Is Walmart a Fintech Company? 5 Reasons Why it May be Your Quietest Competitor

Is Walmart a Fintech Company? 5 Reasons Why it May be Your Quietest Competitor

Traditionally, we’ve talked about Amazon, Google, Apple, and Meta (formerly known as Facebook) as big tech companies with the potential to rise up as competitors in the banking and fintech space. However, there is one giant that is worth adding to this list– Walmart.

Walmart is not a fintech company, or even a tech company, it’s a retail firm. Or at least that’s what it was when Sam Walton founded it in 1962. But what does Walmart’s future look like? The company has made it clear that it will not only begin offering financial services, but will also evolve into a super app. On examining the company’s ambitions, it appears that Walmart may have what it takes to ascend as a competitor in the fintech space.

Below are five aspects of Walmart to consider when evaluating it as a potential competitor.

User base

As one of the most recognizable brands across the globe, Walmart comes with a large, built-in user base. The company sees 265 million customers worldwide each week, and many of those shoppers seek out Walmart as their primary retailer. Walmart+, the company’s $99 annual subscription service, counts 32 million members.

Once Walmart begins its formal foray into financial services in earnest, it will certainly not count all 32 million members as users right away. However, having a built-in, captive audience will help jump-start its user base and will lower customer acquisition costs.

In-app rewards

In both retail and financial services sectors, rewards create stickiness. As one of the oldest retail companies, Walmart has figured this out. Leveraging a partnership with Ibotta Performance Network, Walmart recently launched Walmart Rewards, a way for Walmart+ members to earn additional savings toward their future purchases at Walmart.

Checking account

Earlier this month, Bloomberg unveiled that Walmart plans to launch a digital bank account to serve its shoppers and 1.6 million employees. While no specific details have been released, it is clear that the digital bank will stem from One, which Walmart acquired in early 2022. One is a neobank that offers a debit card and boasts non-traditional products and services such as earned wage access, fee-free overdraft protection, and digital wallet integration.

Currently, One relies on Coastal Community Bank to provide banking services. It is not clear whether Walmart will continue to use that model, or if it will seek its own banking license. Walmart initially pursued a banking license in 2005. After two years, the company withdrew its application after receiving opposition from bankers and other credit institutions. Given hurdles involved in earning a banking license, my guess is that Walmart will rely on its relationship with a traditional bank like Coastal Community Bank.

For more clues into Walmart’s banking ambitions, I checked out job advertisements on LinkedIn. Walmart is currently hiring for a range of positions within its financial services arm. “We are starting some exciting ventures as we expand our financial services in various ways to engage and provide capabilities to our customers,” one of the job descriptions states.

Physical presence

Walmart has 11,501 physical retail stores across the globe. The largest U.S. bank, JP Morgan Chase, has fewer than half that number at around 5,080 physical bank branches. And for customers who are not into doing business IRL, Walmart has them covered, as well. The company just launched Walmart Land, a new immersive experience in Roblox.

If Walmart truly wants to become a large competitor in the financial services world, it already has more than enough physical infrastructure to do so.

Part of why this matters isn’t the sheer number of physical locations or square footage. Having these physical stores will impact who Walmart is able to serve, just as much as it will impact how many people it is able to serve. That’s because Walmart stores are typically located in rural and suburban areas– in other words, Walmart stores are close to non-urban customers who may not rely on their mobile devices as much as city dwellers, and therefore may not be comfortable maintaining an account at a digital-only bank. No smartphone? No problem, just drive down to Walmart and open up an account.

Super app

The term “super app” is used quite lightly in the fintech sector these days. However, Walmart is one of the few firms in the U.S. with the potential to evolve into a true super app. In a piece published earlier this year, Chief Research Officer at Cornerstone Advisors Ron Shevlin summarized Walmart’s potential as a super app. “Walmart’s DNA is efficiency and cost control—and that’s the ultimate promise of a super app for the supercenter,” said Shevlin.

Currently, the company’s app offers Walmart+ subscribers online grocery and retail shopping with free shipping; access to Scan & Go, a tool that enables shoppers to scan barcodes as they shop, pay with their phone using their card on file, and scan a QR code at the cash register before they exit the store. Subscribers also benefit from discounts of up to 10 cents off per gallon of fuel at 14,000 gas stations; and free access to stream movies and shows at Paramount+.

