Fintech & Culture Part 1: Apps
Tom Brady and Steph Curry trade crypto via FTX. Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed MoonPay. Jay-Z invested in Robinhood and created his own venture capital firm. Snoop Dogg endorsed Klarna. Venus and Serena Williams invested in Shares, a collaborative investment app. Odell Bekham Jr. did a commercial for CashApp. Social media influence Charli D’amelio endorsed a digital banking and investment app targeting young people. The list could go on and on.
The industry of fintech, short for finance technology, has been rebranding in recent years – have you noticed? Instead of being relevant to primarily business and finance gurus, or engineers and coders, fintech is increasingly crossing over into everyday pop culture. In the past finance and technology may have been a “members only club” for a specific group or type of person, but the times are changing. In this blog series, we’ll explore how fintech has evolved over the past few decades, bringing us to where we are today. We’ll also be looking at five major ways fintech has become mainstream and accessible for all. In this first post we’ll be looking specifically at some cool features of up-and-coming fintech apps.
A Brief History of Fintech
But first, some definitions. Fintech, as we clarified above, is short for “finance technology.” Let’s break that down even further. According to the Oxford Dictionary, finance is “the management of large sums of money, especially by governments or large companies.” Technology, in its most basic sense, refers to tools that make our lives easier, or as Oxford defines it, “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.” So put the two ideas together and you get this: tools that help people to practically manage money. Fintech revolves around that exact goal, to create or build resources that assist people in accumulating and managing wealth. When you think of it that way, fintech becomes a relevant topic for everyone.
In a way, fintech has always existed throughout human history as people have sought better ways to manage their wealth. Banks, for example (which have been around since at least the Middle Ages), were the product of people coming up with ways to manage money that were better than hiding it under their mattresses or digging a hole and burying it.
The increased emphasis on the technology part of fintech, however, has truly emerged in the last sixty years. For example, the first ATM was introduced in 1969. The world’s first electronic stock exchange, Nasdaq, started trading in 1971. By the end of the 1990s, the world was shifting to using the internet to access and store data. The emphasis in these years was on electronizing financial processes.
In the past two decades fintech has become what it is today, with the earliest modern fintech companies tracing back to the mid to late 2000s. Around this time, regular people started using smartphones and downloading applications to do certain tasks on their handheld, portable devices. Start-ups using new technologies for new services started popping up everywhere. Banks introduced digital services. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning took over. Money became electronic. Crypto emerged. Over time, things that seemed outrageous or unnecessary have become the preferred norm. Now in 2022, this modern sense of fintech has completely infiltrated our world.
Personal Finance Management Apps
In a previous blog post we introduced the concept of PFM apps and their purpose: to interact with users’ financial institutions in order to help them manage, organize, or perform financial actions. By tracking transactions and having ongoing access to users’ financial accounts (after users have given permission for the app to do so, of course), PFM apps can offer personalized data analysis, recommendations, and reminders that help users to be more money savvy than they were without the app (or to help them do those things more easily). But PFM apps are expanding even more now, doing a lot more than simply helping users track their spending.
Now PFM apps are focusing on more specialized needs and services. For example, some apps are built specifically around helping people to pay off debt, whether it’s student loans, mortgages, or other outstanding credits. Some of these debt-focused PFM apps allow users to access all their loan information in one place instead of having to login to individual accounts for each loan they have. They also can make payments directly through the app. Other features could include keeping track of loan forgiveness opportunities and automatically applying it to eligible loans, and comparing all repayment options to curate the best payment plan for each unique user. The goal with all of these services is easier loan management and faster debt payoff.
Other new PFM apps have features that include built-in financial advising, typically through robo-advising which allows automated finance and investment management through software and algorithms instead of a human. These “robo-advisors” help people build their portfolio, keep track of their assets, and achieve financial goals they have much in the same way a personal financial advisor has in the past.
Other Finance Features
Another cool idea emerging in fintech apps revolves around investing, which has long-term implications for generating wealth for individuals and families. The goal of many new investing apps is to make it easier for younger, less wealthy people to start investing in the stock market – often through less traditional means, like fractional shares as one example. Instead of having to pay thousands (or more) dollars to buy one stock, some of these apps offer options for employers and merchants to give their employees parts of company stock to invest in. Or other apps connect people to earning benefits in cryptocurrency or other digital assets.
Personalized data analysis and calls to action are additional features of new fintech apps emerging. An app that has access to every transaction a user makes, every bill they pay, every subscription they pay for, etc., can be programmed to identify places where a user may be overspending or not taking advantage of offers that would help them save money. This kind of personalized analysis could easily help users save hundreds of dollars every month, which then could be put toward other financial goals they’ve set in the app. It’s not a one-size-fits all model; it’s an individualized, meaningful and rewarding experience, both psychologically and monetarily.
The Makeover of Fintech
Tracking expenses, sticking to a budget, and being money savvy hasn’t always been “cool” historically. In fact, the opposite could be argued – through history, the people with the most power and influence were rich and didn’t have to pay attention to or worry about how they spent or kept their money. And those people didn’t really talk about their wealth; they just spent it. But times have changed, and now it’s not just important to have money but also to understand your money and the markets so that you can accumulate more of it. It’s also now completely acceptable to talk about money, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. The shift of what’s socially acceptable when it comes to managing money has created the perfect conditions for fintech apps to thrive and for the industry to continue growing in really creative ways.
If we’ve learned anything over the last decade, it’s that branding matters. And fintech has totally jumped on board with that. Even the apps that have been around the longest have updated their branding to look cool and to use authentic stories to target specific audiences. They identify real needs for individuals and then seek to address them. They care about the same issues that real people do. They’re more transparent than traditional institutions. They market where and how people are going to respond to them. Because of those things, “cool people” get on board and endorse fintech products and services, giving fintech an even further reach and success rate.
For a long time, fintech was complicated and boring to the general public (apply the TL;DR concept here). But with so much emphasis on the emerging technologies in the past two decades, fintech is more accessible than ever before. These apps educate people on complicated issues and build trust as a result. Fintech isn’t relevant for only specific people any longer; it’s convenient, helpful, and desirable for everyone. No matter who you are or what you care about, there’s fintech that applies to you.
Pentadata’s Role in the Fintech Space
You may be wondering, where does Pentadata fit into this whole world of emerging, cool fintech? Well we’re a financial data aggregator that quickly and securely connects apps with financial data. The cool features we discussed above aren’t possible without ongoing access to users’ financial accounts and information. Pentadata has the APIs necessary for fintech apps to access essentially any and all users’ financial institutions and the personal data that goes along with it. When users give permission for an app to connect to their information so that the app can provide cool services — like personalized calls to action, investing in fractional shares, or paying off loans — we’re behind the scenes doing the work to bridge the gap between the app and every financial institution(s) your users use.
If you’re in the fintech app industry, we would love to talk with you about how Pentadata can make it easier for you to connect with the financial data your app needs. Contact us today to ask your questions and find out more!