Banks Vs. Fintechs

By Al Dominick, CEO of DirectorCorps (parent co. to Bank Director & FinXTech) | @aldominick

Quickly:

  • I’m in from Dallas at the Consumer Bankers’ Association “CBA Live!”
  • Thanks to Richard Hunt, the CEO of the CBA, for inviting me to participate.  Richard spoke at our Acquire or Be Acquired conference in January + I hope to live up to his great speaking standards when I’m given a mic tomorrow.
  • The rapid pace of change in the financial sector took center stage during yesterday’s opening session.

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Since arriving in Big D on Sunday evening, I’ve met quite a few interesting men & women from great financial institutions at this annual event for the retail banking industry.  This year, more than 1,300 are at the Gaylord Texan (with some 550 being senior-level bankers) to talk shop.  Personally, I’m looking forward to presenting on “Economic States of America” with Amy Crews Cutts (Chief Economist, Equifax), Robert Dye (Chief Economist) of Comerica Bank and Cathy Nash, the CEO of Woodforest National Bank tomorrow morning.  From credit trends to banking consolidation, if you’re in Dallas, I invite you to join us for this Super Session as we explore the economic state of our union.

Before then, I thought to share a few interesting takeaways from a “FinTech vs. Bank” general session that pit SoFi and Kabbage “against” PNC and BBVA.  As part of the panel discussion, CBA posed a number of interesting questions to the audience; most notably, “do you believe fintechs are built to last.”  Given our upcoming FinXTech Summit in NYC, I thought the answer (which reflects the thoughts of many of the biggest banks in the U.S.) was interesting, but not surprising.

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Further, I found the results of this question pretty telling (given we asked a similar question at this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference and received a similar response from an audience of CEOs, CFOs, and members of a bank’s board).

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Finally, I think the results of this question best represent the types of conversations I’ve found myself in when I explain what I do + who I meet with.

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As I’ve shared in recent posts, an increasing number of financial institutions are using partnerships with technology companies to improve operations and better meet customer needs.  Given the input on these questions from various heads of retail, product lines and product development + compliance, risk and internal audit, I feel these three pictures are worth noting — and sharing.  Agree or disagree?  Feel free to leave a comment…

 

5 Fintechs I’m Keen On

My first post in 2015 focused on three “up & coming” fintech companies: Wealthfront (an automated investment service), Kabbage (an online business loan provider) and Dwolla (a major player in real-time payment processing).  Since writing that piece, I’ve kept tabs on their successes while learning about other interesting and compelling businesses in the financial community.  So today, five more that I am keen on.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

With continuous pressure to innovate, I’m not surprised to see traditional financial institutions learning from new challengers, adapting their offerings and identifying opportunities to collaborate with emerging players.  From tokenization to integrated payments, security tools to alternative lending platforms, the investments (and efforts) being made throughout the financial sector continues to impress and amaze me.  As I shared in 15 Banks and Fintechs Doing it Right, there are very real and immediate opportunities to expand what banking means to individual and business customers.  Personally, I am excited by the work being done by quite a few companies and what follows are five businesses I’ve learned more about while recently traveling between D.C., San Francisco and New York City:

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i2c, a global card processing company, provides back-end processing and settlement for cards, virtual accounts and mobile payments.  What’s interesting about them? According to a brief shared by Bridge by Deloitte (a web platform connecting enterprises with startups to accelerate innovation and growth), i2c recently teamed up with Oxfam, Visa and Philippines-based UnionBank to channel funds to people in disaster-affected communities through prepaid cards.

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With Money20/20 fast approaching, expect to see a lot of #payments trending on twitter.  Trending in terms of financial investment: Adyen, a company receiving a lot of attention for wrapping up a huge round of funding that values the payment service provider at $2.3B.  Adyen, which provides its services to a number of large organizations including Facebook and Netflix, excels in having a highly integrated platform, unlike others with multiple platforms.

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When it comes to technology “powering the new wave of mortgage lending,” take a look at the work being done at BlendLabs.  Developing software & data applications for mortgage lenders, the company acknowledges that “accommodating complex rules and regulation changes is time-consuming and costly.” For this reason, the company has quietly rolled out technology that empowers some of the country’s largest lenders to originate mortgages more efficiently and compliantly than ever before while offering their borrowers a more compelling user experience.

