The fintech industry took a wild ride in 2018. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin took center stage as their values and popularity soared. One famous analyst predicted bitcoin would trade at the sky-high value of $1,000. That never happened, as cryptocurrencies tumbled and Americans ultimately lost $1.7 billion trading them by the end of the year.
On the happier side of things, the Matrix FinTech Index (a market cap weighted index tracking a portfolio of 10 leading public fintech companies) revealed how steady the growth was for publicly traded companies. They proved to be powerful disruptors in 2018, with the market cap growing by 50 percentage points and leaving the S&P 500 in their dust. The total market cap of those top 10 fintechs nearly reached $170 billion by the end of the year.
Experts predict more of this double-digit growth in 2019. All 10 of the top fintechs are expected to accomplish this feat, which is noteworthy because the only traditional companies expected to reach double digits are a few card issuers like Mastercard and Visa. And that’s no coincidence, as fintechs such as PayPal and Square bolster their growth.
Amidst this strong environment, experts predict more IPOs may be on the horizon. It can be an unpredictable move, however, and robust fintechs like Robinhood seem to be putting their focus elsewhere for the time being.
“Fintechs have been focused on scaling up and on products over profit,” Lindsay Davis, an analyst at CB Insights, told Bloomberg.com. “That mentality is fundamentally flipped when a company goes public. As a result, many have taken the slow approach to an IPO, and that trend is likely to continue since many of the rumored candidates have enough runway to stay private after record financing rounds in 2018.”
Another trend to watch for is consolidation. As fintech startups rapidly add customers and value, they become prime targets for acquisitions by companies both inside and outside the fintech industry. Even those who aren’t technically ripe for acquisition could look to join forces with others due to a strength-in-numbers mentality.
“It’s quite possible to see fintechs looking to continue to combine, to both create scale and a deeper and richer set of capabilities,” explains Zachary Aron, an expert with Deloitte.
As banks look to head off contactless payment competition from companies like Apple and Google, watch for them to develop new technology. These initiatives may start with “wave or tap” methods of paying at the point of sale, but don’t be surprised if you also see additional innovations when it comes to real-time money transfers competing with the likes of Venmo and PayPal.
“The banks understand that the current payment system infrastructure is broken, like our roads and bridges in the US,” says Peter Gordon, chief executive officer for Payment Relationship Management. “They’ll work to create new rails that are more efficient.”
One thing’s for sure — as more large corporations and banks scramble to get a piece of the lucrative fintech pie, there will more be innovation. For this reason, 2019 will be a crucial year as traditional methods are finally put to rest by the market’s incumbents and innovation becomes the price of admission to succeed in modern business.