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Tracking fintech, banking & financial services innovations since 1994
Last week would have been the week of FinovateSpring. However, instead of being in to San Francisco to gather in person, the majority of the world remains at home.
FinovateSpring has been rescheduled and re-named to FinovateWest for 2020 and will take place this coming November. To commemorate our original dates, we curated a week of analysis and insights for our blog readers offering updates and ideas about the future of fintech and conducting business during the coronavirus. All of the content is collated it into this eMagazine. It felt good to connect with leading industry players, pick their brains and hear how businesses are adapting.
We also gave a major sneak peek of the new digital demo format you can expect to see at our all-digital events this year.
COVID-19 will forever change the way that people engage with the financial institutions that manage their money. In an effort to figure out what exactly that change will look like, I conducted a series of podcast interviews with fintech experts, strategists, and analysts. While the entire series is worth listening to (you can find it here), conducting all of those interviews has given me a unique take on what to expect for the future of fintech. What follows are some of my own big-picture ideas and predictions for the ecosystem based on these conversations.
For banks: a thinning of the herd
Let’s begin by pointing out what should be obvious to everyone at this point: the bank branch is dead. With massive amounts of the world’s population under some sort of stay-at-home order, for many people, there was no option but to take care of financial matters remotely through digital channels. Some governments are starting to ease restrictions which will make it possible for people to go back to bank branches again, but nobody expects that consumers will be as willing to come to a physical bank as they were just a few short months ago. It’s difficult to use an ATM without wondering whether the last person to use it washed their hands proficiently, let alone stand in a line surrounded by other people to wait to talk to a different person who will hand you some cash, which is likely covered in germs.
Digital, cashless banking has never looked so enticing, a theory which is validated by the massive upturn in digital banking adoption (or “hockey stick” growth as Dan Latimore described it). This upturn is terrific for the banks (and the fintech that supports them) that have already spent a lot of time and energy updating and optimizing their digital experiences. That group tends to be made up of the larger, national (and multi-national) financial institutions, although it certainly contains some smaller, forward-thinking community banks as well.
Banks that hadn’t already prioritized digital transformation, though, are in serious trouble. Despite the writing that’s been on the wall for the past decade, many financial institutions never really engaged with tech to the degree that they should have. For those banks, COVID-19 marks the beginning of the end. It’s too late now to try to catch up, and we are about to see a dramatic thinning of the banking herd as banks that were unprepared for this get acquired or go out of business.
For fintechs: rising demand and growth, but higher stakes
On the fintech side of the industry, the picture is similar. Existing, successful fintechs are about to experience a period of unprecedented demand and growth. Just like with their banking counterparts, the initial hockey stick growth has proven to be a massive stress test, but for companies who passed that test, the future is looking rosy.
The flip side is harsher – fintech companies that hadn’t been able to get to scale, or who struggled to deal with the increased demand will likely fade into the background, pushed aside by the fintech “winners” who will come to dominate the space. Companies that had received venture capital funding before March will be under intense pressure to justify their positions in the fintech ecosystem, and if they can’t, they are likely to find further capital increasingly difficult to acquire.
The ideas that I’ve outlined so far aren’t controversial among the experts with whom I spoke. Most of them agree that the number of banks will start to shrink, the number of fintech companies will start to shrink, and both the bank and fintech sides will see smaller pools of winners grow into more dominant positions. But when it comes to the question of what happens to early-stage startups in fintech, the water starts to get muddier.
Fintechs’ future: a shifting startup ecosystem
A strong startup ecosystem is vital for the long-term success of fintech. New, young companies push incumbents, introduce exciting new ideas into the space, and recycle top talent. Without them, the industry will stagnate and settle into complacency. So what can we expect?
Despite the obvious pain points, there are a few key pieces that suggest we’ll see some strong innovation from early-stage companies. To start, with contractions on the banking side and the fintech side, there will be some strong talent available for people with new ideas. We saw something like this a decade ago in the wake of the Great Recession, where ex-bankers with inside knowledge of the industry (and its inefficiencies) were able to partner with technologists, and create some really interesting innovations.
Another key point is that while overall funding in fintech companies might slow, there remains a good amount of capital that is currently looking for a home. It will probably be more difficult to get the same initial funding amounts that startups were able to get in the past few years, but that’s ok. (You could easily argue that a lot of startups didn’t need all the capital they had been getting anyway, and smaller initial rounds make successful exits easier to visualize.) There is still capital out there, and the VCs and investment bankers that I’ve spoken with expect to see more of that capital going to early-stage companies than mid-stage companies who haven’t already made a move towards unicorn status.
That said, there will likely be more stringent vetting as a part of the funding process, and there’s going to be more pressure on early-stage companies to deliver results sooner. Even before COVID-19 began sweeping the world, some highly publicized failures like WeWork have had the VC community rethinking how high of a valuation startup companies can really claim. Startups should expect to have to do more with less initially, but as long as they can demonstrate success, they will get the funding they need to bring their innovations to market.
