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Tag: MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech

Can mono-solution providers survive?

By Mike Storiale

When FinTech began its ascent, single-solution providers opened the door to expertise and simplicity rarely brought to the table by traditional banks. Solutions designed to meet unique needs created excitement from consumers and investors alike.

Throughout the industry, experts discussed the need for an open architecture from banks and FinTechs to empower customers to build a set of financial solutions that worked best for them. As the industry matured, however, it became apparent that a more rudimentary problem was holding FinTechs back – a balanced business model.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve witnessed the rise and fall of innovative companies that created a single solution with little diversification. The dot-com crash in the early 2000’s was full of well-intentioned problem-solvers who built great organizations, but lacked the contingency plan a balanced product offering affords. They were flying high without a net.

Customers Are Finicky

The mono-solution business model that most FinTechs chose excited customers who could relate to specific problems they felt their banks were not solving. When early entrants offered a better way to send money and alternative lending options, as well as simpler checking accounts, they seemed attractive in an industry that traditionally ignored outcries from its customers for better products.

Moreover, customers had often been plagued with the decision fatigue that came with traditional banks’ offerings of multiple variations of each product, few of which fit anyone perfectly.

But while consumers were willing to try new products that FinTechs brought to the table, they remained reluctant to leave the mainstream banking system for a new financial lifestyle. For banks, this gave them the opportunity to win customers back as they developed complementing products to compete with the innovators creeping in on their space.

Even though research showed that few consumers ever felt “warm” with their bank, often ranking them just slightly less hated than airlines and cable companies, it was difficult to leave the one-stop-shop that was completely intertwined with their everyday lives. Though cobbling your perfect financial offering together sounds utopian, for most consumers it was simply more work than they were willing to take on.

A Risky Model

While the boon of the early years may make some think otherwise, FinTech is not immune to typical business risks. One of the core rules of business is to diversify your product offering to protect yourself, though when we begin new technology ventures, we often believe that we will be able to succeed on a single solution. FinTech’s rise began during a time filled with historically low interest rates, massive changes in regulation, and a consumer base willing to try new things.

While this opened the door for success, it also meant that it mattered less if a start-up’s balance sheet was diversified enough to withstand market fluctuations, because fluctuations simply weren’t happening. Solutions that focused on lending to consumers outside of the traditional market didn’t have to experience the risks of a volatile rate environment. As the inevitable becomes reality, however, speculation circulates as to whether an unbalanced offering can withstand the storms the financial industry often faces.

In addition to market risks, the gap is narrowing in the “tortoise and the hare” race between FinTechs and Bank’s. Even the smallest banks have begun investing money into innovation, while the ones with significant capital have started entire technology hubs and enacted strategies to acquire their biggest tech challengers.

Although big banks continue to face regulatory scrutiny of their core business model, they have evolved and learned how to innovate, catching up in the race to grab customers with products that differentiate themselves. At the same time, FinTechs are finding it difficult to maintain the minimal regulatory oversight that enabled the rapid growth seen in the early years of innovation.

Last month, SoFi filed the paperwork to obtain an industrial bank charter, opening the door for the online lender to offer the same core banking services as its mega-bank counterparts. SoFi’s bold step is not the approach taken by all FinTechs, but many continue to look for partnerships with more full-service financial companies to ensure revenues continue to flow, even if their core business falls out of favor.

The Tipping Point

The outlook for the next five years in FinTech growth may closely trend with the growth in new bank charters. While de novo bank growth stalled after 2008, the up-tick in 2015 and 2016 highlights start-ups that believe they can become successful hybrid organizations; part bank, part FinTech.

Still, taking the hybrid path isn’t without its own challenges. Stringent capital requirements, intense regulatory oversight, and the difficulty of growing a balanced product mix can make it unattractive for entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Mono-solution providers should evaluate the future of their revenue stream to determine if diversification can help mitigate their risks in a changing market.  If they are able to take their innovation into new, multi-service arenas, we can expect to see unprecedented growth in the industry.

