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 Eric Huttman, Jesse Randall, Evan Michaels, Sue Fennessy and Kriya Patel on their 2021 thoughts, plus a look ahead to 2022. Will there be a Happy New Year? Read on…
Eric Huttman, CEO of MillTechFX, commented:
“Across the board next year, we expect to see a greater focus on three key themes: digitisation, automation and outsourcing. As part of this, there will be continued interest in the implementation of fast, cost-effective and efficient technology, tools and partners.
“Because it can be challenging for the C-suite to pick the right fintech partner due to vast numbers of firms providing different solutions and the difficulty of separating signal from the noise and hype that surrounds many fintech firms, it’s essential that fintechs can demonstrate how they are solving a client’s problem and how they add value. Independent verification of that value add is also critical.”
“Following COP26, ESG is set to become even more important as we move into 2022. We can expect to see growing demand for fintechs to demonstrate their ESG credentials but they will have to be meaningful to avoid greenwashing.”
Jesse Randall, Co-Founder & CEO of Sweater, thinks alternative investor platforms have been the big trend of the year.
“There have been some big trends this year with banking APIs and FaaS platforms like Plaid, but the biggest trend I’ve seen is in the continued rise of alternative investment platforms geared towards the everyday retail investor.
“The fintech revolution is unfolding right before our eyes, as we see retail investors taking control of their investing futures. Alternative investing platforms are opening up access to previously exclusive asset categories—commercial real estate, art, hedge funds, and even farmland. We’re taking it further with the first venture capital fund everyone can invest into—accredited or not.
“Sweater is a first-of-its-kind venture capital fund, giving retail investors broad private-market exposure through an easy-to-use mobile application. It’s clear that the “average” investor today is very different from the average investor 60 years ago, and heck, even vastly different from the average investor 10 years ago. The retail investor revolution is here. This is an exponentially growing population of young, early-tech adopters keen on taking more and more control of their investment future. They are and will be the backbone of fintech innovation and future applications.
“It’s difficult to predict what exactly will trend next year, but it’s clear that consumer-based applications and solutions are leading fintech innovation, with one of the biggest consumers of fintech right now being the ever-expanding retail investor population.
“I believe that this trend of retail investors taking control of their financial future is only in its infancy. Through 2022, we will continue to see more alternative investing platforms rise and maturing asset categories will continue to see more optionality as their business models prove themselves out and competition comes more aggressively into the space.
“Our 10-year view at Sweater is that the entire retail investing world will be on its head, and we will not even recognise the way things used to be. The retail investor revolution is here and Sweater will be the platform leading the charge into VC and beyond.”
Evan Michaels, CEO and co-founder of HELPFUL, the sustainable payment engine, said:
“Work is changing, the way we live is changing and most importantly our relationship with the environment is changing. With these lifestyle changes we’ve seen a movement developing with green and sustainable finance. A lot of new start-ups are focusing on sustainability and commerce while a few established players add sustainability features such as carbon offsetting to their existing tools. It’s really exciting to see more and more people questioning our impact on the environment and looking for ways to minimise it. I am pleased to see the UK fintech industry leading the way.
As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen companies reflect on their models and look at alternative ways to deliver more sustainable products, with a digital focus, thanks to a leap of about 5 years in adoption of digital, by consumers and business, according to McKinsey.
“In the payments industry, mobile and faster payments have grown, especially among younger generations, our first piece of consumer analysis revealed that 18-34 year-olds make up 80% of HELPFUL users. However, cash remains the second most frequently used payment method, after debit cards.
“We’re starting to see more integrated experiences, companies working together, combining technologies to deliver solutions, to balance purpose and profit, for a better future.
“The current landscape is complex, with multiple apps, registration processes and payment options for consumers to choose from, which results in abandoned shopping baskets and low repeat purchases. This means that we need cross-industry simplification, that will deliver a seamless experience that people expect in a sustainable society.
“There’s still a long way to go in terms of everyone embracing digital solutions, but we see a real opportunity for digital payments to become a force for good, not just an add-on to complete a transaction, and play a big part in simplifying the consumer experience.
“I think we’ll see barriers to sustainable options removed, providing better access to products and services, as well as more rewards for consumers who make responsible choices.
“We think that collaboration is key to deliver a seamless and sustainable experience and we expect to see some really exciting partnerships in 2021, that reflect the move from business as usual, towards more sustainable models. This will be alongside policy and regulation that continues to invest in sustainable businesses. For business, this can mean new engaged customers, higher repeat purchase numbers and lower transaction costs.”
Sue Fennessy, WeAre8 Founder and CEO said: “As with every industry, fintech has been shaped by the ideas and sentiments shared in 2021″
She continued: “The three central themes being democratisation, transparency and the environment. People want access to their money faster, they want to transfer money without the fees and they want transparency from everyone. Fintech companies like Stash are making it easy for millions of people to become micro shareholders of public companies in a way that was only ever accessible to the wealthy and platforms like Crowd Cube mean that people can invest alongside the big investors in private companies. This is a transformational trend that is going to keep growing. We have also seen the rise in crypto, carbon footprint trackers, eco-friendly cryptocurrencies, and green banks.
“This new direction speaks to a broader trend that places the well-being of the end-user front and centre. For example, ‘buy now, pay later’ platforms have been criticised for promoting a lifestyle that encourages its users (mainly young people) to live beyond their economic means. At WeAre8, by contrast, our focus has been on financially empowering the end-user and offering them the tools to make a social and environmental impact. We have built a world where everyone will be able to fund their small utility payments through their WeAre8 wallets by watching ads for 2 minutes a day.”
On 2022: “Crypto will get bigger but hopefully evolve in a way that is better for the climate and does not destabilize economies.
“At WeAre8, we are flipping the 550 Billion dollar advertising market to enable the money to go to people and the planet rather than tech giants. We financially value users’ time, paying them for every ad they choose to watch on our app. Our financial model means that a percentage of every brand’s ad spend gets diverted to charity, and end-users can also pay their earnings forward to a charity of their choice. By revolutionising the ad industry, we’re redirecting funds away from tech giants and back to the people and the planet.
“We are integrating the WeAre8 wallet with other leading fintech that are also aligned in democratising systems and reducing fees. Companies like Sokin are allowing micro money transfers all around the world easy and cost-efficient.”
Kriya Patel, CEO, Transact Payments thinks that fintechs that offered credit to SMEs helped keep them afloat.
“As the pandemic raged in 2020, fintech firms stepped in to help the UK’s SMEs as they tried to stay afloat by offering credit. As the pandemic slowly fades in 2022, we’ll see even wider adoption of credit products from fintechs by smaller businesses, built on the trust formed in 2020.”
“These fintech lenders are well-positioned to tap into this burgeoning sector for a number of reasons, especially in light of the healthy increase in the number of such businesses created in 2021. Firstly, many are specifically focused on catering to smaller firms’ exact credit needs, creating products that are an exact fit for what SMEs are looking for. In addition, these fintechs have a better deployment of technology suited to tech-savvy SMEs, mixed with flexible lending criteria policies and an ability to make credit decisions much quicker than traditional financial organisations.”
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.