How FinTechs Will Come of Age in the 2020s

January 21, 2020 | By Ken Moore

When technologies and partners combine, amazing innovation can occur. If we take the example of semi-autonomous vehicles, it wasn’t one technological advance in isolation that led to the transformations we are now seeing in mobility. Instead, emerging technologies – from telematic sensors to cameras, batteries and AI – coupled with partnerships forged between existing incumbents and new entrants enabled us to, quite literally, move forward.

That’s what the future holds for FinTechs and financial services as well. After years of FinTechs pursuing niche use cases and specific demographics on their own, promising new FinTech partnerships are forming that are transforming banking and bringing it into new territories. Enabled by API orchestration, FinTechs are embedding financial services into experience-centric, innovative solutions across the financial services ecosystem and entering into new markets.

As incumbent financial services players have realized FinTech is not a threat but rather a strategic partnership opportunity, and digital players seek to control more of the customer journey, venture funding of FinTech companies is continuing to set records. As the “original FinTech,” Mastercard is excited about the opportunity to partner with today’s emerging innovators on disruptive solutions through programs such as Start Path in the Mastercard Accelerate portfolio. Like FinTechs, we are fast, agile, growth-focused digital natives, but we also have the global reach, network of partners and local knowledge to support FinTechs at every stage of their growth journey from market entry to global expansion.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with CB Insights to look at the global state of FinTech and the top five trends to watch across geographies.

In North America, bundling will drive the future of finance

Large digital players across verticals are integrating financial services into their platforms, “unbundling” and then “re-bundling” their solutions. To enable this re-bundling, digital giants, FinTechs and incumbents are co-creating new experiences. Digital players with large customer bases are moving into financial services and looking to partner with top service providers to help them. We’ve seen this play out recently with Google’s new checking accounts and Mastercard's partnership with Apple and Goldman Sachs to launch the hugely successful Apple Card.

As more companies move into financial services, acquiring new customers becomes more difficult and expensive. As a result, we’ve seen a new class of FinTechs emerge: banking-as-a service players who partner with digital players and other top brands to bundle banking products and services into their existing experiences rather than focusing solely on acquiring consumers directly themselves. Through Start Path, Mastercard supports such startups like Hydrogen, which enables existing financial services players and non-financial services companies to prototype, design, build and manage FinTech products in banking, savings, financial wellness and wealth.

European FinTechs are looking to acquire customers abroad

With open banking and PSD2, Europe has become a breeding ground for FinTechs, enabling the rise of challenger banks and middleware data players. Now these European challenger banks are attempting to scale internationally. Revolut, for example, has taken off in Europe with more than 7 million customers since its inception in 2015 and is partnering with Mastercard to tackle the U.S. market. European FinTech will continue to prosper from the friendly regulatory environment and investors, regulators and startups in other geographies will look to Europe as a model.

FinTechs in Southeast Asia are dueling to become the next super-app

In Southeast Asia, a rising middle class and widespread mobile penetration are creating the perfect environment for FinTechs to build and scale their financial services. Startups are capitalizing on the region’s largest internet economy in Indonesia, which has more than quadrupled in size over the last five years to reach a value of $40 billion.

Akin to what we’ve seen with super-apps such as Tencent’s WeChat, many Southeast Asian startups are building their brand in areas unrelated to financial services, such as transportation and delivery, and then expanding into payments. Some companies, including Start Path’s Nuclei, are helping banks compete with the emerging super-apps. Nuclei is building an omni-channel API platform that provides banks with the ability to offer more consumer services through the bank app.

Latin American FinTechs are lending to the underserved

While challenger banks have first gone after consumers who are crying out for innovation, there’s a growing trend in FinTech to service small and medium businesses and small merchants in developing markets. MarketUp is one such Start Path company from Brazil that offers free tools for small merchants (e.g. enterprise resource planning and point of sale), as well as a marketplace for inventory, providing an aggregated community of suppliers for big brands.

In Africa, FinTechs are building mobile-first payments applications for the unbanked

Mobile wallets and payments processing platforms are being tested in market with the hope of becoming a catalyst for financial inclusion. FinTechs are building mobile-first payment applications, and mobile network operators are extending into areas where existing financial services infrastructure can’t reach the more than 340 million unbanked adults in Sub-Saharan Africa.

TymeBank is using AI conversational assistant “Max” to reach traditionally underserved consumers in South Africa with an easy-to-access banking experience delivered on platforms they use regularly – WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Max acts as a financial fitness coach, helping TymeBank customers improve their credit score and use goal-based savings.

In addition, our Start Path program also has a focus on FinTechs targeting key demographics such as Kasha in Kenya. Kasha is an e-commerce platform devoted to providing women’s health, personal care and beauty products and is looking to expand its offerings specific to women’s needs through the ubiquity of the smartphone.

2020 and beyond: FinTech everywhere

Since our beginning, Mastercard has been at the forefront of innovation, and we’ve had a co-creation approach from day one. We believe in the power of partnerships and in collaborating with other digitally native, high-growth companies to build and scale new solutions that meet a need. As the partner of choice for FinTechs worldwide, we bring our global reach, our network and our local knowledge to every relationship. We view FinTech as an opportunity to offer the best digital financial experience to everyone, everywhere.

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Ken Moore, Chief Innovation Officer, Mastercard