Millennials make up the largest fraction of the global population. Fintech presents a viable alternative to traditional banks. How will this new era of consumers respond to the proliferation of fintech?
The hottest sub-genre of tech innovation right now, financial technology or fintech as it is popularly known, has set the financial industry ablaze. Financial institutions are opening up their highly treasured APIs, local governments are rallying support, and VCs are offering truckloads of cash. The driving force behind this fintech revolution is its ability to cater to a key demographic, millennials. Individuals born between 1982 and 2004 make up almost a third of the entire world population. Most of them entering their prime working age, companies, and institutions need to cater to this demographic or risk facing obsolescence.
Being born into a digital era, millennials are more than accustomed to digital products – they demand it. They are deeply ingrained in technology – 87% own two to three tech devices. Many industries have already changed the way they operate in order to cater to the changing needs of this generation. The interconnectivity that the Internet provides has propelled new consumer behaviors evident in the millennial generation such as review-based purchase decisions and shared access in place of ownership.
Fintech presents a new way to approach banking, investing, and all things finance. In an industry dominated by red tape, bank-client relationships and conversations behind closed doors, millennials are looking for a more open alternative that, above all, is efficient. This generation of consumers is holding off big purchases (homes, cars, marriage) in favor of savings. Innovation in financial technology is providing consumers with cheaper alternatives to wealth management by swapping out financial advisors with algorithms and robo-advisors.
The strong support for fintech among millennials is especially strong in the US. In a survey conducted by The Millennial Disruption Index, around 70% of respondents believed that the way we pay and access our money will completely change in the next 5 years. The same percentage of American millennials believe that fintech is making financial transactions easier than ever, according to another study done by Blumberg Capital.
FinTech startups focusing on millennials
Venmo has gained significant popularity over the past year. By simply loading the app onto a smartphone, a user can connect to bank and credit card accounts and link up with friends to send money on the go. It makes scenarios such as splitting restaurant checks and paying rent quite seamlessly. The rising use of peer-to-peer applications is improving the prospects for apps like Venmo. The growth of Venmo can also be attributed to PayPal, which owns Venmo.
Acorns connects to a user’s primary checking account along with a credit/debit account(s) including other spending accounts (PayPal). It rounds up each purchase to create investable savings into an Acorns investment account. Additional savings amounts can be added at any time to an Acorns account either as a lump sum or recurring transfers. An investment portfolio is developed by Acorns based on the Modern Portfolio Theory based on your investment profile and invested in ETFs (low-cost funds) either in BlackRock, Vanguard or PIMCO based on five diversified portfolios. The app is available only to US citizens and residents with plans to deploy globally.
Robinhood, one of the hottest Silicon Valley startups, has been in the sights of FinTech enthusiasts for a while now. Built on Plaid’s infrastructure, Robinhood is a trading app that allows young investors to try out investing skills with as little as a few dollars. The company charges for the ability to buy stocks on “margin” or credit and also makes money by collecting interest on users’ cash balances. Robinhood was listed among the top US FinTech startups of 2015 and various other rankings.
Founded in 2013 by Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Prafulkumar Bhatt, Robinhood went live last March with 800,000 people who signed up for the wait list. Since the launch, the Robinhood team went from 14 to 50 and is growing in an attempt to democratize access to the stock market.
BillGuard’s mission is to empower consumers to control, protect and do more with their money. BillGuard’s proprietary transaction monitoring technology pioneered the use of crowdsourcing and big data analytics to help consumers detect the $8 billion in wrongful payment card charges missed by banks each year. Downloaded over a million and a half times since release, BillGuard’s five-star-rated mobile apps have won almost every industry award in their category, including being named one of the top banking innovations of all time by Online Banking Report. The company was founded in 2010 and was acquired by Prosper Marketplace in October 2015.
Moven, a New York-based FinTech startup, is a real-time mobile money tool that lets individuals spend money from their mobile device and provides instant feedback on their transactions and spending patterns. It works as a debit account that tracks the user’s money for them instantly. Thus, it provides them with the information they need to spend, save and live smarter. Moven acts just like a bank account with features like a free account, free ATMs, pay friends, transfer money, FDIC-insured and tap-to-pay. It can be used on any Android or iOS mobile device.
SoFi helps graduates of top-tier universities refinance student loans. The company focuses on student loans, mortgages and personal loans.
Affirm offers loans for mainly retail products that an Affirm partner-merchant sells. The Affirm account holder can choose to pay with Affirm at checkout and instant approval is given. Affirm offers rates from 10–30% APR based on credit checks with repayment plans of three, six and twelve months.
Credit Karma develops tools and maintains information resources that help users manage the credit aspect of their financial health. It helps 40+ million consumers track, maintain and improve credit health with valuable, free tools and information.
Mobile payments have fascinated millennials for making payments digitally through their phones. They are as much as 2.5 times more likely to try new technology compared to others (source: US Chamber of Commerce Foundation). Research by American Express revealed 52% of consumers ages 18-24 are likely to try new technology-enabled payment tools. And with 75% of 25–34 year-olds owning a smartphone and 90% percent of them using the Internet, it’s easy to see why they are so comfortable with mobile technology and are interested in including mobile payments in their shopping experience.
FinTech products benefit millennials in a way that previous incarnations of insurance and banking ever did. They don’t want to be burdened with financial products that tie them down and restrict them doing what we want to do.
Millennials prefer access to products and services. Things that we traditionally own such as cars, music, and houses are now being accessed through models that encourage sharing and place less emphasis on individual ownership.
Studies have shown that millennials are more generous and less ownership focused. Choosing to focus less on individual ideas and more on concepts that benefit the collective. The FinTech services that are really successful utilize peer-2-peer (or person-to-person) networks and reward collaboration — this alternative, modern approach to finance could soon render the old way completely redundant. The 2008 economic crash happened as many of millennials were preparing to step onto the career ladder and enter the workforce. This massively scared them and encouraged a mentality that will last a lifetime — they find it hard to trust them and don’t enjoy using their services. This leads us to a situation where they want a technology to disrupt the market and challenge the status quo. Millennials are far more likely to adopt a disruptive financial technology than they would a traditional one.
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