It’s difficult to argue any industry has faced more disruption by innovation than financial services. Virtually all former analog banking services now boast digital, api-first solutions powered by Fintech startups carrying heavy bags of capital.
Whether it’s building credit through rent payments with Piñata, mortgaging with Better, stock-back rewards with Bumped, or buying crypto through Venmo’s partnership with Paxos, one thing is certain. There is little in our financial lives free from the interoperation of this burgeoning industry.
For perspective, follow the mind-bending piles of cash gushing into this industry. Per CB Insights, in 2021, one in every five dollars of funding went to a Fintech company, which accounted for 21% of all funded ventures. This $132 billion raised was more than 2.5x greater than the year before. Deal size was double than in 2020 and in Q4, there were 14 deals per day.
Button’s partnered deeply with Fintechs since inception, helping partners such as Cash App, Acorns, Samsung Pay and Drop with everything from rewards and card-linked offer programs to user acquisition. To help make sense of these numbers and see where the industry’s headed next, I sat down with Fiat Growth’s Founder and Fiat Ventures GP, Drew Glover.
Fiat Growth operates a consultancy and venture arm specifically focused on Fintech. They work with over 30 different early and late stage Fintech startups that operate in lending, banking, investing, crypto and much more.
DOR: 2022’s starting off with immense volatility in the market - interest rates, inflation, supply chain, Ukrainian invasion - What do you see as the major theme B2C FinTechs will tackle this year?
DG: Access. It’s currently the golden age of Fintech in large part because Fintech has unlocked easy access to banking and financial products for a new generation of users, as well as millions of those who have been historically under/unbanked.
Take the process for buying equities just 10 years ago. You first had to find a broker - an intimidating endeavor in of itself - only to be charged prohibitively high trading fees. Everything has changed with the advent of Fintechs like Robinhood and Public and Betterment who have democratized equity ownership. These startups even forced legacy trading platforms - Fidelity, eTrade - to drop trading fees, making it simple for everyday folks to participate.
DOR: Last year saw more VC funding and deal flow into Fintech than any other industry. How do you see growth and product teams creating differentiated products?
DG: While there’s definitely saturation in certain sectors, I remain incredibly optimistic that continued investment and innovation in the space will breed a new generation of market leading Fintechs. That said, there are several standout trends me and team believe will continue to rise above the white noise in 2022
- Fractional Ownership
- Firms focused on providing retail investors with access to previously unobtainable assets will continue to emerge and gain steam. This is imperative for both retail consumers to access investments with higher/diversified returns, as well as asset holders seeking alternative sources of capital.
- The Next Wave of Embedded Finance
- Banking-as-a-Service was one of the first waves of Fintech innovation because it vastly simplified launching new digital banks and card products through a single API. Today these embedded products have expanded to lending, Insurtech, rewards, and much more through seamless integrations. Many Fintechs provide embedded-first models while others started B2C then created solutions for the enterprise. These offerings are increasingly important as a means of capturing more customer lifetime value (CLV) across their target demographics.
- Affinity Fintechs
- The first wave of Fintech brought the Chimes and SoFis who serve a large audience with a diverse suite of products. They have made it harder for upstarts to eat away at their share, especially given increasingly rising customer acquisition costs (CAC). To overcome these barriers, we see emerging Fintechs focusing on “for us, by us” businesses geared to specific demographics, markets who have primarily been underrepresented to date. This strategy enables fintechs to attract new customers at reduced CACs, build deep affinity because they can speak to their customers so well, and cross-sell services in the future (CLV). As adoption of digital banking expands with increased online/smartphone access, we anticipate continued focus on reaching these new and underserved markets.
- Web 3.0
- It’s no secret 2022 has catapulted digital assets into the forefront of technical discussions and retail investment. What’s unique about this bull run compared to the past are the real use cases and adoption of NFTs for digital representation of ownership. This is compounded by DeFi / Staking to generate alternative forms of high yields in an environment of record low interest rates. We see the continued emergence of crypto-first companies as well as most, if not all, legacy Fintechs broadening their strategies to incorporate crypto.
- Freelancer Focused
- The “gig economy” gave way to a new platform for individuals to drive income and become their own bosses. Work that was once considered passive has become a way for users to excel professionally. This further spurred the emergence and hyper growth of influencer (TikTok, Instagram) and collectible (StockX, Rarible) markets. As Gen-Z, dubbed the “side hustle generation”, enters the workforce, we see Fintechs focusing on supporting this new model of life for a new generation.
DOR: Since we first spoke web3 has exploded. How’s Fiat looking at this space from an agency/marketing and venture perspective?
DG: Decentralized finance (DeFi), Staking and NFTs have provided outsized yields and new ownership models compared to traditional financial products that’s quickly spawned a new sector of financial technology companies. We anticipate continued emergence of new companies in this arena as well as broader adoption from legacy financial platforms.
The amount of Fintechs that have cropped up that democratize access to these products and returns is endless. Donut, Burst and Eco, to name a few, allow high-yield returns and simple onboarding processes for everyday consumers. Circle, Zero Hash, APEX Clearing and Gemini provide embedded solutions so Fintechs can easily unlock digital assets for their consumers via API. This all goes to show that if you’re a Fintech there is countless means of incorporating crypto in your platform.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), one-of-a-kind digital assets, deserve their own section entirely. This technology affords the ability to create rarity and ownership in the digital world. Think artwork, or trading cards like NBA Top Shot, or even new digital governance models operated through DAOs. DapperLabs, which owns NBA Top Shot, see opportunity for expansion into new products and owning a large swath of the NFT ecosystem including gaming, trading and collectibles. This is a small sample of a broad and expanding ecosystem, and we anticipate continued innovation and emergence of new companies unlocking access to a new form of asset entirely.