Fintech flourished in 2018 with promising investments and new entrants as well as interesting trends. The successful year for the industry has fueled some interesting trends for the first quarter of 2019. This article highlights the key developments and lessons learnt within the sphere for the past twelve months and some key points to take in consideration for the year ahead.
2018 set the record for global fintech investments, with a clear shift to heavier investing. Chinese fintech companies such as Ant Financial took up a large chunk of investments of 2018. SenseTime, a Beijing-based facial recognition platform made multiple investment rounds in 2018, making it the highest-valued AI platform. The three investment rounds for the firm attracted investment from Fidelity International, Silver Lake Partners, joining the likes of Alibaba. In its Series D funding round they raised $1 billion for the platform.
VCs and the Burnout of the ICO
VC-backed fintech deals and funding set a new record, with fintech companies that have been able to raise $39.57B (120% year-on-year) across 1,707 deals (+15% year-on-year) globally. Carrying on from 2017’s rising popularity saw the first two quarters of 2018 maintaining an increasing number of ICOs and funds being raised. Speculative commentators argued ICOs stole the funding spotlight from VCs. With an increasing number of fraudulent ICOs and a string of negative press towards this form of raising capital, saw the total funds dropping significantly in the last two quarters of 2018. The period of ‘ICO hype’ brought new methods of financing to largely small-scale blockchain-based applications but was largely short-lived, with VCs maintaining their importance in the fintech sphere.
Unicorns and Fintech Hubs
2018 saw the born of several new unicorns from AtomBank to trade shift and more, with China that holds a large chunk of the world’s most valuable unicorns, being home to Ant Financial, Qufenqi and Lufax.
Some Key Fintech Trends for 2019
With the likes of Apple Pay, PayPal and Google Wallet being big players from the West, the trends in mobile payments worldwide are increasing. The entire global mobile payments network is processing over $1 billion daily and plans on increasing. Mobile payments are expected to grow by 60% over the next two years at a global level, and it will exceed 75% in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa during the same period.
2018 saw major investments to rising challenger banks and the trends for 2019 look promising. Monzo reached its unicorn status in Q4 of 2018, joining the likes of Revolut who become a unicorn earlier in the year.
2018/19 saw German challenger bank N26 rise up and challenge the likes of Revolut, Starling and Monzo. Last month, N26 received $300 million in a recent funding round, with investment from Valar Ventures, Allianz and Tencent, making it the largest investment round in Europe for a fintech in recent years.
Traditional Vs. Disruptive
Fintech disruption was a buzzword of 2018, yet increasingly we are seeing fintech collaboration with traditional finance rather than a focus on disruption. Many banks are jumping on the bandwagon with the likes of Marcus at Goldman Sachs to HSBC and RBS that plan to start digital banking apps of their own. As of late, JP Morgan has launched a stablecoin, JPM Coin, which is tied to the US Dollar. 2018 also saw the launch of 11:FS Foundry, an offshoot of 11:FS consultancy which delivers fintech solutions to traditional banking structures, such as the integration of MarketInvoice and Barclays.
AI and Blockchain
AI use cases have shown a steady increase in 2019. The use of AI for robo-advisory, in particular, has been increasing in popularity within the fintech sphere. The rise of robo-advisory has seen startups grow or becoming acquired such as LearnVest being acquired by Northwestern Mutual and FutureAdvisor by Blackrock. 2019 also sees the potential for facial recognition, with fintech companies targeting the unbanked populations, building trust through technology. PwC has estimated that by 2030, AI will represent 14% of global GDP growth.
Following the volatility of the cryptocurrency market, the reputation of the technology underpinning coins such as Bitcoin and Ethereum was damaged, yet the use cases of blockchain within fintech are promising. According to Accenture, blockchain can reduce infrastructure costs by up to 30% for large banks and save $8–12 billion annually. Further from this, blockchain’s potential in the supply chain, on-chain governance within organisations and potential in tokenization more widely are increasing.
Having gained experience in the UK Houses of Parliament, International Development and Chinese Think Tanks, Ellen has developed a passion for global affairs. She has undertaken her studies in the UK and has lived and worked in multiple countries including India, Switzerland, Spain and Hong Kong. She currently undertakes her studies at the University of Warwick, studying International Relations and Politics with a focus on Business. Ellen translates her passion for politics to the world of financial technology where she demonstrates a particular interest in developments in Asia.