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 Chirag Shah, Louise Hill, Cedric Bru, Victor Zheng and Greg Krasnov on their 2021 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2022. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Chirag Shah, CEO, Nucleus Commercial Finance thinks “Fintech is becoming mainstream.”
He continued: “It has become part of people’s daily lives, and they now understand the true value it can bring. Covid-19 has helped accelerate this trend and means that fintechs are no longer seen as a second choice. Fintech is revolutionising the way that people and businesses interact with their finances. This is particularly the case for SME lending, where we envisage one-click lending soon becoming a reality. However, it’s not just the lending industry that has benefited from the pandemic, whether it’s forex, lending, payments, investments or insurance, customers and businesses alike have seen the benefits that the various lockdowns have demonstrated.
“We’ve also seen greater integration between lending, open finance and payments. Rather than being seen as separate entities, they have become a single offering from a customer perspective thanks to digitisation. Covid-19 has significantly increased the pace of this within our industry and we’re seeing more and more lenders invest in new technologies. It is these technologies that will deliver the outcomes that SMEs are looking for – speed, accurate decision-making and ultimately greater choice.
“It’s always hard to predict the future – you’ve only got to look at the last 18 months to realise this! Future trends have been shaped by the pandemic, due to the ways fintechs have helped both businesses and people.
“However, what is clear to see is that the fintech industry is only at its inception and that there are many more exciting opportunities to come, particularly when it comes to improving the customer journey. From my perspective, embedded finance is going to be at the core of fintech in 2022 and beyond. It is already playing a vital role in enabling SMEs to get quick and accurate decisions within minutes. This is a trend that is only going to accelerate as we see greater adoption of machine learning and AI to deliver quicker and more consistent decisions to customers that truly add value.”
Louise Hill is co-founder and COO of GoHenry, a financial learning app and prepaid debit card for kids. She said:
“In 2021 we saw the move towards a cashless society escalating as yet more time spent at home drove consumers online. As a result, money management skills are more vital than ever as fewer transactions are taking place using cash. This means that financial education for kids is an area that more and more industry bodies and media seem to be investing in and I’m excited to see how this translates to tangible results for young people. We’re no exception to this at GoHenry, having recently launched Money Missions, which are in-app gamified education lessons that provide parents with fun and interactive content to engage kids in learning about money.
“Another trend I’ve noticed is that personalisation is picking up pace. One size does not fit all and consumers are becoming more demanding in their expectation of personalised services. It’s also been exciting to see more traditional areas of financial services become digitised over the past few years. Areas like investing, mortgages and pensions for example are being demystified thanks to new mobile apps, which can only be a good thing for financial inclusion more generally.
“Next year, we will see a continuation of the trends from 2021. In particular, as the pace of innovation across fintech and e-learning gathers speed, these two sectors will increasingly converge, creating services which not only offer payments services but educational opportunities too. The continued rollout of mobile access to fintech will be important in ensuring people can easily access and engage with new technologies in the sector.”
Cedric Bru, CEO of Taulia, said his big trends for the year were digitisation and partnerships between fintech and financial institutions.
“It’s truly shocking how much paper still exists to facilitate financial transactions. At Taulia, we see how many invoices are printed and mailed to customers who in turn pay their suppliers with a paper check. Like many periods of rapid change, it results from a major external event, in this case the COVID pandemic. When stay-at-home orders were put in place, the paper processes failed. Many businesses struggled to operate. In 2020, companies put band-aids on problems to get back up and running quickly. In 2021, we saw a significant trend towards digitisation, eliminating the risk associated with paper and driving operational cost savings in the process.
“The other major trend has been fintechs and financial institutions working together. Demand from customers is increasing. The continued advancement of technology has created a high expectation on ease of use. But this cannot come at the expense of stability and trustworthiness. We’re seeing more and more partnerships between fintech and financial institutions to give customers the best of both worlds – simple, easy to use platforms from a strong and well-established brand.”
Victor Zheng, CEO and co-founder, mx51, an Australian payments platform, said:
“First and foremost we’ve seen global payment disruptors, such as Square, Adyen and Stripe, build ecosystems beyond payments and move into providing further financial services such as deposits and lending to their customers. The highest-profile example of this was Square’s acquisition of Afterpay earlier this year.
“This move essentially means they are becoming major challengers to banks around the globe. As a result, we’re also seeing banks continue to partner with and work with fintechs. Though the power balance has shifted. Partnering with a fintech company is no longer optional. Banks need to bring new products to market as quickly and efficiently as possible, and this dynamic will see them rely on the fintech sector more than ever before.
“I expect further partnerships and deeper integrations between major banks and the fintech industry. But in turn, emerging fintechs will work harder to ensure their technology is bank-grade before partnering with a major financial institution.
“Creating bank-grade technology as a fintech is a major challenge, and has hindered the success of earlier fintech/bank partnerships. But after years of collaborating together, both sectors are finally coming to an understanding as to how to get the best out of these partnerships. This means we’ll see more success stories in 2022, rather than more partnerships that are announced, lead to nothing and then are swept under the rug.”
Greg Krasnov, Tonik Founder and CEO shares his thoughts in regards to the Asian fintech market.
“More digital-only banks or neobanks have been popping up around emerging markets in Southeast Asia, like the Philippines. In 2019, when we first approached the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank) for Tonik, there was no such thing as a digital banking license at the time. But the BSP loved the idea and that set ball rolling for them to create a new category of banks to further drive financial inclusion. We got our license earlier this year, and now there are around 6 other licensed digital banks in the country by the BSP, with more fintech players having applied for that.
“In the Philippines, there has been a huge gain in the demand and take-up of digital financial services as a result of the pandemic, multiple lockdowns, and the continuous rise of e-commerce transactions. Depending on payments lanes, consumer digital payments are up anywhere from two to eight times based on the numbers that I’ve seen, which absolutely creates a much bigger demand for Tonik’s services as well for various other digital banks and virtual payments platforms. Consumers have become highly dependent on their e-wallets and virtual cards, while merchants innovate convenient and personalised payments experiences, from rewards programs to digital banking partnerships.
“In 2021 alone, cryptocurrency and virtual assets have taken off, and it’s not about to slow down in the next year. In the Philippines, the BSP has recently legalised virtual currencies and now regulates cryptocurrency exchanges. With Filipino consumers adhering to the new guidelines and framework by the regulator, which will likely be further refined as time passes, crypto and virtual assets will most definitely grow even bigger in the coming year.”
Finally, he said: “Despite innovations in cybersecurity, things like fraud, data breaches, and privacy issues still run high in fintech. 2022 is going to be the year of cybersecurity. Because there’ll be loads more fintech players and digital transactions coming, all of these factors will push the need for regulators and stakeholders to establish more security and risk mitigation measures on digital transactions. New regulations will be fast-tracked by the responsible bodies for cybersecurity standards and security operations vendors will attempt to address the flaws that exist in their systems. Governments, stakeholders, and industries are going to push further, and hopefully, consumers will all be more secure as a result of that.”
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.