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Reflections on the 8-year Bull Market in Fintech

fintech_nycAs I fly to NYC for the ninth time to host FinovateFall (the biggest ever—Thanks!), I’m in awe of how much the industry has grown since 2007. Fintech wasn’t even a thing then, we were still stuck using the entire six syllables in “financial technology.” And in Sep 2007, we didn’t have a sense of the financial debacle of 2008 we were about to witness, which has shaken things up in many unanticipated ways.

The amount of money going into the sector was a fraction of where we are today. I don’t have good data for 2007, but my guess is that the $12.4 billion raised so far this year is 6x to 8x the amount raised in 2007 (YTD). Is that sustainable? Unlikely, but when you see a single Australian bank (Westpac) spending nearly US$1 billion per year, 80% of it earmarked for new technology, you get a sense of how much pent-up demand there is to modernize financial services.

In total, Celent estimates that worldwide IT spending by banks will be $200 billion this year:

  • North America = $64 billion
  • Europe = $64 billion
  • Asia/Pacific = $70 billion

And that’s banks only. Gartner, which includes securities firms along with banks in its total, says global IT spending will top $500 billion this year.

Similar amounts are spent in the insurance industry where Celent estimates $175 billion will be spent this year:

  • North America = $79 billion
  • Europe = $55 billion
  • Asia/Pacific = $31 billion
  • Other = $11 billion

Adding it all together amounts to nearly $700 billion annually, or more than $3 trillion in the next five years. I think that explains why $12 billion has been invested by VCs and Private Equity so far this year. Granted, much of the financial institution spend is currently directed internally, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. The entire API ecosystem is betting otherwise, and seems to be winning in many industries.

Based on those numbers, I’m not sure if we have a bubble. VC investing is high by historical standards, but given the opportunity, it may be relatively reasonable. It will depend a lot on how much the big spenders decide to outsource. And that’s almost impossible to predict.