Fintech had a strong year in 2018. Fueled by its own ambition and new technological developments, the industry is growing in prominence as its ideas are increasingly accepted into the mainstream. Like any industry, it can be difficult to parse facts from the hype, but experts believe there is plenty to be excited about in 2019.
The idea of a cashless world is foundational to fintech – pundits believe that time is coming sooner rather than later. But society has been slow entirely jettison cash, and fintech companies have plenty of work to do to reach un- or under-banked consumers around the world who rely heavily on a physical medium for payment. Madhvi Mavadiya, a contributor for Forbes, predicts that Sweden or Australia will be the first cashless nation – the former’s citizens use cash “for just 20 percent of transactions, well below the world average of 75 percent,” while the Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe calls cash a “niche payment instrument” in his country in an age of diversified payment options.
While the world may not go cashless quite yet, new, paperless payment methods are on the uptick. Bob Legters of American Banker predicts that loyalty will be “the new currency that we will see take shape in 2019,” as companies work to “allow people to redeem their rewards right at a point of sale…[while] loyalty processors will spend less time on marketing and recordkeeping and will shift their focus toward technologies augmented with a real-time settlement.” Meanwhile, contactless payment technology will continue its evolution, but cost concerns to issuers will curtail true mainstream adoption – for now.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning had a big 2018 and are primed for a bigger 2019. Each has clear-cut use cases and benefits while maintaining the flexibility to be used in new, creative ways. Blockchain is also likely to continue its upward trajectory, especially while cryptocurrency remains in regulatory flux, but all four buzzy technologies have attributes that can be used inventively in backend systems.
2018 was a watershed financial year for fintech startups: Techcrunch reported “only three fintech exits in the U.S. over $100 million, totaling just over $700 million in value” in 2017; 2018 saw “that number grew by a factor of 10 to over $7 billion in value,” with “more than half of that value came from the GreenSky IPO…[and] also a number of significant M&A events.” Additionally, 20 fintech companies were classified as unicorns (meaning a privately held company valued at over $1 billion) in 2018. They predict 2019 will be the first year to exceed $10 billion in total aggregate value for fintech liquidity events, with an additional ten companies joining the $1 billion valuation club “for a total aggregate value…[crossing] $90 billion.”
Fintech took great leaps in an exhilarating 2018, but experts anticipate an even more exciting 2019. Key technologies are progressing to a point of usefulness and new companies are defining fresh, vital ways to use them. Most importantly, consumers are recognizing the value of these companies and their offerings. A cashless world may not materialize this year, but that is closer to reality than ever.
The Investment Industry’s Fintech Revolution
Hedge funds and large institutional investors have been using Artificial Intelligence to analyze large data sets for investment opportunities, and they have also unleashed A.I. on charts to discover patterns and trends. Not only can the A.I. scan thousands of individual securities and cryptocurrencies for patterns and trends, and it generate trade ideas based on what it finds. Hedge funds have had a leg-up on the retail investor for some time now.
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