Fintech is a portmanteau term for financial technology, and describes new technology that targets financial services and makes them easier to use, automated or improved. Fintech can help businesses, banks, consumers or individuals by using the internet, software, applications, or cloud services to perform financial tasks.
Fintech has historically been targeted at banks, with customized technology helping with services such as lending, information gathering, reporting, and consumer analysis. More recently, it has evolved into mobile phone apps for individuals, spread across various sectors including education, retail banking, fundraising, investments and more. Fintech is increasingly making complex financial processes easier and able to be done at home, without the need for accountants, advisors or financial experts.
In short, if it’s using technology to assist with money, then it’s Fintech.
Who uses Fintech?
As mentioned, the origins of Fintech are in helping banks to streamline their operations. More recently, banks are using Fintech in customer-facing aspects of the business, giving customers power and control over their banking through things like mobile phone apps. Banks can also use Fintech to help with lending or payments, automating their business and making them less labor-intensive. Many banks see Fintech as a key way to stand out from their competitors, and are spending large sums of money investing in Fintech to improve their services and gain a competitive advantage.
Businesses, and in particular small businesses, have much to gain by automating financial services through the use of Fintech. Businesses can manage payments, budgets and stock levels through Fintech, as well as their finances with other businesses (B2B), banks, or customers (B2C).
Customers, or clients, of a wide range of businesses are able to use Fintech to streamline the purchase process, and even establish whole new marketplaces. The prevalence of online shopping is a leading example of Fintech changing consumer behavior and catering for a new customer experience. Online shopping is affected by Fintech in the shopping experience itself, making online payments, security, and delivery of the purchase.
Fintech is allowing individuals to take control of their finances like never before. Where an individual would, in the past, engage with professionals for financial services, Fintech now allows them to control their own finances through at-home budgeting, banking, payments and other platforms.
Fintech has transformed many areas of daily life, including the following:
In the past, funds were raised through sales and activities like bake sales or car washing events. Now, crowdfunding provides an easy connection from people who need funds, and people with money to give. GoFundMe and Kickstarter are two fast-growing Fintech companies helping to promote and fundraise for a wide range of causes.
In 2019, more than $1 trillion was spent via mobile phones. By embedding credit card information into mobile phones, consumers have been able to do away with carrying cash, or even a physical credit card, when paying for goods or services. Apps such as Apple Pay allow customers to pay businesses, while Venmo is a popular payment app between individuals.
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum are notable examples of how Fintech can be used to establish brand new currency markets in their own right. While cryptocurrencies might reject the traditional concept of money, they have a clear financial base, and use currency exchange markets such as Gemini and Coinbase, which are further examples of Fintech in action.
At-home budgeting has arguably never been easier than with a number of applications designed to help businesses and individuals with their spending and budgeting. Apps such as Xero can be integrated with bank accounts to provide automatic, up-to-the-minute budget information that empower untrained business owners or individuals to do their own budgeting and financial management.
Robo-advising or stock trading apps allow a huge amount of automated control of investments. These Fintech platforms are highly technical, and can utilize algorithms to monitor stocks and make trades without the investor even needing to be present. At-home investors can have on-demand visibility, taking control of their stocks without the need for a personal stock trader or advisor.
Millions of people throughout the world now get mortgages and bank loans approved through mobile phone apps or online, making the process of lending quicker and easier. Consider how unfathomable it would be for a bank not to have a website in today’s world. However, bank websites weren’t even a concept in past years. Fintech not only makes the application process quicker for customers, it cuts through old manual processes at the bank, allowing for quicker analysis and approval.
Fintech companies are among some of the fastest growing and influential in the world, with some valued into the hundreds of billions of dollars. These are five of the world’s biggest Fintech companies.
Ant Financial - A spin-off from the Alibaba Group, Ant Financial incorporates third party payments and other financial services for Alibaba and other platforms, and is worth a reported $150 billion.
Oscar Health - An online health insurance company based in America, Oscar uses Fintech to make health insurance claims faster, cheaper and more transparent.
Xero - Cloud-based accounting software for small businesses and individuals, Xero makes financial management easier, more visible and easier to understand.
SoFi - A San Francisco-based finance company taking a contemporary approach to lending and wealth management for its nearly 1 million members.
Adyen - A business finance company that enables its customers to accept payments from any sales channel in the world. Based in the Netherlands, Adyen is responsible for helping the finances of large multi-national companies such as Facebook, Uber, and Netflix.