KEY POINTS

  • Fintech — financial technology — is an umbrella term describing disruptive technologies in financial services. Fintech has transformed the way money is managed. It affects almost every financial activity, from banking to payments to wealth management. Startups are re-imagining financial services processes, while incumbent financial services firms are following suit with new products of their own.
  • Fintech could disrupt established hierarchies in the finance world. As consumer demands and expectations of their financial institutions shift, driven in large part by rising smartphone adoption, the ability to deliver superior digital — and especially mobile — products at scale becomes paramount. The incumbent financial players will not be the only ones meeting these new demands most effectively, so there could be a reordering of the financial services hierarchy, accompanied by a massive transfer of revenue between the old guard and new companies. 
  • Banks and startups face very different challenges. Banks are now investing more heavily in innovation, however, they haven't yet optimized their innovation strategies across their organizations. Meanwhile, startups are trying to navigate regulations, which is a top challenge for them. 
  • Global fintech investments — a measure of interest in the sector — have skyrocketed in the past year. Investors put $2.8 billion into fintech firms globally in 2012. This number climbed to $4.3 billion in 2013 and then nearly tripled to $12.2 billion in 2014 — more than 2010 through 2013 combined. The US, Europe, and China are attracting the vast majority of these investments. The global surge of investments signals that investors see fintech as a high-growth industry. 
  • The blockchain is a wild card that could completely overhaul financial services. Both major banks and startups around the world are exploring the technology behind the blockchain, which stores and records Bitcoin transactions. This technology could lower the cost of many financial activities to near-zero. This would have a dramatic effect on big banks, which currently face high operating costs. It's also disruptive in that it could disintermediate many financial processes.

Introduction

Technology is upending established workflows and processes in the financial services industry. Tasks once handled with paper money, bulky computers, and human interaction now are being completed entirely via digital interfaces. Given how pervasive financial services are across the globe, the disruption opportunity for fintech startups is massive. Startups, some of which have garnered [...]