According to its origin myth, FinTech was born out of the global financial crisis and the huge behavioural shift it had brought. Fast forward another 10+ years, and we are on a brink of another economic twist. This time with a slightly different cocktail of inhibitions and attitudes. Although creative and agile by definition – are all FinTechs equally equipped to withstand the blast of a market shakeout? Another week into the general lockdown, the industry’s resilience and adaptability meets trial by fire.
Markets on sick leave
FinTechs are expert at harnessing the power of technology to provide customer-centric digital experience. It’s no wonder that they have been one of main driving forces for innovation in the last decade. Then, in a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic made us face a new, highly unpredictable reality.
Disrupting the disruptors
Extreme safety measures had a domino effect on all human activities, revealing uneven distribution of innovation across industries and geographies. Consequent budget cuts and mass layoffs put both public and private financial institutions under enormous pressure. “Business as usual” no longer an option, the looming crisis could give rise to a whole new cohort of winners and loser.
High diversity of the FinTech community means they might expect different impact depending on a number of factors, most notably:
- stage (scale)
- market fit
- cash reserves
The startup nature of many industry players made their situation particularly tricky as their survival relies so much on the whims of venture capital funds.
Cash: in or out?
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Market analysis from deVere Group revealed an astounding surge in the use of financial applications (72 percent since mid-March). From that point of view, social distancing might be a blessing in disguise: accelerating digitalisation and fostering adoption of new technologies on an unseen scale.
With this in mind, a fully cashless reality seems closer than ever. Online transactions have become the preferred method of payment during lockdown and probably will hold the reins long time after mobility restrictions are lifted. With banknotes and coins out of the picture, we might soon see the rise of PayTech superstars, followed closely by other highly specialised FinTechs providing seamless integration between platforms and products.
Resilience, adaptation and urgency
Embracing uncertainty is a recurring theme in the latest business narratives. In this context, focus on resilience is a welcome mindset, helping prioritize efforts and dynamically adapt to the changing circumstances. Previous recessions have clearly demonstrated that organizations built with resilience and agility in mind not only endure but build stronger brands and reap more benefits in the long run.
Relevance of service
A step towards holistic financial services might be vital for uninterrupted solvency. Mindful of the public sentiment, companies finding way to incorporate healthcare into their business proposition are recognized fast. Such was the case of Decent, an InsurTech startup sporting special insurance for the self-employed. This historically underserved group now had enough reason and incentive to get the coverage they needed (including unlimited virtual primary care). This way, Decent’s business tripled since March.
Response to the pandemic crisis can also take other forms. FinTech’s ability to use technology for the greater good has the potential of shedding even more light on its potential. Rapidly developed solutions for collecting claims, anti-crisis financial planning and saving local businesses, are examples of financial inclusion at its best. This is also true for businesses on a mission to bridge the technology gap in developing countries. Companies such as Xendpay and AZA Finance enable users in Africa and Asia to keep afloat and gain access to affordable financial services.
Lifeline in lockdown
Still, not all companies are equally well positioned to thrive in lockdown. Governments were quick to respond to appeals for assistance, especially from the startup community. From tax reliefs to bounce back loan schemes – the most affected firms have quite a few options to consider. However, the short-term nature of such solutions and eligibility issues can weigh heavily on the final decision.
This might be the perfect time to invest in web performance boost tools, digital onboarding & infrastructure, automation and remote workforce. All in the spirit of the new approach to products and services spurred by social distancing. When combined with a cloud-native mode of operation, businesses can secure productivity and growth for years to come.
Consolidation and collaboration offer another lifeline, especially to tech-savvy FinTechs unburdened by legacy technology or strategies. The industry on the verge of maturity will see acceleration of partnerships with financial institutions and third-party companies, who offer capital and infrastructure in exchange for innovative digital solutions. Making your technology bulletproof and indispensable across sectors is a win-win for customers and stakeholders alike.
Hope springs eternal?
Just like all crises beforehand, the coronavirus pandemic has a transformative power, accelerating changes in consumer behaviours and business models. Companies most adept at fostering resilience through innovation and partnerships may not only survive, but achieve unprecedented prosperity. Although the last few months were as challenging as they come, they could give us a glimpse into the future. The overwhelming desire for progress, along with global adoption of digital technology might be FinTech’s chance to build the economic immunity of the future.