For years, traditional financial institutions have kept their distance from the fintech industry, loath to embrace the trend that is threatening their monopoly over banking, finance, loans and investment.
But as financial technologies continue to expand, legacy players have come to accept the disruptive role of fintech startups and the need to work together. In recent years, the relation between banks and fintech startups has evolved from marginal investments to closely knit collaboration and integration.
The result has been beneficial to both parties as well as consumers, who now have access to more efficient and versatile financial services.
As is the case with the rest of the tech industry, fintech startups have the advantage of speed and agility. While banks and financial institutions are slow to adopt new technologies, startups are extremely efficient at implementing emerging trends such as machine learning and Blockchain. Peer-to-peer payments, smart loans and AI-powered fraud detection are just some of the innovations that fintech startups have brought forth.
Using mobile apps and easy-to-use web services, fintech startups simplify many of the services that banks offer. Examples are Acorns, an app that makes investment more accessible and easy to manage, and Mint, an all-in-one resource for creating a budget, tracking your spending and getting smart about your money.
However, to grow and succeed, fintech startups need access to the capital, scale, data and regulatory authority of banks. Testament to the fact are the struggles of online lending companies in recent years.
Banks are now getting involved at different levels to help fintech companies get off the ground. This includes an increasing number of buyouts, mergers and partnerships.
An example is Goldman Sachs, a banking firm that has invested more than $570 mln in fintech companies since 2012. Last year, the banking giant acquired Honest Dollar, a digital retirement savings platform, in order to expand the startup’s brilliant solution to millions of its customers. Along with Standard Charter, Goldman also helped Momo, a Vietnam-based mobile wallet and payment app, raise $34 mln in two rounds of funding. Goldman also launched its own online lending service Marcus last year, a move that is inspired by the fintech culture. The service has so far doled out more than $1 bln in loans and expects to cross $2 bln by the end of this year.
On the other end, fintech startups are helping banks adopt new technology. Ezbob, for example, is a UK-based startup that provided online lending services to SMEs before white-labeling its technology and changing its business model to a Lending as a Service (LaaS) platform. The Royal Bank of Scotland has leveraged Ezbob’s technology to launch Esme, its automated lending platform which allows small and medium-sized businesses to obtain loans quickly, even outside working hours.
Partnerships are also proving to be a successful venture in the banking and fintech front. In late 2015, JPMorgan Chase teamed up with online lender OnDeck Capital to provide small business lending services. JPMorgan was spared the effort to develop its own technology while OnDeck, a company that was struggling since its IPO in 2014, obtained access to Chase’s vast customer base. More recently, JPMorgan partnered with LiftFund, a financial and business support organization and microlender, to launch LiftUP, a web-based small business lending platform. LiftUp aims to support minorities and other underserved business owners by increasing their access to capital.
The financial support of financial institutions and the technical prowess of tech startups can help usher the next generation of data-powered financial technologies. In 2016, HSBC funded Xenomorph, a company that provides data management technology to banks, to help accelerate the development of TimeScape EDM+, an analytics and management platform for financial data.
The convergence of traditional and modern financial services is still in its infancy, but so far the results have been promising. According to a Business Insider report, partnerships with fintech startups has helped banks cut the costs of developing customer-facing services and optimizing legacy processes while increasing revenue. Banks and insurers have also been able to benefit from the collaboration to improve customer engagement through cutting edge technologies.
The financial landscape is one of the oldest and most complex components of human society. As it evolves, both banks and fintech startups realize that they need each other to thrive, and by finding the balance and making the right compromises, they’ll be able to adapt to the changing needs of the industry and create opportunities which were inconceivable before.