The Pandemic Plutocrats : How Covid is creating new fintech billionaires

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In 2015, Nick Molnar was living with his parents in Sydney, Australia, and selling jewelry from a desktop computer in his childhood bedroom. Hocking everything from $250 Seiko watches to $10,000 engagement rings, the 25-year-old had gotten so good at online marketing that he had become Australia’s top seller of jewelry on eBay, shipping thousands of packages a day.

That same year, he teamed up with Anthony Eisen, a former investment banker who was 19 years his senior and lived across the street. They cofounded Afterpay, an online service that allows shoppers from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada to pay for small-ticket items like shoes and shirts in four interest-free payments over six weeks. “I was a Millennial who grew up in the 2008 crisis, and I saw this big shift away from credit to debit,” the now 30-year-old Molnar says today. Either lacking credit cards or fearful of racking up high-interest-rate debt on their credit cards, Molnar’s generation was quick to embrace this new way to buy and get merchandise now, while paying a little later.

Five years later, Molnar and Eisen, who each own roughly 7% of the company, have become billionaires—during a pandemic. After initially tanking at the start of lockdowns, shares of Afterpay—which went public in 2016—are up nearly tenfold, thanks to a surge in business tied to e-commerce sales. In the second quarter, it handled $3.8 billion of transactions, an increase of 127% versus the same period a year earlier.

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The invisible company powers almost the entire finance industry

 

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The days of going to a bank are coming to an end.

In the past 10 years, 15,000 bank branches have shut their doors for good. And foot traffic to banks has fallen by 50%. Bank branches are shutting down left and right for a simple reason… They’re useless!

These days, you can deposit a check by taking a photo with your phone. You can open a bank account or order a new credit card in five minutes over the internet. You can even take out a mortgage without ever seeing a human banker, thanks to disruptive services like Quicken Loans.

And it’s not just banks. Digital disruption is eating away at every “old” business model in finance. Everyone from stockbrokers to financial planners is under assault.

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Bunq launches travel card to make foreign exchange fees disappear

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Fintech startup Bunq provides full-fledged bank accounts. But if you’re happy with your existing bank, the company is launching a new free tier so that you can cut down on banking fees.

The Bunq Travel Card is a Mastercard without any foreign exchange fee. The company uses the standard Mastercard exchange rate but doesn’t add any markup fee — N26 also uses Mastercard’s exchange rate. Most traditional banks charge you 2 or 3 percent for foreign transactions.

When you get a card, you can then top up your account in the Bunq app. You can also send and request money with other Bunq users. But it isn’t a full bank account.

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The next FinTech: Global “Open Finance” Infrastructure

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“Open Finance “ — open-source financial services infrastructure built on public blockchains — may be the next major digitization narrative after Fintech. Driven by the transformation of analog liquidity (deposits in a bank account) to digital liquidity (tokens in digital wallets), the playing field can be leveled for offering financial services. As a result, new profit motives are introduced encouraging innovations not previously feasible.

Technology disrupting finance is a narrative that’s existed for a long time. The dream has always been for tech to digitize financial services, increase competition/access, reduce concentration risks, and improve customer experience. Many sales-pitches have tried to achieve this: from FinTechs, TechFins, API / Open Banking, to Permissioned Blockchains.

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4 technology trends that will transform our world in 2018

Predicting the future requires hubris, and it should therefore be met with more than a terabyte of skepticism. In past years, I’ve made some calls that have proved prescient like predicting way back in 2011 that social media would determine the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, some took decades longer than I had foreseen such as my 1992 prediction that this new thing called the Internet would lead Hollywood studios to merge with telecommunications companies.

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