Bring order to the Fintech chaos

Bring order to the Fintech chaos

The word “Fintech” has become such a hype and such a widely used term, that it can actually mean anything today. Therefore when people ask for trends in the Fintech industry, this becomes harder and harder to answer, as anything even remotely
associated with financial services can be linked to Fintech.

Additionally traditional financial players (like banks, insurers, brokers, stock exchanges, but also traditional financial software vendors like Temenos, Sopra, Fiserv…​) have also caught up in their digitalization and modernization roadmaps and have launched
Fintech innovation labs, meaning they can just as well be categorized under Fintech.

We could therefore say that:

  • As technology has become so crucial in the financial services industry, the entire financial services sector can be categorized as Fintech.

  • Due to the rise of ecosystems and embedded finance, financial services companies start to offer more and more services in adjacent sectors (like HR Tech, MarketingTech/MadTech, EdTech, AccountingTech…​) and also players from other industries
    start to offer more and more financial services. E.g. big tech players like Apple (offering Apple Pay, Apple Pay Later and a credit card together with Goldman Sachs), Uber (offering Uber Wallet and Uber Debit and Credit card), Alibaba (with AliPay) or Grab
    (with GrabFin and products like Earn+), but also eCommerce players like Shopify (offering Shopify Capital to give fast business loans and cash advances) or TelCo players (like Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Turkcell’s Paycell, Telefónica Movistar Money or Orange Bank)
    have all entered the financial services sector. As a result, the Fintech boundaries even blur into other sectors.

All this means it becomes very hard to speak about Fintech as a whole.

When things get so messy, categorization is a typical human reflex.

Unfortunately categorization is not that easy as you can categorize across multiples axes (based on product offering, type of customers serviced, region…​) and obviously many players cannot be put in 1 category, as they provide different products and services
in different markets.

Nonetheless categorization can still give some interesting insights in the overall market, making it still a very interesting and useful exercise.

When looking at different axes of categorization, I identified following axes (although this list is definitely not complete):

Ax 1: categorize according to the target customer group

This allows to categorize the Fintech industry in 3 large groups:

  • Direct providers of financial services, which will target (end-) customers directly. This group can be split in B2C (e.g. neobanks like Revolut and Monzo), B2B (e.g. neobanks like Starling Bank) or even B2B2C players (i.e. offering a service
    to a private customer, but via a business paying for this service, e.g. Klarna) players. Often Fintech players will also target a specific customer niche, which is underserved or not sufficiently and personally addressed, e.g. freelancers (e.g. Lili), immigrants
    (e.g. Majority), women (e.g. Herconomy), the LGBTQ+ community (e.g. Pride bank or Daylight), specific professions (lawyers, doctors, artists…​)…​

  • Providers of services and products for (other) financial service companies (like incumbent banks and insurers, but also other new (disruptive Fintech) players). This group can be split according to which companies they offer services to,
    i.e. services to incumbent banks, incumbent insurers, incumbent infrastructure players or new (Fintech) players. Examples in this group are the traditional financial software vendors like Temenos, Fiserv, SOPRA…​, but also new players like e.g. ComplyAdvantage.

  • Providers of services and products to companies in other sectors(companies requiring financial data or services to provide a better user experience for their customers) to make a bridge (integrate) to financial services.
    Obviously this group can be split depending on which other sector they offer financial service integration services to, e.g. eCommerce, HR & Payroll Tech, MobilityTech, AccountingTech, MadTech, Real Estate Tech…​ Examples in this group are PSPs like Stripe,
    Paypal and Adyen.

Ax 2: categorize according to the disruptive nature of the company

  • Fintechs offering existing financial services and products. These are players that are typically challenging existing players by offering similar services and products but cheaper, more digital and/or with a better user experience. Often
    they target also specific groups which are excluded or underserved (e.g. products and services not adapted to their specific needs and desires) in the traditional financial landscape (i.e. financial inclusion). In this category, you can find the typical neo-banks
    or challenger banks (e.g. Revolut, Monzo, N26…​), which still sell mainly traditional banking products, like current and saving accounts, credits, investments and/or debit and credit cards.

    In this category we can also find trading/investment platforms like e.g. Robinhood.

  • Fintechs offering visible value-added services on top of existing financial service products, typically offering a more guided advise and more embedded experiences. Typical examples are robo-advisors and personal financial management tools,
    but also financial marketplaces (e.g. Raisin for deposits) and price comparators (e.g. Financer.com).

  • Fintechs acting as an invisible back-end supplier to traditional financial players. This category provides software and business processing outsourcing to financial players.

  • Fintechs offering alternative financial services and products, i.e. products and services which challenge the existing landscape in a more fundamental way, by redesigning the intermediation function of banks and insurers. Typical examples
    in this category are P2P lenders, crowdfunding, DeFi…​

This categorization will also determine if the Fintech player acts as a competitor, partner or supplier of existing incumbent players.