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As the head of a company, I know first-hand how much time and effort is spent on efforts and ideas designed to maximize revenue and profits.  So the promise and premise of nCino is hugely attractive.  Co-founded by a fellow W&L grad (and the former CEO of S1) nCino is the leader in cloud banking.  With banks like Enterprise in St. Louis (lead by a CEO that I have huge respect for) as customers, take a look at their Bank Operating System, a comprehensive, fully-integrated banking management system that was created by bankers for bankers that sits alongside a bank’s core operating system.

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While not solely focused on the financial industry, Narrative Science is a leader in advanced natural language generation.  Serving customers in a number of industries, including marketing services, education, financial services and government, their relationship with USAA and MasterCard caught my eye.  As FinXTech’s Chief Visionary Officer recently shared with me, the Chicago-based enterprise software company created artificial intelligence that mines data for important information and transforms it into language for written reports.

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In addition to these U.S.-based companies, you might look at how Fidor, a digital bank in Europe that offers all-electronic consumer banking services, links interest rates to Facebook likes and give cash rewards based on customers’ level of interaction with the bank (e.g. how many customer financial questions answered).  Clearly, the fabric of the financial industry continues to evolve as new technology players emerge, institutions like Fidor expand their footprint and traditional participants transform their business models.  So if you follow me on twitter (@aldominick), let me know of other fintech companies you’re impressed by these days.

How the Math Works for Non-Financial Service Companies

As you probably deduced from the picture above, I’m in Chicago for Bank Director’s annual Chairman & CEO Peer Exchange.  While the conversations between peers took place behind closed doors, we teed things up with various presentations.  An early one — focused on FinTech — inspired today’s post and this specific question: as a bank executive, what do you get when you add these three variables:

Stricter capital requirements (which reduces a bank’s ability to lend) + Increased scrutiny around “high-risk” lending (decreasing the amount of bank financing available) + Increases in consumer product pricing (say goodbye to price-sensitive customers)

The unfortunate answer?

Opportunity; albeit, for non-bank financial services companies to underprice banks and take significant business from traditional players.  Nowhere is this more clear then in the lending space. Through alternative financial service providers, borrowers are able to access credit at lower borrowing costs. So who are banks competing with right now? Here is but a short list:

  • FastPay, who provides specialized credit lines to digital businesses as an advance on receivables.
  • Kabbage, a company primarily engaged in providing short-term working capital and merchant cash advance.
  • OnDeck, in business to provide inventory financing, medium-term business loans.
  • Realty Mogul, a peer-to-peer real estate marketplace for accredited investors to invest in pre-vetted investment properties.
  • BetterFinance, which provides short-term loans for consumers to pay monthly bills and purchase smartphones.
  • Lenddo, an online platform that utilizes a borrower’s social network to determine credit-worthiness.
  • Lendup, a short-term online lender that seeks to help consumers establish credit and avoid the cycle of debt.
  • Prosper, an online marketplace for borrowers to create and list loans, with retail and institutional investors funding the loans.
  • SoFi, an online network helping recent graduates refinance student loans through alumni network.

As unregulated competition heats up, bank CEOs and Chairmen continue to seek ways to not just stay relevant but to stand out.  Unfortunately, the math isn’t always in their favor, especially when alternative lenders enjoy operating costs far below banks and are not subject to the same reserve requirements as an institution.  As we were reminded, consumers and small businesses don’t really care where they borrow money from, as as long as they can borrow the money they want.

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Thanks to Halle Benett, Managing Director, Head of Diversified Financials Investment Banking, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, A Stifel Company for inspiring this post. He joined us yesterday morning at the Four Seasons Chicago and laid out the fundamental shifts in banking that have opened the door for these new competitors.  I thought the math he shared with the audience was elegant both in its simplicity — and profound in its potential results.  Let me know what you think with a comment below or message via Twitter (@aldominick).

Three FinTech Companies I’m Keen On

It seems not a day goes by where I’m not coming across a story about Venmo.  Maybe I should thank holiday shoppers; more specifically, friends or family member that go in on a joint present for someone.  Rather than accept an IOU, the social payments company has made story titles like “Cash is For Losers!” en vogue by allowing its users to settle debts without cash or check.  So the company’s success had me exploring the world of FinTech and other companies worth taking a look at.  Here are three I’m keen on along with a short overview on what they offer.

