Money 20/20 in Review: Key FinTech Trends and Industry Dynamics

Here are the themes and trends – that came up frequently and repeatedly at Money 20/20 – that I observed and which stood out.

Money20/20 is the largest global FinTech event. From October 24th to October 27th 2021, 7,500 attendees and 2,300 companies attended the annual gathering in Las Vegas.

Over the course of the three day conference, attendees mingled and spoke with leaders across the industry including banks and financial institutions, startups, big tech companies, VCs, analysts, regulators, and academics.

In short, a lot occurred. 

Here are the themes and trends – that came up frequently and repeatedly – that I observed and which stood out.

Executive Snapshot: Industry Trends

  1. Fintech has become a vital part of the economy during COVID-19 and will become even more critical in the year ahead. 
  2. The industry will move beyond distribution and marketing to reimagine its core offerings, and embedded finance is still in early stages of development.
  3. Just as the last downturn triggered a new era of Fintech, the pandemic accelerated digital adoption and triggered Fintech 2.0.
  4. Cloud and decentralized architectures in conjunction with more powerful APIs will trigger FinTech evolutions (and revolutions) that few people see, but that everyone experiences.
FinTech 0.0FinTech 1.0FinTech 2.0
Year200020102021
World Population6.1B6.9B7.8B
Internet Users361M2.0B5.0B
Global GDP#22.6T$33.6T$93T
Global eCommerce Volume$61B$350B3,605T

Decentralized Finance

Context: Last year, the DeFi market saw exponential growth, ending with nearly $15 billion in total value locked (TVL). As of this year, the market has tripled to a TVL of $50.12 billion. Unsurprisingly, much of the energy at Money 20/20 centered around DeFi and how decentralized finance will disrupt different aspects of FinTech across payments, banking, wealth management, and capital markets. Simply put, it’s not a question of if DeFi will become a core component of the financial services ecosystem, but how, and when.

Trend: One theme that came up repeatedly was around regulation. This was unsurprising, but still an important trend to call out nevertheless. As documented elsewhere, some nascent and larger exchanges – like Coinbase – aren’t on the best terms with various regulatory bodies. As one example, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong accused the SEC of “some really sketchy behavior” in September when he said it threatened to sue Coinbase if the exchange released a crypto lending product.

Questions:

  1. How does a company or founder run a good ICO process?
  2. What happens when everyone (else) raises a Crypto fund?
  3. When will the SEC get involved and what legal frameworks will dominate?
  4. Which public blockchain platforms should people buy, and why?

Outcome: Despite a large number of cryptocurrency investors and blockchain firms in the United States (and in attendance at Money 20/20), the U.S. hasn’t yet developed a clear regulatory framework for the asset class. As regulatory murkiness surrounds crypto, some companies are distancing themselves from digital assets that the Securities and Exchange Commission might consider unregistered securities.

Banking

Context: Banking has long been considered one of the areas of the financial system that is slowest to adapt to the changing economy. The banking ecosystem continues to evolve, with several emerging themes that will play significant roles in the transformation of both new and traditional financial services businesses. Over the past decade, FinTech firms have leveraged technology, innovative cultures and access to data and advanced analytics to transform the banking ecosystem.

Trend: A lot of conversations centered around Banking-as-a-Service and embedded finance verticals. Many executives offered perspectives on these growth areas as well as how new offerings and companies can take FinTechs to market faster. Both FinTechs and banks (and in particular community and regional banks) can partner to build new lines of business and many of these partnership discussions occurred at the conference. Some believe that within 3 years, banking tech stacks will be predominantly cloud-based, with significant elements of core processing being open-source based within 5 years.

Outcome: Cloud-based systems are the workhorses of big tech, and banks will need to move in this direction to keep pace with capabilities, efficiencies, and expectations. Some product types that FinTechs and banks are collaborating on:

  1. Turnkey KYC compliance.
  2. AML
  3. Fraud
  4. Know Your Business (KYB)
  5. Payments (ACH)
  6. Credit and Debit Cards

Capital Allocation

Context: A number of presentations and talks centered around capital allocation. A fundamental set of questions are being discussed on stage and in 1:1 settings: Are we in a FinTech bubble? If so, does this matter? What valuations – or financing trends – indicate that companies are receiving too much capital relative to their growth rates? Are VCs able to conduct due diligence as deeply as needed in an environment where capital allocation is done very rapidly (term sheets are being offered in days and hours, and not weeks, etc)?

Trend: Overall Fintech investment in the US remained robust in H1’21, reaching $42.1 billion. Q2’21 was the largest funding quarter on record. Across 657 deals, global VC-backed fintech companies raised a record $30.8B, shattering last quarter’s funding record by 30%. This impressive funding growth was accompanied by a modest 2% deal growth quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) and a 29% increase year-over-year (YoY). Fintech public exits reached new highs. There were 19 public exits (including announced, but not yet completed, deals) for VC-backed fintech companies in Q2’21. In addition to traditional IPOs, a notable portion of these deals represented SPACs, which have become an increasingly popular path for fintechs to enter public markets.