As it stands, Walmart’s app with the above services does not constitute a super app. In a blog post last year, I detailed a list of ten elements required for a super app. Here is what Walmart has and where it needs improvement:

  • Ecommerce: currently offers
  • Health services: currently offers vaccination services and provides medical care at locations in four U.S. states.
  • Food delivery: currently offers grocery delivery, but not prepared food delivery
  • Transportation services: currently offers fuel discounts and in-app fuel payments
  • Personal finance: does not offer, but is actively working on plans to do so
  • Travel services: does not offer
  • Billpay: does not offer
  • Insurance: does not offer
  • Government and public services: does not offer
  • Social: does not offer

Using that summary, Walmart receives a score of 4.5 out of ten on the super app scale, and it will likely progress in the next few years. Walmart has made it clear that it plans to create a super app. As Omer Ismail, CEO of Walmart’s One, told the Wall Street Journal, the company’s strategy “is to build a financial services super app, a single place for consumers to manage their money.”

Photo by Marques Thomas on Unsplash

Which Fintech Trend Should We Be Paying Attention To?

Which Fintech Trend Should We Be Paying Attention To?

Fintech is a broad industry, and with the breadth of its sub-sectors comes a large range of trends that change year after year. But with all of the new, hot trends to follow, it’s impossible for banks and fintechs to focus on everything at once.

That’s why our team set out at FinovateFall earlier this month to ask people from across the industry what trend we should be paying attention to. We received a large range of answers, but here were the top picks:

  • Fraud mitigation and security
  • Business intelligence
  • Money movement and payments
  • Consumer-permissioned data
  • Processing data using AI
  • Financial inclusion
  • Embedded payments and embedded banking
  • Detailed transparency in machine learning solutions
  • Customer obsession and customer experience

Check out the full video below, which includes explanations and reasonings behind each of these trends:

We have several people to thank for answering this very broad question, including Gregory Wright, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Experian; Derek Corcoran, SVP Financial Services Strategy at Woodridge Software; Estela Nagahashi, EVP and Chief Operating Officer at University Credit Union; Bill Harris, CEO of Nirvana Money; Craig McLaughlin, CEO of Finalytics; Rikard Bandebo, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at VantageScore; Kathleen Pierce-Gilmore, Head of Global Payments at Silicon Valley Bank; Lora Kornhauser, Co-founder and CEO at Stratyfy; Vivek Bedi, Author of You, the Product; Steven Ramirez, CEO of Beyond the Arc; and Chad Rodgers, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Connexus Credit Union.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

What to Keep Your Eye On in the Final 5 Months of 2022

What to Keep Your Eye On in the Final 5 Months of 2022

We’re more than halfway through the year, and before you know it, we’ll be publishing trends predictions for 2023. However, a lot can happen over the course of five months, so we’ve decided to examine what to look for and what you can expect in fintech between now and the new year.

Beginning the era of “neo super apps”

Over the past year, there has been much debate on whether or not the U.S. and Europe will ever have a super app. Plaid CEO Zach Perret takes a different angle on this. He is expecting “neo super apps” to rise in popularity.

“Within lending, brokerage, and banking, super apps will emerge, adding every bit of functionality within financial services. Over time, they’ll actually be able to add in things that are above and beyond financial services,” said Perret in a Plaid report.

Accelerating M&A activity

It’s no secret that fintech funding is down, especially in later stage deals. Because of this, some fintechs have been driven to sell sooner than they had hoped. As for acquirers, many are looking to cash in on the “neo super app” trend by adding to their firm’s expertise, bundling multiple services into a single offering. In the first half of the year, we have seen an increase in M&A activity over 2019 levels, and we expect that to continue into the second half of the year.

Ramping up a focus on ESG

Fintech companies and traditional financial institutions alike have sharpened their focus on ESG initiatives in the past couple of years. And while climate change may be enough of a reason for firms to implement new ESG practices, the SEC is giving laggards an incentive to step up their game. The commission recently proposed amendments to rules and reporting forms to promote consistent, comparable, and reliable information for investors concerning funds’ and advisers’ incorporation of ESG factors.

