The COVID-19 economic storm hit all industries, and fintech was no exception. Yet the impact on financial companies differed by the segment of the market they operated in and the solutions they offered.
Most companies were forced to squeeze budgets, cut costs, and adjust their strategies (think Monzo, one of the UK’s fintech champions, laying off close to 200 employees, or Revolut introducing its “salary sacrifice scheme”).
As for the outlook, Boston Consulting Group says that the future may be more challenging for fintechs in international payments, small business lending, and consumer lending, whereas fintechs disrupting B2B banking are less likely to fail.
In the early days of COVID-19, we hosted Disruption Forum Fintech with top brands such as Mastercard, UBS, Citi Ventures, Currencycloud, Ellevest and Policygenius, discussing early stage approaches implemented on-the-go by the financial players.
We decided to follow up in the recent weeks and asked finance executives, managers, and advisors one question:
What's is the #1 positive impact the two-month-long lockdown has had on the fintech industry and/or your job?
Senior Director, Global Merchants, Merchant Sales & Acquiring
The positive side for fintech is clearly the growth of e-commerce sales. Companies positioned in gateway business could see a surge of transactions and position themselves for further growth. Buy Now, Pay Later instalments businesses, as well as fraud management and dispute resolution fintechs could also gain traction.
Personally, I think the positive side of the lockdown is that I had time to think and reflect and could design some proactive steps in my personal development agenda!
The lockdown has given us the opportunity to re-think and reflect on our offer and how we want to approach our potential users. Our reflection has led to some changes in the way we built our solution, hence our decision to provide a more meaningful and impactful offering.
I would basically say that the lockdown has made us more socially and user-focused than ever before.
We have experienced a long overdue acceptance of digital communication between financial service providers and their customers, as well as with their partners like us and even between employees within. Personal meetings cannot and should not be replaced completely, but they should be reduced to a necessary and sufficient minimum. Face time should no longer be a KPI!
The lockdown forced 5 years of digital transformation in 3 months. It was uncomfortable at times, but also created enormous opportunities. For ecommerce and mobile payments it brought the physical world to the digital realm, providing both valuable market education and adoption.
For jobs, it introduced and validated remote work as an opportunity for many companies, offering new talent pools with a leaner cost structure. The crisis forced companies to assess an entirely new point of view. One that will forever change the way we do business.
Looking at the past several months with a “glass-half-full” perspective, I would say the best thing to come of COVID-19 is that it stressed the need for symbiotic partnerships in fintech and banking.
As pressures mount, banks are finding it necessary to accelerate their digital transformation strategies, while many fintechs are realizing that they haven’t developed the level of resources and consumer trust to go it alone.
The pandemic acted as a catalyst to this trend and, as a result, the market is primed for innovative solutions that will ultimately benefit the customer.
First Access is a fintech providing loan origination software to lenders. Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we've seen a spike in demand for software like ours that enables digital transformation, particularly among lenders trying to reach small business customers with no in-person contact and greater automation for fast approvals.
During the global lockdowns, most bank branches have reduced business hours. Coupled with enforcing social distancing rules, it makes the in-person experience at the bank branches less pleasant. I believe COVID-19 is just the natural catalyst for the fintech space, even though many of the players already had a virtual presence. This merely forces quicker adoption of e-banking among many virtual financial services for consumers!
The positive impact the lockdown has had on the fintech industry is that it revealed many fintech solutions are relevant to both businesses and consumers. Businesses need fintech solutions to be relevant/stay in business, and consumers need fintech solutions in order to carry on with their lives. The lockdown "mainstreamed" the fintech industry.
For instance, solutions like DoorDash, AmazonPrime, Instacart, and GrubHub were crucial for both customers and merchants. Customers need them to get food and merchandise ordered and delivered/picked up in a contactless fashion; merchants needed these solutions to keep a revenue stream.
Many of these solutions had been mainstreamed in the larger urban areas, but I believe the solutions now have been largely introduced and adapted in the secondary and tertiary markets.
Rob Milrod, MBA, CPA Director CFO Consulting Partners
Post-COVID, bankers can no longer point to adoption curves for color television, personal computers, and other innovations to make excuses for low digital and paperless adoption in their client base. Online self-servicing is taking care of itself, fueled by COVID-19 and its resulting long call wait times.
