Fintech has greatly changed everyday life for billions of consumers around the world over the last decade-plus. It’s changed the way we buy goods, pay other people, invest, bank, obtain mortgages and so much more. That’s why it was not very surprising to see so many fintech firms named among CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list.
Despite having reaching the status — by years — of a mature industry, fintech still continues to produce innovations and change the way people interact with their finances. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 11 companies that made it onto the CNBC list.
Some are well established, some relative newcomers making a big splash that you may not know about. All are important for bank and credit union executives to watch closely. They point the way in which financial services is continuing to evolve and in several cases have built their businesses around working with traditional institutions.
Tool for Everyday Investors (and Lightning Rod for Critics)
Robinhood has certainly had a noteworthy 2021 so far, hasn’t it? The financial app that aimed to democratize investing for everyday people fueled the Gamestop trading mania that began earlier this year. Eventually it temporarily halted trades on Gamestop and other meme stocks, which earned it the anger of its users and also somehow managed to unite politicians as diametrically opposed as Rand Paul and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez behind a common cause.
Since then, things have calmed down a bit for the fintech, valued at nearly $12 billion, and it is planning a highly anticipated IPO in July. Since it debuted in 2013, Robinhood has created numerous innovations in the investing space, such as commission free trading. It was also one of the first platforms too enable the trading of cryptocurrencies, in 2018.
Critics have hit out at the platform’s gamification of trading, and say it encourages possible bad behavior by making trading too easy. Still, with an IPO looming on the horizon, 2021 could be Robinhood’s biggest year yet.
Launched in 2010 by Irish brothers John and Patrick Collison, Stripe has in many ways become the infrastructure that powers online commerce. Stripe provides APIs that developers can use to integrate payments processing into online e-commerce sites or apps. And millions do, including digital commerce giants such as Amazon, Reddit, Spotify, Lyft and more.
In 2019, the company branched out to physical point-of-sale services with its Terminal product, designed to enable physical card readers to work with Stripe’s infrastructure. It also has created services for online businesses to manage invoices as well as recurring revenue such as subscriptions.
The past year has seen Stripe launch a banking-as-a-service platform that enables its users to embed financial services, allowing their customers to easily send, receive and store funds as well as expand overseas. Valued at a whopping $95 billion, Stripe has no stated plans to go public, but industry insiders expect that will happen in the next several years.
Stripe, one of the highest valued fintechs at $95 billion, has no immediate plans to launch an IPO.
Lender to Startups
A relative newcomer, Brex was launched in 2017 and provides lending services to startup companies. Since many startups go bust within the first year or two of their existence, notably restaurants, this theoretically puts Brex in a high-risk business where many of its clients may not be able to repay loans. In fact, co-founder Henrique Dubregas has told CNBC he expects nearly three-quarters of Brex customers to go out of business every few years. The company counters this risk by using real-time data in the underwriting process.
“It does not require a Social Security number, a personal guarantee, or access to the founder’s credit score. It does, however, require card holders to link their bank account, and Brex utilizes information about the bank account balance as a primary underwriting input,” according to a Harvard Business School review of the platform. The fintech lender partners with Finicity to integrate with thousands of U.S. banks and also to ensure that consumer information is encrypted.
In February 2021, Brex formally applied for a bank charter, with the aim of providing a wider array of financial services to small-to-medium sized businesses. Brex has a current valuation of $7.4 billion.
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Digital Payments Platform
London-based Checkout.com offers payments services to online businesses, and competes generally in the space as Stripe and other providers of payments services for digital commerce. The company made news in 2019 when it announced a $230 million Series A funding round, and raised another $450 million during a Series C funding round in 2021. It has a current valuation of more than $15 billion, making one of the most valuable fintechs in the world.
It has used that newfound financial muscle to expand, notably acquiring Australian payments startup Pin Payments for an undisclosed sum and data analytics platform ProcessOut for $230 million, both in 2020. The company has more than 1,000 employees across 17 offices globally. While still private, Checkout.com is currently exploring a U.S. listing.
Big In Virtual Cards
Oakland, Calif.-based Marqeta has had a notable past 12 months. Marqeta enables companies to offer business credit cards to employees and enables e-commerce companies to offer card or other digital payments. It also provides payment-processing services.
During the pandemic, when most employees were sitting at home, Marqeta announced a partnership with JP Morgan to issue virtual credit cards. These would replace physical corporate cards and instead work with various mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay. Virtual cards can be managed digitally, with adjustable spending parameters and restrictions on where employees can pay.
On June 8, Marqeta underwent a highly anticipated IPO, pricing its shares at $27 per share, and began trading on the Nasdaq the following day.
( Key Resource: Neobank Tracker: The World’s Biggest Database of Digital-Only Banks )
The ‘Nonbank’ Neobank
Neobank Chime has grown to become one of the biggest names in the fintech space since its launch in 2013. It introduced several innovations aimed at attracting younger, low-to-mid earning consumers, such as no overdraft fees and the option for early access to paychecks that are direct deposited.
Many digital-only neobanks like to position themselves as tech companies first and banks second, but Chime has been particularly notable on that front, often calling itself a consumer software company rather than a financial institution. In fact, Chime has agreed to stop calling itself a bank after the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation required it to stop, since it does not have a banking license. (Chime relies on two financial institutions including The Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank to provide insured accounts and a debit card.)
( Dig Deeper: Is Challenger Bank Chime the Future of Retail Banking? )
Regardless of nomenclature, Chime has become the largest U.S. based neobank, with a valuation of nearly $15 billion and 12 million customers. Chime also this year signed the biggest commercial office lease in San Francisco since the pandemic started, taking 200,000 square feet in a financial district tower. Chime has plans for an IPO, according to Reuters.
Banking the unbanked and serving those with no formal credit history are issues that have moved to the forefront in recent years. California-based TALA aims to fill that void, which many traditional institutions struggle with. The company provides micro-loans of up to $500 to people in Mexico, India, Kenya and the Philippines.
Catering to an underserved demographic, most of Tala’s customers have no credit score or banking relationship. The company uses advanced data science to build a “modern credit…
Read More:The Top 11 Fintech Disruptors of 2021