Financial technology has been around as long as business transactions have existed — all the way back to the advent of bookkeeping, or even the invention of money. The term Fintech, short for financial technology, has only been in use since the early 2000s, and even then, just within the financial industry. However, since the 2008 financial crisis, Fintech has come into popular use. Fintech startups have sprung up across the financial industry, fundamentally changing how trading and banking are administered, and who has power within the industry.
Definition and History
The term Fintech was originally applied to computer technology used by banks and trading firms. Now, it is being used to describe current innovations in personal and commercial finance. Since the birth of the internet, Fintech has been steadily on the rise. It really started to take off following the 2008 financial crisis, when it became apparent that certain structural components of large banks rendered them unable to properly provide services to their customers. In the past ten years, thousands of Fintech startups have been founded around the world, offering opportunities for people to conduct easy online payments, currency exchange, and wealth management services. Financial tools that have recently come into the market or are currently being developed include mobile banking, mobile trading, mobile wallets, and digital wealth management.
Financial technology as well as the industry itself are becoming decentralized; digital and mobile technology are giving consumers and small businesses more of a capacity to manage their own finances. In this way, the rise of Fintech is similar to the success of Uber and Airbnb. New financial technology has made products and services more accessible, and not just in terms of convenience. While things like mobile banking do make it easier for people to manage their finances efficiently, Fintech startups are also charging less for their products and services than large banks, giving new opportunities to low-income families who can’t afford to spend a lot of money on banking. People like Jim McKelvey, Mike Cagney, and Patrick Collison are founding startups and making innovations in the field of Fintech, in pursuit of better technology that will make the lives of their clients and customers easier.
Perhaps best known as the co-founder of Square, Jim McKelvey is an expert on entrepreneurship, startups, and the financial industry — having founded, co-founded, or reformed multiple businesses and organizations that are now major innovators in finance. Square was McKelvey’s first real breakthrough in the financial industry, and has revolutionized the way small business owners interact with customers. The software and hardware that Square offers allows business owners to sell their products and services to customers with credit cards, making business transactions simple and convenient. In January of this year, McKelvey was appointed as an independent director of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, and since 2012 has been a co-founder and partner at Cultivation Capital, a venture capital firm that specializes in managing funds. McKelvey is also working to bridge the tech talent gap, a mission he is pursuing with his nonprofit organization LaunchCode, which helps give people the experience and credentials they need to secure jobs at top companies.
As SoFi CEO, Chairman and Co-Founder, Mike Cagney is cementing his company’s status as an industry innovator that is changing the way banks and other financial companies do business. The business model Cagney uses is one that is “more aligned to the customer,” and one he hopes will soon become the norm in the financial industry. Cagney is an entrepreneur and macro economist, the former senior vice president of Wells Fargo, a non-executive chairman of Reflow, and a co-founder and managing member of Cabezon Investment Group, a global macro hedge fund. Before Cabezon, Cagney founded Finaplex, which specialized in wealth management software. Cagney makes frequent appearances at conferences and on TV, speaking about lending, wealth management, fintech, and the relationship financial companies should have with their customers.
Through his work in programming and digital finance, Patrick Collison has become an important game-changer in the financial industry. The Irish entrepreneur was studying math at MIT when he and his brother John Collison, who was enrolled at Harvard, came up with the idea for Stripe — an online payment company — and decided to drop out of college to bring their idea to life. Collison started programming at the age of ten, and built iphone apps during high school. At sixteen, he won the 41st Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. Collison often speaks about empowering people through technology rather than simply using it for entertainment or basic utility. He also likes to draw from his experience creating a startup company and administering organizational structure. “We want to free businesses from just selling via credit cards, you know, to people who hold bank accounts, and instead, enable people to purchase online no matter what it is that they use, bank account or no,” Collison said.
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