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Title: Interpreting infrastructure: Defining user value for digital financial intermediaries.
Authors: Ferreira, J
McKnight, J
Fish, A
Perry, MJ
Keywords: Financial technology;Financial services;Alternative banking;Disruptive finance;User study;Field study;Digital money
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: 3rd Party Dematerialisation and Rematerialisation of Capital
Citation: Deliverable 2 – 3DaRoC project (EPSRC EP/K012304/1)
Abstract: Executive Summary: Drawing from Studies of Use - the value, use and interpretation of infrastructure in digital intermediaries to their users. The UK economy has a huge dependence on financial services, and this is increasingly based on digital platforms. Innovating new economic models around consumer financial services through the use of digital technologies is seen as increasingly important in developed economies. There are a number of drivers for this, ranging from national economic factors to the prosaic nature of enabling cheap, speedy and timely interactions for users. The potential for these new digital solutions is that they will allay an over-reliance on the traditional banking sector, which has proved itself to be unstable and risky, and we have seen a number of national policy moves to encourage growth in this sector. Partly as a result of the 2008 banking crisis, there has been an explosion in peer-to-peer financial services for non-professional consumers. These organisations act as intermediaries between users looking to trade goods or credit. However, building self-sustaining or profitable financial services within this novel space is itself fraught with commercial, regulatory, technical and social problems. This document reports on the value, use and interpretation of infrastructure in digital intermediaries to their users, describing analysis of contextual field studies carried out in two retail digital financial intermediary organisations: Zopa Limited and the Bristol Pound. It forms the second milestone document in the 3DaRoC project, developing patterns of use that have arisen on the back of the technical infrastructures in the two organisations that form cases for examination. Its purpose is to examine how the two different technical infrastructures that underpin the transactions that they support–composed of the back-office hardware and software, data structures, the networking and communications technologies used, supported consumer devices, and the user interfaces and interaction design–have provided opportunities for users to realise their financial and other needs. While we orient towards the issues of service use (and its problems), we also examine the activities and expectations of their various users. Our research has involved teams from Lancaster University examining Zopa and Brunel University focusing on the Bristol Pound over approximately a one-year period from October 2013 to October 2014. Extensive interviews, document analysis, observation of user interactions, and other methods have been employed to develop the process analyses of the firms presented here. This report comprises of three key sections: descriptions of the user demographics for Zopa and the Bristol Pound, a discussion about the user experience and its role in community, and an examination of the role of usage data in the development of these a products. We conclude with final analytical section drawing preliminary conclusions from the research presented.
Description: The 3DaRoC project is exploring digital connectivity and peer-to-peer relationships in financial services. In the light of the near collapse of the UK and world financial sector, understanding and innovating new and more sustainable approaches to financial services is now a critical topic. At the same time, the increasing penetration and take-up of robust high-speed networks, dependable peerto- peer architectures and mobile multimedia technologies offer novel platforms for offering financial services over the Internet. These new forms of digital connectivity give rise to opportunities in doing financial transactions in different ways and with radically different business models that offer the possibility of transforming the marketplace. One area in the digital economy that has had such an effect is in the ways that users access and use digital banking and payment services. The impact of the new economic models presented by these digital financial services is yet to be fully determined, but they have huge potential as disruptive innovations, with a potentially transformative effect on the way that services are offered to users. Little is understood about how technical infrastructures impact on the ways that people make sense of the financial services that they use, or on how these might be designed more effectively. 3DaRoC is exploring this space working with our partners and end users to prototype and evaluate new online, mobile, ubiquitous and tangible technologies, exploring how these services might be extended.
Appears in Collections:Dept of Computer Science Research Papers

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