Originally written by Kir Yakunin in 2020 when STFN was acting as an agency

Everybody is here for a reason. We’re are not an exception.

There are many things that could fascinate me, like mobile gaming, IoT, digital entertainment. But somehow I’m in fintech, and something drives my interest for a while now. Here I answered the question “Why fintech?” for STFN and hope to provoke the same questions about your business and industry.

3 billion people in need of money

I won’t speak about the GREATER GOOD or the world’s healthcare, economics, infrastructure. Let’s talk about, what would you do if you had to start a credit history anew? Think about it. If you need a credit, where do you get it?

Many people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America feel the same. These regions are particularly responsible for three billion people with limited access to cashless economics and financial tools. According to the World Bank, in Africa 1.5 million people are involved in some small businesses that can’t enter a global economy, formally.

An informal business in Africa. Hardly has a credit history…

As a design partner, I particularly focus on empathy when meeting clients. But it may be that empathy made our way to fintech to help to make simple things available to people like me. There are some fintech brands that we regret to come across far too late to contribute.

TALA, for instance, provides access to loans for underserved citizens of Kenya, the Philippines, Tanzania, and Mexico. Instead of traditional credit history, people only need a smartphone to get money. And it’s not about buying a new sofa, it’s about life and education. Data science, mobile money, all-new credit infrastructure – that could be an ambitious project for STFN.

TALA on an Android smartphone

Indian fintech entrepreneurs created the platform alike for their countrymen. Northern Arc Capital is designed for under-banked citizens of India. The service has already helped millions of needful borrowers. Although looking great, wish they would let us know about redesign intents ;).

Africa is “Empowering the unbanked” with Humaniq financial services platform. I like the developers employing latest blockchain and biometric identification technologies for charity and fundraising. In their aim of financial inclusion of 2 billion people living in poverty, it seems their efforts go beyond Africa. So look forward to meeting them globally.

BanQu also tackles poverty with blockchain. Their platform allows the unbanked to create a personal financial history by making transactions through the service and considering financial interactions with family, mates, businesses, and NGO. The resulting economic identity is the only way for the poor to participate in the global economy.

BanQu addressing their audience

The fintech pioneers in the developed countries also draw attention to smaller businesses. OnDeck and Forward financing from the USA make funding simple for small businesses. Thanks to fintech, money start working within a day.

When analyzing the market, I came across Opploans that simplifies personal loans, which interested me in particular, as it was the only type of loans I’ve ever received. But a bit later, I ran into Lending Club bringing personal loans and investments into peer-to-peer level. As a design partner humanizing technology, I like it when fintech makes money relations as human as possible.

Last but not least, education. I’ve heard of loans for college being repaid for dozens of years after graduation. I wonder if Commonbond can change the situation with their simple loans for undergraduate and graduate students. But what’s more important, the efforts Commonbond makes to repay education for children in developing countries.

Although the trend of fintech penetration is positive, there’s still a gap in its implementations between developing and developed regions. But if our designs help to attract money for the projects described above and alike, we feel to be on the right track.

People, governments, and corporations make fintech happen

Social purposes drive STFN. But to be able to grow and become the best in the area, we need to be sure that the industry will be growing. And it will.

As told in the beginning, Asia, Africa and LATAM are the regions with the lowest financial inclusion globally. At the same time, those are the biggest opportunities for fintech companies. And I’m talking about 2.5 billion people opportunity, and sure enough it will happen!

Global financial inclusion is one of the goals for sustainable development supported by global fintech companies. UFA claims Equity Bank, Master Card, Telenor, Visa bring their efforts to the universal financial access goals bringing new access points, payment accounts and promote cashless transactions in 25 developing countries. In recent years, IFC has invested more than $25 billion in Africa businesses and financial institutions.

Let’s also recall some key points The World Bank focuses on in developing countries:

  • E-payments promotion
  • National financial education strategies development
  • Retail payment gateways modernization
  • Supporting legal, regulatory, and policy reforms
  • Adjusting governmental financial systems to new technologies

While the infrastructure is up-and running with 95% of the global population live in areas with mobile network coverage clearing the way to fintech.

Covering rural Papua New Guinea with a mobile network.

The emergence of fintech is not only driven by global players, but the market also grows bottom-up. For years, 2.5 billion people are moving around obstacles created by the formal banking industry – payslips and statements, long approval periods and endless document flows. The only difference is that now they have proper tools to do this.

What else makes think the industry is on the rise? The World Bank’s initiatives targeted on governments who should create an “environment to take advantage of fintech opportunities and new technology.” Plus, they forecast that, “most cashless finance will come from the private sector.”

Seams to be the time of opportunity for our clients. I mean, in STFN, we partner with fintech pioneers rather than global and national financial organizations. These companies provide data-driven, UX-focused, and affordable solutions, thus boosting both fintech industry and the growth of national markets. Sometimes we even see public-private dialogue starting with an opportune fintech solution.

"Digital financial solutions could play a significant part in closing gaps in financial inclusion. They could address about 40% of the volume of unmet demand for payments services and 20% of the unmet credit needs in the BoP and MSME segments."

To achieve this, STFN and its partners keep to one thing they have in common – less standards and more freedom for UX/UI experiments.

Striving for security and fraud prevention

Personally, I rarely have cash in my pocket. But I have a number of credit cards physically and bound to Samsung pay, internet banking, taxi, and entertainment services. I have things in life to worry about, so I don’t bother with payment security and leave it to fintech solution providers. Luckily, it’s one of their greatest concerns.

The World Bank’s experts say that among political instability, unskilled labour, corruption, and absence of intellectual property rights there is one factor that scares people most and prevents their inclusion to fintech – ATM and cashless payment frauds. Especially in South Africa suffering from the abundance of cybercrime.

ATMs in South Africa. Queues? Never heard of them

I’m sure that with the rise of fintech will eliminate most of their fears.

Yes, I’ve read Immuni. Web blog claiming that about 98 from 100 fintech startups (also reviewed by CB Insights) are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. But here are some examples of how modern security technologies work in fintech.

The above mentioned BanQu promotes the proactive standard setting. They not only built their platform on blockchain but also implement anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) practices for cost-effective reporting on suspicious activity.

Humaniq that we know also built their service on blockchain and put forward their Etherium-based protocol as an unhackable and totally secured from all types of corruption and information loss.

Fintech startups like Combine showing all your transactions in one place already feature bank-level security and encryption for their infrastructure.

Brex Inc. and N26 GmbH even passed the test in SSL encryption and website security by ImmuniWeb, so fintech startups at least have someone to learn from. By the way ImmuniWeb also praises HTTPS SSL/TLS encryption of all the 100 top fintech startups globally, as well as Web Application Firewall implementation. (By the way, thumbs up for brex.com design. Don’t want to change a thing)

In STFN, we like to work with startups being more flexible to instantly meet consumer and security demands. That’s how I see our contribution.

1. We set new standards in design

2. The product sets new standards in the industry

3. New standards set new challenges, including those over security

4. The emerging challenges are met with more advanced technologies, including those promoting security

And finally, as a relatively new industry, fintech can still surprise people. That’s the same as we do. Our goal is to merge design aesthetics and business. With every design we act proactively to set new standards for fintech brands.