Increasing solutions surrounding consumer credit

After dipping in 2020, Americans’ credit usage is now on the rise. Inflation, and especially the increase in costs of everyday expenses such as housing and gas, is prompting higher credit usage while consumers iron out their budgets and adjust their lifestyles to fit the extra expenses.

Dwindling conversation around digital transformation

We have finally arrived at the moment when digital offerings have become the rule, not the exception. While we can still expect to hear the phrase “digital transformation,” it is becoming less and less common.

More discussion around Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)

The progress toward CBDCs has been slow, but steady. Currently, 10 countries have fully launched a digital currency and more than 105 countries are exploring them. Just two years ago, only 35 countries were considering a CBDC. This digital currency race will only become more heated as more countries seek to be among the first to offer a CBDC.

Growing competition in alternative business payments solutions

After launching just five years ago, Brex has quickly risen to become one of the most successful fintechs, boasting a valuation of $12.3 billion. The startup is a super app for businesses, offering companies credit cards and cash management solutions.

At three years old, Brex’s competitor Ramp isn’t too far behind. The company is valued at $8.1 billion. Clearly, these companies are filling a need for businesses that has not previously been met. We can expect others to follow their footsteps to cash in on the gold rush.

BNPL takes a backseat

It’s no secret that BNPL payment schemes are causing cash flow difficulties for younger, less financially savvy consumers. Many are finding it difficult to keep up with the repayment obligations. This, combined with a lack of regulatory oversight, is tarnishing BNPL’s reputation.

We can expect to see a slowdown in BNPL newcomers, though I do think we’ll still see more large firms add BNPL schemes to their existing offerings.

Subsiding talent acquisition

A year ago, the workforce shortage was taking its toll on the fintech industry and we were discussing strategies to acquire new employees. After the economic sedation started this spring, however, this discussion has slowed. Startups have started to worry about burn rate and corporations have shifted their focus to their bottomline, which has already resulted in layoffs. With VC funding down, we can expect to see a continuation of this decline in the next five months.

Providing everything-as-a-service

These days companies can fill holes in their offerings by purchasing just about anything as a service, including ESG-investing-as-a-service, credit-cards-as-a-service, accounting-data-as-a-service, and more. As banks, startups, financial services, and even non-financial players seek to build up their customer base and play into the “neo super apps” trend Perret discussed, we can expect to see even more companies take the “-as-a-service” model to increase their customer base.

Photo by Dany Kurniawan

5 Goals Driving the CFPB’s New Office

5 Goals Driving the CFPB’s New Office

Earlier this spring, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a new effort to promote competition and innovation in consumer finance. Backing this effort, the CFPB is opening a new office, The Office of Competition and Innovation.

The Office of Competition and Innovation will replace the Office of Innovation, which relied on an application-based process to grant companies special regulatory treatment. The new office takes a much broader approach, and will consider obstructions hindering open markets and learn how large players make it difficult for small companies to operate. Ultimately, The Office of Competition and Innovation aims to make it easier for end consumers to switch among financial providers.

In order to pursue its mission to increase competition, the Office of Competition and Innovation will pursue the following four goals:

  1. Make it easy for consumers to switch providers
    When users can switch among financial services providers, there is more pressure on incumbents to offer better services, and new players have a better opportunity to acquire customers.
  2. Research structural problems blocking successes 
    The new office will have access to resources to examine what is creating obstacles to innovation. This could impact, for example, the payment networks market or the credit reporting system, both of which are considered oligopolies.
  3. Understand the advantages big players have over smaller players 
    Larger players have built-in advantages over small newcomers. As an example, big companies benefit from a large marketing reach, multi-faceted teams, and a built-in customer base. As the CFPB points out, this may threaten new competition.
  4. Identify ways around obstacles 
    Obstacles for smaller players include lack of access to talent, capital, or even to customer data. The CFPB is addressing the latter issue via a future open finance rule under Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act that will give consumers access to their own data.
  5. Host events to explore barriers to entry and other obstacles 
    The new office will organize events such as open houses, sprints, hackathons, tabletop exercises, and war games to help entrepreneurs, small business owners, and technology professionals to collaborate, explore obstacles, and share frustrations with government regulators.

“Competition is one of the best forms of motivation. It can help companies innovate and make their products better, and their customers happier,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We will be looking at ways to clear obstacles and pave the path to help people have more options and more easily make choices that are best for their needs.”

