No man is an island when it comes to fintech, and in the pursuit of a better world driven by better financial services, it’s clear that standing together means progressing together. This September at The Fintech Times, we’ll be delving into every corner of what it means to be a fintech ecosystem. We’ve dedicated the entire month to investigating what makes a successful fintech ecosystem, how fintechs can work together more effectively, as well as providing a regional view of some of the industry’s best examples of community collaboration.
Our third week of coverage into fintech ecosystems, being the encompassing topic of our September focus, brings us head-to-head with fintech hubs and membership associations from around the world.
The industry is dotted with a wide variety of different associations that all seek to achieve different things. As a core aspect of fintech ecosystems itself, here we welcome fintechs from all walks of life to share what their experience of being a member of a fintech association is really like.
Embedded finance in Asia
Credify specialises in enterprise tools that enable embedded finance for traditional financial institutions and e-commerce marketplaces. The company operates in Vietnam and Japan and develops enterprise solutions that are focused on embedded finance and digital identity.
Because one of its subsidiaries is based in Japan, the Singapore-headquartered fintech chose to join both the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) and the Fintech Association of Japan (FAJ).
Being a member of the two associations has provided benefits to Credify as well as its management team, as Maurizio Raffone, its chief financial officer, explains.
“The SFA is very proactive and a strong innovator,” he says. “For instance, the SFA runs the Fintech Certificate programme which distinguishes certified fintech companies from other members and fintechs in the marketplace.
Raffone confirms that the company obtained this certificate at the launch of the programme.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recognises the certificate and it is used as a benchmark qualification needed to receive some of the support from the Covid-19 Support Package.
“The SFA is a relentless advocate for innovation and open dialogue among its members and with the broader finance, technology and regulatory community,” continues Raddone. “Regular events, both in person and online, have helped us at Credify stay connected with the latest market developments and network with our peers.”
The company has regularly participated in several of the activities of Japan’s FAJ; community events that accommodate working groups on key fintech subsectors, areas of interest and current market trends.
“During the Covid outbreak, the FAJ’s work has been very important in ensuring continuity of dialogue between fintechs and financial institutions in areas of open innovation, such as digital identity and embedded finance, which are core activities for Credify,” he comments.
“Overall, Credify’s participation in the SFA and FAJ has helped us stay connected with potential clients and investors, with developments in the marketplace and with regulatory discussions, particularly during the pandemic.”
Funding in Canada
Information Venture Partners is a Canadian venture capital firm that specialises in direct and fund of funds investments in fintech.
The Toronto-headquartered VC has had a relationship with the Montreal-based fintech fund The Holt Xchange since 2018. Its portfolio growth programme provides capital to early/seed stage entrepreneurs as well as access to network support and mentors.
Here, the company’s principal, Alex Tong, explains how its relationship with the fund has brought benefits to the VC.
“I have been a mentor for companies in their cohorts and provided advice and guidance to entrepreneurs in the earliest stages,” says Tong.
“Our connection to their programming has provided us with complimentary deal sourcing as we’ve attended many of their events, including selection days, workshops and pitching sessions.”
The company’s involvement in these events has provided opportunities for it to expand and deepen its network in the fintech ecosystem, having connected it with like-minded advisors and mentors.
Its association with The Holt Xchange has cultivated a range of other benefits for the company, as Tong explains.
“We’ve had increased brand awareness and exposure to our target audience through speaking and presenting opportunities, such as Dave Unsworth, general partner at Information Venture Partners, speaking at their cybersecurity webinar.”
Community building in Lithuania
Nikulipe is a fintech company that facilitates market access for fintech, PSPs and their merchants by streamlining access to local payment methods (LPMs) or creating payment solutions where there are none.
The company is a member of Fintech Hub LT, an association that unites financial technology industry participants in Lithuania.
They do so by creating favourable conditions for their members such as a self-regulatory framework, representing the interests of the industry to local and international governments while reinforcing community building. Fintech Hub LT consists of 63 members and only a licence holder can join the organisation.
Nikulipe CCO Erika Maslauskaitė, who recently became a board member of the association, believes it is a great privilege to be part of the association that unites some of the brightest minds of the Lithuanian fintech scene.
“So far we are extremely happy being a part of this group and having a close connection with the Lithuanian financial industry members,” Maslauskaitė shared.
“As a member we enjoy the possibility of collaborating with market participants, sharing expertise and shaping the future of the industry through strategic sessions.
“Aside from internal benefits, the organisation participates in a dialogue with the Central Bank of Lithuania and other governmental bodies. This way we can present a common strategic outlook and share the industry needs directly to the decision-makers.”
After being elected as the board member of Fintech Hub LT this year, Maslauskaitė now has additional
responsibilities and activities within the organisation.
