5 local startup leaders weigh in on what's in store for fintech in NYC

March 23, 2017

In New York City, fintech is king. No surprise there.

The maturation of the city’s nascent technology community combined with its legacy status as the financial capital of the world has fueled the growth of this sub-industry, as fintech’s biggest players make their home here. In personal finance, there’s Learnvest and Betterment. In the lending space, OnDeck emerged as a local unicorn. When it comes to money transfer, Venmo and Transferwise are household names. And the list goes on.

To get a pulse on the current state of fintech we spoke with a number of local leaders and found out what the future of the industry may have in store — from attracting top talent to giving traditional financial institutions a run for their money.

 

 

Clarity Money’s platform gives users insights into their finances, allowing them to cancel and lower bills, receive loans, set up a savings account, monitor daily spending, manage subscriptions or even apply for a lower credit rate. We spoke with Chief Strategy Officer Marc Atiyeh.

How has being based in NYC helped Clarity Money grow as a fintech company?

Access to experts in financial services, the close proximity to Wall Street, major publications being based here and access to bank veteran bankers and consultants who know the space but are frustrated with its stagnation has helped us grow as a company.

What trends do you think you'll see in the fintech space in 2017?

I believe fintech is moving more and more towards transparency and advocacy. This is what Clarity Money stands for. We want to surface all the unnecessary fees Americans have been paying on overdraft, APR, miscellaneous fees, and allow Americans to have ‘clarity’ into the vast spectrum of financial institutions in order to recommend the one that objectively improves their financial wellness.

In short, fintech leverages technology and AI so people can ingest the complexity of this world and make decisions not because they're convenient, but because they simply make sense.

How do you think NYC's fintech community will mature over the next five years?

My hope is to see more technical talent join the New York tech community in general. There are already a few unicorns in the space based in New York and this is very promising. We are noticing a lot of people in banking and consulting who are joining the fintech community because of the lack of innovation and disruption in big corporation due to regulations and bureaucracy.

 

 

 

CommonBond is a marketplace lending platform that lowers the cost of student loans for borrowers and provides financial returns to investors. The company provides student loan options with competitive pricing, a simple tech-enabled experience and exceptional customer service that is empowered to help borrowers pay off their student debts. We spoke with co-founder and CEO David Klein.

How has being based in NYC helped CommonBond grow as a fintech company?

We’re proud to be based in NYC and know our location has contributed to our success in several ways. First, this location is unparalleled for access to talent. New York is home to so many diverse industries — from design to marketing to risk analysis — and that helps us hire top-notch team members. Second, as a fintech company, there’s no better place to be than in one of the world’s largest financial markets. Third, our proximity to customers matters. NYC has one of the highest concentrations of students and recent grads, and since many CommonBond members live and work in our own backyard, we’re well situated to stay connected. Our location also recently helped with the launch of our enterprise product, CommonBond for Business. Being in NYC propelled introductions and communication — we’ve already signed over 100 partners.

What trends do you think you'll see in the fintech space in 2017?

In 2017, we’re going to see the fintech space continue to mature. We already started to see this last year. Companies that grew in 2016 will continue to get bigger. You also have larger banks either acquiring smaller startups or launching their own products to compete with fintech companies. I think it's safe to say that fintech is coming of age.

How do you think will NYC's fintech community will mature over the next five years?

We’ll likely see more cooperation between fintech startups and larger, more established institutions like banks. Banks will have to evolve to keep up with fintech companies on all things consumer engagement — product, technology and service — but have advantages like large customer bases and low-cost capital that are desirable to fintech companies. Taking the best of both worlds will mean better, more affordable products for consumers.

Also, mergers and acquisitions is likely to become more of a real thing. Fintech companies will continue to build stronger technology faster, which incentivizes larger incumbents to keep up. Fintech companies are more reasonably valued now than they were before, and incumbents have seen strong stock gains, creating fertile ground for potential acquisitions.

 

 

 

Payoneer’s digital platform helps businesses send and receive money overseas. Today, Payoneer’s platform allows millions of businesses from over 200 countries to facilitate cross-border payments, including leading companies like Airbnb and Google. We caught up with Payoneer CEO Scott Galit.

How has being based in NYC helped Payoneer grow as a fintech company?

Being based in New York has made all the difference for Payoneer. New York has always been a financial services hub, but has really become a ‘high-tech hub’ and that has helped our digital payments business grow beyond our expectations. The combination of the city’s dynamic startup community and established financial services community has allowed Payoneer to build a very strong foundation of employees, partners and customers. There are people with big dreams in all of the hi-tech hubs, but particularly in New York many of these people have been in demanding, professional environments for years, so they bring a different focus and discipline to the table. In my opinion, there truly is no place better to start or expand a fintech company than in NYC.

What trends do you think you'll see in the fintech space in 2017?

The fintech space has always been a very dynamic one due to the constantly changing nature of digital commerce, technology, the payments industry and the multitude of evolving regulations. So there’s a real urgency to continue coming up with innovative solutions because if you don’t, you can bet your competitor will.