In financial services, open finance may be one of the best ways to promote competition. But because the U.S. does not have formal regulation around open banking or open finance, there isn’t enough incentive (yet) for financial services players and third party providers to cooperate when it comes to data sharing. In late 2020, however, the CFPB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that solicited opinions from stakeholders on how customers’ data should be regulated. This was only a very early step in the process, and industry players still lack a standardized approach to open finance.

Photo by Monstera

Filling the Super App Gap in the U.S.

Filling the Super App Gap in the U.S.

There is a Super App-shaped hole in the U.S., and earlier this year, F.T. Partners published a report titled The Race to the Super App that examines the most eligible companies to fill the gap.

The report details three major categories of potential Super App contenders in the U.S., including challenger banks, large fintechs, and big tech companies/ retailers. Here is a breakdown of U.S. players in each category:

Challenger banks

  • Upgrade
  • Dave
  • Avant
  • Varo
  • Chime
  • MoneyLion
  • Current
  • Mission Lane
  • Oportun

Large fintechs

  • PayPal
  • Square
  • Robinhood
  • Figure
  • Betterment
  • H&R Block
  • M1 Finance
  • TrueBill
  • American Express
  • Wealthfront
  • Affirm
  • SoFi

Big tech companies/ retail

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Uber
  • Walmart

The report takes an extensive look at the super app industry and details two Super App models. The first is the winner-take-all model. In this approach, the Super App provider begins by offering a banking service and then expands to provide a wider range of services, aiming to eventually become users’ primary financial services tool. The second model is an aggregator approach in which the Super App provider acts as a marketplace that connects users to existing financial services.

Ultimately, banks have a choice to leverage either the winner-take-all model, in which they will build their own Super App to compete with third party players, or to take a hybrid approach in which they both host their banking products on third party marketplaces and offer third party tools to their clients within their own ecosystem. In the former approach, banks will incur competition from major players. However, when taking the latter approach, banks risk relinquishing the primary banking relationship status with their customers.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto

What’s Missing to Boost Apple’s BNPL Tool Above the Competition?

What’s Missing to Boost Apple’s BNPL Tool Above the Competition?

You’ve likely heard by now that Apple has taken the veil off of its BNPL tool, Apple Pay Later. The tech giant announced Apple Pay Later at its World Wide Developer Conference on Monday.

If you haven’t read coverage of the announcement yet, here’s the gist– the new tool will enable Apple Pay users to split any purchase made where Apple Pay is accepted into four installments, paid out over the course of six weeks (check out the video announcement at the bottom of this post for more details).

Apple is coming in late to an already over-saturated BNPL market and faces a lot of competition from well-established players. However, the company is not showing up to compete empty handed. Apple Pay Later has a handful of advantages over other contenders.


Acceptance at physical retailers
As mentioned earlier, users can pay with Apple Pay Later anywhere Apple Pay is accepted. This includes many physical retailers. And because 90% of retail purchases are made in-store as opposed to online, Apple already covers a lot of territory that other players haven’t been able to access yet. BNPL giant Klarna currently offers in-store services at just over 60,000 retail locations. As a comparison, Apple Pay is accepted at more than 250,000 retail locations.

The success of a BNPL tool not only hinges on retailer acceptance, but also on underwriting. After all, if your users aren’t paying you back, what’s the point?

While Apple is working with Goldman Sachs as the issuer for the Apple Card, the bank will only be involved in offering access to the Mastercard network and won’t facilitate underwriting. However, Apple’s advantage comes in the form of Credit Kudos, a U.K. startup the tech giant bought last year that enables businesses to leverage open banking to assess affordability and risk.

Physical and virtual card
Some BNPL players already offer both physical and virtual payment cards. However, Apple having both will be a leg up for the company. Having both a physical and virtual presence takes up space consumers’ digital and physical wallets, making it more likely to be top-of-mind (and top-of-wallet).

Brand trust and recognition
According to Statista, Apple has the second most valuable brand in the world at $612 billion. This value is driven by having a brand that consumers trust, recognize, and value. It is widely believed that when Apple releases a hardware product, it will be top-notch. Consumers will expect the same from Apple Pay Later, and will therefore be less hesitant to trust the new tool.

