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Fintech: a look back at 2020, perspectives and trends for 2021 [Interview]

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This article takes stock of the year 2020 for fintech with Xavier Corman, the FinTech Belgium administrator. In the first part, we discuss the impact of the Covid crisis on fintech activities (and in particular, fund-raising) before discussing trends in InsureTech, RegTech, and AccountingTech.

Xavier Corman will then react to Ana Botin (CEO Santander) on startups in the ecosystem of innovation and respect for business rules. Can the mastodons of the finance sector still propose disruptive innovations? That’s the whole point of the question.

Finally, we will discuss the launch of the FIRe-Hub in Brussels, a 7000m² space dedicated to start-ups in the “digital finance” sector. During the Covid crisis, this choice is astonishing, and Xavier Corman will explain to us the motivations of FinTech Belgium to launch such a project.


Trends in the FinTech market and the impact of Covid

The highlight of 2020 in terms of fund-raising will have been the 250m Euros raised by Unified Post. Despite the Covid crisis, many funds were raised, more than in previous years.

Over the year 2020 as a whole, the company closes with more than 350 million euros in financing. Compared to 62 million in 2019 or even 57 million in 2018, we are still in a rather exceptional vintage even if we remove the Unified Post effect.

On the other hand, companies continue to be created in the fintech sector despite the challenging context. The results we were making in the middle of our first confinement with Parisian start-ups were also felt in Belgium. But very quickly, the fundamentals recovered. If the fund-raising underway in March 2020 was made difficult by the crisis, from June 2020, the situation returned to normal or even accelerated. As Xavier Corman points out, there is indeed a lot of money left on the market, attracting new entrants (FinTech Belgium’s workforce increased by 10% in 2020).

Let’s make regulation a source of added value.

Xavier Corman, Director FinTech Belgium


The Emergence of RegTech

The term “digital finance” is increasingly replacing the term fintech. Within this digital finance trend, new verticals have emerged in recent months that are already well represented at FinTech Belgium:

  • InsureTech: digitalization of insurance services and products
  • AccountingTech: digitalization of accounting services (who said that accountants would one day be replaced by artificial intelligence?)
  • RegTech: a current that takes advantage of regulatory changes.

Xavier Corman acknowledges that the InsureTech, AccountingTech[SI1] , and RegTech verticals lag behind the classic fintech, which only increases the opportunities for start-ups entering these niches.

There were 15 to 20% new players [in the fintech market] in Belgium in one year.

For Xavier Corman, the place of FinTech Belgium in Brussels is a lever for RegTech players. Indeed, Brussels is the heart of regulation, a real engine of growth and added value for those who know how to seize these opportunities.


Are start-ups the only ones still able to innovate in the digital finance sector?

Xavier Corman points out that the big banks know how to innovate but find it harder to disrupt their market. When a real disruption comes on the market, the big banks copy or buy. Even if banks acquire start-up technologies to push them further, it is clear that some traditional banks feel cheated by the start-ups. This is evidenced by the exit of Ana Botín, the boss of the Spanish bank Santander, who sees (reading between the lines) unfair competition.

These regulations now favor technology companies over banks.

Ana Botín, CEO Santander

Xavier Corman pleads for proportionality in the way companies are controlled, and the sector is regulated. The European Commission and the authorities have understood that regulation, poorly applied, could stifle innovation. “Let’s make regulation a source of added value,” he says, citing the GDPR (see here our research on the effects of the GDPR) and PSD2, which makes it possible to link customer data at the scale of a continent.


Launch of the FIRe-Hub of FinTech Belgium

To finish this podcast, we come back with Xavier Corman on what will undoubtedly focus on FinTech Belgium’s news in 2021: the launch of a 7000m² physical space in the heart of Brussels. The FIRe-Hub, that’s its name, will bring together Belgian and foreign fintech players within the same area and simplify innovation, just a stone’s throw away from the major European decision-making centers.

 

 

 

 

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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