Here’s a chart of fintech awareness amongst banking executives:

Thanks this website
Thanks this website

Let me just say that you can count me amongst the banking executives. Because

blank stare

I may have written a post about the technological unicorns and, specifically, Square – but I have no idea what it does. Something about payments technology, or summat.

So this is my attempt to work out (and hopefully, explain) what those apparently “key” fintech startups are doing.

Let me start with this:


Here’s what that has told me:

  • Nutmeg is key, but not key enough to appear on this infographic (either that, or I’m blind);
  • Lending Club has something to do with loans and credit for small businesses (although I probably could have worked that out myself);
  • Square helps small businesses make and receive payments;
  • Betterment is there for personal wealth management;
  • RateSetter, TransferWise, Azimo and Venmo are also not key enough to appear on this infographic.
  • There is a lot of fintech start-up attempting to be disruptive.

But assuming that those really are the key fintech startups, here is a more accurate listing of how they’re being disruptive.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

P2P lending is all the rage – circumventing the traditional credit system and allowing platforms for people to lend money between themselves directly. I’ve written about this in two earlier posts: “Peer-to-Peer Lending: You’re Kind Of Doing It Already” and “Peer-to-Peer Lending: And Financial Crises.

And here are the two key fintech startups associated with it:

  • Lending Club, according to themselves: Lending Club is the world’s largest online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors. We’re transforming the banking system to make credit more affordable and investing more rewarding. We operate at a lower cost than traditional bank lending programs and pass the savings on to borrowers in the form of lower rates and to investors in the form of solid returns.
  • RateSetter:Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.04.48 AM

Cheap Transfers Abroad

We live in a globalised world where remittances are a big deal. If you really want to get an idea of the scale, go and check out this website:

Here's the link
Here’s the link

And traditionally, the cost of transferring money abroad is wildly expensive. So here are the key fintech startups that are doing it cheaper:

Cheaper and Easier Wealth/Portfolio Management

The trouble with investing options is that most of us don’t really know what we’re dealing with. Sure, you can decide that you want to get Exchange Traded Funds – but what does that mean? Which ones? And from which fund manager?

There is a rising wave of online wealth managers that bridge the line between financial advisor and portfolio manager – and they do it at really low cost. You get a series of questions, and then you get a custom-designed portfolio of ETFs, etc, and then you practically get to watch it in real time. Here are the two key ones:

Ease of Payment

Apparently, it’s not easy enough to transfer money between ourselves. I mean, if I pay for you, and you want to transfer money to me, I might have to wait a while for the transfer to clear. I’ve complained about this before: Why, in the Name of All That’s Worth Naming, Do Bank Transfers Take 3 Working Days?

And it seems that the banking system in the rest of the world does not have the awesome “pay and clear now” functionality that comes with living and banking in South Africa – #SAftw.

So here are some of the key fintech startups trying to make that process easier and quicker:

That said, Square does a lot more than that. They also do e-credit-card readers and integrated Point-of-Sale devices (Square Register). Also, home deliveries of high end restaurant takeaways (Caviar).

So yes, by the look of things, I’d say that Silicon Valley is coming for you, Wall Street bankers.

Best you check yourselves.

check yo self

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at Or both.