A new reality
When you marry all of these factors together, a picture starts to emerge of what the future in fintech looks like. There will be fewer bank and fintech players in the space, an emerging group of “winners” on the fintech side, and a tougher grading rubric for those seeking capital. It’s going to be a harsher world, but that may ultimately be a good thing for the long-term success of the industry.
The rising tide that has been lifting everyone in fintech for the past few years is gone. As the water comes back down, not everyone will survive, but those that do will be in a much stronger place than they were at the end of 2019. And as the herd thins, there will be space for new companies who can succeed in a more challenging reality. There’s really only one thing that’s certain right now: the future will bring with it many challenges that will need to be met, which means that opportunity will be there for those prepared to take it.
What have the companies that demonstrated their latest technologies at our west coast fintech conference last spring been up to in the months since then?
We’ve moved the event later in the year in 2020 due to the public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. But we still wanted to check in on these innovators from our most recent spring show, and take note of their accomplishments since we last saw them on the Finovate stage. Here’s what we found:
Bringing in the Big Money
Anti-fraud solutions provider – and Best of Show winner – Arkose Labsraised $22 million in a round led by Microsoft’s VC arm, M12. The company won its first Best of Show award at our west coast conference last spring after demonstrating its authentication system.
Voca.ai, a three-time Best of Show winner, secured funding from American Express Ventures.
Digital platform banking solution provider Agorasecured $2 million in funding as it announced the opening of new headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cinchy won $500,000 cash prize in 2019 VentureClash competition.
ClickSWITCHraised $13 million in Series B funding.
SheerIDlanded $64 million investment in round led by CVC Growth.
Strandsagrees to be acquired by credit management solutions specialist CRIF.
Cinchy earned a spot in the 2020 MassChallenge FinTech program.
doxo teamed up with fellow Finovate alum Plaid to bring overdraft protection to billpay.
A new partnership has broughtClickSWITCH’s account switching technology to customers of fellow Finovate alum Finastra. ClickSWITCH also announced a partnership with digital bank Current.
EVERFIcollaborates with Zelle to support youth financial literacy.
Faradayintegrated with growth marketing platform Iterable bringing AI-generated predictions to Iterable’s workflows.
Fortress Identityworked with Visa to bring biometric authentication to cardholder transactions in Latin America and the Caribbean. The company also partnered with Zenus Bank, helping the Puerto Rico-based institution securely onboard new accounts.
RightCapitalentered into a strategic partnership with the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants, and teamed up with wealth manager CircleBlack.
Terafinapartnered with Alabama’s Listerhill Credit Union and empowered small business onboarding for PlainsCapital Bank.
Arkose Labsearned a spot in CNBC’s 2019 Upstart 100. The company’s VP of Marketing and Strategy Vanita Pandey and Senior Producer Hedda Peters win Women in Cybersecurity honors from the Cyber Defense Global Awards.
Neener Analyticswon Rising Star in India recognition in the India FinTech Forum’s IFTA 2019 awards.
Gliapicked up top honors at the CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and Technology Council Conference Speed Rounds competition.
Invest Sou Sou was selected to participate in Halcyon Incubator for startups in the Washington, D.C. area.
GoBankingRates featuredCalcXML in its roundup of top free online financial calculators.
Cinchynamed a finalist in Connecticut Innovations’ 2019 Global Venture Challenge.
EVERFI recognized in the Deloitte 2019 Technology Fast 500.
Flybitsearned a spot in the 2020 Fintech Power 50, and was named to Digital Finance Institute’s list of Top 50 Fintech Companies in Canada for 2019. Horizn and Responsive AI also earned recognition from the Digital Finance Institute in this roundup.
Launchfire’sLemonade training platform named to 2019 Top Training Companies roster for gamification companies.
Finovate events have always been celebrations. Celebrations of innovation, celebrations of technology, celebrations of industry. But this spring was not a time for celebration, and our thoughts are with every single person and company impacted throughout the community.
As heard from our followers and in news recently, we are turning a corner and seeing the light. The fall season has always been a big time for product launches, and these will be more important now than ever as companies reemerge. And that’s something to celebrate.
This fall for the first time, Finovate hits both coasts: FinovateFall in September in New York and FinovateWest (formerly FinovateSpring) in November in San Francisco. And we’re accepting applications from companies interested in demoing their technology at each.
Showcasing products and solutions – not just talking about them – is the best way to do business. It allows 1,000+ potential buyers, partners and investors to see how your technology works and how it can benefit them. Not convinced? Hear from some of our alums:
It’s one of the leading fintech conferences around the world, so there’s no better place to launch a product. With any conference, it’s about the return on investment — you never know if you’ll meet one person of five, but we’ve already met 10 potential partners that I’m really excited to work with.