The crisis allowed us to collaborate better and be much faster at making decisions. For example, we updated our messaging right at the beginning of the lockdown, a project that would usually take us a long time to get team-wide buy-in. It was proposed, tested, and shipped in under a week.
I think we successfully reinforced the bond with our distribution partners. They can independently follow their business KPIs on our Ipaas platform (Insurance Product as a Service).
However, we spent the first couple weeks calling our partners to check on them and see what we could do for them in terms of modifying the payments of their premiums or adjusting the guarantees of their products to fit their own clients' needs.
The #1 positive impact from the lockdown is realizing that our teams have not missed a beat via cloud and virtual platforms. Not only did my organization deliver, but we over-delivered in areas that were previously stressed or limited in the traditional office/commuting lifestyle.
Working virtually, teams quickly ramped-up using innovative solutions that in the end saved time, energy, cost, and unnecessary social interactions. In exchange, teams gained in hours, savings, and relevant social networking, plus enjoyed a healthier work-life balance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on DeFi and the engagement of people around Crypto-Assets. Interest in my presentations on Bitcoin and Ethereum is at an all-time high.
Inquiries on individual asset performance and cross-asset strategies from new entrants to the asset sector indicate a broadening of public and institutional interest. Focus on exchange and interest earning platforms is rising. There is an under-current of building momentum that has been lacking previously.
COVID-19 will bring a long overdue culling of the herd within the fintech industry. Creative destruction will happen in the next 12-18 months, rather than 5+ years. And that's ultimately a good thing.
Creative destruction, as in letting those companies that were non-viable before the crisis (zombie; surviving thanks to cheap credit; loss making with no real plans to get to profitability; etc.) go under or close down to make room for new ones to blossom. It's the way capitalism is supposed to work, but no longer does/did. The current crisis will accelerate the necessary clean out to make room for new and better things.
It’s fascinating to consider how COVID-19 is impacting the future of how we work.Whether or not folks do or don’t return to working from their offices, how many days a week or even at all, one thing we do know is that we’re operating in a very different environment than we were a few months ago.
This new world is one where agile is no longer an aspirational word used by leaders to describe how they want to operate. It’s a future state.
In this new world, agile is a mindset, an operating philosophy, and a cultural cornerstone that all companies are being forced to sprint towards. It’s created an unintentional “burn the boats” type of situation, which is wild when you step back and think about it...
FinTech and LegalTech Consultant, Coach & Author Contextual Solutions
I can divide the impact of this lockdown into two categories: impact on my personal life and industry-wide impact.
In terms of my personal life, I spend less time on time-consuming networking events. All the (virtual) connections I have made during the lockdown have been straight to the point, quite productive, and even friendly to some extent.
Industry-wide: the ecosystem started focusing on sustainability and switching to the essential topics that bring value, since the pandemic made it clear to us that we are not immortal. No time for egocentric design.
The most positive impact for me has been the resilience of the entire team and infrastructure. On a day's notice, the entire team moved all of the agile meetings and processes online and never lost productivity, which has provided our customers with the confidence that we were ready for any business change.
This exceptional situation has driven up fintech and, more broadly, digital services ranging from retail, gaming to networking and any kind of social interaction we would randomly have in our daily lives before COVID-19.
Even the most undigitalized individuals such as the elderly or the tech-averse suddenly found it necessary and convenient to have conference calls, use neobanks and play games online. This has been a great acceleration to mass adoption in those areas that might not fully revert back to the way it was before the pandemic.
In my opinion the #1 positive impact on the fintech industry is that many people have become more confident working from home than before. In the current challenging environment with a developed global economy and communications, it could become a big competitive advantage for companies to be able to provide good results while keeping their people at home.
Another positive point is that our developers have more time and opportunities to attract new qualified personnel. From the technical side of the business, we definitely see growth.
The recent crisis has shaken up the financial sector and forced almost all institutions to adjust to the rapid shifts on international markets -- it’s undeniable. However, according to experts and executives from the sector, not all of these challenges have had a negative impact on the industry.
More time to reflect, strong incentives to move all operations online by implementing e-solutions, rising interest in fully digitized banking services, and more effective and productive work. These are just a few of the many positive impacts the lockdown has had on some of the fintech companies, depending on the segment of the market in which they operate. And the businesses that will be able to adapt quickly and capitalize on the slower moves of their competitors will be those thriving and leading the new, fully digitized landscape.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the industry and will let you know when we spot any revolutionary moves, developments or mergers.