2023 is proving to be a punishing year for banks, finance, technology and fintech. Firms have seen massive downgrades of their market cap, and we have seen the demise of major companies ranging from Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic and Credit Suisse.
Some say that this is a crisis. However, it seems more like a rebalancing. There’s a crypto winter, as cryptocurrency was valued almost ten times more a year ago. There’s a fintech bloodbath as even the most presitigous players in these markets, such as Stripe and Klarna, are valued at a half or even a fifth of their value a year ago respectively. And there’s a banking crisis with some banks, as West Coast American banks collapse and burn.
Does this mean that we are seeing the end of a world of growth?
It just means we are adjusting to a new reality.
For me, it is interesting. Fifteen years ago, we had a massive financial crisis. Some called it a global financial crisis but, in reality, it was mainly an American and European banking crisis. More notable was that, three years later, there was a massive European sovereign debt crisis. But then, for those with longer memories, twenty five years ago, there was a huge Asian financial crisis and, shortly after that, an internet boom and bust.
We always have crisis, yet what we find is that progress is created through crisis.
We have a crisis every few years. It’s nothing new. Every few years some part of our world collapses and has to rebuild, reorganise, rethink. It is the way things work.
So, the crypto winter and fintech bloodbath, combined with the collapse of banks, is just progress. It is not a crisis. It is making our world better.
The real question is: what is the outcome?
When all of the dust settles, and the banks and fintechs emerge afresh, what will the world look like?
It will look better is the answer. The companies that come out of this crisis will be stronger, better and more reliable purely because they came through this crisis.
The fintechs that survive will prove to be huge and hugely investible, as will the cryptocurrencies that survive. Meanwhile, the banks that are struggling are not systemic. They are all one-offs. Silicon Valley Bank suffered from poor investments and judgement; Credit Suisse suffered from misleading accounts and records; First Republic suffered from contagion and too much exposure to West Coast America’s richest people.
Will we see this continue?
The answer is no. These are all situations that are unique. That is clear with the collapse of some banks and it is clear with the newer markets of fintech.
The meltdown of fintech investment and cryptocurrency values is unusual, but not a long-term trend. Both will come back stronger. In fact, if anything, the cycle of tightening values and easy credit will make both markets stronger and more valuable. It reminds us that when the dotcom bust occurred twenty years ago, some people forecast that Amazon.com would die. How wrong were they? It reminds us that, when the 2008 financial crisis occurred, some forecast that banking would never recover. How wrong were they?
Today, we do stand on a precipice. We can see dead banks, dead fintechs and dead cryptocurrencies, and it is too easy to look and say this will not end. Instead, we should look up at the banks that are growing, the fintechs that are succeeding and the cryptocurrencies that are doing well, and ask: where do we go next?
Our world is full of opportunities and risks. That is what our world is made from. It is far more preferable to focus on the opportunities whilst managing the risks, than focusing upon the risks whilst missing the opportunities, is it not?
So, for all the doom and gloom out there today, you just need to bring it home. The fintechs that are surviving; the digital assets that are thriving; the banks that are jiving; and yes, there are many, if you look in the right places.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...