 

Global banks usually opt to partner up, rather than contest directly with providers. The payments business has been viewed as a race to the bottom on fees, and with consumer transactions varying in size, it loses commercial appeal. But with Revolut at almost 40 million users, and Wise hitting 10 million customers, the market has become impossible to ignore.

With Zing changing the payments dynamic, it poses a new comms question for existing providers; how best to react?

Clearly, Zing needs to be taken as a serious venture, and not as a-flash-in-the-pan. While we’ve seen other digital-first offerings by banks fall by the wayside (remember Bo? Or heard of anyone using Mettle?), HSBC has the international network and resources to compete with fintechs at scale. 

Similarly, while it remains to be seen how Zing will evolve over time, and how it will compete on fees and experience, there’s every chance that global banks will follow suit and release their own consumer money transfer services. In a difficult trading environment, nothing is off limits and banks need to go on the defensive to protect their market share. Fintech providers should take notice and treat it as a new market entrant, intent on turning the tables, and stealing their lunch. 

As fintech providers finalise their comms strategies for the year ahead, they need to select the right moments to double down on points of differentiation. With any new competitor, the temptation can be to react strongly and go on the offensive. But it’s not so much the need to say it, many providers have put their USP front and centre of their comms for some time, but how they say it. Communication needs to remain consistent, in the brand’s tone of voice and style, across the channels that reach the right audience at the right moment. Stepping beyond these guidelines, being overly critical or dismissive, can appear immature, alienate customers, and jeopardise brand loyalty. 

The international payments space is crowded, but there’s plenty of room for all providers. As Wise pointed out in its City AM ad, solving for the lack of transparency in transfer fees is worth £180 billion alone. So Zing should be welcomed. Fintech has always tried to drive progress through innovation, and this is another opportunity to shine a light on an issue that technology can change.

Consumers shouldn’t be shouldering the burden of outdated, legacy FX infrastructure, or slow settlements. They deserve better value and more choice.