As 2021 draws to a close, it’s safe to say that this year has been full of ups and downs. With the world very cautiously emerging from the global pandemic, one thing has remained constant: the innovation and growth the fintech industry continues to bring. While the year has been a whirlwind for most, the fintech sector has seen many challenges and opportunities that will no doubt continue into the next 12 months.
This December, The Fintech Times is asking industry leaders for their ‘View from the Top’ to gain an insight into the decisions behind the last 12 months. Today, we hear from Nigel Fellowes-Freeman, Mehwish Aslam, Ben Pollard, Franki Hackett and Neville Roberts on their 2021 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2022. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Nigel Fellowes-Freeman, CEO and founder, Kanopi believes M&A and deal-making have been the hallmarks of the year.
“It’s been a massive year for the fintech sector, that’s largely been defined by deal-making. M&A and consolidation have been a big theme, with Square buying out Afterpay as perhaps the leading example. As a result, Buy Now Pay Later has exploded. Now other companies in the space, like Sezzle, and BizPay are gearing up for IPO to capitalise on the hype in local and global markets.
“Elsewhere, Insurtech has also had its biggest year to date. We’ve seen some staggering raises within the sector this year. In addition, where they were once entirely led by insurance companies themselves, we’ve now seen more local VCs and overseas funders taking an interest.”
In terms of 2022, he said: “Talent is really the topic on everyone’s lips right now. There’s already huge competition within the sector, plenty of unfilled job ads. It will be interesting to see what happens and how competitive it will remain once borders reopen.
“The share market — and market liquidity in general — also hit all-time highs this year. Inflation is also peaking. It is likely inflation will look to be curbed by a few potential levers; higher interest rates increased tax rates or reduced government spending.
“Finally, blockchain — and especially NFTs — came into its own in 2021 and I believe the trend will continue to grow in 2022. I suspect we’ll see more plays in the decentralised finance (de-fi) space. But there’s still some work to be done in raising both education and awareness of
Mehwish Aslam, the chief business officer at bSecure, a universal checkout solution, said:
“During pandemic induced lockdowns, we witnessed the acceleration of digital adoption, a shift in consumer behaviours towards digital platforms, and increased regulatory focus on the fintech sector, amongst others,” said “Transaction volumes for digital lending firms in the APAC region declined across market performance variables, including the numbers for new and existing borrowers.
“On the plus side, we noticed that the digital payments space and the digital capital raising space had a modest and a significant impact on transaction volumes, respectively. This applied to the nominal tractions, growth in new customers, and a higher retention rate across the board. The region was fortunate that regulators were supportive of eKYC, followed by simplified due diligence, though there is still a need for a regulatory response that allows for faster authorisation or licensing processes for new activities. In the Pakistan market, fintechs were lobbying with urgency for government interventions related to access to liquidity facilities, tax subsidies, and receiving government credit facilities.”
“In 2022, we expect to see a growth in transaction volumes, the number of transactions, the inclusion of new borrowers and issuers, and the retention of borrowers and issuers for digital payments, lending, and enterprise technology provisioning companies in the fintechspace
“Given the contactless role of fintech in mitigating the worst-case scenario of the pandemic, not to mention the spillover positive business impact created by service at scale, we expect to see regulator employ a fintech innovation office in order to simplify customer due diligence, regulatory support for e-KYC, and remote onboarding. With the world shifting to hybrid workplaces, including the fintech space, we expect governments to launch intervention schemes and include fintechs in the fiscal stimulus packages. We expect more fintechs to use government credit facilities and government loan-guarantees, including the access to liquidity facilities.”
Ben Pollard, CEO and Founder at Cushon, thinks the pension sector has seen a huge advancement this year.
“2021 was the year when the pensions and wealth management industries finally began to jump on board the fintech train and start to catch up with the rest of the financial sector. We’ve seen a flurry of innovative investment and personal finance apps launch over the last 12 months to meet soaring consumer demand – partly as households look to tighten budgets and maximise savings as a result of the pandemic but also as the UK’s financial education continues to develop.
