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Adapting to Fintech: The New Normal

In the early days of Fintech, new apps, platforms, and solutions were often met with broad skepticism. Many thought that only reckless millennials who didn’t understand finance and data security would risk using apps like Venmo or Mint. But since those early days Venmo was acquired by PayPal and Mint by Intuit, and Fintech has obviously come into its own in a very real way.

Though there were valid privacy concerns for early Fintechs to address, from its earliest days Fintech was obviously tapping into an unfilled need that traditional institutions had failed to recognize or address. These incumbents weren’t innovating to keep pace with digital advances and the Fintech industry expanded dramatically to begin meeting the consumer desire for easier, cheaper alternatives to traditional solutions.

As we enter this new decade, we’re looking at the current state of Fintech and asking whether it’s becoming the normal in the world of finance.

Fintech is reaching record adoption rates

Globally, Fintech adoption has been growing at a steady clip in the latter half of the last decade, reaching 64% in 2019. In emerging countries in particular where credit cards and traditional financial services are less available than they are in Europe and North America, Fintech has reached near universal levels of consumer adoption.

With adoption growing, Fintech offerings begin to look to consumers like the new normal. Fintechs have quickly evolved from scrappy upstarts offering nice-to-have features to early adopters to sophisticated operators delivering seamless, digital-first financial products to consumers hungry for better alternatives to the clunky and expensive options that were previously the only ones available to them.

Fintechs are prompting change at traditional financial institutions

As Fintechs have become an increasingly powerful threat to business as usual in the banking and financial industries, legacy players have been forced to sit up and take notice.

Concerned about losing market share to Fintech challengers, many incumbents have scrambled to improve their own digital offerings in order to keep customers from defecting. Others have turned an eye to acquisitions, snatching up Fintechs at prices that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. As recently as January, financial services company, Plaid, was acquired by Visa for $5.3 billion.

With heavy-hitting financial institutions behind them, Fintechs are going to gain even greater exposure than they have previously, folding them into the mainstream of the financial products landscape.

COVID-19 may further hasten Fintech adoption

While the world continues to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and with a possible second wave to come in the fall, Fintech will have a clear role to play in the new, post-pandemic reality.

Mobile payments, contactless solutions, and remote banking options are going to be indispensable moving forward. Where previously the perceived friction of adopting a new payment method (i.e.; mobile wallets) has kept adoption rates low in North America in particular, new anxieties around surface contamination will likely be high enough to prompt consumers to actively seek out contactless options.

Neobanks, which are proliferating and becoming more visible to the average consumer, may also see a boost as an unsteady economy prompts banking customers to search for ways to reduce fees and better manage their money.

New technology is powering personalized products and services

The technology that undergirds Fintech solutions and platforms only gets stronger with every passing year.

AI, in particular, will enable Fintechs to provide more personalized solutions to consumers. Traditional wealth management is at risk of disruption by “robo-advisors”, which may be able to help democratize the space and appeal to a younger generation of investors.

Meanwhile, the internet of things (IoT) has the potential to revolutionize the insurance space by making truly personalized protection a reality through real-time measurement (for example, safe driving data measured by a connected car.)

Takeaways

The Fintech market has grown dramatically in size and dominance in the past five years. Awareness and adoption among consumers is on the rise, and this has forced legacy financial institutions to adapt in order to keep pace with the disruptors. These factors signal that Fintechs are close to achieving what’s beginning to look very much like mainstream status.

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