What’s missing?

Apple has thought of almost everything when it comes to Apple Pay Later. One thing I’d love to see is a retroactive payment-switching feature similar to Curve’s Go Back in Time. The tool allows users to free up cash by switching payments from one card to another up to 30 days after the purchase was made.

Apple could allow customers to choose to use Apple Pay Later even after a transaction has been completed in order to free up emergency cash flow. While I wouldn’t advise this as a personal finance strategy, it would offer Apple an even greater leg up on BNPL competitors (including Curve’s when it becomes more widely available in the U.S.).

A New Wave of Insurtech

A New Wave of Insurtech

Often ignored as a boring fintech subsector, insurtech is in the midst of reinventing itself to fit into today’s digital-first era. Straits Research expects the global insurtech market to reach a valuation of more than $114 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 46.10% from now until that time.

We’ve rounded up a handful of insurtechs whose new innovations in the space are contributing to this growth.


InShare was founded in 2019 by a group of Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb alums to deliver insurance solutions to meet the unique needs of sharing economy platforms such as rideshare, delivery, homeshare, and eMobility markets.

“We have an expert team of gig insiders across all facets of insurance that are working closely with brokers who specialize in the on-demand economy,” said InShare VP Gary Lovelace. “We’re making the buying experience straightforward, flexible and frictionless for brokers and customers. More fundamentally, we’re bringing occupational accident insurance into the digital age.”


Germany-based GetSafe aims to make insurance simple, fair, and accessible by leveraging smart bots and automation. The company recently launched liability, household, and dog owner liability insurance in Austria. GetSafe plans to launch in France and Italy in the coming months.


Federato provides an underwriting platform for insurance companies that unlocks existing data sources to intelligently determine risk across a range of insurance types. The company has spent more than 1,250 hours of research to redesign the underwriting workflow to be fast, efficient, and painless. Federato was founded in 2020 and is headquartered in California.


Hourly offers a platform to help small business owners pay, manage, and protect their hourly workers. The company leverages real-time data to help business owners see their exact premiums and labor costs in real-time and to help insurers better predict premiums and risk. The company’s services are currently only available in California. However, Hourly received a $27 million Series A investment today that it will use to expand into more regions.

Photo by George Becker

4 Reasons to be Optimistic about Fintech Right Now

4 Reasons to be Optimistic about Fintech Right Now

We’ve seen some bad news in the tech sector lately. YCombinator is asking its portfolio founders to “plan for the worst” and prepare for a downturn and Klarna is laying off 10% of its employees. Headlines such as, “Tech’s High-Flying Startup Scene Gets a Crushing Reality Check” aren’t helping consumer or investor sentiment, either. It can be tough to remain optimistic.

The good news is that the fintech industry is resilient. So amid the recent onslaught of disheartening news, here are four reasons you can be optimistic about fintech right now.

DeFi is promising

Fintech’s future is bright, and one shining light is decentralized finance (DeFi). It’s hard to know the exact implications DeFi will have on banks, fintechs, and other traditional financial (TradFi) organizations.

However, it’s clear that decentralizing traditional operations such as money transfers and loans will make a more efficient financial system. What’s more, DeFi is poised to help the 1.7 billion unbanked individuals across the globe benefit from financial services they’ve previously never had access to.

The best innovations are born when times get tough

It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention. Whether it’s an economic downturn, a pandemic, or a crisis in a different form, difficult times have proven to motivate people to develop creative solutions. This can be seen in countless examples from the COVID Recession of 2020. After the COVID pandemic hit, businesses were forced to figure out a way to convert their offering or service into the digital channel. In fact, many fintech companies grew while firms in other sectors were forced to make major cuts.

With new crises come new issues, and new problems that businesses and consumers need help solving. A bear market or an economic downturn would be no different; the best innovations are yet to come.

Still room for improvement

Because the fintech industry is relatively nascent, many of the problems the industry set out to solve still exist. In a piece we published earlier this month titled, “Has Fintech Failed?” we took a look at all of the ways fintech is failing to help consumers and businesses. As a few examples, underbanked populations are still lacking quality financial solutions, there are no open banking mandates in the U.S., fraud is rampant, and digital identity is flawed. The good news is that this leaves a lot of room for improvement, and therefore a lot of room for new competitors.

