Government support for the financial sector and financial technology (fintech) is huge. Fintech investments nearly doubled in 2021 from 2020, reaching a total of about $91.5 billion.
[Related Article - Best Fintech Startups in Asia]
The sector is growing at an unprecedented rate, partially due to technology, but more specifically, an increase in access to mobile devices with 79%. Fintech startups have become a huge part of that growth.
What to expect
In this article, you will find information on:
- The best fintech startups in Europe presented as a fintech startups listThe growing prevalence of the fintech sector
- Why fintech is a great case for corporate innovation
- The goals of European policy focused on fintech and the opportunities new policies represent
- How fintech startups are helping corporations to digitally transform their businesses
- A general review of the global fintech market today
The best fintech startups in Europe
Vienna, Austria | baningo.com
Lower-cased baningo is a fintech startup that tackles one of the most important aspects of the banking experience: customer relations. The company was founded by Maximilian Nedjelik in 2015 and is based in Vienna, Austria. The baningo platform is a multi-channel solution that facilitates interaction between companies - mostly banks and insurance companies - and their customers.
By using innovative tech and models, clients can easily access advisors that suit their preferences, book appointments, etc. In short, baningo creates a simple, efficient, and fast way of communication for its customers. Some of their notable clients include Sparkasse bank and AEK bank.
Vilnius, Lithuania | ginimachine.com
GiniMachine uses Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to design advanced credit scoring models so that lenders can make faster decisions that carry lower risks. In the company’s own words, they’re “fighting bad loans with AI.” This top fintech startup is based in Vilnius, Lithuania, and was founded by Dmitry Dolgorukov, Ivan Kovalenko, and Yury Zelensky in December of 2016.
The platform allows banks and similar financial institutions to get AI-powered credit risk management tools like credit, application, and collection scoring. Users also have access to predictive analytics regarding banking and financial services. And to do any of this, users need zero coding knowledge. They just need to upload their data and leave AI and ML to do the rest.
Brussels, Belgirum | qover.com
Brussels-based Qover was founded in 2016 by Jean-Charles Velge and Quentin Colmant. This fintech startup quickly grew and is already in its Series B funding stage, with total funding of about $41.7M. Qover creates and distributes digital insurance solutions, and its services are used in over 32 European countries. The company has worked with big companies such as Revolut, Decathlon, Deliveroo, etc.
In a nutshell, Qover is a B2B company that helps businesses integrate insurance into their model. Qover can deliver these tailor-made, competitive insurance products to its partners within a month after an order is placed. As the solutions are bespoke, it’s not just a certain kind of sector (like a bank) that can get in on the action. The custom insurance tech is made available through white labeling or APIs in real-time, and it easily integrates into existing online platforms.
Zagreb, Croatia | portal.moj-eracun.hr
moj-eRačun (“My-eInvoice”) is the largest network in Croatia for the exchange of electronic accounts, invoices, and other eCommerce between the supplier and the customer. The startup is headquartered in Zagreb and was founded by Marko Emer in 2013. The Moj-eRacun platform provides users with a well-rounded process that includes issuing, downloading, e-bookkeeping (Moj-DMS), and storing e-invoices and eCards in MojArhiv (“MyArchive”).
The platform makes the process of sending, receiving, and archiving invoices simple, straightforward, and fast. On another note, moj-eRačun received a Premium Green Certificate in 2021 for their efforts in digitization.
Prague, Czech Republic | spendee.com
Straight from beautiful Prague, we get Spendee - the brainchild of David Neveceral, Jakub Sechter, Jan Castek, and Miroslav Chmelka. Although the startup was launched in 2017, its prime creation - the Spendee app - had already been downloaded an incredible 2,500,000 in 170 countries by April of 2018, though in 2022, GooglePlay estimates downloads at 1M+.
The two groups of people who stand to benefit from Spendee are those of us who are pedantic and want an all-access pass to our budget at any time, and those of us who are regularly dumbfounded at the end of the month, wondering if there’s a leak in our bank account.
The app basically acts as a budgeting assistant. It tracks your financial operations, provides quick overviews, and helps you make a smart budget to save up for big-ticket items while helping you finally figure out where all that money’s been going. It is possible to connect the application with bank accounts, electronic wallets, and crypto-wallets so that your balance gets automatically updated.
Of course, you can also manually add your cash transactions. What’s more, based on the type of plan you’re on (free or premium), you can also get tailor-made suggestions regarding your budget in relation to your spending habits. Neat, right?
Where are these startups located?
The boom in fintech startups - why did it happen?
The actions taken by higher-ups after the European financial crisis in the 2000s created an incredibly fertile landscape for fintech startups. Those in control of setting the new standard were clear with their objectives and took actions to open up the market to more competition. The result? A lot of competition, just as expected. And while many have failed, there are many successful cases of startups with scalable models.
European policy is changing, but not fast enough
In typical EU fashion (and the rest of the world for, that matter), policymakers lag behind the fast-moving sectors as they continue to disrupt.
And no wonder. Creating an effective framework takes years, especially in a culturally diverse landscape like the European Union, where communication across borders is not the most straightforward. And add globalization into the mix, things start to get a lot more complicated.
