What’s the Future of the Global Fintech Market?

Global fintech is growing and finding opportunities in underserved markets, but it faces long-term uncertainties.

The report: The Future of Global Fintech: Towards Resilient and Inclusive Growth [January 2024]

Source: World Economic Forum

Why we picked it: World Economic Forum produces excellent reports on global economics. In partnership with the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, this report takes a close look at fintech through the lens of improving development and bettering underserved populations.

Executive Summary

As companies find opportunities and challenges in the market, the global fintech industry continues to grow after a period of swift and profound change over the past few years. Many fintechs are revamping their business models to offer new products and services while also expanding into new markets. 

To learn more about these trends, The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and the World Economic Forum surveyed 227 carefully selected fintech companies across five retailfacing industry verticals and six regions (Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, U.S. and Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa).

The study focused on six key areas: demographics, performance, growth factors, regulatory perceptions, customer engagement and activities with social benefits. The findings illustrate that as fintechs capitalize on solid consumer demand for digital financial services, they are finding growing opportunities in underserved populations.

Key Takeaways

 

  • The global fintech industry is demonstrating strength with customer growth rates averaging above 50% across industry verticals. However, fintechs also say macroeconomic factors (56%) and the funding environment (40%) are starting to hinder growth.
  • Fintechs are rapidly expanding products and services to underserved markets. Low-income consumers now constitute 40% of the fintech customer base, contributing more than a quarter of the total transaction values
  • The most notable products driving financial inclusion are flexible repayment options, microinsurance products and low-rate cross-border transfers.

What we liked: This 47-page report is a beast and broadly examines global fintech growth, challenges and trends. The research helps connect the dots between profits, opportunities and underserved markets.

What we didn’t: The report is almost too broad and tries to cover too much. While the title and introduction focus on resilience and inclusive growth, inclusivity isn’t addressed until halfway through the report. These findings may have been better broken down into two or three reports.

Fintech Market Performance

Fintech has experienced exponential growth in recent years — but its adoption has not been even across the globe. Given fintech’s potential to widen access to finance to consumers and small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), it is essential to assess industry demographics, market performance, growth drivers and customer segmentation.

Fintech market performance: The sector continues to grow, highlighting sustained interest in fintech services. While fintech was already growing before 2020, the pandemic amplified the growth. Between 2020 and 2022, the industry achieved a 50% growth rate, logging solid growth in digital banking, digital capital raising, lending, payments and Insurtech.

Dig deeper: Fintech’s Wild Ride: Who Will Dominate the Next Phase?

Acquiring customers: Regarding mechanisms for acquiring customers, fintech firms rely on a diverse mix of channels and tools. This includes social media (70%), referrals (68%), websites (65%) and partnerships with local financial institutions (46%). Only a quarter or less acquired customers through traditional advertising, regional assets, or a physical agency, indicating a shift away from conventional means. However, these means vary by region, vertical and economic development preferences. For example, fintechs in SSA and MENA tend to favor local advertising agents.

Challenges in scaling service to new customers: While fintech is still experiencing strong growth, it tapered slightly in 2022. Fintechs also face challenges in scaling services to new or additional customer segments. Stated challenges include consumer education (51%), a highly competitive market (43%), high compliance requirements (34%) and pricing (32%).

“The fintech industry continues to display resilience and solid growth, however many long-term uncertainties remain.”

Supporting and hindering factors in growth: When it came to factors hindering fintech’s growth, 56% cited macroeconomic factors. Other challenges include an unfavorable regulatory environment (47%) and a poor funding environment (40%). Meanwhile, fintechs also reported some tailwinds and supporting factors like consumer demand (51%), availability of a skilled workforce (39%) and favorable regulatory environment (38%).

Perceptions of the regulatory environment: While fintechs mostly have a positive perception of the regulatory environment, many are also challenged by certain aspects. Most fintechs (63%) say that the regulator environment is adequate or appropriate for the jurisdictions in which they operate. However, there were some regional differences. For example, fintechs in Europe and APAC perceived their regulatory environments marginally better than those in other regions. Meanwhile, fintechs in MENA had the highest regulatory concerns, with 42% saying the existing regulation was either excessive and restrictive, inadequate, or non-existent. Overall, respondents said the most challenging aspects of dealing with regulators were licensing and registration, coordination of the financial authorities  and staff knowledge and capacity related to fintech.

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Creating a More Inclusive Financial System

Incentives and profit-seeking are driving fintechs to help create a more inclusive financial system in many parts of the globe.

Opportunities in underserved markets: The report notes that fintechs and digital financial services have expanded access and affordability of financial services through digital technologies and widespread mobile adoption. Globally, female, low-income and remotely located customers comprise a substantial portion of fintech’s customer base.

This analysis shows that fintechs are beginning to challenge certain expectations in terms of business viability and profitability for serving low-income consumers. Low-income consumers constitute 40% of the total customer base and contribute more than a quarter of the total transaction values. This portion is even greater in digital payment firms, where low-income customers make up 57% and contribute 44% to transaction values.

Read more:

Incentivizing inclusion: When fintechs were asked to indicate if there were market initiatives to incentivize or promote delivery of digital financial services (DFS) to customers, they cited market-led and public initiatives focusing on low-income, MSME customers and female customers. Market interventions have proven particularly effective for digital lending and payment first to encourage tailored products for marginalized groups.

Products that contribute to financial inclusion: The study defined different fintech products and grouped them by their relevance to financial inclusion and environmental sustainability. The most notable products supporting financial inclusion were flexible repayment options, microinsurance products and low-rate cross-border transfers. The most popular products supporting sustainability were green business venture finance options and insurance for extreme weather-related events.

Fintech and DEI: Research found that globally, many fintechs have prioritized DEI in recruitment while investing less in mandatory training. Data showed that fintechs in the U.S. and Canada lead the way in driving DEI goals and in having mandatory training, correlating with a general trend in the region where more employers are offering DEI training in the workplace.

Female representation: The fintech sector showed stronger female executive representation than the overall financial services industry, with a global average of 33%. The report also cited a McKinsey study noting companies with more than a 30% share of female executives were more likely to outperform less gender-diverse companies. This suggests that fintechs may be harvesting better results by retaining a higher-than-average rate of female leadership. Additionally, this research found higher rates of female executives also demonstrated a stronger orientation to female customers.

An Eye to the Future

Fintechs views AI as the most relevant topic for industry development over the next five years. Of eight options, AI (72%) was consistently cited as the most relevant across all verticals. The report notes it is likely that the impact of AI will be compounded as it affects fintechs on multiple fronts: from changes in business models to customer engagement and regulations. Other “most relevant” factors included the digital economy (54%), opening banking and open finance (53%) and embedded finance (53%).

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