Fintech is here for a reason

When all is said and done, fintech is made to help individuals and businesses better manage their finances and more easily access financial services. Because money is not an optional tool for survival in the modern economy, financial services companies have a unique ability to help others through a recession or slowdown in their own industry. This pervasiveness makes for endless opportunities for banks, fintechs, and DeFi alike.

The fintech industry is not just here to serve financial services organizations, but rather to help people in this world that need financial services the most. That’s why we’re here, and it’s certainly something to be optimistic about.

Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Has Fintech Failed?

Has Fintech Failed?

If you measure the beginning of fintech as 1886, the industry has had a very long time to get things right. Even if you consider 2007 as the birth of fintech, we have still had 15 years to deliver on the promises of improving and automating banking and finance.

In a panel at FinovateEurope titled, “Power Panel: What Do We All Need To Go Away & Think About?” the Financial Data and Technology Association’s Head of Europe Ghela Boskovich (pictured on the right in the photo below) declared that fintech has failed, citing the millions of underbanked citizens across the globe.

There are, of course, two sides to the coin. Below, we take a look at how fintech has failed, along with the wins the industry has accomplished over the years.


  • Underbanked populations are still left in the dark
    There have been hundreds of solutions created specifically to help underbanked populations. Some are very specific, like the ones that help people build up their credit score by reporting on-time rent payments. Others, such as niche challenger banks, offer a host of tools under one solution.
    Despite these efforts, 22% of American adults are either unbanked or underbanked. The industry is either not creating effective solutions or not reaching the right people.
  • Integrations are broken
    Even though many U.S. consumers do not know what the term “open finance” means, they are well aware of its implications. With very few exceptions, banks and fintechs don’t share customer data effectively. Users either need to manually input their financial data or they are continuously asked to re-authenticate to make data aggregation possible.
  • Open banking regulation is non-existent in the U.S.
    While Europe has been enjoying the benefits of open banking since its mandates went into effect in September 2018, the U.S. is still behind. However, President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy last July. The order urges the CFPB to implement rules supporting open banking.
  • Fraud is rampant
    Consumers have been struggling to safeguard not only their digital identity but also their personally identifiable information and payment credentials since before the dawn of the internet. Fraud incidents have increased dramatically in the past few years, further proving that the industry has a lot to do to stay ahead in this subsector.
  • Digital identity is flawed
    Having users prove they are who they say they are has always been a headache in the fintech industry. Keeping track of login credentials has consistently irked users, and fraudulent account takeovers has proven that a username and a password aren’t enough. While many biometric authentication methods would have seemed futuristic to us two decades ago, many still cause too much friction in the user experience and aren’t enough to keep bad actors away.
  • Real-time is still a dream
    While the blockchain has helped bring some transactions, authentications, and approvals into near-real time, the concept of instant banking activity is still far from reality. Consumers are still waiting three days for bank payments to clear. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s FedNow service has been working on a fix for this for years and is now piloting the solution. However, the target launch date isn’t until 2023.

It’s easy to identify these shortcomings, especially when there’s so much promising innovation to look forward to. However, let’s take a look at some of the ways the fintech industry has fulfilled its promises to make users’ financial lives easier, simplified, and more informed.


  • Helped underbanked populations
    Though the number of unbanked consumers is still shockingly high, fintech has done a lot to help populations with no access to a bank account. The war on payday lending may be one of the brightest examples of this. Fintech has not only helped to highlight the hazards of payday lenders, the industry also has created tools such as earned wage access to help employees smooth out their cashflow and meet their financial obligations on time.
  • Supported digital-first customers
    The fintech industry has come a long way since the implementation of SMS banking in 2007. Even though it was such as simple innovation, only a handful of banks offered banking via text.
    Compare this to where the industry is today. Even the smallest financial institutions offer rich digital banking tools that can pack an entire bank branch’s worth of activity into a client’s smartphone.
  • Made banking available any time (even if transactions still don’t clear after hours)
    By supporting digital-first and digital-only customers, the fintech industry has also helped consumers who prefer to bank in-branch. That’s because users can still accomplish many banking activities, such as a loan application, even after branches have closed.
  • Provided plenty of employment opportunities for all of the recovering bankers out there
    This one is self-explanatory. How many times have you heard someone in the fintech space describe themselves as a “recovering banker”?

