There are many nitty gritty problems that need solving in the financial services industry. Technology, common sense, thoughtful regulation and new business models will address these over time.
There are also complex problems, bigly ones, that will require either deceptively simple solutions and/or intricate collaboration among many stakeholders.
I invest in solutions that address either, depending on scale and economics, and am passionate about the latter.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of solutions that address complex solutions which I am passionate about.
1) Low cost reliable banking: We know many consumers are underbanked, non banked or unhappy with their banks. We still have not cracked the code for low cost reliable banking. I have invested in neo banks as well as digital startup banks in the UK. I still think there is much to do in this field and am interested in digital startup banks in the US to foster further competition and usher new simple licensed banking business models. I am equally interested in retail and SME low cost banking models.
2) New core banking/insurance systems: There are no new core banking systems in use by banks, same with insurers. This is a technology anomaly in need of being rectified. What with new technologies, new needs centered around data analytics, edge computing on the horizon and interoperability, we are in dire need of new core systems that are low cost to develop and low cost to maintain. I am keenly interested in open source initiatives in this space as a means to unlock this major issue.
3) Open Source financial technology: This is linked to the above core banking systems item. The power of open source software is tremendous. We see it with blockchain technology, we see it with AI. Developing business models around open sourcing of basic code that powers financial services will deliver untold riches.
4) Bank as a Service platforms: I have written about this subject extensively. My interest lies in technology platforms that will drive the marginal cost of delivering a set of financial services or products to near zero. One can argue this is linked to points 2 & 3 above. (I need to think about Insurance as a Service).
5) Low cost savings platforms for the US: The 401K market is woefully inefficient, fees are too high, the value chain is too sclerotic. A new cheaper 401K platform would be ideal, but maybe there is a need for a new product altogether which would need legislative & regulatory nudges. Either way this is a massive investment opportunity in the US.
6) Secure micro payments platforms: There are no inexpensive and secure micro payments solutions for either digital goods & services, person to machine or machine to machine interactions. I do not see credit or debit card rails addressing this need. Maybe new models built off of Ethereum, maybe something else?
7) Regtech as a Service platforms: I believe regtech solutions will still be needed going forward for certain use cases even if we move towards a financial deregulation era. I do not believe in the viability of point solutions in regtech. I also do not believe one vendor will be able to provide a best of breed portfolio approach – the needs are too heterogenous, the technologies too varied. Hence, applying the concept of Bank as a Service to Regtech as a Service, with platforms that allow demand to meet supply in a frictionless way will be winners.
8) Digital Identity solutions: We live more of our lives digitally, we buy, sell, interact with one another, on social media platforms, on mobile apps. Our data is insecure, our payment data is insecure and our identities are are nightmare to manage. Comprehensive digital identity solutions that allow us to build trust, interact with one another and with companies, while securing our data and our privacy will emerge. I am keen to participate and collaborate with the winners in this space. Incidentally, I am equally interested in digital identities for things and for enterprises. Whoever cracks this space will have a very large success on their hands.
9) Data Marketplaces: By that I mean data marketplaces to monetize financial services data whereby at least one stakeholder (the seller or the buyer) needs a very different level of assurance with regards to data privacy & financial regulation. If we are enterting the digital age, and if data is a key ingredient of that age, then ways to monetize, exchange, buy, sell data that is tied to the financial service industries will be big businesses. Think the NYSE or NASDAQ, but for data and data sets.
10) House Purchasing/Renting platforms: Face it, buying or renting a home is a pain. It is a pain to show you are a good tenant, and it is a pain to secure a mortgage. There are many documents to procure, many signatures to make, many steps to go through, much due diligence on the buyer/tenant and seller/landlord side for buying/renting. Any solution that helps make the experience a delight, with little friction and with embedded financial services/products is a winner.
11) Cybersecurity insurance: Nascent space for sure, with lack of understanding of the risks. I dream of a marriage of reason between a insurtech startup and a cybersecurity consulting firm, backed by a forward thinking reinsurer. Definitely interested in exploring this space, especially knowing about the untold risks of IoT security or lack thereof.
12) Securitization markets for insurance: Admittedly I know little about this space, but the potential for pooling risk, segmenting risk, providing liquidity to certain asset classes seems rather interesting. Big problem to solve, bigger opportunity.
13) On demand micro insurance platforms: Mostly for retail, tailored for new usages of any type of asset, or new behaviors – gig economy or otherwise – on the fly. We have barely scratched the surface on this one.
14) Specialized Climate *Change* Insurance platforms: For farming in developed or emerging markets for example. Enough said.
Let me know about what makes you tick and which solutions/problems in financial services should be tackled.
ps: I have several other pipe dreams that are not as investable as the above, the main one being digital fiat currencies (physical fiat be gone). Maybe the subject for another post.
pps: Even though I am bullish on enabling technologies – AR/VR, blockchain, AI, advanced data analytics, quantum computing – I have not focused on these in this post, believing any of the above will be powered by one or several of them, hence my agnosticism.