From Robinhood’s role in the GameStop stock mania to Coinbase’s landmark IPO, fintech apps contributed to some of the biggest stories of 2021. But while individual companies have seen their star shine brightly in specific moments, the market for fintech apps has yet to see a single startup take a long-term leading role.
Recently, Bloomberg looked at the fintech landscape and identified players that could someday assume the role of “financial supermarket”—a fintech super app that can facilitate everything from payments to investments to loyalty programs.
I’m reminded of a quote from a recent fintech conference session that stated something along the lines of, “People care about beauty, if you do something beautiful, they take notice, and for that, you need to be stubborn and hold on.” As financial institutions learn more about their customers by collecting user data, they are pushing to develop new service methods and expand the customer relationship beyond basic banking or lending functions. Today’s digitally native consumers can lead a financial life that is significantly more complex than even a few years ago.
Looks like the quintessential millennial couple Jack and Jane, using their mobile devices do business with 35-40 financial providers. From checking and savings to peer-to-peer payments to budgeting, these services each offer a narrow window into the user’s complete financial situation. Cloud computing has made it possible to place nuanced stock trades or apply for a mortgage from the palm of your hand. Regardless of how useful and intuitive any single app may be, this fragmentation is unsustainable from a customer satisfaction standpoint. Eventually, I believe it will be necessary to consolidate in the form of multifunction super apps.
As these ambitious fintech startups jockey for position, a few critical factors could help separate winners from losers.
1. Comprehensive Approach To Data Management
Super apps are made possible by the seamless collection and aggregation of customer data, enabling businesses to understand a consumer’s preferences across a wide range of industries and experiences. But while this data can help to fuel new services, it can also serve as an Achilles’ heel when the usage and governance are to be explained to users and regulators.
Successful fintech super apps will have a comprehensive understanding of the data they own, its source (APIs, marketplaces) and its organization. The assimilation, management and use of data must be seamless to provide value across multiple financial services. A fine-tuned data engineering and analytics strategy will equally make it possible to rapidly redesign processes, creating the virtuous build cycle that fuels high-growth organizations.
Introducing automation and AI to fintech apps won’t guarantee overnight success. Engineering teams must work to build trust in their new plumbing, AI and automation tools, both internally and with the end user, to ensure customer growth and retention. Once an organization has settled on the right mix of tools, they’ll find themselves gaining velocity in comparison to their competitors.
Takeaway: Regular audits of the existing data landscape and governance serve to proactively adjust the road map for future digital and data strategies across lines of business.
2. Embedded Payments As Connective Tissue
Payments as an industry are constantly being disrupted by fintech companies and are equally eyed by big banks today. Fintech super apps can become a destination platform for both consumers and merchants alike by aggregating a broad set of lifestyle and financial services. However, the most important value-add for these applications will be embedded payments, which make it possible for users to conduct transactions without ever leaving the app. Payments will play a foundational role in these super apps, serving as the connective tissue between every individual element.
At a recent fintech conference, the estimate passed around for the cross-border payments market was nearly $130. However, even today, if you go beyond the glossy facemask, there is technology that is nearly four decades old and a few layers down you’re in a time machine. Thus, for existing fintech apps without payment capabilities, the addition of embedded payments will be a vital step for long-term sustainability.
Data and analytics can help deliver insights to influence user behavior, but payments represent the essential infrastructure that converts customer usage to revenue growth. On a different note, a payment-enabled super app also becomes more attractive to merchants, as it allows them to rapidly acquire new customers without having to invest in reinventing the wheel with proprietary payments infrastructure. Merchants can rely on the scale and distribution of the super app to easily expand their reach and scale their revenues.
Takeaway: Design when your app can integrate embedded payments to scale, and in the process, establish a long-term partnership with data to help drive insights to action to growth.
3. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL)
Now delving a bit more in payments, the audience for fintech super apps will likely be composed of millennial and Gen Z users, who are demanding more flexible and transparent ways to pay for high-cost transactions. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) services have emerged to facilitate transaction flows and interest revenue, increasing cart sizes by issuing low-cost credit to consumers. Having grown up in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis, millennials and Gen Z are understandably skeptical of traditional interest-bearing financing sources.
As a result, BNPL is poised to take over a larger share of the market in future years; according to a report from CB Insights, the BNPL industry could exceed $1 trillion in annual gross merchandise volume by 2025. A robust set of BNPL and lending solutions will help fintech super apps to increase adoption in these key demographics.
Takeaway: Recognize the preferences of the dominant demographic, and design and/or incorporate product features like BNPL to gain market traction.
The financial future will be fueled by data, AI, digital currencies and new payment technologies. As the battle for super app dominance continues, fintech companies must build long-term road maps that include a vision for each of these components, allowing them to expand their service offering to become “the” go-to destination for the future of consumers of finance. For, as they say, conviction and convenience do not live on the same block!
Author: Parijat Banerjee is Global Business Head for the Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) sector at LatentView Analytics.