Commentators from The Economist to Forbes have hailed the triumphant start of the fintech revolution. The financial industry is finally catching up with every other sector that’s ploughing its profits into digitalising its services. The result? A customer-centric industry that’s taking $4.7tn away from traditional banking.
One of fintech’s strengths is that it doesn’t recognise international borders. Users around the world are feeling the effects – whether we’re sending money over mobile in Kenya or attaching it to an email in the US, the global community is benefiting from fintech.
But as with any revolution, certain players are ahead of the rest. Let’s meet the new financial capitals of customer empowerment.
London is undoubtedly the European capital of fintech. Across the continent, the alternative finance market was worth around €3bn in 2015, and was set to top €7 billion. The UK’s contribution to that £3bn figure: around £1bn.
When it comes to interacting with the US, Britain has language, time zone, digital culture and financial heritage on its side. The combination of those factors puts it ahead of the rest of Europe, despite increasing efforts from the likes of Germany to foster a fintech-friendly environment.
Britain’s financial regulations also give it a major boost. Progressive measures, like lifting restrictions on retail investors and encouraging crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, have come together to create exactly what Germany is working towards.
Singapore is ramping up its efforts to put itself at the heart of Asia-Pacific’s fintech buzz. In July 2015, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced it would invest $166m in fintech over the next five years.
MAS’s also creating the FinTech & Innovation Group (FTIG). The group will be tasked with driving innovation and improving efficiency, matching fintech funding with a supportive organisational framework.
These initiatives are bolstered by Singapore’s geographic advantage. Southeast Asia has a significant unbanked population – 270m of those individuals have access to mobile, and therefore mobile banking. That’s a huge ready-made market for Singaporean fintech startups.
China, or more specifically Hong Kong, is battling it out with Singapore for the number one spot in Asia’s fintech scene. Hong Kong’s financial pedigree gives it a major advantage, with a wealth of talent and clientele already in the city.
Hong Kong is home to a growing number of accelerator programmes, launched by banking and business heavyweights such as Citigroup and Accenture. The money, entrepreneurial cultural and legislative support are all there to help Hong Kong rival the likes of London.
The US seems poised to pioneer fintech, with the capital of finance in Wall Street and the capital of tech startups in Silicon Valley. But, somewhat surprisingly, fintech got off to a comparatively slow start in the US. That changed in 2013 when investment in the sector more than doubled, overtaking total funding in Europe by $500m. That pace picked up in 2014, with investment throughout the US tripling to reach $9.89bn.
It looks like New York is leading the change, with a spike in fintech funding applications of 26% since the first quarter of 2015. It’s just inching ahead of California, which is lagging 4% behind on its applications for funding.