That said, we believe the coming year will be one of collaboration superseding competition. In 2017, we will see increased cooperation between banks and fintech companies. Rather than seeing fintech companies as competitors, banks are increasingly realizing that they need to work with technology providers to help them innovate in the digital space and age.  And fintech companies are realizing it is harder to acquire customers and that partnering with banks creates opportunity. So 2017 will be the year of partnerships in the fintech space.

How do you think NYC's fintech community will mature over the next five years?

The fintech environment here is really great and the capital environment is robust. What I’ve learned about New York is that there are more talented people than ever who find the idea of working for a young and innovative company much more exciting than the traditional financial businesses that have been driving the New York economy for decades. As a result of this, I believe that the fintech community will continue to attract top talent here and grow exponentially in the coming years.

 

 

 

Forter’s platform provides an automated solution to fraud prevention for online retailers. The company uses algorithms that help online retailers analyze their exposure to fraud at the time of check-out, offering a 100 percent guarantee against chargebacks after the fact. We caught up Forter CEO Michael Reitblat.

How has being based in NYC helped Forter grow as a fintech company?

Forter protects retailers from online payment fraud, working with retailers, payments companies, and e-commerce enablers. Being in New York enables me and the whole team to be close to our customers and partners, making sure we understand what their vision is and how we can help them overcome their challenges. The fintech ecosystem in the city has grown significantly in the recent years which enables us to learn and cooperate with other local companies.

What trends do you think you'll see in the fintech space in 2017?

In the last several years fintech has matured significantly as an industry segment. We've seen the creation of very successful companies building industry changing products. Fintech companies have changed the market expectations for quality of service as well as the cost of these services, all done at a scale that the incumbent financial institutions can't disregard anymore.I think that we are already seeing the signs of it, and I expect 2017 will be the tipping point year for large institution to change their services and infrastructure to base their businesses on the new technologies and business models. Not at a test, a PR stunt or a tribute to investor expectations, but with massive adoption through partnership and acquisitions.

How do you think NYC's fintech community will mature over the next five years?

NYC is still a significantly more traditional market than the Silicon Valley, especially in the financial sectors, and we haven't seen as much crossover of experienced successful executives into fintech companies. In the last few months, I’ve started to get the feeling that this is beginning to change. Several people I know, who worked for 30-plus years for big banks, have moved to startups that are challenging those same banks to be better, and leaner.

I think that we will see that become a wider trend which will mature the industry and make fintech an integral part of the financial market. I don't think that it will happen in five years, but I have full confidence that what we call fintech today will simply become banking, trading, payments, risk management, et cetera, of tomorrow. Furthermore, New York City will become an even more important player in the world market than it is today, leveraging the union of the unique strength of its tech and finance sectors.

 


 

ConsenSys creates simplified and automated decentralized applications and developer tools for blockchain ecosystems, primarily focused on Ethereum. We caught up with ConsenSys founder Joseph Lubin.

How has being based in NYC helped ConsenSys grow as a fintech company?

ConsenSys now employs 160 blockchain and Ethereum experts with offices in several major cities around the world including the Middle East and Asia, making it the largest blockchain startup. About 40 percent of our staff works out of our office in Bushwick, Brooklyn. We're proud of our remote-first work culture, and at the same time, many of the Fortune 500 clients of our enterprise group works with are based in New York.

Although Ethereum is increasingly catching on all over the world, there is so much excitement about it in New York that we chose to host the launch of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance right in Brooklyn, along with 30 partners. New York has been a financial capital of the world for many years, so it makes sense that interest in blockchain would be high here.

What trends do you think you'll see in the fintech space in 2017?

Over the past months, financial institutions have shown increasing excitement in Ethereum. The enthusiasm for the recently launched Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, where ConsenSys is a founding member along with partners like Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, Banco Santander, Intel, and BNY Mellon — is evidence of this growing trend. We think 2017 is the year of blockchain adoption for enterprise and consumers.

How do you think will NYC's fintech community will mature over the next five years?

As more fintech moves to blockchain, from startups to large financial institutions, companies will find that the technology inherently drives collaboration. Blockchain adoption may mean a shift in business models and will encourage an embrace of open source. The move to open source by large enterprise has already begun, with Microsoft publicly open sourcing Bletchley and J.P. Morgan through its Quorum platform.

Collaboration between banks and fintech platforms offers companies more efficiency by removing the need for redundant processes across institutions and creating shared source of truth databases that are secure and scalable. Today most enterprises implementing Ethereum are adopting it in a private, permissioned context. The work we are doing with EEA is to ensure that private versions of the Ethereum blockchain are compatible with the Ethereum public mainnet. To me, this looks like the early days of the internet, when enterprises were adopting intranet, then eventually moved to working with the internet. This pattern makes sense in the context we see where Ethereum represents the next generation of the internet.

 

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via Facebook and featured companies. 

Know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

 

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