Fintech means “finance” and “technology” and refers to any company that uses technology to improve or automate financial services and processes. The term encompasses a rapidly growing industry that serves the interests of both consumers and businesses in a variety of ways. From mobile banking and insurance to cryptocurrencies and investment apps, fintech has a seemingly endless array of applications. The industry is huge – and will continue to expand in the coming years.
One driving factor is that many traditional banks are supporting and adopting technology. They are actively investing in, acquiring or partnering with fintech startups because it’s easier to give digitally oriented customers what they want while advancing the industry and staying relevant.
What is a fintech company? Fintech companies integrate technologies (such as AI, blockchain, and data science) into traditional financial sectors to make them safer, faster, and more efficient. Fintech is one of the fastest-growing technology sectors, with companies innovating in nearly every area of finance, from payments and lending to credit scoring and stock trading.
How does fintech work? Fintech is not a new industry, but one that has evolved very quickly. Technology has always been part of the financial world to some degree, whether it’s the introduction of credit cards in the 1950s or ATMs, electronic trading systems, personal finance apps and high-frequency trading in the decades that followed. What lies behind financial technology varies from project to project, application to application. However, some of the latest developments use machine learning algorithms, blockchain and data science to enable everything from credit risk processing to hedge fund management. In fact, there is now an entire subset of regulatory technologies called “regtech” that aim to navigate the complex world of compliance and regulatory issues of industries like, you guessed it, fintech.
As the fintech industry has grown, so have cybersecurity concerns in the fintech industry. The massive growth of fintech companies and marketplaces on a global scale has made vulnerabilities in fintech infrastructure increasingly apparent, while also making them a target for cybercriminal attacks. Fortunately, technology is constantly evolving to minimize existing fraud risks and mitigate new threats that continue to emerge.
Fintech Examples and Applications. Although the industry conjures up images of startups and industry-changing technologies, traditional companies and banks are also steadily adopting fintech services for their own purposes. Here is a quick look at how the industry is both transforming and improving some areas of finance. Banking Mobile banking is an important part of the fintech industry. In the world of personal finance, consumers have increasingly demanded easy digital access to their bank accounts, especially from a mobile device.
Most major banks now offer some type of mobile banking capability, especially with the rise of digital-first banks or “neobanks.” Neobanks are essentially banks without physical branches that offer checking, savings, payments and lending services to their customers on a fully mobile and digital infrastructure. Some examples of neobanks include Chime, Simple, and Varo. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain In parallel with fintechs, cryptocurrencies and blockchain have emerged.
Blockchain is the technology that enables the mining of cryptocurrencies and the existence of marketplaces, while advances in cryptocurrency technology are due to both blockchain and fintech. Even though blockchain and cryptocurrency are unique technologies that fall outside the realm of financial technology, both are necessary in theory to create practical applications that advance financial technology. Some key blockchain companies you sh ould know about are Gemini, Spring Labs, and Circle, while examples of companies that specialize in cryptocurrencies include Coinbase and SALT. Investment & Savings Fintech has led to an explosion in the number of investment and savings apps in recent years. More than ever, the barriers to investing are being broken down by companies like Robinhood, Stash, and Acorns. While these apps differ in their approach, they all use a combination of savings and automated small-dollar investment methods, such as instant round-up of deposits on purchases, to introduce consumers to the markets.
Machine Learning and Trading. The ability to predict how markets will perform is the Holy Grail of the financial world. With billions of dollars at stake, it’s no surprise that machine learning is playing an increasingly important role in financial technology. The power of this AI subfield lies in its ability to run massive amounts of data through algorithms designed to identify trends and risks, giving consumers, businesses, banks and more organizations a more informed understanding of investment and purchase risks at an earlier stage.
Payments. Moving money around is something fintech is very good at. The phrase “I’ll Venmo you” is now a replacement for “I’ll pay you later.” Venmo, of course, is the most popular platform for mobile payments. Payment service providers have changed the way we all do business. It’s easier than ever to send money digitally around the world. In addition to Venmo, popular payment service providers include Zelle, Paypal, Stripe and Square. Fintechs are also overhauling lending by simplifying risk assessment, speeding up approval processes and making credit more accessible. Billions of people around the world can now apply for credit through their mobile devices, and new data points and risk modeling capabilities are extending credit to underserved populations. In addition, consumers can request credit reports multiple times a year without dropping their score, making the entire credit world more transparent for everyone.
Notable credit companies include Tala, Petal, and Credit Karma. Insurance Although insurtech is quickly becoming its own industry, it still falls under the fintech umbrella. Many fintech startups are partnering with traditional insurance companies to automate processes and expand coverage. From mobile car insurance to wearables for health insurance, the industry is on the verge of a plethora of innovations. Some insurtech companies to keep an eye on include Oscar Health, Root Insurance and PolicyGenius. Fintech Trends for 2021Fintech is an emerging industry with seemingly endless opportunities to improve our financial systems.
Some fintech trends we will see are: The rise of robo-advisors in stock trading, the use of blockchain in anti-money laundering, the introduction of alternative credit reporting, and the decentralization of global payments.
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