What's this all about?
At LEVERIS, we believe that the future of banking starts at the core. Core by LEVERIS is an interview series where we address the issues at the core of banking, fintech and financial services. We speak to those working at the intersection between tech and finance about everything from the future of money to investment in fintechs. Through their insights, we explore current trends, predict future outcomes and get a taste of what it takes to succeed in the new age of banking.
As we all know, fintech is a fast-moving industry. Blink for a second and you’ll miss the latest neobank to IPO or another challenger getting its knuckles wrapped by a national regulator for falling foul of industry guidelines. That’s why it’s important to follow the right people on the right channels to keep abreast of the all latest developments. And one such figure sharing a vast amount of breaking fintech stories online is Dutch fintech commentator and once founder Marcel van Oost.
With this in mind, we decided to make Marcel the story for once and find out his thoughts on the latest trends in banking, fintech and financial services. In the following interview, Marcel gives us the lowdown on some of the major stories of 2021, the rise of ‘Buy Now Pay Later’, what he looks for in a fintech and why he’s done with virtual events.
LEVERIS: For anyone unfamiliar with the various fintech hats you wear, could you provide some background?
Marcel van Oost: Sure, I am a former payments startup founder turned early-stage (pre-seed, seed stage) fintech investor. Throughout my professional career, I keep myself up to speed on all things fintech, reading lot of news from the fintech and banking space. I share the most relevant news articles with my followers on LinkedIn and in my newsletters.
LEVERIS: As a fintech commentator, you need to keep your finger on the pulse. What channels or publications do you like to get your fintech news from?
Marcel van Oost: To be honest, it’s much easier now than it was let’s say two years ago as there’s a wealth of resources out there. Fortunately for me, people send me news daily so I hardly have to look for it. However, I also source the web every day to find the news that the bigger news sites are missing.
I’m not a journalist though so I always reference the original source or website that ran the story and all credits go to those who write the articles. I also receive a lot of what could be referred to as ‘industry gossip’ on a daily basis, which is great to hear and helps get a deeper understanding of what’s going on, but I never publish this through my channels.
LEVERIS: Halfway through 2021, what do you think has been the biggest story in fintech so far this year?
Marcel van Oost: That has to be the news that regulators are actively forbidding fintechs from calling themselves a bank, like what happened with Chime in the US after the regulator cracked down on the practice followed by similar moves in France and the UK. It must have been great news for my good friend David Parker, founder and CEO of Polymath Consulting, who has been advocating this for years. Anybody who reads my Linkedin posts know what I mean 😉
LEVERIS: What are the major trends you are witnessing in fintech right now?
Marcel van Oost: Open banking and crypto are finally becoming mainstream and ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ is really crushing it too. We are now seeing major investments in this space and will continue to see consolidation in the market with significant takeovers such as the one we saw with Zip acquiring Twisto and Spotii.
LEVERIS: Over one year on, anecdotally, how have the majority of fintechs been impacted by and responded to the global pandemic? Has there been any positive knock-on effects on the industry?
Marcel van Oost: Absolutely. Digital banking apps and other retail-focused fintechs have seen a major increase of sign-ups in the past year. This is the kind of acceleration that would never have happened without the pandemic.
LEVERIS: Many of the challenger banks have enjoyed a windfall of customers in 2020/2021. However, their business model still falls short when it comes to generating revenue. How do you see this playing out?
Marcel van Oost: That’s definitely a challenge. There’s no clear answer to this, and it also depends heavily on the target market of a specific challenger bank. However, time will tell.
LEVERIS: How do you view investment pathways for fintechs in 2021? As an early-stage investor, what are you looking for in a fintech?
Marcel van Oost: I’m focused on payments, digital banking and open banking start-ups only. You can also see that these are the market segments that I focus on when sharing news on Linkedin and in my newsletters. I stick to these segments in my investments. It means I don’t get fooled on product, market fit and competition. This also counts for my team that is working through the first screening of potential investments.
In terms of the start-up, the team needs to be complete and capable of execution. But it also needs to be a fit with me and my team, since we need to work with them and assist where we can. The better the match, the more value we can add in addition to the finance we bring in.
LEVERIS: Have you missed attending international fintech events? How do you think the industry has been doing when it comes to virtual events?
Marcel van Oost: Yes, absolutely! I can’t wait to meet with people face-to-face again. I have high hopes for Money2020 in Amsterdam and Las Vegas later this year. For anybody reading this, shoot me a message when you’re around! Aside from those, I’m really looking forward to the FinTech Meetup event taking place in June, which has an interesting one-on-one concept. But aside from that, I’m pretty much done with all those online events and webinars!
LEVERIS: What areas of financial services do you believe have the most growth potential for the coming years?
Marcel van Oost: For me, it has to be digital banking solutions for businesses. From freelancers to SMEs, this is a segment that has been overlooked by banks for years.
LEVERIS: What exciting fintech companies out there do you believe will play a major part in shaping the future of financial services? And why?
Marcel van Oost: That’s very hard to say, because there are so many. If I had to name one, I would like to highlight Pipe, a company that offers a great solution to subscription-based businesses, and which became a unicorn within one year of launching. Pipe helps companies that charge subscriptions get some of that recurring revenue upfront and it’s a business model that I think we’ll see a lot more of around the world very soon.
LEVERIS: How is the second half of 2021 looking for you? Any big plans in the pipeline?
Marcel van Oost: I’m looking forward to attending physical events again. I’ll be sharing some exciting news after the summer, but I can’t tell you much more about that at this point. But stay tuned by following me on Linkedin and/or signing up for my newsletter to make sure you are the first to know!