Trend spotter: Natasha’s fintech predictions for 2023
New Year, new predictions. The ripples of the macroeconomic climate are being felt across the board, from a deepening cost-of-living crisis in the UK, to redundancies at some of the world’s biggest tech companies. But this represents an opportunity for fintech to step up, and make a meaningful – and positive – impact. Read on for five of the key areas I’ll be watching – and if you’re interested in how my predictions from last year stacked up, I’ve run through them at the bottom of the page.
1. Proptech gets a stack upgrade
Property management has traditionally been viewed as a laggard sector when it comes to the adoption of digital tools. But with rental defaults increasing in lower and mid-market housing stock, the operational burden on property managers is set to increase, from reconciling and chasing missed payments, to creating payment plans and reporting performance at a more granular level.
In 2023, I expect a lot more attention on the proptech sector – specifically, the fintech side of proptech (accounting, payment reconciliation, flexible payment solutions and reporting) as property managers and landlords seek to address and manage the operational pressures that the recession places on their operations. If you’re interested in reading more – keep an eye out. I’ll be writing a blog on the topic in coming months.
2. Unlocking the value of unpaid work
This is another area I’ll be looking at in more depth in an upcoming blog, but in short: unpaid work is an important (but often overlooked) economic activity, and an indispensable factor in ensuring the welfare of consumers, families and societies. Every day, millions of individuals carry out unpaid work as they spend time cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, the ill and the elderly.
There is an important negative correlation in the amount of unpaid labour carried out by an individual and the amount of time that individual spends in the paid labour markets. In other words, as the cost of living increases, households require more income and the opportunity cost of not participating in the labour market grows.
I predict a wave of companies that unlock value from unpaid labour to emerge over the next few years, with new financial infrastructure to support it.
3. Smart cash is king
As funding markets become more expensive, and foreign exchange (FX) volatility increases, companies of all sizes will look for more intelligent ways to manage their assets and liabilities. This year, I’m particularly excited by three segments:
Improving the visibility and yield of a company’s treasury is a proactive way to manage and extend runway. SMEs and start ups have historically been locked out of the corporate treasury market, but new entrants, able to serve this segment with smaller deposits, are in a great position to capture a substantial and untapped opportunity.
Whilst I predict significant pressure on the balance sheets of revenue-financing players, collateralised credit guarantees1 remain unappealing (particularly in this market, as they can lock up large amounts of cash). I’m excited by companies that provide innovative alternatives to credit guarantees and collateral management solutions.
Currency volatility can produce substantial punches to company bank balances. SMEs with operations in multiple jurisdictions, who have so far felt ‘too small to care,’ have had a rude awakening with FX bill last year. FX hedging can feel complicated (correctly so) and like a second priority. The start ups building solutions that automate this complexity away will win this market.
4. Secondaries markets
We have already seen a big spike in liquidity in the secondaries markets due to redundancy rounds at major tech companies (Stripe, Klarna etc.), where laid-off tech workers see their shares vest within ~60 days. I predict a strong increase in interest and innovation around secondary private markets in 2023, as IPOs (already at their lowest level in two decades) are further postponed – or held off indefinitely. Investors and early employees who were expecting a liquidity event, or fear further valuation cuts, will turn to secondary markets instead.
5. Carbon Supply Chain Tracing
Last year, I predicted more financial product innovation aimed at tackling the climate crisis (see my roundup, below). This year, I anticipate a stronger focus on supply chain emissions, as companies and governments look to measure and reduce imported and Scope 3 emissions. There’s a strong regulatory tailwind with the formal adoption of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by the European Council at the end of 2022, and the first phase of its implementation due to start in October 2023. For context, whilst the UK has successfully reduced its territorial emissions by 30% since 1996, the emissions embedded in imported goods and services have increased by 8%.
As this CBAM tax comes into force, it will substantially impact the bottom line of businesses and institutional lenders (reducing the amount of free cashflow available to repay loans). Expect banks to start implementing tools for real-time monitoring of sustainability performance in portfolios, such as CarbonChain, and sustainability linked loans to protect their loan books and nudge businesses towards greener supply chains.
That’s my roundup for 2023. If you’re building solutions in any of the spaces above, of if you think I’ve missed a crucial area and want to tell me about it, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at [email protected].
Now, if you’re wondering how my 2022 predictions faired from last year, here’s my promised roundup:
1. Speciality Group FinTech
I predicted: The continued growth of fintechs dedicated to niche and underserved demographic groups.
