Fintech is a fast-paced industry that requires companies to constantly innovate to keep up with business and consumer demand. On Oct. 20, at an industry event titled “The State of Fintech in Canada” a panel of fintech leaders shared what they thought the greatest market opportunities are, and what use cases are getting the most attention.
The panelists included major players in the Canadian fintech landscape including:
Matt Spoke the CEO of Moves, which is based in Toronto but operates in the U.S., and serves gig workers with banking and financial services. The goal of Moves is to empower its members to manage their money better while earning free shares in the companies they work for.
Dominique Samson, a VP at Flinks, talked about his open banking company that provides businesses with account activity widgets that seamlessly allow them to connect with their customers’ financial accounts (with customer permisson), enrich their data and utilize it to deliver better digital products. They also help financial institutions build open APIs as a way to accelerate open banking.
Karim Gillani is a partner at Luge Capital, a major fintech investor in Canada. He spoke about where the greatest market opportunities exist today.
Rob Khazzam the CEO of Float, a leading B2B fintech companies offering corporate spending and financial services for small to medium-sized businesses, tapped into his previous experience helping drive international expansion for Uber.
Discussions kicked off on the topic of whether it is beneficial for a company to operate only in Canada, or should they have their sights on the rest of the world. Gillani explained that while he would rarely be looking to invest in a company that only has sights on servicing
Canada for the long term (outside of real estate). He stated the problem with being a global company is that the nature of fintech is local, since each country and region have its own set of rules and jurisdictions a company would have to get around this which presents a big struggle when a company is starting. Gillani sees Canada as an excellent stage for companies to build and prove themselves locally to take their business internationally.
Khazzam said the fintech market has a large opportunity for growth in Canada from a long-term perspective by expanding its service line, he thinks it’s better to commit to a single market to succeed as opposed to having your focus on dominating all markets.
“If you want to expand globally you need to commit and pursue it in a power-decentralized organizational structure,” Khazzam said. At Uber, he noted one of the keys to success was having local operating teams and giving them autonomy as opposed to having remote offices that report back to headquarters.
They also discussed the barriers that the big banks represent for fintech companies in Canada, as the 5 big banks have essentially created an oligopoly which is a big difference when compared to the U.S. This proves to be a big struggle for fintech companies as accessing the infrastructure of the big banks in Canada is crucial for them to operate, the group concluded.
Samson said he sees the big banks as being the last to move forward in advancements in fintech, he sees open banking as being a critical part of user experience. He stated that mid-size banks are quickly moving ahead in this direction since they know it’s what their customers want and it’s a bit easier with their infrastructure.
Samson said once enough demand is there, the big banks will finally start to move and we will see more progress in this area. He has lobbied for the past several years for fintech, but it has only made minimal changes as Canada is a very risk-averse country. It’s up to the people to take charge in moving towards open banking, it won’t be policy changes that lead to this.
The panel wrapped up by exploring the biggest areas of opportunity for fintech in Canada. Khazzam said the biggest opportunity in Canada is electronic fund transfers as they create a big challenge for Canadians and agrees that customer experience will be the determining factor for success for any future company.
Gillani said real estate and insurance are the biggest areas of opportunities and user experience will be the determining factor towards success for future companies.
“People don’t care about what the underlying infrastructure is as long as they experience something magical,” Gillani said.