I find it interesting when I read perspectives on FinTech, money and banking. Going digital, getting rid of branches, becoming cashless seem to be the main themes, and yet this ignores that every part of the world is different. It’s hard to go digital if the country has little infrastructure; it doesn’t make sense to get rid of branches if people like them and the country is under-served financially; and it doesn’t make sense to go cashless, if the culture is a cash-based culture.
There are no homogenies here. Everywhere is different.
For example, digital finance is rising fast in all economies but fastest in those historically suffering financial exclusion. The annual Findex data set from the World Bank shows over 500 million more adults have a financial account in 2017 compared with 2014. India was a star performer in 2017 where 80% of the country’s population now has a financial institution account, jumping from 53% in 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa also continues to make remarkable progress, with ten countries reaching at least 50% access and four reaching beyond 65%.
Colombia has 256 bank branches per 100,000 people on average, compared to 32 per 100,000 in the USA and only 1 bank branch per 200,000 in the Ukraine.
Whatever you read, you probably are aware that China, India and Asia is moving to cashlessness far faster than America and Europe.
So, there is no homogeneity.
Nevertheless, I find it interesting that we are now dealing with global finance on global platforms like Apple and Alibaba. Sure, these platforms may have bias towards consumers in the East and West, but their rise to global status is notable. Amazon is one of the two dominant online retailers in India; and India, Brazil and Indonesia are the largest markets for Facebook, along with the USA of course.
The reason I write this is that there are two big forces battling away behind the scenes of FinTech: globalisation and localisation.
By way of example, I was asked the other day where I see FinTech start-ups like Bunq, N26 and Monzo going next. My answer was that they must first prove themselves in Europe. It is likely that they may then look to American ambitions, but America is tough when you have to deal with 50 state regulators with 50 different agendas. It may be easy to look towards Asia, but China and India are already well served by Alipay, WeChat Pay, PayTM, Amazon Pay and Google Pay.
My recommendation is that there’s still no dominant European FinTech financial firm, and so Monzo, Revolut, N26 and Bunq should focus there first, even though Monzo is already working on a US launch as are N26.
Long-term, bearing in mind that all of these firms will need to deal with localisation requirements, I do believe there will be global FinTech and financial platforms. The announcement of Apple Card and work of the Big Tech giants are driving towards this, as are the works of the FinTech unicorns and the big banks (don’t forget them!).
The main issue in achieving such ambitions is language, culture, engagement and experience. Watch this space.