Often Fintechs start in the first category (disrupting the market with large ambitions), but soon notice the difficulties and costs to attack the market directly and therefore pivot into partnering with existing players to profit from their existing reputation,
expertise, financial means and customer basis. For the incumbent player, they offer a very quick and low risk way to offer additional innovative services to their customers.

Ax 3: categorize according to the type and extend of the services offered by the company

Obviously software is always an integral part of the service offering of every Fintech, but this software can be the main product or a supporting tool to offer another service.

We can make a split-up based on:

  • Is the company offering only 1 specific product or a whole range, e.g. a specific product could be a RegTech vendor (e.g. Chainalysis), while BaaS players (Banking as a Service, e.g. solarisBank, MangoPay, Marqeta…​) typically offer a whole
    range of products?

  • Is the focus on selling software or is the software an enabler to sell other services, i.e. financial services, business process outsourcing, legal/compliance/risk management…​? E.g. traditional financial software providers (e.g. Temenos,
    SOPRA, FiServ, Infosys..) are still offering solutions deployed on-premise (or in private cloud) and via a licensing model, but more and more companies (including those traditional players) are offering their software in a SaaS (software as a service) model
    or even a BaaS model (Business/Banking as a Service).

  • Is the company also using its licenses obtained from financial regulators (e.g. banking license, payment institution license, electronic money institution license, credit institution license…​) as a commercial proposition?

Ax 4: categorize according to the type of service and/or product offered

This is a type of categorization which is very commonly used and even got a specific terminology, in follow-up of the term Fintech, like WealthTech, RegTech…​

The typical categories here are:

  • BankTech (Digital banking). This group contains on the one hand the disruptive neobanks like Chime, Nubank, Revolut, Monzo, Atom, N26 or Starling and on the other hand the BaaS (Banking as a Service) platforms like solarisBank, Bankable
    or Cambr. We could also include in this category (although often also put as a separate category) the PFM companies (Personal Financial Management), that offer advice and help with budgeting, e.g. Mint, Acorns, PocketGuard, Level Money, YNAB (You Need A Budget),
    Intuit, Wally…​

  • WealthTech (Digital Wealth Management): this contains a whole group of Fintech offerings to invest money in financial assets (like stocks, bonds…​) in a better way (more user friendly, cheaper, more automated…​). This category can be split-up
    in 2 sub-blocks, i.e.:

    • RoboAdvisors, offering smart algorithm technology to provide investment advise and recommendations. E.g. Wealthfront, Acorns, Betterment, Wealthsimple, Charles Schwab, Vanguard…​

    • Retail Investment platforms, e.g. Robinhood, Tradier, E*Trade, Interactive Brokers, iCapital…​

  • LendingTech or LendTech (Credits): providing all types of new digital solutions to consumers and businesses (usually small businesses) for lending money in a more efficient and faster way (often using new technologies like AI/ML, digital
    identity management…​). This space is enormous as well, going from P2P Lending (like LendingClub, Prosper or OnDeck) and Crowdlending platforms (like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, GoFundMe or Patreon), over BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later, like Affirm, Klarna or AfterPay)
    all the way to digital lenders (like Funding Circle, Kabbage, Lendio, Lending Club, SoFi or Better Mortgage), credits based on new collaterals like invoicing factoring (e.g. Bluevine, Resolve, altLine…​) and alternative credit (scoring) systems (e.g. micro-lending)
    allowing to offer credits to the unbanked and underbanked (like Credit Karma, Nova Credit, Quizzle, Credit Sesame or Tala).

  • RegTech: this group of companies helps financial service firms via innovative technology to meet regulatory compliance and security rules, with a strong focus on AML (Anti-Money Laundering), KYC (Know Your Customer protocols) and all financial
    directives like Basel II/III/IV, FATCA, MiFID, Solvency II…​ Often those companies provide also access to large amounts of financial research and data, used to verify compliance of customers and transactions. Examples are companies like Alyne, Suade, DataGuard,
    ComplyAdvantage, Fenergo, Onfido, Chainalysis, Ascent Regtech, Hummingbird…​

  • InsurTech: these companies seek to use technical innovation to simplify and streamline the insurance business model. Typically they focus on delivering insurance quotes online in a matter of minutes , digitize the whole claim management
    process and provide alternative insurance underwriting (using new data sources), e.g. Usage Based Insurance (UBI). Examples are companies like Oscar Health, Gusto, Clover Health, Lemonade, Qover, Digit Insurance, Policy Bazaar…​

  • PayTech (Payment technology): these companies provide different tools to make payment transactions as secure and efficient (frictionless) as possible. A lot of well-known (Fintech) names are in this space, like Paypal, VISA, MasterCard,
    Stripe, Venmo, AliPay, Adyen, Mollie, Square, Wise, Ripple, iZettle…​ This category can be split in players that

    • Facilitate payments for merchants both physical via point-of-sale devices and online (e.g. Stripe, Paypal, VIVA Wallet, Adyen, Mollie, SumUp…​),

    • Provide new mobile payment solutions (P2P and with merchants), like Venmo, Payconiq, AliPay…​

    • Facilitate international money transfers, like Wise or Ripple

  • Infrastructure players who provide the underlying gateways and connectivity to other players in the industry (other banks, stock exchanges, data providers, regulatory instances…​). Important in this group are the players offering services
    to enable and consume Open Banking, like Tink, Plaid or TrueLayer.