“People increasingly want to manage investments or pension contributions quickly and simply via an app, rather than discuss with financial advisers or wait for annual statements to arrive in the post. Through innovative fintechs, people can make active decisions about their investments, adjust their risk levels and ensure that their investment portfolios are more aligned with their situation or values. This has a beneficial impact on their financial outcomes in later life too, as it leads to more engagement and higher returns. The wealth management and more specifically the pensions sector has lagged behind more innovative sectors of the financial industry, fortunately the gap is finally showing signs of closing.
“COP26 dominated 2021 – but its impact isn’t going to end anytime soon. One of the best things to come out of the climate discussions was a greater awareness that everything we do has an impact on the environment. It’s no longer enough for companies to rest on their sustainability laurels, they must continue to reduce their carbon footprint as the world is now watching closer than ever.
“Sustainability will be an even greater focus during 2022 with companies searching for ways they can reduce emissions and carbon footprints across all aspects of operations. HR and sustainability leaders will need to look inward for innovative ways to make reductions, focussing on previously ignored areas of their business such as pension schemes.
“Few people are aware but the average UK pension pot contributes 23 tonnes in carbon emissions each year through the companies in, the equivalent of running 9 family cars or burning 1,100 coal fires. There is a huge untapped opportunity for businesses of all sizes to overhaul their workplace pensions to benefit both people and the planet. It is an industry that is ripe for revolution and 2022 could be the year we see it change for the better.”
Franki Hackett, Head of Audit and Ethics at Engine B, also believes sustainability is going to be a trend of 2022.
“Post Cop 26 we are going to see more fintechs working to solve the climate crisis with technology. Audit technology has a crucial part to play in guaranteeing consistency and quality in financial reporting generally – especially where that reporting needs to account for environmental impacts – but it also demonstrates that audit tech can be better understood by auditors.
“In 2022 we’ll come a step closer to realising the great opportunity we have with sustainability reporting and developing technology that ensures companies behave responsibly.
“We will also see greater use of data analytics measuring risk to a business, as well as within it. The Covid pandemic has taught us that risk is something we need to prepare for as best we can and that the world had not thought through the data needs of a pandemic. Companies and governments need to look at ALL risks holistically and post Covid risk management will look different, pulling in multiple data feeds to inform sound, agile decision-making.
“Finally, there will be continuing democratisation of access to fintech. Access to financial services through apps has shown us that challenger organisations are the biggest drivers of technology uptake, and this will continue into 2022 and beyond.”
Planxis CEO, Neville Roberts said:
“Whenever people talk about trends it is rare that something pops up announced and becomes established within a calendar year. It’s more likely that something that’s been around for some time finally breaks through and becomes established. Think of that famous clip of Bill Gates trying to explain the value of the Internet to David Letterman back in 1995 and Letterman’s conclusion that there’s no money in it.
“There is one big trend that has broken through in 2021 for me and that is the development of blockchain-based clearing and settlement technologies. People have been talking about blockchain, bitcoin, crypto etc for many years but now we are seeing the mainstream, traditional financial institutions using these ideas to fix problems and provide new solutions. One example among many is Partior, which is improving cross-border payments in this manner and has huge banks like JP Morgan and DBS driving the change. Expect to see many more examples like this and established players working with (or as) fintechs to deliver successful, profitable solutions.
“We need to identify conditions that support technologies and capabilities breaking through in 2022. One change we will see around the world is the re-emergence of inflation and accompanying interest rate increases. Companies will, for the first time in years, need to make their money work much harder. They will have to avoid being short of a currency at the wrong time as fixing this will become expensive. And those who tend to leave cash lying around earning little interest will be seen as increasingly negligent when there are better returns to be had elsewhere.
“These conditions will make it much more important than ever before to manage liquidity with the most up-to-date information. And so Real-Time Technology will be a trend that explodes into life in 2022. Real-time views on where you cash is right now; forecasts updated in real-time to show where your cash will be in the next few minutes and hours; real-time payment capabilities so you can move money instantly in response to real-time insight on your cash and liquidity. Real-time payment rails are increasingly being established around the globe and 2022 will see firms improve their real-time capabilities to make full use of them.”
This article is part of our 2021 December series, View from the Top, to see others like it and our special edition from December 2020, please click here.