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Wealthfront is an automated investment service with over $1 billion in client assets.  The Palo Alto-based company manages a “diversified, continually rebalanced portfolio of index funds” on behalf of its clients.” Their proposition: “Wealthfront takes the guesswork out of sound, long-term investing through effortless automation. Wealthfront manages a personalized online investment account for you that is fully diversified and periodically rebalanced – accessible anytime and anywhere from your desktop, tablet or phone.” For an individual, their service premise is quite attractive, given “the consistent and overwhelming research that proves index funds significantly outperform an actively managed portfolio.”

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I wrote about Kabbage last year (A Pop Quiz on the Future of Banking) as a platform for online merchants to borrow working capital. Per Time’s Business & Money site, “Kabbage financing resembles a line of credit in that customers only pay for what they use, but it isn’t a loan and doesn’t require merchants to use their personal assets as collateral. Rather, as with a business factor, a Kabbage financing is structured as a cash advance against future sales.”

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Dwolla is a payment network that allows any business or person to send, request and accept money. As they say, they are “not like those other big payment companies that rely on plastic cards and charge hefty fees.” Instead, the company built its own network that “securely connects to your bank account and allows you to move money for just $0.25 per transaction, or free for transactions $10 or less.”

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I’m on record with my feelings that bank leaders have real and immediate opportunities to expand what banking means to individual and business customers by offering services that go beyond a traditional business model.  These three companies provide alternatives to traditional lines of business, and are just a few of the many that are working to create a “newer” normal for individuals and businesses.  If you are interested to share your thoughts on FinTechs worth watching, feel free to comment below about those companies you find compelling.

A Pop Quiz on the Future of Banking

I was not planning on a sixth consecutive column focused on non-bank competition; however, as I prepare to present at Moss Adams’ 14th Annual Community Banking conference in Huntington Beach, California on August 26, a “bonus” post on this topic.  As you will see, today’s piece builds on the premise that many community bank leaders have real opportunities to expand what banking means to individual and business customers by offering services that go beyond a traditional business model. So to wrap up this week, sharpen your pencils for this pop quiz.

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Are WE the generation that has learned how to live without a bank?
So much has been written about millenials learning to live without a bank… but ask yourself: have you learned how to live without your bank?  If you could not direct deposit your paycheck, do you have ready alternatives?  I thought so.  Financing for your house? Your business?  I am simply pointing out the inconvenient truth that it is not just the wet-behind-the-ears customers that might already know how to live without a bank.  That said, just because many have learned to live “without” a traditional banking relationship doesn’t mean most want to.  I will let a thought from Diebold support this thought, but before I do, have to ask:

Who’s getting that Kabbage?

As a platform for online merchants to borrow working capital, Kabbage fills a small business lending gap that I have to imagine many community banks should desire (h/t Mitchell Orlowsky @ Ignite Sales).  As I learned this week, Kabbage works with small businesses that are unable to obtain credit from traditional sources. According to TechCrunch, “the startup has closed a $270 million credit facility from Guggenheim Securities, the investment banking and capital markets division of Guggenheim Partners. Atlanta, Georgia-based Kabbage will use the funds to build out its financing business both in the U.S. and beyond. This is one of the largest credit facilities ever issued to a small business lender, and possibly the biggest in the online lending space.” Since opening for business almost three years ago, Kabbage has advanced more than $250 million to small businesses, the company says   Just another example of competition facing many business-oriented banks today.

If Diebold can change, why can’t you?
From the outside looking in, one can make the case that the last truly disruptive technology for banks was the ATM. And when you think ATMs, Diebold has to be top-of-mind.  So when the technology company acknowledges the following, why can’t more banks course correct and be where people are going (and not where they might appear to be)?

The retail financial services industry is in the midst of an epic change and will soon look very different than it did just a few years ago. Consumers are changing what they want out of their banks. Our research proves that consumers want additional convenience to access their bank anytime, anywhere, anyhow, all while maintaining a personal connection with their bank.

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Regardless of how you did on this pop quiz, please feel free to leave a comment below by clicking on the white plus sign (within the grey circle at the bottom of this page).  I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@aldominick) where you can publicly or privately share your thoughts with me.

Aloha Friday!