Finserv = Fintech

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I have already explained my maximalist view of Fintech in a previous post, see here. Although it is clear to everyone that the financial services industry is finally transforming itself, said transformation means different things to different people. Further, with every new conversation I have in the industry I remain fascinated with the multiple dualities that float in our financial services industry unconscious. Jung and Freud would have a field day.

Thusly I decided to double down and explain in further details my radical and maximalist view, hence this post

I use Finserv as the abbreviation for the financial services industry throughout this post.
I define the Finserv industry as the sum of five space: Lending, Capital Markets, Asset Management, Insurance and Payments.
I view the crypto/blockchain/distributed ledger eco-system as a vertical technology that has the potential to optimize or completely reinvent work flows and processes in the Finserv industry which is why I do not add it to the five spaces above.

Now, onto the dualities I have detected.

First duality: There is a fintech industry or eco-system and there is the financial services industry.

Second duality: The fintech industry is a two headed beast, one head being comprised of service providers that sell their products and services to incumbents and the other of startups that compete and disrupt the finserv incumbents.

Third duality: The fintech industry is about banking and payments and maybe some wealth management. Everything else, that is insurance, asset management, capital markets is not really fintech.

Fourth duality: The fintech industry is about b2c models. B2B models are not really fintech.

Fifth duality: The fintech industry is about digital, the rest is just technology or plain business.

Sixth duality: To become digital means to rethink the front end, the distribution channels, the rest stays the same.

Needless to say I do not agree with any of these dualities. I think a much more profound systemic shift is taking place. A shift enabled by societal changes – how we interact, how we organize ourselves socially and in business, new approaches to consumption and ownership –  globalization changes, technology changes – networks, faster/better/cheaper, instantaneity, mobile, high speed internet – and “core” technology changes – AI, machine learning, IoT, Crypto.


All participants in the Finserv industry, be they incumbent service providers, startup service providers, disrupting startups competing against incumbents, incumbents, small, medium or large, old or new… All participants will have to become Fintech organizations.

By that I mean a) all participants will have to stop doing business the old way which usually meant selling “internally” generated products and services to customers and entreprises via one-way distribution channels; and b) all participants will have to start behaving, thinking, organizing themselves as technology companies and focus on three things: Technology, Data and Customer/User Experience. This they will have to do from the front end, middleware and back end of their business/technology stack. The effort is GLOBAL and SYSTEMIC.  As such, finserv incumbents will become fintech incumbents – fintech banks, fintech broker/dealers, fintech insurance carriers. Technology will not be a tool one applies to a specific area of one’s business, it will become one of the central blocks off of which participants will articulate their businesses. Technology + Data + Customer/User Experience will form a new business approach (one technology companies in other industries already have applied with much success by the way)

Some banks have started the journey towards transforming themselves into Fintech incumbents: Santander and DBS come to mind.

Some banks claim they see the threat: JP Morgan

Some banks are capitalizing on the investment opportunity: Goldman Sachs

Some insurance companies already think and breathe fintech: USAA.

All fintech startups are of course on such a wavelength, be they service providers or disruptors.

Some regulator(s) have awoken to the possibilities: The PRA and FCA in the UK. MAS in Singapore.

What of asset management firms, the rest of the insurance industry, capital markets participants, most of the payments incumbents, most banks? What about the rest of the industry? What about regulators at large?  Many still need to change their outlook as the cosy way of doing business is a thing of the past. Most navigate between feelings of fear or benign neglect.

Finally, because of the sheer magnitude of the effort both in developed countries where the Finserv stack needs to be optimized and in emerging countries where it needs to be built from scratch in some instances, this shift encapsulated within the paradigm FINSERV = FINTECH will take the better part of the next 10 to 15 years.  One does not reinvent a significant portion of GDP overnight.

For further clarification, here is my FINSERV = FINTECH “mind map”:

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 4.06.01 PM

Thoughts anyone?

Pascal Bouvier

Life and work experiences have given Pascal an unmatched vantage point, seeing things as both venture capitalist and aspiring entrepreneur. He currently is a Venture Partner with Santander Innoventures – Santander Group’s Global Fintech fund.

  • Marco brown
    Posted at 16:26h, 25 August Reply

    Got it, love it. Now how do we get LinkedIn to add Fintech as a description or industry for our profile?

    • Pascal Bouvier
      Posted at 10:57h, 26 August Reply

      good one! and it applies to many other labels Linkedin needs to add.

  • Hanz
    Posted at 21:54h, 26 August Reply

    I dig it! Dare I say…’disruption’ in the space is happening and growing. A necessity to sustain new avenues of growth. The unfortunate reality is that this will be much slower that typical tech disruption.

    • Pascal Bouvier
      Posted at 22:01h, 26 August Reply

      you are probably right.

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