Mike Storiale is an Adjunct Professor in the Digital Innovation for FinTech program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. He teaches a graduate course on the global economy and the emergence of FinTech. 

The Financial Technology Revolution

By Josh Deems

The saga of finance technology, dubbed “fintech,” is on a delayed start compared to other industries. When the proverbial innovation alarm clock rang around 2004, a digital revolution ignited media,telecom, retail, and other nimble segments into transformation. New ideas, technologies, and companies emerged and became entrenched in our daily lives. In the meantime, financial services hit the snooze button… but why?

Innovation in finance has happened before

In the 1950’s, the invention of the credit card was thought to render physical cash obsolete. By the 1960’s, ATMs appeared, threatening the existence of live tellers and bank branches. Starting in the 1970s, stock brokers ditched phone and paper based trades for electronic systems. From 1998 on, consumers and retailers began transacting for goods and services through linked-bank accounts via the online payments system, PayPal.

Major advancements in banking technology have happened every decade since the end of the Second World War, but none harnessing the disruptive power of the revolution we’re facing today.

Why now?

Fast forward to 2008. New banking services materialized again, this time driven by the millennial thirst for digitization, the anti-establishment distrust of arcane banking processes, and the chutzpah of start-
ups and investors. Concepts such as peer-to-peer lending, digital wealth management, and the first fully electronic currency, Bitcoin, became the focal point of innovation. The theme shifted to the ‘unbundling’ of core banking services often thought as too large, too complex, and too regulated to face disruption.

<<Learn more about the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis>>

Overview of new services

Highlighted below are two of the more prominent technologies involved in the paradigm shift of the banking industry. Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology and buzzword associated with Bitcoin, and robo-advisors, or digital wealth platforms changing the way we manage personal portfolios.

Blockchain

  • What is it? Distributed, immutable, and fully secure database technology. Underlying engine of bitcoin, and supporting technology for peer-to-peer payments worldwide.
  • Key Players Open source blockchain providers (Ethereum, Hyperledger); enterprise blockchain companies (Chain, itBit, Symbiont); financial services consortium (R3, Post Trade Distributed Ledger Group); global payments (Ripple); bitcoin-enabled services (Coinbase, Bitfinex)
  • Potential Impact
    •  Send payments across the globe in seconds (remember Western Union, anyone?)
    • Tokenize and track the movement of assets across the world’s financial markets
    • Shared ledgers and asset records across regulators, buy-side, sell-side, and custodians
    • Immutable history of every financial institution’s transactions
    • Digitization of fiat currency (Bank of England is experimenting with this)
    • Automated compliance and settlement processes

Robo-Advisors

  • What is it?  Umbrella term for digital wealth management advice. Covers anything from fully-automated and algorithm-based portfolio generation to digital client engagement tools used by human wealth advisors.
  • Key Players Institutional (Schwab, Fidelity, Vanguard, BlackRock); Standalone Robo’s (Betterment, Wealthfront, SigFig, LearnVest)
  • Potential Impact
    • For consumers, cheaper investment advice, diversified portfolio with lower fees through ETF-based offerings, access to features (tax-loss harvesting and portfolio rebalancing) formerly only offered by professional managers to high net worth individuals
    • For advisors, broaden scope of managed portfolios beyond high net worth individuals and increase AUM, especially by engaging and targeting millennials. Enhanced market analytics and insights to provide clients.

How to stay ahead

From behemoth banks to lean start-ups, the appetite for seasoned bankers, savvy coders, and entrepreneurial-minded individuals who can bridge the tech and finance gaps is growing. According to LinkedIn data from September 16, 2016, there are over 450 fintech job recommendations between New York, San Francisco, and Boston, and over 650 in London. And these figures ignore the opportunities unlocked by starting your own fintech.

