Multiple global developments create a clear need for collaboration
FinTech companies are eager to cooperate with banks for four reasons. First of all, banks generally have a more well-defined and stable client base. Next, a partnership, cooperation or collaboration with a bank is a stamp of trust that confirms the credibility of these FinTech services to the customer. A third reason is that banks tend to have bigger investment budgets that can provide a flow of capital to further develop FinTech services. Lastly, banks have a lot of internal know-how and knowledge in areas that FinTech firms can benefit from, such as legal and regulatory (e.g. Client Due Diligence) compliance and risk management.
Banks, on the other hand, have two main drivers to collaborate with FinTech companies. Customers have become increasingly used to a seamless digital experience and expect the same from their bank; a service few banks are able to provide (yet). Furthermore, due to the emergence of these one-stop-shops, FinTech companies have moved from being just a single service provider to providing a whole suite of services.
This shift to platform-based business models and an ecosystem set-up provides banks with various opportunities, if they decide to enter into these collaborations. Strategic partnerships have led to growth of the Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) market, in which third parties can connect directly with the banks’ existing and well-regulated infrastructure, in order to provide a seamless customer experience. Moreover, regulatory possibilities, such as PSD2, give FinTech companies the possibility to directly integrate with traditional banks and share their technology to their mutual benefit.
Banks and FinTech companies cooperate in various shapes and forms, with the level of financial commitment as foundation
So, how to choose the right model for an effective collaboration? Unfortunately, there is not one right answer. We have identified important factors to consider before entering into a collaboration. This includes financial dependencies, brand and reputational aspects, responsibilities, operational dependencies (e.g. level of integration versus separation) and the level of involvement from management.
Many FinTech partnerships are based on financial commitments, for example via venture funds, mergers and acquisitions, varying from minority stakes to full acquisitions. 2019 was a record year in terms of merger and acquisition activity for the whole FinTech sector. After a promising start in 2020, FinTech M&A activity slowed down considerably in March due to the impact of COVID-19. Yet the structural catalysts of deal-making, such as the need to increase scale and add new capabilities remained in place. M&A deals in 2020 were mainly focused on direct investment in payments, RegTech, WealthTech and automation. Bank venture funds also narrowed the focus on technology innovations that add value to the core business lines of the bank.
With the rise of ecosystems, EY sees FinTech partnerships with no or little financial commitment more frequently. Banks are investing in incubation or acceleration programs to engage with FinTech companies at an early stage. Increasingly, they invest in innovative collaboration models, based on reference and licensing models. These models enable the banks to offer FinTech solutions via their own channels or are platform-based, by referring to FinTech offerings on the bank’s platform or by offering white labeled FinTech solutions under the bank’s brand via a license structure. Besides the increase in offering FinTech services and products, banks are also increasing the in-house development of financial technologies and digital service offerings via innovation centers and labs, to be distributed via their own- or third-party platforms.