Competition Among the Einsteins and Edisons of Fintech

Posted on February 21, 2020

The world’s greatest inventions don’t exist in a vacuum. They cannot be attributed to one person or company. They compete with each other and build on past learnings. Innovation thrives with competition.

Even now, the Edison Awards’ discuss the importance of healthy competition in order to innovate. History hasn’t removed this necessity to compete, innovate faster, discover something first, or use and build on the learnings of others. The article references a PwC survey that said that 80% of CEOs believed that innovation drives efficiencies and leads to a competitive advantage. For every Steve Jobs, there must be a Bill Gates.   

The same goes for the financial technology (fintech) industry. Healthy competition fuels innovation. 

Healthy competition and innovation in the financial industry

But, just like how Edison published his findings and many built upon his inventions, fintech companies today require this same openness in order to compete. They need data and access to it. They need open collaborations. Permission to innovate. Permission to create a better world (or product, service, or experience) for the people.  

In order for the fintech industry to innovate, compete, and build on the learnings of others—just like Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla did in the late 1800s—open banking must exist. 

Open banking and competing to innovate

We wrote on the meaning and importance of open banking in the past, but to save you time, here’s what it means. Open banking is the sharing of data. It is the collaborative innovation between banks and innovators such as agile fintech companies. Open banking gives consumers the power to give innovators access to their data. Without this permission and data, companies are innovating in the dark with missing information and a lack of access. 

Without open banking, competitive innovation is challenging at best and nearly impossible at worst. But beyond just the lack of innovation that this could trigger, without open banking or similar means to get data and information, the functionality of millions of applications could start to fail. 

Innovation and functionality in fintech without open banking 

In fact, in a recent post called Financial Wellness Apps Bank On Credential-Based​ Authentication, we discussed findings that the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) of North America published in January 2020. The data showed that 1.8 billion fintech consumer accounts in the U.S. would lose functionality to financial apps they depend on without open banking and similar competitive options. 

Broken down into parts, the impacted consumer and small business use cases in the U.S. alone would include 530 million loan accounts or fintech apps for retirement planning, financial wellness, and debt reduction. Over 310 million accounts that help people manage and pay their account balances on time or provide overdraft protection could lose functionality. More than 330 million investment accounts and 210 million accounts that help Americans move and save money could no longer work. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Demand and competition fuels the unstoppable innovation train

Back when Edison invented the lightbulb, people used candles and fire to light and warm their homes. When the richest among them were given the opportunity to use lightbulbs powered by electricity, lightbulbs that they paid for and chose to use. They were a welcome novelty. Soon they became more efficient, effective, cheaper, and accessible. Consumers still had the choice to bring electric light and power into their homes, but the improvement to their way of life was dramatic.

This same freedom of choice for consumers must continue to exist today—as does the need for healthy competition among innovators (and inventors). People use financial applications to improve their lives and financial wellness. They rely on them and need them to function properly. Without open banking and the collaborative and competitive innovation and sharing of information, what does the future of fintech hold for us? 

Open banking gives consumers a choice over what innovations, products, and services they support. Open banking provides data and learnings and necessary for innovation and healthy competition. Without open banking—a regulation that only the U.K. is currently blessed with—only those with the information can innovate and compete. Currently, this is financial institutions. Unless these major banks of the world collaborate with innovators, which they often do, there won’t be any healthy competition, inventions, or progress. 

Without healthy competition in the financial industry, we’d all be signing cheques in the dark. 

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