If you’re interested in learning more, a great place to start is the MS in Science for Digital Innovation offered by Brandeis University. The program condenses the fintech ecosystem, and blends the finance and technology skillsets required to build your own personal fintech toolkit. And the secret sauce? The program is taught by experienced professionals who are engaged in the academic, finance, and technology communities.

The finance digital revolution is upon us, and our economy is becoming increasingly mobile and on-demand. Become an active participant in the movement and take the opportunity to learn new topics, network with like-minded individuals, and explore how companies are changing the way banking is conducted worldwide. Soon, you will become the face of the fintech revolution as well.

Josh Deems is an AVP and business strategist at State Street Corporation’s Emerging Technologies Center. Prior to joining State Street, Josh was a management consultant, focusing on operating model improvement and digital experience for asset managers. Josh holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from the George Washington University with a concentration in finance.

Picture of the author, Josh Deems

Josh Deems

 

Study the evolution of FinTech online at Brandeis

Did you know that Brandeis GPS offers courses for professional development? Enroll in an online course this fall and network with new colleagues in a 10-week, seminar-style online classroom capped at 20 students. Registration is now open and we’re celebrating by profiling our favorite fall courses.

Get an introduction to the evolution of the financial industry landscape, the challenges and opportunities presented in today’s new era, and the drivers behind industry changes. With this 10-week, graduate-level course, you’ll analyze case studies of well-known FinTech companies and discuss leading business models, technology and trends. Topics will include:

  • The History of FinTech: from Mesopotamia to today
  • The digitization of banking
  • Big Data: structured and unstructured
  • Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and digital ledgers
  • Quantitative trading

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Fall courses run Sept. 14-Nov. 22. Whether you’re looking to complete a full degree or advance your career through professional development, this course is designed to equip you with the necessary skills for making an impact in any industry or organization.

How it works:
Take a part-time, online course this fall without enrolling in one of our graduate programs. If you like what you learn and want to continue your education, you can apply your credits from this fall toward a future degree. Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787 or fill out our first-time registration form and we’ll be in touch.

 

Thought Leadership Webinar Recording: Learning from FinTech Startups

July’s thought leadership webinar was led by Timothy Bosco, Senior Vice President of Investor Services at Brown Brothers Harriman.

Read more FinTech insights from Bosco here.

Register for our next thought leadership webinar, The State of FinTech, here.

Access other GPS thought leadership webinars here.

What Established Companies Can Really Learn From Startups

The following blog post was written by Timothy Bosco, Senior Vice President of Investor Services at Brown Brothers Harriman. Tim will be hosting a webinar on this topic on Thursday, July 28 at 2 p.m. EDT (rsvp here). 

Today, some of the most successful financial service providers are seeking lessons about risk taking from an unlikely source – early stage startup companies.

Whether it’s through the venture investment community or directly with leading fintechs, more and more established companies are looking to model startup behaviors despite the fact that these emerging companies actually fail more than 90% of the time.1

Learn more about the newest GPS master's degree: MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech

Learn more about the newest GPS master’s degree

It is easy to assume this growing trend must be because the fast-paced, innovative startup culture inspires established companies to take bigger chances in search of bigger rewards. The real reason for this new fascination, however, is often just the opposite. It might actually be the way startups deal with uncertainty and efficiently mitigate their risk of failure that is driving the real interest.


Clearly, the “eat-or-be-eaten” environment in which most startups operate has a way of forcing efficiency and creativity. When something is not working to plan, only those with the willingness and the ingenuity to shift fast enough have a chance of making it.

It’s that dexterity large organizations envy most. In fact, there probably isn’t a corporate innovation team out there that hasn’t, at some point, incorporated the “fail fast” mantra into their lexicon.

Large companies also recognize that many of the same factors that threaten a startup’s success can impact their own product strategies to the same degree – technology can evolve overnight, customer preferences are fickle, funding is always limited, and new competition can spring up from anywhere at any time.

