Last week, after a two-year break, 8,000 fintech professionals gathered again at Money20/20 in Las Vegas. The energy of the event was more than just delight at being IRL — it was excitement and awe at how much fintech has exploded in the last two years.
Unlike years past, 2021 felt as if it was a coronation for fintech. Once branded as “disruptors,” fintech took its rightful place as an established and permanent force that will reshape finance and the flow of money as we know it.
The numbers tell the story: As of the end of Q3 2021, $91 billion has been invested in the sector, which is more than twice the investment total of 2020. In parallel, there’s a boom in valuations and exits; 42 fintechs became unicorns just in the last quarter.
The pandemic massively accelerated the adoption of digital payments across every industry — more than 80% of consumers now use digital payments regularly. And Money20/20 proved fintech is at a tipping point: Legacy financial services companies must either innovate just as fast, partner with fintechs or acquire them.
It was startling to see the pace of innovation and collaboration from both legacy and new .. Here are three takeaways.
Capitalism with a Cause
Can fintech innovate beyond FICO scores? Financial inclusion is top of mind for the industry, meaning innovation in digital identity and credit is rightfully striving for fairness and inclusion. Credit scores may one day become relics as fintechs gather alternative data on people with zero or low credit in order to give more people access.
Other financial inclusion hot topics are Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) and earned wage access. BNPL has reshaped consumer eCommerce, with both new and established players enticing consumers and merchants who may want an alternative to credit cards. Innovation is also happening in payroll and wage access. Fintechs are building platforms so that your pizza or delivery guy won’t have to wait weeks to get their non-cash tips in their paychecks.
The Future of Banking
Jamie Dimon said it in JPMorgan Chase’s most recent earnings call: “Banks should be scared shitless about fintech.” The digital transformation of legacy banks has been inching forward for years, but the rise of fintechs and neobanks has made innovating legacy infrastructure and digitizing the customer experience an urgent need.
Some banks, rather than fixing the spaghetti under the hood, are starting fresh by building a new banking experience entirely based on customers’ digital financial needs. But that’s a big job. Most often, banks of all sizes are partnering with fintechs and white labeling the technology. But the big question loomed: Will there be a financial super app, from a bank or fintech, that can do it all conveniently and safely? The race is on.
Cryptocurrency, tokenization, stablecoins, NFTs — crypto and the blockchain are everywhere. Distributed ledgers are positioned as being inevitably fundamental to the future financial system, with the potential to reshuffle major players. Is the blockchain the third tech shift, following the computer and the internet? And will the blockchain democratize the financial system?
This year’s event proved this kind of speculating is no longer just for the crypto nerds. Our client Mastercard made a big announcement during the event, launching a new crypto card product with the digital wallet fintech Bakkt that will make it much easier for merchants to accept crypto as payments. That kind of scale, not to mention the focus from fintechs and huge rush from investors, could vault crypto into the mainstream.
Money 20/20 was packed with innovative thinkers, investors and media. They gave a real look at the innovation over the last two years, from purposeful financial services and the digital transformation of banking to all things crypto. Imagine what the landscape will look like a year from now.
If you would like to discuss the future of fintech and how it may impact your business, get in touch with our team of experts.