Top venture investors tell us the 4 biggest fin-tech themes they're watching in 2019
- We asked top venture capitalists from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, and Edison Partners to share their fin-tech predictions for 2019.
- Major themes include the rebundling of financial services, disruption in the insurance industry, and growing financial inclusion.
Venture capital investments in fin-tech reached a new high in 2018, with $11 billion pouring into startups that are trying to disrupt financial incumbents.
Business Insider spoke with fintech investors from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Bain Capital, and Edison Partners to find out which themes they're excited about this year.
Disruption in financial services has been largely focused on the concept of unbundling banking products. While consumers historically went to Wells Fargo or JPMorgan for top-to-bottom banking services, fintech startups like robo-advisor Betterment and online lender Kabbage have emerged to attack specific pain points that exist within these banks, such as hefty fees for personal-finance advisers, slow cross-border payments, and cumbersome process associated with securing bank loans.
But as some of these fin-techs get larger, they'll become more of a threat to big banks, said Mark Goldberg, a partner at Index Ventures. "We're at this inflection point where we're going to start seeing rebundling," he said, noting that some early fintech winners are starting to build such large and loyal user bases that they are going to launch new products linking the services together.
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"From an investing standpoint, we push ourselves to look at late-stage private round and think how big a company could become - if it becomes the next bank," he said.
One example is N26, the German digital bank that has recently raised $300 million to launch its mobile banking services in the US market. The company, which started initially by offering a mobile-only banking account, is now trying to integrate other features from credit products to expense tracking into an app.
Chris Sugden, a managing director at Edison Partners, agrees.
Consumers are "looking now for how can I get all the things I need for my banking or financial services in one place?" he said.
Strict regulations in the US have largely stymied the ability of the insurance industry to innovate, particularly compared to other areas within financial services such as payments and wealth management.
"While this is true of any regulated business, insurance, notably in the United States, has its patchwork approach to regulation driven by state insurance commissioners," said Matt Harris, a partner at Bain Capital Ventures.
"As a result, building a nationwide, disruptive, and game-changing insurance product company has no minimum viable product. Instead, you have to tangle with regulators from day one if you're going to make meaningful changes. This factor was one of the main reasons that insurance was the last part of 'fin-tech' to get moving."
But this has started to change. New companies have emerged trying to disrupt the insurance industry, from health-insurance startups like Oscar and Devoted to property and casualty insurer like Lemonade and Metromile, to wealth-tech companies like Ladder and Halo.
About 2 billion adults across the globe remain unbanked, meaning they don't have access a bank account. And in the US one government study estimated that 32 million of households were unbanked or underbanked in 2017.
Sugden of Edison Partners expects financial inclusion, or the ability to make mainstream financial services accessible at affordable costs, to be the next major theme for fin-tech startups.
"What you'll start to see is democratization, or inclusion," he said. "The idea is that the individuals on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum - lower earners, possibly with lower creditworthiness - are going to get access to financial services through fin-tech providers that have a much lower cost of provisioning and a much more robust and flexible tech stack."
Angela Strange, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, says this goes beyond helping people avoid financial fees. A wide variety of new companies are emerging to increase gross income for lower-wage people. This includes powering the gig economy to help people find short-term work, as well as providing training programs to help workers sharpen professional skills and secure higher-paying jobs.
The superhot crypto space had a rough 2018, with bitcoin's price falling below $4,000 per coin from a high of $20,000 the year before.
The headwinds that the crypto market suffered last year made it easier for Index Venture's Goldberg to understand what works, and what doesn't.
"Our investment philosophy in crypto has been watch it opportunistically, follow great founders who we know from other industries into the space," Goldberg said. "That is how we will continue looking at in 2019."
"We are really at it from the micro level of, can we find exceptional people to back? And if they happen to choose to go into the space, that is probably how we will invest."
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