The difference for startups, though, is that they have the most to lose by ignoring signals to fail fast. In most cases, it is their survival instincts that draw out the entrepreneurial resiliency needed to bootstrap success even if that means setting aside their original ambitions.

Pinterest is one of many great examples of a startup that was forced to abandon its initial plan only to architect an even bigger opportunity. In 2009, the founders of Pinterest initially attempted to launch the very first mobile-enabled shopping application called Tote. Despite strong customer demand, retailer support, and adequate seed funding, the idea never took off because of the relative immaturity of mobile payment technologies. Instead of doubling down and waiting for payment technologies catch up, Tote switched gears and relaunched a much simpler application that kick started a new visual social network phenomenon. It turns out that Pinterest is among the most likely IPO candidates in 2016 with an anticipated $11 billion valuation.2

While large companies can’t necessarily manufacture the competitive environments that shape actual startup behaviors, there is still a lot they can learn from successful entrepreneurs about staying lean, focused, and in control of new product innovation. The following table outlines a few key success factors commonly found among startups that reinvented themselves early in their lifecycles.

Adopting Successful Startup Strategies

What Established Companies Figure 1

Within the corporate context, these startup strategies also suggest an ideal investment profile for mitigating risk. The minimum and maximum ranges depicted below illustrate the relative levels of investment in terms of both time and money throughout the product development cycle.

Creating the Right New Product Investment Profile

What Established Companies Figure 2
It clearly takes both practical decision making and an unconditional commitment to make it big as a startup. The people who run them are responsible for every detail, every success, and every failure. It is that entrepreneurial perspective that guides startups to fail fast. For that reason, established companies must understand the importance of empowering their product teams to own their decisions about how to incorporate failure before it gets expensive or even worse… before it becomes destructive.

1 Forbes, 90% of Startups Fail: Here’s What You Need to Know About the 10%, January 2015.

2 Nasdaq, Is Pinterest a Top IPO Candidate for 2016?, December 2015.

This blog post was originally published on Brown Brothers Harriman’s Insights blog on May 6, 2016. RSVP to Tim’s webinar, What Can Established Companies Really Learn from FinTech Startups, here.

GPS launches master’s degree in Financial Technology

FinTech-heroGPS is excited to announce the launch of a fully online, part-time master’s degree that is the first of its kind among U.S. colleges and universities: a Master of Science in Digital Innovation for FinTech.

The FinTech degree is geared toward creative thinkers who work for organizations that rely on technology for providing efficient financial services and systems. Developed in conjunction with experts in the field, the program seeks to service a global financial industry where digital advancements are becoming increasingly critical to economic success and market growth. A March 2015 report published by Accenture shows that investments in FinTech tripled between 2013 and 2014 alone. To stay competitive and meet industry demands, startups and international corporations alike will need to invest in untapped technologies and innovations.

View a sample FinTech curriculum or request more information

“Financial technology is everywhere, whether you’re using mobile banking to pay for your monthly mortgage or an app to pay for your morning coffee,” said Anne Marando, executive director of Brandeis GPS. “In a world where more and more institutions are turning to mobile technology to transact business, this program gives financial professionals the tech skills necessary to develop innovative solutions and approaches.”

The program’s part-time nature allows students to complete the 30-credit degree in 1.6 to 3 years. The FinTech curriculum captures the industry’s latest tools and best practices while incorporating the rigorous standards of excellence that make Brandeis one of the country’s top universities. A professional advisory board will monitor and ensure the currency and relevance of the program’s courses, which will cover topics in finance, software, analytics and UX design. Required courses will include:

  • The New Economy: Global Disruption and the Emergence of FinTech
  • Launching FinTech Ventures
  • Mobile Applications and Responsive Web Design

Students interested in joining the MS in FinTech’s inaugural cohort should submit their applications by Aug. 16, 2016. Students may also take individual courses prior to applying for admission or for professional development purposes. Registration for the fall 2016 term opens on Aug. 23, with courses beginning Sept. 14. Visit www.brandeis.edu/gps for more information.

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