Is FinTech dead?

by mike on October 29, 2009

wall street

Boy has the financial services landscape changed over the past year. Collapse and utter failure are the first words that come to mind. AIG, Lehman, Merrill Lynch the list goes on and on. At the same time, a few survivors like Goldman are thriving in this environment and getting ready to payout record bonuses. What does this mean to entrepreneurs in the sector? Is FinTech dead? I don’t think so and here’s why:

Inefficiencies are rampant across the entire supply chain: Voice trading is prevalent in the OTC markets. Real-time risk management is almost non-existent. Real-time settlement/clearing is non-existent. Clients don’t understand and sometimes don’t know what securities they hold and their risk exposure. Managing skyrocketing market data volumes is getting tougher and tougher. I can go on and on, but you get the point.

Talent and risk have flip flopped: This is an important one and good for all startups in the NYC area. In the past, most (not all) good programmers went to work on Wall Street to make a lot of money, working for hedge funds and large financial services firms. Startups weren’t really on the radar. Maybe it was cultural here on the East Coast, but pay wasn’t comparable and the perceived risk was high (not saying I agree). That is changing. For one, there hasn’t been this much high quality technology talent available in quite a long time. Many of the large banks significantly cut their tech teams. Great programmers and software product folks with strong domain experience are available. These folks are getting hired by fast growing tech startups. Second, what I’ll call startup risk is down. I’m in no way implying startups are less risky than in the past, but merely pointing out that perceived risk is down. Lower salaries with equity stakes and options in exciting venture-backed startups are looking better and better. The staying power of large financial services firms is very much so in question.

Diverse Sectors: Capital Markets is one slice of the FinTech pie. There are vibrant opportunities in other sectors like Banking, Insurance and Real Estate (who would have thought). Most of these sectors have under invested in technology for many years and replacement cycles are coming up. The cost of maintaining legacy technology is increasing rapidly. There are also broad financial management plays like electronic billing and payments gaining traction in sectors like Government and Healthcare.

Regulation and Reform: We all know regulation is coming at some point. The specific impact is unknown, but with that comes opportunity for nimble, disruptive startups. A few areas that I’m particularly excited about are risk management, real-time analytics, OTC derivatives automation, SaaS, settlement/clearing, anti-fraud, new marketplaces and consumer financial services.

FinTech is far from dead. I believe the crisis has strengthened the need for technology, automation and transparency and am confident entrepreneurs are the ones who can change things for the better.

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