The FinTech Explosion and Three Key Opportunities

By Jerry Stiedaman 

The phrase “FinTech” has become somewhat of a buzzword. Financial Technology has become the golden child— from start-ups to long-standing financial institutions, business of all kinds are attempting to capitalize on “what’s next” in the global financial markets. Couple that with the fact that everything related to money—from buying stocks, to paying bills—has been expedited, it’s easy to see that the financial world has flattened out, and customers are now reachable anywhere at anytime.

The rapidly changing landscape means that today’s financial brands have to rethink how they compete in the global market. Deep experience with innovative companies from across the world, in addition to our data science capabilities, has allowed VSA to identify three emerging trends within the FinTech category. These ideas will have a profound impact on the industry, and we see them as opportune areas for any brand competing in the FinTech space:

1. The continued rise of cryptocurrencies

Instead of trying to stifle the possibility of a global digital currency, traditional finance companies should position themselves as enablers of cryptocurrencies.

What started as an exploration into the idea of a pure digital currency has suddenly grown into a global market with a more than $30 Billion market cap. Bitcoin is arguably the most popular today, but there are other digital currencies beginning to grab market share as well, namely Ethereum.

Because they aren’t backed by a central government, cryptocurrencies are remarkably unique: By nature, they bridge the gap between currencies and commodities. Over the past several years, experts have been trying to provide reasons for why cryptocurrencies will ultimately fail as a currency or as store of wealth, but the opposite has happened. In fact, Bitcoin has recently hit an all-time high of over $6,100, and presently shows no signs of slowing down.

People are attracted to the idea of cryptocurrencies because government-backed currency is often seen as unstable. Furthermore, in today’s digital age, many people around the world lack access to a physical bank or credit cards and checking accounts, yet they have smartphones that allow them to send and receive cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency is a disruptive technology, and very soon there will be a company  that figures out a way to raise awareness around the possibilities that it presents — both as a currency and as a method of wealth transfer. Across the globe, there are more people who have smartphones than traditional banking accounts, and cryptocurrencies give them a means of transaction they did not have before.

2. Bringing banking to the bankless

The global middle class is exploding: By 2030 its mass is expected to be nearly 5 billion people strong — more than double the current size. With this growth comes tremendous opportunity to bring banking to the upwardly mobile class, who have never had the chance or ability to use traditional banks.

As of yet, no company has figured out the best way to bring this technology and platform to the public: Start-ups lack the money necessary, and large global banks lack the desire to go after this segment of population. Certainly global financial institutions and organizations wouldn’t allow a mega-bank to serve everybody on a global scale, what with different banking laws enacted in different parts of the world. It will take a FinTech collaboration of innovation companies and traditional banking to bring basic services to different corners of the globe and best serve the exploding middle class.

The catch? Almost every country is experiencing major distrust in the financial industry — but these are exactly the companies that will bring banking to the rest of the world. Brands struggle to figure out how to be both globally significant and locally relevant at the same time, so It may take a “house of brands” approach from a multinational bank (or banks) to address this opportunity. Many will want opportunities to bank with a company that they feel is locally invested in what is happening — not looking to make money halfway around the globe.

For many, this will be the first exposure to banking, something we in the United States often take for granted. In fact, Americans are becoming more and more emotionally detached from money. And this is the third opportunity in FinTech.

3. Re-establishing the emotional connection to money

In the modern age, particularly for younger individuals, the idea of physical money is almost completely gone. People no longer hand over cash, write checks or even walk into a bank. While being able to touch a button and send cash to a friend is amazing technology, some things are beginning to get lost. Namely, people are no longer emotionally connected to money, and as such, many struggle with budgeting (or even know what money means any more).

This lack of emotional connection with money not only hits people’s day-to-day spending, but it is compounded with the ability to save and plan for buying a house, retirement or even a “rainy-day” fund. It has become so easy to keep all money and transactions out-of-sight-and-mind that people often fail to realize the impact over-spending has.

There is a real opportunity to start a public awareness campaign to get people emotionally connected to their money again, and help focus on what their money means to them. Part of this can be established through technology, by making people more aware of what their spending patterns are, and taking that a step further to get them to begin to save a little bit each paycheck. Cash is no longer the primary means of transactions (at least in the U.S.) and soon credit cards may also become obsolete with the rise of Apple Pay, Bitcoin, Amazon store scans, etc. — but the need to bring emotion back into spending again is pertinent.

These three principles are interrelated, and it’s difficult to completely separate any of these opportunities in the FinTech space. As more and more people around the world become increasingly comfortable with the idea of completely abandoning physical money, challenges and opportunities will arise and it’s imperative that FinTech companies stay ahead of the curve to help overcome these and gain consumers’ trust once again.

 

A six-year VSA veteran, Jerry brings a unique mix of corporate and agency experience to his role as Director, Client Engagement. For the past 17 years, he has worked in both small and large agencies, as well as spending eight of those years in corporate sales and marketing for a Fortune 50 financial company. During his six years at VSA Partners, he has worked on clients such as CME Group, Northern Trust, Allstate and Frontline Insurance. Previously, he has also held full licensure in securities and worked as a financial advisor.

Contact Jerry at jstiedaman@vsapartners.com