The use of mobile wallets is just one of the signals of the fintech disruption globally.
In 2019 global venture capital investment in Fintech totaled at least $33.9 Billion.
For years the incumbent players had been warning the sector that when the next recession hit, or when #Fintechs faced a “real” crisis, that the sector would at worst collapse, and at best see a whole bevy of fintech players disappear. As the pandemic impacted the world we’ve seen headlines like “COVID-19: will Fintechs crash, survive or get bought?”,“There are many signs that fintech is in a bubble, billionaire investor Flowers says”, and the perennial “Is the fintech bubble bursting?” even prior to the pandemic from the good ole FT (FinancialTimes). And while 2020 started off with a global recession that saw fintech investments cool, 2021 was a completely different story, much to the chagrin of many of the traditional players.
In 2021 Fintech investment ballooned, more than doubling the best previous year on record. In fact, 1 in 5 venture capital dollars raised in 2021 went into the fintech space.
In 2021, global fintech funding jumped to a new record of $131.5 billion across 4,969 deals. That compares to $49 billion across 3,491 deals in 2020. As you can see, the pace at which capital was invested into fintech startups in 2021 grew much more rapidly than total deal count, leading to larger rounds on average. The CB Insights data that we’re citing here also helps put the pace of fintech investing into context compared to its peer startup groups, with financial technology companies raising one in every five venture capital dollars last year, or some 21%.
TechCrunch, The berserk pace of fintech investing outshines the global VC boom, Jan 2020
It’s not just the pace of investment either. Obviously fintech offered critical utility as the pandemic hit and consumers around the globe became more dependent than ever on e-commerce, mobile wallets, mobile money platforms and the like. But something more fundamental was also happening.
Challenger Banks and Fintech startups around the world posted some massive rounds, with NYDIG raising a $1Bn growth equity round as a target="_blank" suitable exclamation point to a huge year. But other notable raises included
October — N26 raises $900m at a $9Bn valuation
December — Monzo raises $500m at a $4.5Bn valuation
Backed by players like Warren Buffet, NuBank (NYSE:“NU”) then went on to IPO on the NYSE at a whopping $50Bn valuation, up more than 15% on its opening. Why is this significant?
With this raise NuBank became the most valuable bank in the Latin American market, surpassing Itaú Unibanco a 100 year old Brazilian bank that is valued at around $40Bn today. Much to the irritation of industry commentators like Reuters, this news was greeted with broad disbelief and even claims that they had become the “riskiest bank” in LatAm. But is that really an accurate assessment of these big valuations?
NuBank, Revolut, Chime, N26, Monzo, Wise, NYDIG and thousands of other Fintech startups globally are growing like never before thanks to increased digital adoption that only accelerated during the pandemic. NuBank became the largest bank in LatAm not because of an overheated fintech bubble, but because NuBank’s fundamentals fit much more closely with digital-first economies of the 21st century, versus the outmoded metrics we typically applied to banks in the last century.
Measures like return on equity, deposits, non-performing loan ratios, and other such standards made sense in the heavily regulated and constrained pre-internet, pre-mobile worlds. But in the post-pandemic world we’re hearing about digital customer acquisition costs, scaling, engagement, referral and tech stack-based operational efficiency gains. NuBank grew from 40 million users to 48 million users just in 2021 alone, clearly on a trajectory to surpass Itaú with their 55 million customer base. This ability to scale digitally is what is setting these “challengers” apart from their traditional competitors, and is also why incumbents should see that 2021 was not an anomalous event, but the market responding to a reshaping of financial services through technology adoption.
For more than half of NuBank’s customer base, the bank now represents their primary bank — a long held core goal for most major brands in the space. Their blended acquisition cost was just $5/customer, in an industry where $350–1,000 acquisition costs are considered the “cost of doing business”. What about credit risk? NuBank‘s credit card delinquency rate was more than 30% lower than their counterparts.
Yet, NuBank isn’t the largest challenger bank in the world. WeBank in China is already valued at almost $70Bn and has more than 200 million customers today, twice that of JP Morgan Chase, the largest US retail bank. But even that impressive growth is insignificant compared with Ant Group, that is valued at more than $220Bn today, with more than 1.6Bn customers globally.
Clearly, the potential growth of players like NuBank, WeBank, Ant, Revolut and others is the fact that they can enter new markets relatively easily due to the fact they don’t require branch networks or agents to enable distribution. The market has already recognized that customer behavior has shifted to digital-first during the pandemic, and players designed from the ground up for the digital world have significant advantages in acquisition, operations, customer experience and servicing capabilities. In 2018 WeBank already handled 98% of its daily customer support enquiries via AI, as an example.
The fact is, the world’s largest companies today are all technology players. It’s only natural that when we look out to the end of this decade that we’re much more likely to see one of these fintechs becoming the first trillion dollar valuation bank or FI, than we are an incumbent. In fact, with the market share already gained by challenger banks in their respective markets, it’s almost guaranteed that ICBC, CCB, ABC, BoC, JPMC will soon be overtaken by many of these so-called ‘startups’.
The boom of 2021 was not a sign that fintech is in a bubble, although the current geo-political situation no doubt will cool off general investor sentiment. The boom of 2021 was the market realization that you need to acquire customers at digital scale to remain relevant in the 21st century.
The rules have changed — disruption rules!
Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by the Qlik Data Brilliant Podcast.
Brett King is a futurist, best selling author, award winning speaker and host of a globally recognized radio show. He is also co-founder and CEO of Moven, a New York-based $200m mobile banking startup with over a million users. He is widely regarded as one of the top 5 global influencers in financial services, and his book Augmented was cited by China's President Xi Jinping as recommended reading on artificial intelligence. He advised the Obama administration on the Future of Banking, and has spoken on the future in 50 countries in the last 3 years. Brett focuses on how technology is disrupting business, changing behaviour and influencing society. He has fronted TED conferences, given opening keynotes for Wired, Singularity University’s Exponential Finance, The Economist, SIBOS and many more. He appears as a commentator on CNBC and has appeared regularly on the likes of BBC, ABC, FOX, Bloomberg and more. His radio show, Breaking Banks, began in May 2013. It was the first global show and podcast on FinTech, and has grown to be the most popular with an audience in 140 countries/ 3.6 million listeners.