  • Infrastructure players who provide the underlying gateways and connectivity to other players in the industry (other banks, stock exchanges, data providers, regulatory instances…​). Important in this group are the players offering services
    to enable and consume Open Banking, like Tink, Plaid or TrueLayer.

  • Crypto, Blockchain & DeFi players: this group contains all companies building a new financial (eco)system, based on a distributed ledger technology (blockchain). This ecosystem is very disruptive, as it challenges the ground rules of our
    financial system. Companies like Coinbase, Alchemy, Ava Labs, Circle, Kraken, Binance, Gemini Cryptocurrency are most known in this space. Obviously this space can be split-up in multiple sub-categories like crypto-currency exchanges/trading platforms, crypto-wallet
    providers, NFT marketplaces, crypto-saving and crypto-lending players, players offering tooling to setup new blockchains…​

Ax 5: categorize according to the country and/or region where the company is mainly active (generating its revenues).

Obviously we can split-up based on continents, regions and/or individual countries, but often we see a mix, based on common characteristics in regulation and in culture.

First there are a few countries which due to their size (both in population and general economy, but often also more specifically due to their size of their financial services sector) and specifics. In the first place we identify here the US (main
hubs in Silicon Valley, e.g. Stripe, Coinbase, Chime, Plaid, Paypal or Robinhood and New York, e.g. Better.com, Oscar, Chainalysis or Betterment), China (main hub: Beijing, e.g. Waterdrop, Ant Financial, Tencent or Lufax), India (main hub: Bengaluru, e.g.
Razorpay, Digit Insurance or CRED) and Russia (main hub: Moscow, e.g. Tinkoff, Sber Bank or Yandex.Money), but we can also include Canada (main hub: Toronto, e.g. Wealthsimple, FreshBooks or Clearco), Australia (main hub: Melbourne, e.g. Afterpay or Airwallex),
the UK (main hub: London, e.g. Checkout.com, Revolut, OakNorth or Blockchain.com) and even Israel(main hub: Tel Aviv, e.g. eToro) in this list.

Then there are regions, with a lot of commonalities, where often Fintechs active in one country will quite fast expand to other countries in that same region, e.g. South-East Asia (main hubs in Singapore, e.g. Arttha, Go-Jek or Coda Payments, Hong
Kong, e.g. Amber Group or Babel Finance and Jakarta in Indonesia, e.g. OVO, Mandiri or Linkaja), the Middle East(main hubs in Dubai, e.g. Souqalmal.com or Beehive and Abu Dhabi, e.g. NymCard), LatAm (main hub: São Paulo Brasil, e.g. Nubank, C6 Bank or Creditas),
the European Union (main hubs in Paris, e.g. Qonto, Sorare, Alan or Ledger, Amsterdam/The Hague, e.g. Adyen, Mollie, Mambu or Bunq, Berlin, e.g. N26, wefox or Trade Republic, Dublin, e.g. Stripeo or WordRemit and Vilnius Lithuania, e.g. Kevin, Nordigen or
Bankera), Scandinavia (main hub: Stockholm, e.g. Klarna) or Africa (main hubs in Johannesburg South Africa, e.g. Prosperian Capital or Pineapple, LagosNigeria, e.g. Opay, Flutterwave or Paga and Nairobi Kenia, e.g. Abacus or CarePay).

Hope this can give an idea of how the Fintech industry could be categorized. As a Fintech start-up it’s important to know in which category you are positioned today and which (adjacent) categories you are aspiring in the medium and long-term.

Opportunistic pivoting might also be required. E.g. many Fintechs start in a disruptive model (competing against incumbents), but gradually transform to a partner/supplier model with incumbents. E.g. A lot of neobanks are focusing strongly on a BaaS model (e.g.
Starling bank “Starling as a Service” or Fidor bank) or certain PFM apps have switched in offering infrastructure and value-added services directly to banks (e.g. Tink or Cake). But the opposite can exist as well, i.e. Fintechs offering value-added services
can become so successful, that they can start expanding to all banking services and products.

Obviously each category comes with its own complexities. A business model based on an improving of existing products and services means a lot of competition and thus a lot of upfront investment to stand out of all other players (cfr. neobanks),
while alternative or innovative products mean less competition, but require a challenging and pioneering journey (on technology, marketing and legal/regulatory domains) of convincing customers of the need of the product (shaping a new market).

Check out all my blogs on https://bankloch.blogspot.com/

 

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