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Here’s what’s hot — and what’s not — in fintech right now

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Financial technology is the hottest area of investment for venture capitalists — $1 out of every $5 of funding flowed into fintech startups in 2021.

But with a recession possibly around the corner, investors are writing fewer — and smaller — checks. And they’re getting much more selective about the kind of companies they want to back.

According to CB Insights, global venture investment in fintech firms sank 18% in the first quarter of 2022.

That’s led to something of a rotation out of certain pockets of fintech that were hyped by venture capitalists last year, such as crypto and “buy now, pay later,” and into less sexy areas focused on generating stable streams of income, like digitizing payment processing for businesses.

So what’s hot in fintech right now? And what’s not? I went to the Money 20/20 Europe event in Amsterdam in June to speak to some of the region’s top startup investors, entrepreneurs and analysts. Here’s what they had to say.

What’s hot?
Investors are still obsessed with the idea of making and accepting payments less onerous for businesses and consumers. Stripe may be facing a few questions over its eyewatering $95 billion valuation. But that hasn’t stopped VCs from looking for the next winners in the digital payments space.

“I think we’ll see a next generation of fintechs emerge,” said Ricardo Schafer, partner at German venture capital firm Target Global. “It’s a lot easier to build stuff.”

Niche industry buzzwords like “open banking,” “banking-as-a-service” and “embedded finance” are now in vogue, with a slew of new fintech firms hoping to eat away at the volumes of incumbent players.

Open banking makes it easier for firms that aren’t licensed lenders to develop financial services by linking directly to people’s bank accounts. Something that’s caught the eye of investors is the use of this technology for facilitating payments. It’s an especially hot area right now, with several startups hoping to disrupt credit cards which charge merchants hefty fees.

Companies like Visa, Mastercard and even Apple are paying close attention to the trend. Visa acquired Sweden’s Tink for more than $2 billion, while Apple snapped up Credit Kudos, a company that relies on consumers’ banking information to help with underwriting loans, to drive its expansion into “buy now, pay later” loans.

“Open banking in general has gone from a big buzz word to being seamlessly integrated in processes that nobody really cares about anymore, like bill payments or top-ups,” said Daniel Kjellen, CEO of Tink.

Kjellen said Tink is now so popular in its home market of Sweden that it’s being used by about 60% of the adult population each month. “This is a serious number,” he says.

Embedded finance is all about integrating financial services products into companies that have nothing to do with finance. Imagine Disney offering its own bank accounts which you could use online or at its theme parks. But all the work that goes into making that happen would be handled by third-party firms whose names you might never encounter.

Banking-as-a-service is a part of this trend. It lets companies outside of the traditional world of finance piggyback on a regulated institution to offer their own payment cards, loans and digital wallets.

“You can either start building the tech yourself and start applying for licenses yourself, which is going to take years and probably tens of millions in funding, or you can find a partner,” said Iana Dimitrova, CEO of OpenPayd.

What’s not?
Got an idea for a new crypto exchange you’re just dying to pitch? Or think you might be onto the next Klarna? You might have a tougher time raising funds.

“The tokenization and the coin side of things we want to stay away from right now,” said Farhan Lalji, managing director at fintech-focused venture fund Anthemis Capital.

However, the infrastructure supporting crypto — whether it’s software analyzing data on the blockchain or keeping digital assets safe from hacks — is a trend he thinks will stand the test of time.

“Infrastructure doesn’t depend on one particular currency going up or down,” he said.

Investors see more potential in companies making it easier for people to access digital assets without all the knowhow of someone who trades cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens every day — part of a broader trend called “Web3.”

When it comes to crypto, “the areas that most interest us today are areas that we have an analogue experience to in classic industries,” said Rana Yared, a partner at venture capital firm Balderton.

As for BNPL, there’s been something of a shift in the business models VCs are gravitating toward. While the likes of Klarna and Affirm have seen their valuations plummet, BNPL startups focused on settling transactions between businesses are gaining a lot of traction.

“Growth in B2C [business-to-consumer] BNPL is slowing … and regulatory concerns could curtail growth,” said Philip Benton, fintech analyst at market research firm Omdia.

Business-to-business BNPL, on the other hand, is “starting from a very low base” and therefore has “huge” potential, he added.