In one respect, it is positive as these newly formed businesses are able to bypass the established institutions and offer products and services to consumers that more established corporations cannot. They aren’t hindered by rigid regulations. But on the other hand, a lot of policy has become outdated.
2018 and 2020 fintech action plans: the opportunities
Fintech opens up new possibilities within consumer financial services that were not available a few years ago. It has opened up new competition, markets, and possibilities for the sector and regional economies.
It means more choice of financial services offered. And for businesses, it means the increased efficiency of operations. Yes, the technology is outpacing the legislation, but the European Commission has taken action and created a FinTech Action Plan introduced in March of 2018.
The goals of the Action Plan in Europe:
- To increase competition and innovation,
- To maintain the integrity of the financial system, and
- To “harness the rapid advancement of technology for the benefit of the European economy, citizens, and industry.”
The 19 step plan addresses a number of issues, such as the protection and support of new technologies like artificial intelligence, cloud services, big data analytics, and blockchain within fintech. The action plan was then followed up with an ambitious 2.0 version in September of 2020, which further aimed to facilitate fintech innovation in Europe by identifying regulatory obstacles, reevaluating legislation regarding crypto assets, promoting AI tools, working to improve funding circumstances for startups like crowdfunding, etc.
Not reinventing the wheel, reinventing the experience
These traditional financial service companies aren’t the tech dinosaurs that we so often like to assume traditional businesses are. The established financial industry is different. They are quick to adopt the technology. But this presents itself as a double-edged sword. Banks are creating a digital experience that presents a "wow" factor at first glance, but customer satisfaction is generally unchanged. Banks are great at updating old technology, but they aren't creating anything drastically different.
Neal Cross, an industry expert, attributes this to banks' heavy focus on the "sexy digital experience while not addressing the key customer issue[s]." It isn't all doom and gloom though. For one, we saw that financial institutions are interested in partnering up with startups like baningo, which tackle the customer relations aspect of digital banking.
Another positive is that corporations are beginning to shift away from the mindset of startups as a threat to one of an opportunity for collaboration. It certainly isn’t the end for these mammoth establishments. Rather, it is the end of corporations who fail to adopt a collaborative mindset, adapt, and embody flexibility.
How are startups helping corporations?
Simply put, it's that startups offer a tailored solution. For example, in the mid-2010s, fintech startups focused on improving on the already existing legacy products of their more established all-encompassing counterparts. In other words, the startup product itself is often a “front-end” customer-facing solution built on top of an already existing infrastructure of an established company.
In order for these products to work efficiently, the infrastructure of the established company must be properly updated and adaptive to the changing needs of digitally native consumers. And while the larger corporations in the financial sector are quick to evolve with changing trends, their software is not always as robust. Fintech startups have shown that they have the ability to move quickly and with agility so that their focus can develop unhindered by legacy products.
These attractive traits make partnerships all the more appealing. For one, traditional financial service corporations have the advantage to partner with more than one startup with a higher chance that one will succeed.
In fact, there are many successful examples of banks partnering up with fintech startups.
For instance, Barclays partnered up with Flux, a startup that issues digital receipts, to reduce their overall carbon footprint and the waste of paper receipts - which aren’t recyclable or compostable. The booming partnership was evident as far back as 2019, at which point Flux had issued more than one million digital receipts in the UK alone, with a 1000% year-over-year growth rate.
Global investment in fintech
Though there is some concern that bank-fintech partnerships are underperforming due to a lack of supporting infrastructure, there’s no denying that the industry is booming. The average bank investment in fintech, for instance, more than tripled in volume from $2.25 million in 2020 to nearly $10 million in 2021.
[Related Article - Best Fintech Startups in Asia]
Globally, investment is on the rise. In 2021, the total investment in fintech hit $91.5 billion, though other sources claim this number was actually $102 billion. Over 65% of banks and credit unions have partnered up with at least one fintech company in the last three years, while 35% of them have invested in a fintech startup.
In the last quarter of 2021, 41% of bank advisors responded that fintech partnerships are somewhat important to their institution, while 48% responded that they’re very important. Finally, as of November of 2021, there is a counted total of 26,345 fintech startups worldwide.
Of the three (almost arbitrarily) geographic regions, the Americas hold the highest number of fintech startups– 10,755. That means a higher investment risk due to increased competition, and early-stage companies will see a hard time when it comes to securing funding. But this isn’t stopping corporations by any means from partnering up with startups and adopting the technology they have created.
The wrap on the Best fintech startups in Europe
Because of the low operation costs of smaller and younger companies, fintech startups are able to react to consumer wants and needs at an unprecedented rate (now helped by PSD2), something with which established banks struggle. On the other hand, established institutions have a loyal customer base and strong institutional trust.
This is the perfect opportunity for increased partnership between startups and corporations. The problem then becomes, how do you make sure that the partnerships between the two entirely different entities are successful?
The collaboration between these new technologies, the established industry, and those regulating the industry (policymakers) will determine the overall health of the landscape in the future. The future ecosystem and digital experience will be very different from the one we see today.
For example, a third of millennials believe that they will no longer need a bank in five years time. Instead, they will rely on non-traditional tech startups to shape their “bankless” future. The new generation of Europeans has become acutely aware of their financial position and security. And startups are arriving at the perfect time to cater to these needs.