Fintech is finding itself at a turning point amid rumblings the industry is ‘losing its lustre’. We’ve seen firms struggle to raise fresh funds, reports of falling valuations, fire sales, staff layoffs and recruitment freezes. Some fintechs have abruptly closed while others have bid their farewells before they’d even had the chance to say hello.
Throughout January on The Fintech Times, we’ve asked industry experts to share how we can move ‘fintech forward’ in the next 12 months.
Today we share the views of Fenergo, F10, ForwardAI, Mojaloop and AAZZUR.
‘We need crypto collaboration’
This year as authorities get to grips with how to regulate the industry, we must see a shift in approach, warns Rory Doyle, senior financial crime manager of regtech Fenergo.
“This year, we expect global regulators to explore the benefits of blockchain technology in AML regimes,” Doyle says. “It can be a powerful tool in tracking criminal activity as it can provide transparency and accountability at a scale and speed that hasn’t been seen before. Ironically, the technology that underpins the crypto industry is likely to make strides this year in regulating it. As the adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.
“What’s more, if we’ve learned anything from the past year, it’s that governments, law enforcement business and financial institutions must work together. This collaborative approach, harnessing technology and data that informs and can be acted upon, will create a solid foundation for detecting and, crucially, preventing financial crime industry-wide.
“However, calls for data privacy in the EU and US are mounting, meaning that it’ll become increasingly difficult for regulators to share information across jurisdictions. These unintended – and problematic – consequences from measures such as GDPR are at odds with the regulators’ aim to crackdown on organised crime that continues to exploit weak AML regimes. Especially as the financial ecosystem becomes more globalised and AML concerns transcend borders, it has never been more important for frictionless data sharing.
“The US proposed establishment of its own beneficial owner register under the Corporate Treasury Act (CTA) should assist in this goal. The recent European Court of Justice ruling against registers under data privacy does cause the EU some transparency issues that may have to be addressed in the future.”
‘Climate fintechs need to prioritise risk management’
Andreas Iten, CEO and co-founder of F10, a global innovation ecosystem for fintech and insurtech, expects to see more innovation for ESG-related activity. Especially as firms look to comply with global regulatory standards, and ensure their investment activity is fully backed up when it comes to sustainability.
“On a global level, there are significant steps to take to tackle the interconnected climate and biodiversity crises,” says Iten. “Significant gaps in reporting and a lack of standardisation across the industry has been a consistent problem. Just as TCFD had a focus on climate-related action, a Task Force for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is in the pipeline, with a reporting framework that seeks to identify and assess nature-related risks and opportunities.
“As funding in climate fintech reached an all-time high in 2022, against difficult economic backdrop, startups in the space come more and more into the spotlight As a key priority for 2023, firms will need to take steps to embed these risk considerations into their strategies, operations, and risk management processes. And this is where greater collaboration across the climate fintech industry and larger players is necessary.
“Collaborative efforts can allow innovation to reach the scale that is required to navigate these regulatory challenges and bring the biggest benefits for firms when it comes to cutting costs and maximising efficiency.”
“We need to educate SMBs’
Financial institutions and fintechs need to jointly educate small and medium businesses (SMBs) about the benefits of what fintech can do for them, suggests Nick Chandi, CEO of fintech ForwardAI.
“Almost nine in 10 US consumers already use fintech apps and services, but there hasn’t been the same level of products, services, and adoption in the SMB space due to the complexity of the market. Many studies show that SMBs exhibit consumer-esque behaviour and remain a vastly underserved market.
“They have enjoyed better services and products as consumers from the accelerated digitisation caused by the global pandemic, and the same level of products is now finally just catching up in the SMB space too. By educating SMBs on the value of fintech and closing the ‘expected experience’ gap, we can drive more adoption, more revenue, and more innovation. This positive loop can ultimately propel technological and financial advancement for SMBs and fintechs.”
“The core to any fintech should be to provide value-add solutions for the businesses or consumers they serve. To effectively achieve the latter the fintech solution must solve a pain point or eliminate friction points.
“Taking 2022 as an example, and the move towards digital embedded solutions such as money movement coupled with a period of market turbulence, I think further adoption of such solutions within the B2B world will provide businesses with valuable solutions to eliminate unnecessary costs and provide real-time information to help them effectively manage the working capital cycles, which will provide immediate results to their bottom line. We achieve the latter through integrated solutions which fintech will play a pivotal role in achieving.”
‘Let’s better balance AI opportunities’
Philipp Buschmann, founder and CEO of embedded finance company AAZZUR, talks about the importance of regulating AI algorithms.
“AI algorithms have been widely used to make decisions on loans, insurance packages, and fraud detection, and in 2023, they will play an even larger role in financial software development determining who has access to various financial services and how much access is granted.
“When it comes to AI algorithms regulations, fintech firms will need to balance the opportunities, which the algorithms provide, with ethics to protect end users by developing new robust systems.
“Additionally, fintech needs to learn how to withstand the shocks and disruption of 2022 and the upcoming ones of 2023. Fintech aggregators need to work effectively within a context by marrying the location, with product and insight. They also need to be adopted by the mainstream, which requires direct to consumer embeddable components. Finally, the fintech industry needs to be consolidated and serve the middle-to-upper corporate market more holistically and better overall.”
‘Fintechs must continue to innovate’
Next year, we’ll need to continue to move forward with market expansion and product differentiation, says Paula Hunter, executive director of the Mojaloop Foundation.
“There are a lot of underserved people around the world that would benefit from the disruptive actions of fintech providers. So rather than the traditional banks and credit card companies being the entry point into developing nations, we’ll see the fintechs being an ongoing disruptive force.
“The advantage for fintechs is that they will be able to capture market share, where other ‘legacy’ companies have not been as nimble or as willing to adjust the profits and their margins on their services to meet the needs of the unbanked and underserved.
“Also, we’ll see increased acceptance and utilisation of open-source tools and technologies. The startups understand that rather than building it all themselves, they can leverage open-source technology and get started out of the chute very quickly with products that are already available to them at no cost. They can differentiate on top of that, so it’s an accelerant for folks who are trying to develop new products and services for the marketplace.”