Fintech is short for financial technology — seems simple, right?
Well, the term fintech includes a huge range of products, technologies, and business models that are changing the financial services industry.
It refers to everything from cashless payments, to crowdfunding platforms, to robo-advisors, to virtual currencies. So every time you donate to someone’s Kickstarter campaign — that’s fintech. Or if you transfer money to someone using Paytm/Venmo — that’s also fintech.
Investors are buying it!
Global investment in the fintech sector has added up to nearly $100 billion since 2010.
In 2017 alone, fintech investment surged 18%.
Startups focusing on payment and lending technologies received the majority of those funds.
It’s not just startups that are getting into fintech. Some of the world’s biggest companies from Apple to Alibaba are going big on it, too. Just think of Apple Pay or Alipay.
One reason for all of this investment? Consumers are adopting fintech — fast.
One out of every three people across 20 major economies reports using at least two fintech services in the last six months.
China and India are leading the way with more than half of consumers
using services like money transfers, financial planning, borrowing, and insurance.
Traditional Banking Alternative
Financial technology has filled a void for people around the world
who don’t have access to traditional banking services. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly two billion people worldwide are without bank accounts. Now, thanks to fintech, all you need is your phone to take out a loan or insurance.
Take Kenya, which pioneered a mobile banking system called M-Pesa. Kenyans access their M-Pesa accounts directly on their mobile phones to transfer money, pay bills, or take out loans. Today, an estimated 96% of households in Kenya use M-Pesa and one study found it has helped lift roughly 2% of Kenyan households out of extreme poverty.
The rise of fintech has forced traditional lenders, insurers, and asset managers to embrace new digital technologies. For example, wealth managers now have to compete with robo-advisors — which are automated financial planning services.
Thanks to high-tech algorithms, these services are available 24/7 and can be more affordable than traditional asset managers. That helps explain why robo-advisors already have billions of dollars under management.
Like any growing industry, fintech isn’t without risks. And some regulators have struggled to keep up with the fast pace of innovation. Think of peer-to-peer lending platforms, where individuals borrow and lend without going through a bank. Compared to traditional banks, these services might not be required to set aside as much money in case customers default on their loans. This can be risky for companies and consumers.
Data privacy is another major concern. As more financial services go digital, cyber-attacks become a bigger risk. The challenges facing financial technology are likely to grow as more and more businesses go digital.