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

4 Niche Approaches in the Crowded BNPL Space

4 Niche Approaches in the Crowded BNPL Space

You’ve no doubt heard of the three largest buy now, pay later (BNPL) players, Klarna, Afterpay, and Affirm. The oldest of these, Klarna, has been around since 2005. But after the BNPL boom exploded in 2020, dozens of new players (and even some consolidation) emerged in the BNPL arena.

With so much competition– especially competition from large incumbents such as Chase–it can be difficult for BNPL companies to stand out and attract frequent customer spend. That is why some firms have found it advantageous to tailor their offering to a more specific audience. By targeting niche consumer groups, companies can provide a better user experience by tailoring each aspect of their offering to the specific group.

We’ve identified four niche players, each of which uses specificity to its advantage.

Study now, pay later

Australia-based ZeeFi recently launched its platform that helps education providers maintain cashflow and offers students a flexible, interest-free payment solution. The education provider receives payment upfront, while students can spread out the cost of their course for up to 36 months. ZeeFi was founded in 2016 under the name Study Loans. The company has raised $88.5 million.

Travel now, pay later

Uplift was founded in 2014 to allow users to pay for their travel experiences over time. The San Francisco-based company partners with travel brands, including hotel, airline, cruise, travel agencies, and more, and offers a point-of-sale financing option that lets customers spread their purchase out over time. Depending on factors such as purchase details and the traveler’s credit history, Uplift offers no-interest and simple interest loans that users can pay back over time, even after their trip.

Healthcare now, pay later

medZero‘s tool allows businesses to offer their employees a way to spread out the cost of their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. The company provides users on-demand access to funds to pay up-front for the fraction of their healthcare bill that their insurance doesn’t cover, and pay the balance back over time. medZero doesn’t run credit checks, is fee-free, and charges no interest. The Missouri-based company has raised $5.7 million since it was founded in 2015.

Housing now, pay later

New York-based Flex helps renters pay their landlord on a schedule that works with their cashflow. Flex automatically connects to major rent payment companies and sends rent money on the user’s behalf to their landlord on the first of the month. As an added bonus, the company can help users build their credit scores, too. Flex, not to be confused with challenger bank Chime’s in-house BNPL tool with the same name, was founded in 2019 and has raised $5.8 million.

Photo by ROMBO from Pexels

5 Reasons the Metaverse is Worth Paying Attention to Now

5 Reasons the Metaverse is Worth Paying Attention to Now

When your day job keeps you busy for 40+ hours per week, it’s hard to take on new tasks or pay attention to new initiatives. But one thing 2020 taught us is that the digital initiative doesn’t take vacation days. So when enabling technologies and platforms like the metaverse come around, banks and fintechs need to pay attention.

First, let’s look at what the metaverse is and what it is not. You can think of the metaverse as immersive, collaborative internet. In some respects, the metaverse is already here. Users are already collaborating with each other on multiple platforms, and alternate realities– whether in 2D or 3D– have been around for decades. However, though the metaverse will be accessible via virtual reality, it is not the same as virtual reality.

The metaverse is at an early stage and is still not well defined. Despite this, banks and fintechs still need to be paying attention. Here’s why.

It’s not the first time fintech has tried to embrace a different reality

In 2014, many fintechs and even some established financial services companies launched mixed reality experiences in the form of Google Glass, which was released to the public in May of 2014. Top Image Systems (now Kofax), Fiserv, eBankIT, and Wallaby Financial (now Bankrate) all released tools for Google Glass in 2014.

Most are familiar with the fate of Google’s mixed reality glasses– they were discontinued in 2015. The failure of Google Glass is not the point, however. What matters is the speed at which this group developed around the new technology. We can expect the same for the metaverse.

You’re already behind

It’s easy to sleep on trends that seem like they are nothing but hype. Despite that, if you’ve been sleeping on this trend, you’re already behind. JP Morgan announced yesterday that it has joined the metaverse by opening a virtual lounge. Located in Decentraland, JP Morgan’s Onyx Lounge shows a timeline of the bank’s blockchain innovations, has three videos to watch, and has a tiger walking around.