“I am working on ensuring the correct competitive field between market participants in Lithuania. Also representing the official members in external markets to ensure a solid position not only in the Baltic region but also globally.
“Our aim is to uplift the member companies through good communication, resource availability and strong representation of the industry. This way ensures the growth of the Lithuanian financial market and allows us to continue to make it known as the leading fintech hub of the world.”
Many in Massachusetts
Vestigo Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts that invests in technology companies focused on financial services.
The company is an active member of the Mass Fintech Hub, a public-private partnership based in Massachusetts comprising a network of fintech leaders, financial experts, academics, public sector leaders and venture capitalists.
The Hub supports the fintech ecosystem through programmes that attract investment, talent, and collaboration and encourage regulatory innovation.
Mark Casady, the company’s founder and general partner, explains how the membership has been beneficial for both sides.
“Fintech has emerged to become an important sector to focus upon for venture investors, incumbent financial services firms, universities and government. At Vestigo Ventures we had hoped for this impact to be understood when we started our firm about six years ago,” he says.
Casady recommends that the best way to consolidate these various groups is through a non-profit fintech-focused organisation, which in Massachusetts, is the Mass Fintech Hub.
“[The Hub] provides a forum and events that allow all participants to discuss what is important to them and find common areas to work together to improve conditions that will bring success to the fintech sector. For our firm, these connections are extremely valuable.”
He describes ready-made networks as “critical” to helping entrepreneurs beyond capital.
“Having an ability to help influence curriculum for students interested in fintech is so helpful in fostering interest for startups,” continues Casady. “Teaching as well as learning from students is critical for a healthy ecosystem. Without Mass Fintech Hub, our firm would be much less effective. With it, we can be part of changing the world.”
Reading Cooperative Bank (RCB) also happens to be a member of Mass Fintech Hub.
The Massachusetts-native cooperative bank is also a founding member of Alloy Labs Alliance, a consortium of banks formed to innovate and co-create together.
Julie Thurlow, the bank’s president and CEO since December 2005, discusses how the bank has benefitted from its association with both organisations.
“Through our participation with the Mass Fintech Hub, we have met local fintech leaders, thought leaders, and fintech partners sharing best practices, areas of alignment, and new market opportunities,” says Thurlow.
“The Hub connects local fintech creators and leaders to local FI’s showcasing local opportunities to partner. Boston Fintech Week later this month is always an exciting opportunity to see what is new and growing locally.
As an example of this collaborative attitude, RCB has recently partnered with ZSuites, a fintech product developed in Boston that automates escrows and rent collection for landlords.
“With the Alloy Labs Alliance,” continues Thurlow, “we have co-developed the CHUCK network which we will be showcasing at Finovate in a few weeks. The Alliance allowed us to co-develop with other banks driving down the cost to market; the use cases for the product are endless.
“Mass Fintech Hub counts as its members MassChallenge and Fintech Sandbox which have their own connections to Alloy Labs providing a supportive ecosystem and resources for our banking team.”
Fintech and fintech associations in the UK
OpenPayd is an embedded finance provider in the digital assets and cross-border payments sector.
Through its API-driven technology, the company helps businesses, including Swissborg, Bitfinex and Caxton, embed financial
Its services are underpinned by a global network of licences and are accessible through a single API. These include IBANs, open banking, e-money accounts, FX conversion, local and international payments, card processing and debit cards.
London-headquartered OpenPayd is involved in a number of fintech association memberships including Adan, Crypto UK, Fintech Alliance, Innovate Finance, International Association of Money Transfers Networks (IAMTN) and The Payments Association.
Here, the company’s head of marketing, Michael Treacy, explains its various memberships were so necessary to its operations.
“As the fintech industry matures and grows, so do its needs. From start-ups to established players, associations give anyone interested in the sector access to the latest news and insights, government and regulatory policies, access to talent, investors, and the ability to connect with stakeholders,” comments Treacy.
“They are important places where we can work to foster our quickly expanding industry and coordinate our advocacy with policymakers and other stakeholders.”
Speaking on the benefits that its memberships have garnered for the company, Treacy said: “Associations have been an invaluable network and knowledge hub for us as we’ve scaled up. Building the talent pipeline and promoting inclusivity is an important priority for our industry and associations are important amplifiers of our work.”
“Their programmes such as Innovate Finance’s Women in Fintech initiative and Fintech Alliance’s mentoring hub are exceptional at fostering talent at every level and are an important source for our recruitment,” he continues.
“Associations have also given us the opportunity to engage directly with peers, and share best practices and thoughts on the future of fintech.
“Through workshops, research, and development programmes, associations give members like us an opportunity to shape important conversations around policy, industry growth, and investment.
“For OpenPayd, sharing our latest reports and news with the association community is a great way to support marketing and lead generation.”