Every year we see new players on the fintech market. Some of them thrive, some just come and go. We picked six interesting companies, which in our opinion should have their momentum in 2017.
The idea of a purely online bank is nothing new; in fact, it was the first disruptive technology in banking in the early 2000s. Many virtual banks with no brick-and-mortar branches emerged then; some of them only stayed digital, but most met half-way with traditional banking through convergence. But what about a bank, which is so this century that it relies entirely on mobile devices and doesn’t even have a web-based transaction system? Yep, there is one: UK’s Atom Bank.
This British newcomer is an app based bank inside your smartphone or tablet – you can use it as long as you have an Android or iOS mobile device. The Atom Bank app gives you everything you need to open and operate your bank account. The app uses biometric authentication with face and voice recognition, and soon it will integrate fingerprint scanning. It is so user-centric that it even allows customization of the bank’s name and logo.
Atom Bank has just started its business, so it’s hard to say how it performs in real world scenarios. As for now, it doesn’t even offer current accounts, instant saving or credit cards, which should be available later this year. But the concept of a bank-in-an-app and some clever features such as reminders and forecasts or biometric security is very promising.
We can speculate on the need or consequences of artificial intelligence (AI), but it’s already here. We’ve been using it for some time now even though we wouldn’t notice that. From recommendation systems in Amazon or Netflix, anti-fraud mechanisms in banks, chatbots in Messenger, personal assistants like Siri or Cortana, to autonomous cars – there is a lot of machine learning (another expression for AI) involved in it. Exceptionally complex algorithms try to understand us and our environment in order to help us in everyday life. Investing and trading on financial markets is a part of many people’s daily routine, so taking some burden off their backs by using AI would be very welcome. This is where Capitali.se kicks in.
In a nutshell, the service “magically translates your words into real investments”, as the company’s website promises. You simply use natural language to tell the bot what it should do – and it does, executing your orders as if it were your hired human trader instructed via chat. What’s more, Capitali.se’s functionality is not limited to just understanding your intentions – which itself is a pretty complicated task after all – and following them. It also involves smart optimization of your strategies, so that you should get much better yields than in your original plan, and a real-time visual dashboard of your investments.
Natural communication with machines is the future of IT and this is why the solution offered by Capitali.se seems to be the perfect example of things to come soon to the financial world.
Another British bank, which is completely mobile. So why is it here, doubling Atom? Because it’s different in many ways – and is much more hyped.
First of all, Monzo is still in beta and despite the fact it wasn’t licensed as a bank until late 2016, it already reached 100,000+ users. Like Atom, it doesn’t offer current accounts (expected to be rolled out this year), yet it gained huge popularity among millennials. The key to Monzo’s success is its receptiveness to users’ suggestions and wishes (they even vote for the features on the bank’s roadmap!), as well as its immediate customer support availability and instant response to events in a client’s account.
The bank’s primary product is a prepaid card with a slick mobile app, which informs about every transaction in real time. This way Monzo clients are always informed and up-to-date with their purchases thus can control their budgets effectively. They can set up monthly limits and the app will warn when funds go red. Moreover, every card transaction or transfer to another Monzo user (free of charge) is categorized and linked to a merchant’s localization on a map, so it’s extremely easy to pinpoint payments and stay on course with the budget. The geolocalization is also helpful when Monzo clients go abroad: their cards won’t be blocked and they will be informed about exchange rates. And if a card gets lost, it’s possible to “freeze” it immediately without shooting it down altogether – when the card is found somewhere in a pocket, it can be defrosted with one tap of a button. Peace of mind and comfort – priceless.
“One platform to rule them all” would perfectly describe the idea behind Bud. Again, a British fintech company, which aims to disrupt today’s banking – but not by making a new bank, rather by offering a smart manager for what you already have: a one stop for all your bank accounts.
Bud’s platform is simply an aggregator of data imported from accounts you link with your Bud profile. All you need to do is to provide credentials to these accounts – and Bud promises this information is not disclosed to the company. The platform also guarantees the highest security measures available to guard your data.
With your bank accounts set up and linked in Bud, you can see all your finances, credit cards and transactions in one place, so you have a real big picture of your budget. Now you will know the cumulative balance across all accounts, you will be able to identify where your money is going thanks to categorization, and spending patterns will help you harness your expenses.
Bud is free, but it may offer suggestions for products and services like credit cards, mortgages, pensions, investments etc., based on what you currently have, so you can save or make money and the company gets its cut.
Drawbacks? The platform is available only in the UK right now and the app is for iOS only. Bud should also face serious competition after the PSD2 directive opens access to banking data in January 2018: banking APIs will allow third parties to offer similar solutions for data aggregation and analysis.
If you’re an investor trading stocks, bonds, and other securities, you probably heard of Robinhood, a revolutionary trading platform in terms of pricing and availability. Using your smartphone, you can make instant investments, use real-time market data and more – for free. Yes, this platform in its basic account type for the most of us is absolutely free: no commission or subscription fees. But the whole trading is based solely on your skills as an investor.
Stash, a recent challenger to Robinhood, wants to change this into smart investing – or rather into a “personal” one. When you sign up for an account, you are asked several questions, which determine your financial abilities, goals, and preferences. Stash will then present you with investing options tailored to your situation, needs and beliefs, offering portfolios of carefully picked securities from thousands of ETFs and stocks available, based on factors like low fees, managed risk, and historical performance.
Contrary to its gratuitous rival, this platform will charge you a monthly fee, but it’s as low as $1. Moreover, you can start investing with just five dollars – even if a share of a stock or ETF is worth much more. This is possible thanks to splitting it into parts or fractional shares, so you buy a share of a share.
Investing with Stash is also more secure in terms of risk because the platform allows dollar cost averaging: you invest your money in smaller amounts over a period of time, thus avoiding big losses, when the market value drops within a couple of months of your investment.
Currently, Stash is available to U.S. residents only.
CEO: James Beshara
Founded in: 2012
Number of employees: ca. 200
Total funding: $70M
Headquarters: San Francisco, USA
A wonderful dinner with friends in a fancy restaurant, a surprise birthday party organized by colleagues from the campus, a couple of pizzas ordered for a bunch of friends who met spontaneously at your home, an important non-profit cause, which needs fundraising – all of these examples involve collecting money from people to share expenses. And if you want to do it cashless and well-organized, you would need some web platform to do the job for you. One like Tilt.
There are mobile banking apps, which allow sharing expenses and collecting money in your bank account, but they are not very comfortable to use. There are also solutions like PayPal.Me for quick and effortless sending money to PayPal users. (Speaking of PayPal, the company also owns Venmo – a mobile service for payments, splitting bills and instant transfers between users.)
But for young people called “millennials”, the real deal is Tilt. It’s very easy to use, free of charge when you just want to collect money (there’s a 10% cut only on items you sold through Tilt) and allows to keep track of who has paid with an option to send reminders to those who haven’t. What’s important, contributors are charged only when a tilt amount, or goal, is reached. Contributions can be made with a debit or credit card. The collected funds are transferred to a tilt creator’s bank account.
This year should present a turning point for these companies. And, of course, it will welcome new startups wanting to innovate and disrupt the fintech world. What becomes a hot topic for 2018 will be known by the year’s end.