Industry Spotlight: Fintech
This article is Part Four of our series covering the top tech sectors in British Columbia. This week’s topic is financial technology or fintech.
Financial technology (fintech) is one of the most dynamic tech sectors in BC. Companies such as Payso, Payfirma, Control and WealthBar are among the digital disruptors that are keeping staid financial institutions on their toes.
Talented companies such as these might make Vancouver the new financial technology hub, according to a recent article in TechVibes. The article also listed reasons like the city’s small size, which allows for community development, and its livability. Toronto may host the nation’s financial district, but Vancouver has its own thriving fintech district.
We chatted with Shannon Byrne Susko, currently an Executive in Residence (EiR) for BC Acceleration Network partner VentureLabs, about fintech in British Columbia. She has an extensive business history, having co-founded, grown and successfully exited two global fintech companies in the last 10 years. Susko most recently published The Metronome Effect: The Journey to Predictable Profit, detailing the strategic framework her teams used for their companies.
While the outward perception of fintech is a sudden industry boom, Susko disagrees that fintech emerged out of nowhere à la Big Bang. It’s long been developing, especially in Greater Vancouver. The difference, she says, is that “the market is now more aware of fintech.”
One of the biggest drivers of change has been “some of the wins.” With these big wins, people started to realize that “This is not a fad—the Internet’s not going anywhere.”
A significant shift occurred when traditional banks started to take note of financial technology’s growth. Susko says, “When e-commerce came out, every bank partnered with an e-commerce up-and-comer.”
It’s not easy for banks to marry a traditional structure with innovative technology. “The big banks want to move fast, but they’ve got some interesting structural and cultural challenges,” says Susko.“They need to figure out what matters to the customers, who best to partner with and what that relationship will end up looking like.”
Since Susko started in fintech in 1995, customers have wanted efficiency, adaptability and, above all, convenience. This applies to all areas of finance: while fintech focused on payment convenience in the ‘90s, lending is now a standout area.
Susko also notes that the technology itself has advanced, from landlines, to the Internet, to cellphones and wearable devices. Where payments used to be made via phone lines, they can be made on the Internet or an app now. As wearable devices like Google Glass and Apple Watch become more prominent, fintech could be easily accessible at all times.
As far as Susko’s concerned, Vancouver’s the hub for fintech. It should come as no surprise when it continues to grow: it’s been setting down roots here for more than two decades
Rising fintech companies in BC
Payfirma makes taking payments easier, adapting to location and methods. The platform allows companies to accept all forms of payment, whether in store, online or on-the-go.
Payso gives the gift of money, letting users safely send money via their phones. Payments can be made with a credit card, then easily sent to friends and family for reimbursements or gifts.
Koho lets individuals track their finances right from their phone. And not just track finances, but make payments and transfers, set financial goals and do “all the regular [banking] stuff.” They’ve partnered with a federal financial institution so your money is secure, but they don’t charge any bank fees.