May 4, 2021
Photo: Jerod Harris/WireImage/Getty Images
Hello and welcome to Protocol | Fintech! This Tuesday: how Wealthsimple's move into DIY trading paid off, the OCC gets a new head and fintech APIs pose new risks.
(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get it in your inbox every week.)
Wealthsimple became one of Canada's most valuable financial startups this week, raising the equivalent of $609 million for a valuation north of $4 billion, triple its last round just seven months ago.
It soared to that height by figuring out the answer to a crucial question: Do retail investors want to trade stocks on their own to capitalize on a bull market, or leave it to a roboadvisor to mitigate risk?
For Wealthsimple, the answer was yes.
The startup's big leap in value is a dilemma for other roboadvisors. Will they also have to reconsider their model?
But stock trading is just one part of Wealthsimple's goal to be a one-stop shop for financial services. It also offers peer-to-peer payments, tax filing and crypto trading. It intends to roll out other products such as mortgages or insurance as well. "We want to be the primary financial relationship across someone's entire financial product suite," Katchen said.
Other companies want to be the financial superapp for their customers: Look at expansionary moves by PayPal, Square, Chime and Current for examples. The challenge will be to do those new things as well if not better than specialist rivals.
— Tomio Geron
Financial fraud isn't waning, and as it increases, security tools designed to protect the data in use need to get stronger to combat more complex fraud. Confidential computing is going to play a big role in the future of financial services.
Crypto peacemaker: Marqeta's Salman Syed thinks digital and fiat currencies can coexist.
What are you most excited about in fintech?
The tremendous breadth and rapid pace of the industry. The global pandemic has served as an inflection point for innovation across many industries. Particularly in fintech, there's been high visibility into how to solve financial problems for both consumers and businesses, especially small and midsize businesses, now more than ever. Additionally, there's a flurry of activity around new infrastructure being built to help bridge this digital divide between those who use digital tools and those who don't. With UX and data now connected to the foundation that powers our financial systems and processes, there's a lot of opportunity ahead.
What fintech trend is worrying for you?
The strength is also the weakness. In the race to APIs, there is a risk to the security of customer data. Obviously we do a bunch on APIs. But startups don't have the resources that large companies have. We're audited by 50 states. This area is one for all of us in fintech to pay attention to.
What was your biggest blunder and what did you learn from it?
Over the last 22 years of running several companies, there have been plenty. Many of them have been around delaying the inevitable, whether that be changing focus from a partnership or customer acquisition program or a necessary organizational change. Waiting for the "right time" is the blunder itself, as there never is a right time to make an executive decision. On top of that, delaying action on a challenge makes the eventual outcome much harder. While learning to do the homework is important, my key takeaway has been to lean into gut decisions, especially the tough ones.
Stock holdings of U.S. households as a percentage of total financial assets in April, which is a record going back to 1952.
Thanks for reading — see you Friday.