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 Alex Latham, Eugene Danilkis, Duncan Stevens, Francesco Simoneschi, Becky Fulton on their 2021 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2022. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Alex Latham is the CMO and Co-Founder of Chip, a digital savings account. He believes “2021 has been the year of the retail investor. “
He continued: “It started with a bang in January this year when the GameStop saga hit just about every news outlet and became the hottest topic in fintech and beyond. Undoubtedly, it’s a big subject to unpack, but I only want to highlight the impact it had on the interest in investing. Instead of kicking off a boom in ‘meme stock’ trading among Gen Z and younger millennials, it actually led them to adopt more traditional investing tactics, according to Hargreaves Lansdown.
“It’s the spark that lit the flame, showing that you don’t have to be super-rich or have a background in finance to invest. In fact, we saw this first-hand. At Chip, we launched our Investments Platform with funds powered by BlackRock earlier this summer. It’s something our users have been asking for, for a long time, and a feature we’ve been very keen to offer, to allow our users to build long-term wealth. The demand we saw following the launch is a testament to how much interest there is in investing. I think the trend for investing will continue into investment funds, and not just crypto and ‘meme’ stocks. People are now seeing the benefits of investing but they want a more long-term, sustainable option, so I’d expect that passively managed, diversified funds will be in very high demand.
“In 2022, I think we’ll see more and more people of all demographics – not just the young, tech-savvy city dwellers – adopting fintech as their go-to default financial providers. As physical bank branches are disappearing, crypto is becoming ubiquitous, and digital banks and apps are able to offer far more competitive products than the incumbents, fintech’s share of the financial market pie is about to increase even more.”
Eugene Danilkis is the co-founder, CEO and driving force behind the rapidly growing Mambu SaaS banking platform. On the topic of this years trends, he said:
“With Big Tech, corporates, telcos and now e-commerce making moves into financial services in 2021, industry leaders will continue to assert their presence in the banking space over the next 12 months. We will see more non-financial companies adding services to their value chain – embedded finance becoming the new buzzword. This does not come without its challenges with the prospect industry of increased regulation. It’s unclear yet whether big players want to embrace all the levels of risk and if this represents a distraction from their core business, so it will be interesting to see how this embedded experience develops in 2022,”
“As-a-service offerings will redefine finance next year as banks look to diversify and offering a platform infrastructure is gaining interest. The disruption we have seen over the past 18 months will not relent in 2022, and to remain competitive, financial institutions will be looking at what is next to remain agile and innovative. Open collaboration with companies that are not primarily financial service providers but want an expert to create and offer financial services as part of their value chain will be welcomed. Here industry players can leverage open APIs and platform technology to deliver products and services quickly to market and deliver an enriched user experience,”
Duncan Stevens is CEO of Gretel, the fintech platform that helps people locate lost money, pensions and investments.
He said: “A trend emerging before the pandemic, but which has accelerated tenfold is utilising technology to enhance the socially responsible aspects of business, particularly in financial services.
“In 2021 the FCA put vulnerable customers at the forefront of planning for financial companies. The re-definition of vulnerability by the FCA and the vast number of people – approximately 24 million – who are now considered vulnerable made it among the most pressing priorities to be addressed in financial institutions in 2021. For us it is crucial that financial institutions use this lens of vulnerability to assess how they can support these customers.”
“As an industry fintechs can offer the solutions which support improved customer outcomes for the good of all. A good outcome from the pandemic would be the financial services industry working collaboratively to deliver solutions to those who need it most.
“In 2022 we need to increase customer engagement with their current bank and pension provider as well as any financial accounts that may have been forgotten about over the years. Financial inclusion also becomes a priority to ensure consumers don’t lose track of their money again.
“Traditional financial providers and fintechs working together will achieve the best outcomes for customers in 2022.”
Francesco Simoneschi, CEO and co-founder at TrueLayer, believes this year we’ve seen fintech continue its global boom.
“In Latin America investment is pouring into the region, particularly Mexico and Brazil, with leading firms such as Tiger Global Management and General Atlantic participating in rounds. Meanwhile more North American and European fintech firms are reaching scale and maturity with a number of high profile IPOs such as Coinbase and Robinhood in the US, and Wise in the UK.
“We’ve also seen Open Banking payments gaining momentum and adding value to a much wider range of businesses — anywhere where card processing fees and manual bank transfer processes are stinging merchants. Merchants appreciate that open banking can deliver a better experience by alleviating the issues of fraud and chargebacks associated with cards. It also offers higher conversion rates that can equate to millions or even hundreds of millions in revenue a year for businesses.
Looking ahead to 2022, Francesco said: “Thanks to fintech platforms and Banking as a Service (BaaS) providers, we will see regional players becoming global players like we have seen in any other software categories. The barrier to entry to launch global fintech companies is dropping rapidly and I think we can expect more and more fintech startups to target global markets.
“Open banking and real-time payments will go into the mainstream and replace ‘card not present’ use cases. With all the benefits they provide to merchants – low fraud, low cost, instant settlement – I expect more businesses who transact online to integrate open banking payments into the checkout throughout 2022.”
Becky Fulton, UK Growth Engineering Lead at Wise believes “2021 has been a big year in fintech, without a doubt.”
She continued: “One of the major things we’ve seen move forward is fintech companies working closer with the banks, rather than as competitors. In a world where Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are moving towards offering financial services, the banks can now embrace the trust and customer experience that fintechs offer to keep customers loyal.
“And so with competition for customers more fierce than ever, the only approach that’s going to work is
one that completely prioritises the end-user: from their experience using the platform, to the rates
they’re offered on their savings, to the way their accounts are managed. By working with fintechs who
specialise in specific areas, banks have a significant opportunity to create the best platform, simply by
working with the best specialists.
“This looks only set to improve, with Lloyds Bank’s sixth annual Financial Institutions Sentiment Survey
showing that more than two fifths (46%) of financial services firms plan to extend their relationships
with fintech firms in the next year, compared with a third (32%) in 2020.”