The bank also released a white paper on opportunities in the metaverse. “There is a lot of client interest to learn more about the metaverse,” JPMorgan’s Head of Crypto and the Metaverse Christine Moy told Coindesk. “We put together our white paper to help clients cut through the noise and highlight what the current reality is, and what needs to be built next in technology, commercial infrastructure, privacy/identity and workforce, in order to maximize the full potential of our lives in the metaverse.”

In five years, you’ll wish you had paid attention

If there’s nothing to the metaverse right now, why bother paying attention? Because five years from now you’ll wish you had been paying attention.

While it’s easy to say that about any risk-laden investment such as real estate or tech stocks, you can consider the example of cryptocurrency. What if your organization had been investing in crypto research five years ago? You may have already been leveraging the benefits of stablecoins or smart contracts. The metaverse is just one more way to invest in the future of your organization.


One very attractive aspect of the metaverse is that it is intertwined with the blockchain. In the metaverse, digital assets will be exchanged for digital currencies in a new economy. There is even speculation that work will take place in the metaverse. According to JP Morgan, $54 billion is spent on virtual goods each year and NFTs have a current market capitalization of $41 billion. Banks won’t want to be left out of this new metaconomy.

It’s where you’ll find your next clients

Generation Z* and Generation Alpha** are not only digital natives, many of them are mixed reality natives. They’ve grown up with virtual reality headsets and spend hours a day in parallel universes such as Fortnite. To capture the attention of this group, there is no doubt that financial services companies will need to meet these young clients where they are.

If JP Morgan’s bet on Decentraland is any indication, banks and fintechs should start planning their first move in the metaverse. However, as Cornerstone Advisors’ Alex Johnson recently pointed out, they may want to hold off on building their first bank branch in the metaverse.

*people born between 1997 and 2012

**people born between 2011 and 2025

Photo by julien Tromeur on Unsplash

What The U.S. Federal Reserve Omits in its CBDC Paper

What The U.S. Federal Reserve Omits in its CBDC Paper

The U.S. Federal Reserve has issued a discussion paper today on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). The paper is meant to serve as the first step in a public discussion about CBDCs between the Federal Reserve and stakeholders.

The documentation offers a basic background on what CBDCs are and how they may impact citizens. As a part of the discussion, the paper depicts potential benefits and risks of implementing a CBDC. Specifically, the Fed cites the following:


  • Safely Meet Future Needs and Demands for Payment Services
  • Improvements to Cross-Border Payments
  • Support the Dollar’s International Role
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Extend Public Access to Safe Central Bank Money


  • Changes to Financial-Sector Market Structure
  • Safety and Stability of the Financial System
  • Efficacy of Monetary Policy Implementation
  • Privacy and Data Protection and the Prevention of Financial Crimes
  • Operational Resilience and Cybersecurity

Ultimately, the 35 page document leaves out a key issue when it comes to CBDCs: governmental control. A government-issued CBDC would allow the government to dictate how, where, and when currency holders spend their funds. As an example, consider unemployment money issued in the form of a CBDC. The government could restrict the funds to not work at businesses categorized as liquor stores or bars.

Restrictions such as these aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In some cases, giving the government control over government-issued funds makes a lot of sense. In fact, it is even common practice in programs such as WIC, which offers low income mothers access to healthy foods.

However, if there’s one thing Americans love, it’s freedom. And if citizens receive their paycheck in the form of a CBDC, it’s likely they won’t want the government to control their spending. When it comes to monitoring citizens’ spending of CBDCs, however, the Fed did note the risk of balancing privacy with the need to prevent financial crimes. Under the Potential risks section, the paper states, “Any CBDC would need to strike an appropriate balance between safeguarding consumer privacy rights and affording the transparency necessary to deter criminal activity.”

The purpose of the paper is to essentially open up the discussion of CBDCs with the American people. While the Fed makes it clear it may not necessarily proceed with issuing a CBDC, it proposes 22 questions to readers in an effort to gather comments from all stakeholders. If you’re interested, you have until May 20, 2022 to submit your thoughts.

While the concept of CBDCs is fairly new in the financial services world, the conversation around the new form of cryptocurrencies is being taken quite seriously. At the moment, 90 countries are currently exploring or launching their own CBDC. In fact, TechCrunch reported earlier this week that China’s digital Yuan wallet now has 260 million users.