Fintech's geographic migration will diversify payment innovation
It doesn’t take an expert to see the financial world is experiencing a major step change.
According to PWC’s Global Fintech Report 2017, 80% of senior financial service experts surveyed are concerned that they are losing revenue to innovators.
Despite this concern, 82% of financial service incumbents expect to increase fintech partnerships in the next three to five years, a welcome figure for those fintechs laboring to bring new ideas to the existing market leaders.
While the U.S. leads globally in terms of fintech investment (which is heavily skewed toward the U.S. East and West coasts), there are very interesting things happening globally. With funding in Europe growing over 120% year over year, and markets like Africa, India and parts of Asia displaying unique and innovative new ways of solving challenges, major global change is indeed happening.
While it’s impressive seeing 35 rounds of $100 million (and over) being invested into established fintech companies in the U.S., cutting-edge innovation does not always require this type of investment. Sometimes alternative solutions driven by necessity (rather than VC demanded ROI) and fundamental situational challenges can yield the most significant step changes in progress.
In Africa, infrastructural challenges have led to new innovations in payments, trust and commerce. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies offer interesting mediums of enablement in terms of Islamic Banks functioning under Shariah Law and cultural preferences of retail investors in Asia offer very different means of progress for these markets, versus the more Western market approach.
Even though fintech VC funding dipped in Asia last year, there were continued positive moves made by regulators and governments, which (similarly to Europe’s PSD2) are likely to enable more fintechs to grow in a more robust manner. While U.S. regulators are making some positive moves to enable innovation, many have been looking for more a more collaborative approach and a more immediate response to market activity.
In addition, there are great stories coming from other hubs within the U.S., like Kansas City, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Des Moines and Grand Rapids are posting growth figures that cannot be ignored. As these locations thrive, traditional magnets for talent and growth like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angles have displayed lower growth figures (less than 1%). Developments in these fly-over states, which Steve Case refers to as “The Rise of the Rest,” are offering new opportunity and demonstrating the growth to back it up.
A group of Irish companies are also taking advantage of the upside these markets provide. Support in part by Enterprise Ireland, companies like Id-Pal and WeSavvy have been quick to leverage the opportunity presented by the Midwest and focus on the opportunities that exist in these markets. In Illinois along, there are currently 31 Enterprise Ireland-supported companies employing over 5,000 people. An example is Id-Pal, which in late 2017 successfully completed the Fintech71 accelerator in Ohio and is reaping the benefits of this growth. Having taken investment, Id-Pal CEO James O’Toole cemented partnerships with the likes of Corporate One, which saw great value in the company's digital identity product, with plenty more positive announcement expected in the coming months.
Another Enterprise Ireland company, AID:Tech, is using its blockchain based technology to solve challenges in areas as diverse as flood ravaged U.S. states to refugees in Lebanon. This application of cutting-edge technology, enabling commerce in the most challenging of circumstances and locations, demonstrates how fintechs are leading and driving change globally and how companies from anywhere and of any size can be the vanguard.
There are many more ways that the global fintech market is shifting, but that’s the importance of it. The time is now to see changes through and look toward innovation to cement the opportunities in the space. Each sector within the market is doing something unique and fascinating and will only lead the world of fintech further in benefiting many.