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 Alan Vaksman, Kimberly Monty Holzel, Ryan Conway, John Heyel and Jesse Hemson-Struther on their 2021 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2022. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Alan Vaksman, Founder and Managing Partner at Digital Horizon believes that there were 4 main fintech trends in 2021.
He said: “The first is the rise of NFTs. We’ve seen this more broadly than just fintech – NFTs have permeated every industry, spanning everything from finance, to art, to fashion. With more substance, NFTs have the potential to be more than a short-term trend for the fintech industry.
“The second trend is the shift in online checkouts. New players in the industry are levelling the field for smaller e-commerce providers against the likes of Amazon. Companies including Bolt have enabled one-click checkout both online and offline, helping offer consumers an experience to rival industry giants and opening up e-commerce to content companies, like Pinterest.
“The third is the buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) revolution. BNPL has truly conquered the mainstream, and seemingly everyone now offers some form of deferred payment option to consumers.
“Finally, a trend that we first saw in 2020, the increasing dominance of trading apps. In the past 12 months, trading apps have been taking an increasingly large chunk of trade volumes. It’s now possible to move entire markets with retail trading through these apps, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.”
Kimberly Monty Holzel is a partner in Goodwin’s Financial Industry, Consumer Financial Services and Fintech practices.
“In 2022, Banks will be under increasing pressure to fortify their compliance and vendor management programs for their fintech partnerships,” she said.
“Compliance and risk management strategies will be squeezed from two angles in the coming months. In 2021, we saw regulators like the CFPB show their teeth, legislators show more interest in regulating fintech, and the government generally becoming more attentive to the impact that fintech companies have on consumer protection and banks’ own compliance, risk, and vendor management strategies. While banks are ultimately responsible for compliance and oversight of their fintech partners, many banks delegate certain tasks and shift monetary liability for compliance failures to their fintech partners by contract.
“With more banks flooding the fintech and “banking as a service” markets, banks are facing more competition and fintech companies are enjoying more freedom of choice in selecting a bank partner. As a result, banks may find themselves with less bargaining power to negotiate these compliance and risk strategies in their partnership contracts. More than ever, it will be critical to engage fintechs that will be sophisticated and cooperative partners in compliance and dedicate appropriate staffing and resources to execute a well-designed strategy for oversight of fintech programs, and management of the fintech partners as critical vendors.”
Ryan Conway, VP, Head of Business Development & Partnerships at Oxygen said “2021 was a banner year for fintech, with record funding and real innovation across many fronts”
He continued: “An area that gained real steam in 2021 is the concept of “on-demand pay” – where fintech companies team up with payroll systems to enable users to get paid ahead of their traditional bi-weekly scheduled payday – which feels like a remnant of a bygone era. 2021 was also, in many ways, a turning point for digital-only banks. Already a long time trend that most traditional banks seemed largely to ignore, the pandemic forced most consumers to adopt a digital-first or digital-only mindset, and neobanks saw a massive increase in customers as a result. We think this is just the beginning.
In terms of the future, he said: “As a neobank focused on the creators and entrepreneurs building the 21st-century economy, Oxygen is particularly interested in how TradFi and DeFi will continue to merge. One area of particular promise that will allow new and interesting ways for artists, musicians, writers and other creators to monetize and engage with their own users are NFTs or non-fungible tokens. We are still early, but we at Oxygen think the financial platforms of this changing economy will need to start enabling how and where their users monetize in order to be able to provide real utility to their end consumers.”
Chief Financial Officer of Paymerang, John Heyel, believes fraud was one of the major issues of 2021.
“2021 saw a major increase in all kinds of payment fraud, ransomware, and business email compromise. Companies are waking up to the fact that they are exposed to significant risk in their day to day payment transactions. I believe in 2022 we will see FinTechs provide creative options to combat these fraud attempts. We will see a continued increase in the adoption of AR/AP outsourcing, the growth of new payment alternatives such as real time payments, and perhaps innovative ideas applying AI and blockchain technology to commercial payments,” he said.
Finally, Jesse Hemson-Struther, CEO and co-founder of BVNK agrees with the previous speakers, that crypto and digital assets were a major feature of the year.
“2021 continued a trend we’d seen the previous year with cryptocurrencies and digital assets winning mainstream acceptance and being incorporated into global financial systems. Milestones this year included the SEC’s approval of the first ETF for bitcoin futures (meaning that bitcoin was trading in a regulated space), bitcoin becoming legal tender in El Salvador, and MSCI introducing a cryptocurrency index for asset managers and investment banks.
He continued: “There is a body of evidence which suggests that the adoption of cryptocurrencies is happening faster than the take-up of the internet. As we look ahead to 2022, we see that momentum in the digital asset space continuing.
“Five of the six biggest funding rounds in crypto history happened this year and raised USD 1.7 billion (2). With that kind of backing, these deals reflect firm belief in the potential of the sector. Talent and resources are now being deployed to further build out capabilities so digital assets can play an even bigger role in global financial systems. This will be the innovation on the supply side.
“On the demand side, the market need for crypto-based financial services will continue to increase due to factors we saw over the last 12 months:: the macroeconomic environment, growing numbers of businesses with large crypto positions, and demand from the public to transact in crypto..
“The overarching trend for 2022 will be the convergence of traditional finance with cryptocurrencies. Already, we’re seeing growing demand for business banking services that can manage both fiat currencies and crypto.”