With global investment in fintech having tripled in the last five years, the financial sector is without a doubt in the midst of a revolution. The leading cities in the global fintech race are relatively unsurprising: Silicon Valley, New York, London and Hong Kong are the epicentres of the investment blast.
But it’s the newcomers that are diversifying the market, bringing unique capabilities, outstanding technology and ideal infrastructure to what used to be a stale financial sector. These five dark-horse cities are the top contenders in the global fintech race, and are spearheading innovation in the industry.
The government in Singapore is a strong driver of the success of financial innovation in the Asian city-state. Just this month, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced that it will allocate US$166 million (equivalent) in the next five years to the growing fintech ecosystem. This is not the only initiative the government of Singapore has implemented to boost fintech innovation.
Startupbootcamp FinTech, one of Europe’s largest fintech accelerator programs, recently landed in the financial capital and is mentoring promising fintech startups with support from the Singaporean government.
These developments are unfolding amidst a mostly unbanked Asia, which opens up tremendous opportunities for disruptors to advance financial inclusion. With new companies and innovative technologies emerging rapidly, it’s predicted that a majority of Asian consumers will most likely skip credit cards and ATMs and jump directly online.
According to a recent FinTech Forum study, the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) attracted the second largest amount of fintech funding in Europe after the U.K., a whopping US$300 million in 2014. Lending and payment startups lead investments with nearly 80 percent of the capital. Known as a startup capital, and often referred to as “Silicon Allee,” Berlin has perfected the art of building tech companies.
Berlin’s Rocket Internet, the world’s only publicly listed incubator, and FinLeap, the world’s first fintech company builder, are both headquartered in Berlin, and just two examples of Berlin’s unique ability to accelerate tech innovation quickly and efficiently. Germany has a bureaucratic and conventional financial history that gives fintech companies the opportunity to take advantage of banks’ inability to move with the times.
Spain is one of the leading countries in uptake of smartphones and mobile commerce. Madrid, with homegrown fintech companies such as Kantox, peerTransfer and Coinffeine, is gaining visibility in the fintech world market and boosting record venture rounds. Earlier this year a collaboration of six fintech companies joined together in Madrid to form the Spanish Association of Financial Technology (SAFT).
The main objective of the group is to pressure government and legislative officials to offer better conditions for fintech startups. Globally, traditional banks have been slow to catch onto the fintech bandwagon, but Spanish banks have been some of the first to react. BBVA was the first incumbent traditional financial institution to venture into fintech, and last year Santander set up a $100 million fund to invest in fintech startups.
Australia recently started to push its fintech potential. Sydney is in the pole position to become a fintech hotspot, according to a recent KPMG report. With its “deep cluster” of creative, digital and professional service industries, the city is perfectly equipped for significant fintech growth. PwC suggested that by 2033 the sector will contribute US$81 billion (equivalent), or 4 percent of GDP to the Australian economy. In response to the hype, the not-for-profit accelerator Stone and Chalk recently launched in Sydney.
Worth more than AUS$2 million, the physical fintech hub was developed with strong support from the Australian government and private organizations who are hungry for fintech innovation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Fintech holds the majority chunk of Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem, having secured twice the amount of investments relative to other startup sectors. With help and incentives from the government, Dutch startups have first-class support to start off strong. The Netherlands has a surprisingly straightforward tax structure, and this — along with Amsterdam being a well-known international hub — attracts many foreign companies.
According to a recent European Commission SBA Fact Sheet, the entrepreneurship rate in the Netherlands is 6 percent higher than in the E.U. as a whole. Amsterdam is also home to fintech unicorn Adyen, valued at 1.5 million euros, the multichannel payment company helping to jockey its city in a position for major growth.