March 16, 2016
Only two years ago, FinTech startups from London loved to neatly categorize themselves into a familiar space, be it payments, lending, crowdfunding, PFM, banking, cryptocurrency or sometimes, gamification. Blockchain was not yet quite the buzzing space it is today. The year 2015 was a brilliant year for FinTech in that most startups started exploring boundaries within and outside of FinTech. I have noticed several startups applying themselves to solving niche problems utilizing existing innovation from multiple fields. Here are some wonderful startups I have come across, either in person or on the Web, that seem to be doing this type of cross-over innovation very well.
Brolly, set up in 2015, has been on several hot FinTech startup lists already; it also happens to be one of the few InsurTech startups on these lists. It does not handle the legacy challenges facing insurance companies (which are a huge opportunity for FinTechs to disrupt) but handles the first step in providing a better consumer experience: the availability of insurance information at your fingertips. It is the PFM app of the insurance space.
SETL, a permission blockchain platform, has the capability to process 1 billion transactions a day and is perhaps one of the best use cases for blockchain technology, enabling faster settlement for currencies and securities. There is potential for tremendous cost savings if the platform finds the industry adoption of scale. And as this is a permissioned network, it addresses any concerns of risk and can work closely with the regulators.
Zympay, whom I happened to meet at a pitch event recently, solves several FinTech problems in one go. It provides the ability to pay bills across borders. It handles a typically two-step problem of making a cross-border remittance and then, separately paying a utility bill at the end destination. Interestingly, they are also tackling a very human problem – the lack of trust or control in how the beneficiary uses the remitted money.
The FinTech influencer survey I run every year shows that security and authentication remain the biggest gaps in the financial services world. I like the fact that AimBrain handles mobile biometric authentication in multiple modalities, and that they prove that behavior and context play a major role in security. This could actually solve that big gap; the good news is several banks are already trying the product out. Banking, payments and various alternative financial service providers can find great use for this.
This is the oldest firm on the list – set up in 2012, Commuter Club aimed to make London transport more affordable (and trust me, it is a real problem!) by providing an option to pay monthly direct debits for annual season tickets. I have it on this list as it is a good example of cross-over FinTech with aspects of personal finance, lending and rate-setting coming together to address a genuine regional problem.
Where do I start? Machine learning + high-end data analysis + fraud detection is a super cool combination, and I can’t wait for Ravelin to make even bigger waves than it is making today with its £1.5M VC funding round. Real-time fraud detection can help all FinTech subsectors including payments, lending, asset management, risk, e-banking as well as things we haven’t seen from FinTech yet. I love that they include human insights in the whole process, proving that a combination of human and machine elements is the future of FinTech.
I have come across six FinTech startups from London working on the mortgage/property FinTech space recently – and all of them were set up in the second half of 2015. If I were to pick the single biggest FinTech aspect that can help Londoners, I would pick affordable property buying and Trussle is a good example of disrupting this process. They offer comparisons, free advice and status reporting, creating a much-needed simplicity and transparency in the market.
As a financial consumer and knowing fully well what FinTech firms these days are capable of, I am constantly worried about how my personal data will be used in the future. As the power of data analysis increases and the availability of data points becomes easier, responsible behavior around the use of that data becomes increasingly important and Privitar helps address this problem. Compliance while using sensitive data points has the potential to be much simpler.
Looking at the FinTech startups coming up in London, it is very interesting to note that all of them want to be regulations-friendly, even helping the larger financial institutions with their regulatory needs. FinTech has heavily blurred boundaries today, and there are no more clearly defined products around segments. It is even crossing over to healthcare and media to solve common problems. And they are not afraid to innovate in very niche territories either – as long as they are consistently adding value to the end-consumer.