Dana Budzyn, CEO & Founder, UBDI
It’s been successful here! We’ve already had around 30 to 40 people visit our booth and 15 requests from people saying, “Can you come and show us your technology?”
Ned Phillips, CEO & Founder, Bambu
I think we’ll be here every year – we met 90% of our clients at Finovate. We meet our clients; we meet our prospects. If you’re a bank or fintech and want to know about the trends and get a sneak peek into the future, this is the place.
Uday Akkaraju, CEO, Bond.AI
Finovate is the best place for our startup to get exposure to potential clients and investors, all under one roof!
Emil Tarazi, Chief Data Scientist & Founder, ETFLogic
Finovate is a great way to meet the right people at the right organizations! It was really exciting to have them approach us after seeing our demonstration on stage!
In order to reflect the new timeline of the event, we have changed the name from FinovateSpring 2020 to FinovateWest 2020. The show will take place November 23 through 24 at the Hilton in San Francisco’s Union Square. Registration is now open (if you were already registered for the event our team has been in contact with you via email).
Over the past 12 years, many of you have come to feel like family to us, and we hope you are all doing what is needed to keep yourselves and your family safe.
As part of an effort to keep everyone safe, and to comply with current governmental recommendations surrounding COVID-19, we have rescheduled FinovateWest 2020 to take place November 23 through 24.
The venue will remain the same at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. Attendees who have booked as part of Finovate’s room block will not incur any cancellation fees from the hotel. The hotel is in the process of moving attendees in our block to the new dates and attendees will receive a confirmation when the move has been completed. If you need to change your new reservation, please contact the hotel directly.
We will be in touch with respective parties – speakers, sponsors, and demo companies – with more detailed information about arrangements for the new dates. If you have any questions please contact us to discuss further.
We remain grateful for your continued support and understanding and very much look forward to welcoming you in November.
In the meantime, please let us know if there is anything we can do to foster innovation and community in the fintech sector. Our industry was created to fulfill unmet needs of society. We know that in these crucial months ahead, innovators in this space will continue to do so.
We’re all in this together, and we each have a role in continuing the heartbeat of fintech across the globe.
African American comedian Richard Pryor joked after seeing the classic, 1976 movie Logan’s Run that the future didn’t look so bright to him. Why? Well, with no black people cast in the futuristic sci-fi flick, the legendary funny man surmised that, perhaps, “White folks ain’t planning on us being here.”
A similar thought comes to mind when anticipating the upcoming presentation by strategic futurist and TEDx Curator Nancy Giordano at FinovateSpring in May. In spite of the increasing evidence that the future belongs to women, the ranks of futurists – the people helping us understand, anticipate, and prepare for the world to come – tend to feature far fewer women than you might imagine.
This is just one of many reasons to look forward to Giordano’s keynote opening address “Navigating the Big Shift – How Exponential Technologies are Changing … Everything.”
A guest lecturer at Singularity University, and a ten-year TEDx curator, Giordano is recognized as one of the top female futurists in the world. A frequent panelist at South by Southwest, she has been on the board of the retail trade association, GMDC, and on the advisory council of both Retail Tomorrow and Future Frontiers, a fintech conference designed to help strengthen community banks. She also is a part of Austin, Texas-based, artificial intelligence services provider KUNGFU.AI.
And given her theme at FinovateSpring, of how big shifts change everything, it is easy to wonder how a shift in perspective on the future – from male-generated to female-generated – can fundamentally enhance our capacity to cope with technological change.
“You are also a human that is going through this. You are a parent, you are a son or daughter. You are part of a community that is wrestling with these questions,” she said in a compilation of remarks titled What Does the Future Expect from Us and How Do We Create that Future? “It’s hitting us personally, not just professionally.” She used the example of a group of women, all strangers, spontaneously consoling a young mother and her child at an airport as the model for the kind of take-action agency and humanistic focus she believes is required in order to build the future we need.
To this end, Giordano warns businesses to avoid the temptation to not make decisions. She uses the metaphor of training soldiers to act dynamically in the face of often existential uncertainty to explain why companies need to move beyond pining for “killer apps” or “the right time.” Often, she notes, by the time that’s happened, it’s often too late.”
Giordano’s futurism is a human-centered one. In response to an extended discourse from a cloud computing specialist who was extolling the virtues of the digital cloud during a conference panel, Giordano asked, “what is the equivalent of the human cloud? What allows us to level up in that same way? And are social technologies keeping up with digital technologies?”
Again and again, Giordano emphasizes less the new gadgets and gizmos to come from exponential technology development and instead reinforces how these technological changes will require new behavior on our part. “This is not just about understanding the Shift,” she says of the “permanent state of ambiguity” that characterizes our technological – and social – present and future. “It calls to a different kind of leadership, or ‘leadering’, or posture, or approach.”
To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.