[Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Alexander Prokhorov. He is a managing partner and co-founder of FinSight Ventures, which focuses on fintech and enterprise software and was an early investor in LendingClub, DianRong, FinanceIt, and Earnest. He has more than 16 years of experience in direct investments and financial services.]
Over the past three years, Finsight has invested in close to a dozen fintech companies around the world, and we recently celebrated our fifth exit. As I consider the best places to put fresh capital to work, the following trends deserve attention:
- Convergence of Software and Financial Products One of the important lessons that Square taught the market is that bundles of software solutions (loyalty, POS, analytics, scheduling and many others) and lending are essential drivers in advancing growth of payment processing. Going forward, successful lending and payments solutions will need to be bundled with other software offerings. Finsight recently invested in DailyPay which integrates with payroll systems and is aiming to help more than 70 million hourly workers in the US get instant access to their wages. In 2018 in Europe, PSD2 regulation will drive banks to open access via APIs to consumer and business accounts to third party companies. For example, a consumer can direct a fintech company to pay utility bills directly from their bank account. This is a very important development, and one which shifts the power of bank data and management of funds back to consumers and businesses and will allow for further convergence of software and financial products.
- InsureTech The transformation of the insurance industry will continue its pace from online distribution, which disrupts offline distribution channels such as brokers (like Limelight and others), to the development of new products (like MetroMile and Lemonade).
- According to CB Insights, in 2019, more than 80% of insurance products for SMB in the US will continue to be distributed through offline channels
Technology is bringing greater overall efficiencies, lowering costs to back office, disrupting intermediaries, promoting mobile real-time engagement with customers, and sparking new insights to product and pricing.
- The Power of the Machines Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming many industries, including financial services. Companies like LendingClub are using machines to discover new relationships and patterns to introduce more tailored financial offers to their customers. Finsight recently invested in SBDA Group, which analyzes transactional data found in consumer banks and helps to provide insights for more effective cross-selling of other products.
Elon Musk puts it this way: “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast – it is growing at a pace close to exponential.”
- Emerging Economies Many growing companies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are developing and adopting financial solutions, often faster and with more innovation than in developed economies.
- Last year, Alipay and WeChat processed nearly $3 trillion of payments, up from $80 billion in 2012
- In Kenya last December, fintech lending companies like Branch and Tala ranked higher in the Google Play Store than Facebook and Instagram.
- Wealth Management Much has been said of standalone robo-advisors such as Wealthfront, Betterment and Nutmeg, but likely other leaders will emerge over time as technologies continue to empower and transform how financial advice is delivered. Currently, tools serving advisors are providing better access to different asset classes, decisioning, trading strategies, digital data.
- Acorns services more than 2 million accounts, according to Crunchbase
- Rise of Crypto and Blockchain 2018 will be the year of accelerated adoption by retail investors globally and the arrival of institutional capital to the crypto assets, further validating the notion of crypto as the “store of value” for the millenium. At the same time, software companies, corporations and governments are increasing adoption of applications powered by distributed ledgers.
- The New York Times reported that in November 2017, Coinbase was sometimes opening more than 100,000 accounts per day, with total accounts for more than 13.3 million people, which is more than either Etrade or Charles Schwab
- In December 2017, legendary Wall Street investor, Bill Miller, announced that half of the assets in the hedge fund he manages are in bitcoin
These six key fintech trends are at the forefront of our investment planning strategy going into 2018. I believe that based on what we’ve seen in 2017 and what is coming next, 2018 will be an exciting year to be investing and innovating in financial services.