What happened: The proliferation of speciality group fintechs continued. The emerging high performers were the players who developed new financial products and infrastructure serving the specific needs of these groups, rather than using target demographic groups as a purely marketing and content tool.
Examples include: Daylight (behavioural-based software helping LGBTQ+ parents create families), Kadmos (a cross-border banking services for migrant workers) and Pillar (fintech to build credit scores as well as transfer them from foreign credit bureaus).
2. From Buy-now-pay-later to Debt Management
I predicted: renewed attention on debt management solutions after some troubling figures were released around buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) schemes.
What happened: D2C BNPL players certainly took a heavy hit last year, as consumer defaults went up and higher interest rates ate into already razor thin margins. I expect the same effect to proliferate in B2B BNPL and revenue-based financing players too.
The antidote to BNPL, debt management and consolidation, grew last year, but still needs to answer a key question: how to create a technical and distribution moat before economies of scale are achieved? (when players start to benefit from lower interest rates and/or payment rates that new entrants cannot match).
3. DeFi takes on TradFi
I predicted: the continued ascent of decentralised finance (DeFi) and a proliferation of companies helping traditional financial institutions (TradFi) to enter the space.
What happened: Ah yes, the massive crypto elephant in the room… in 2022, the crypto and DeFi space went into crisis. A litany of negative headlines plagued the space, from withdrawal freezes at major crypto exchanges and custodians, to the collapse of stablecoin Terra and its sister token, Luna (wiping out almost an estimated half-a-trillion USD) culminating in the collapse of cryptocurrency giant, FTX.
What comes next for crypto can only be a massive wave of regulation. Biden’s administration wants to implement a strategy for digital assets – potentially moving crypto away from its founding communities’ desire to circumvent the effects of monetary policy, and closer to a technological back-end for global value exchange.
Ironically, this paves the way for more genuine participation from traditional institutions who have long called for more regulation in the space…
Still, a lot of value remains stored in the crypto and DeFi space, which needs a better means of exchange, and quicker and more secure means to on-ramp/off-ramp2 and pay for new digital assets.
4. NFTs move beyond Digital Art and Collectibles
I predicted: the continued growth of the non-fungible token (NFT), with expansion into other areas including identity and authentication, and lending.
What happened: NFTs suffered from the crypto crisis. With asset prices and appetite plummeting, the proliferation of use cases I predicted failed to materialise, in part due to a consolidation in the space.
The good news is that depressed prices have drastically reduced speculative activity, making more room for genuine interest and a price correction that makes participation more accessible.
We still observe use cases in gaming, where in-game NFTs continue to grow in popularity. Fans of luxury goods may have also spotted the Aura Blockchain Consortium providing digital authentication for the likes of Prada, LVMH and Mercedes Benz notably here, and healthy activity is continuing in secondary NFT marketplaces.
5. Fintech gets climate creative
I predicted: creativity from fintechs, as they brought traditional financial instruments to bear on solving for challenges in the climate sector.
What happened: climate fintech remained a relatively ‘hot’ space in 2022 with valuations staying healthy. The carbon accounting space continued to swell with large rounds last year: EcoVadis ($521M PE Round, 2022), Greenly (€20M Series A, 2022), Sphera ($1.4bn LBO, 2021), Sweep (€64M Series B, 2022), Persefoni ($101M Series B, 2022), Watershed ($95M Series B, 2022), Minimum ($13M Series A, 2022), Normative ($31M Series B, 2022).
Fintech infrastructure was applied to the space in a few different ways to support investment and transparency. I correctly predicted that Carbon Credit Ratings (eg. BeZero, Sylvera), would become important market players to help corporates deploy capital into high-quality supply, and, as climate catastrophes multiply, specialised insurance products (eg. Decartes, Kettle) ballooned. Having said that, banks still haven’t made any meaningful commitment to green loans, and I’m still waiting for new entrants to emerge and fund this gap (but as I’ve written above, CBAM may be the catalyst needed to unlock the sector).
1 Collateral credit guarantees: a guarantee that the lender will receive back the amount lent even if the borrower does not repay the loan as agreed.
2 An on-ramp is any platform that facilitates users to acquire crypto assets or enter their markets. On the other hand, an off-ramp is a platform that facilitates a user to dispose of crypto assets or exit their markets. Some platforms perform both of these two functions.