Outcome: A theme that many investors talked about was developing a “picks-and-shovels” allocation strategy. A pick-and-shovel play is an investment strategy that invests in the underlying technology needed to produce a good or service instead of in the final output. It is a way to invest in an industry without having to endure the risks of the market for the final product. The investment strategy is named after the tools needed to take part in the California Gold Rush. One of the pick-and-shovel domains that is getting a lot of attention is technology that empowers, maintains, runs, and enhances security for crypto exchanges.

Embedded Finance

Context: As embedded finance offerings proliferate in the non-financial services spheres, opportunities of fusing financial services into the journeys of retail, healthcare, energy, climate services, and advertising are providing smoother, frictionless journeys.

Trend: According to studies I have read, the value of the embedded finance market will exceed $138 billion in 2026, from just $43 billion in 2021. Embedded finance occurs when financial services are embedded within non-traditional financial services areas, such as banking services within a ridesharing app, or insurance services within an eCommerce checkout process. The market value includes insurance premiums, transaction revenue and licencing costs.

Outcome: Embedded finance is growing rapidly and will enter more domains. One domain that will continue to see disruption relative to embedded finance: procurement. More and more businesses will buy things they need through vertical B2B apps, rather than through sales reps, distributors, or an individual merchant’s website. Payroll, employee onboarding, procurement, and the purchase of capital assets will continue to merge together.

Payments: Buy Now, Pay Later…or Pay Never?

Context: The global Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) market size was valued at USD 4.07 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.4% from 2021 to 2028. BNPL is a payment option that allows customers to make purchases online and at stores without having to pay the complete amount upfront. The increasing awareness about installment-based payment methods is expected to propel the market growth. Moreover, the absence of interest fees charged by many BNPL platforms is further expected to create growth opportunities for the market. 

Trend: Generally, BNPL requires lesser comprehensive credit checks compared to other types of retail financing. A number of people spoke about an adverse trend tied to BNPL: the concept that consumers won’t pay back loans (i.e. Buy Now, Pay Never). These conversations and content made me look more deeply into one US based BNPL vendor, Affirm. Affirm doesn’t charge payment late fees. However, if a consumer pays late or defaults on a loan, the borrower still faces other consequences because Affirm will report the default Experian, and this can harm a consumer’s credit. 

Outcome: The question people were debating is if BNPL enables consumers to buy things they can’t afford or if BNPL mitigates harm to consumers who might borrow even more elsewhere (i.e. a credit card with higher limits). If consumers are unable or unwilling to pay back their loans, the nature of the BNPL might shift as FinTechs face exposure to financing risks.

Financial Inclusion: Startups and Financial Institutions 

Context: Somewhere between the pseudonymous super coders building the future and the financial institutions that are eyeing DeFi from the sidelines, it’s easy to forget one of the most obvious questions: Exactly for whom are we building all of this? What does “financial inclusion” actually mean? What does consumer financial health actually entail? How do FinTechs help to deliver on the promise of generational wealth, alternative economies, privacy, security, and a more inclusive financial future for all?

Trend: Big Companies and FinTech startups alike are tackling financial inclusion. For example, JPMorgan Chase recently noted that it has already committed $13 billion of the $30 billion in lending and spending it pledged last year for improving racial equity. In a progress report that coincided with Money 20/20, the nation’s biggest bank said it had issued $6 billion in loans that kept open affordable housing and rental units across the country, and issued $1 billion in loans to build more.

Question: What remains to be done (built, scaled, or designed) before every product places financial inclusion at the forefront of the user experience?

Outcome: JP Morgan has added another $4 billion went into refinancing 16,000 mortgages for Black and Latino borrowers. JP Morgan’s original plan called for $2 billion in new small-business lending and 40,000 home loans in minority communities. To make those loans, JP Morgan added branches to minority neighborhoods, created new jobs and is developing new loan products. On the startup side, neobanks like Guava, Greenwood, First Boulevard, Camino are building digital mobile banking platforms, loan facilities, and services catering towards Black & Latino customers.

Conclusion

The financial sector is undergoing profound changes across all FinTech sub-verticals. 

Money 20/20 brought to the forefront changes – in thinking and in products – across payments, banking, lending, investments, insurance, and capital markets. For each FinTech sub-vertical, startups, big companies, founders, operators, and investors are developing new solutions.

The interaction of businesses, consumers, regulators, and technology will continue to shape the future of FinTech products.

SectorPaymentsBankingLendingInvestmentsInsurance
Typical ProblemsAccess to new productsFees and Terms, servingAccess to new products, credit history, pricingTrading state complexityAgent access, servicing
SolutionsDigital wallets, vertical solutions, P2PBanking and PFM apps; neobanksAlternative data, marketplaces, lending appsRobo-advisers, investment apps, fractional productsMarketplaces, insurance apps, advanced analytics

Leave a Comment