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BUSINESS

European stocks set to climb as traders assess earnings, economic data

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European markets are set to advance cautiously on Monday as investors continue to monitor corporate earnings and key economic data points, assessing the risk of recession.

Britain’s FTSE 100 is seen around 19 points higher at 7,459, Germany’s DAX is expected to gain around 54 points to 13,628 and France’s CAC 40 is set to add around 21 points to 6,493.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed Friday’s session down around 0.8% after an unexpectedly strong U.S. jobs report lowered expectations for a recession, and in turn increased the likelihood of the Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy more aggressively to bring down inflation.

Markets in Asia-Pacific were mixed overnight, with Hong Kong’s tech-heavy Hang Seng index weighing down the region.

U.S. stock futures were flat after the S&P 500 closed out a third straight positive week, with investors turning their attention to a key inflation report on Wednesday.

On the data front in Europe, August’s Sentix economic sentiment index for the euro zone is due Monday morning.

Corporate earnings continue to drive individual share price movement in Europe, with Siemens Energy, Porsche and BioNTech among the companies reporting before the bell on Monday.

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BUSINESS

Stocks fall after strong July jobs report points to more Fed action

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Stocks fell Friday in a volatile trading session after the July jobs report was much better than expected, as investors assessed what a strong labor market would mean for the Federal Reserve’s rate tightening campaign.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 96 points or 0.29%.The S&P 500 fell 0.67% and the Nasdaq Composite was down 1.01%. Losses were offset by bank stocks, which rose on hopes that interest rate hikes will continue at a solid clip. Energy stocks also gained, but technology companies slumped.

The labor market added 528,000 jobs in July, easily beating a Dow Jones estimate of a 258,000 increase. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5%, below the 3.6% estimate. Wage growth also rose more than estimated, up 0.5% for the month and 5.2% higher than a year ago, signaling that high inflation is likely still a problem.

Stocks opened lower following the report, even as it seemed to indicate the economy was not currently in a recession. Job growth was expected to slow as the Fed continues to hike interest rates to tame inflation, but this report shows a labor market still running hot. That means the central bank may act more aggressively at its next meeting.

“Anybody that jumped on the ‘Fed is going to pivot next year and start cutting rates’ is going to have to get off at the next station, because that’s not in the cards,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Financial. “It is clearly a situation where the economy is not screeching or heading into a recession here and now.”

The report is a crucial one as it’s one of two the central bank will see before it decides how much to raise rates at its September meeting. The Fed will have another jobs report and two more consumer price index numbers to weigh before it makes its next rate decision.

Major averages posted their best month since 2020 in July on the hope the Fed would slow the pace of its hikes. The S&P 500 added 9.1% last month.

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BUSINESS

Investors dump Chinese stocks, bonds amid global recession fears

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Foreign investors continued to cut holdings in Chinese bonds in July and dumped equities for the first time in four months, according to a report by the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

Emerging markets (EM) posted a fifth straight month of portfolio outflows, setting the longest such streak in records going back to 2005, as global recession risk, inflation and a strong dollar drew away cash, the report released on Wednesday showed.

Chinese debt witnessed outflows of about $3bn last month, while $6bn exited other EM, IIF estimated.

If confirmed by official data, it would be the sixth consecutive month of foreign outflows from China’s $20 trillion bond market.

During the same period, China’s stock market witnessed $3.5bn of foreign outflows, compared with marginal inflows of $2.5bn in other EM, the global financial services trade group added.

The benchmark CSI 300 Index dropped 7 percent, down every week in July, as domestic COVID-19 flare-ups, property woes and global recession risks weighed on the market.

“China’s A-shares saw a range-bound, generally weaker trend since July under both domestic and overseas influences,” China International Capital Corporation (CICC) said in a note.

Data showed the world’s second-largest economy slowed sharply in the second quarter, missing market expectations with only a 0.4 percent increase from a year earlier.

With the fallout of the Ukraine war continuing, Sino-US tensions over Taiwan mounted as US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.

“For the coming months, several factors will influence flows dynamics, among these the timing of inflation peaking and the outlook for the Chinese economy will be in focus,” IIF said.

Overseas investors have been reducing holdings of Chinese bonds since February, as diverging monetary policies kept Chinese yields pinned below their US counterparts.

The People’s Bank of China has been easing policy to aid a COVID-hit economy, while the US Federal Reserve has been hiking rates to fight soaring inflation

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