Even if you’re not an active investor or Web3 enthusiast, there’s still a good chance that you’re already using fintech tools.
What’s fintech? In plain English, fintech is financial technology with both business-facing and consumer-facing products.
Online banking is fintech, and so are retail investment apps, digital lending services, crypto, and digital wealth management.
There are numerous misconceptions about the nature and purpose of fintech, several of which we’ll be getting to later on, but one of the most pernicious misconceptions is that fintech is exclusively for businesses and the rich.
That’s just not true. Sure, wealthy individuals and longtime investors can indeed benefit from fintech tools and services, but so can just about everyone else.
In fact, we would argue that the current landscape of fintech services actually offers a gateway to financial management and growth for any folks out there who haven’t already taken the dive.
“Fintech has the potential to create a significant positive social impact by providing greater access to financial services, improving financial literacy and education, and promoting financial inclusion.”
That’s Alison Stapleton, a successful financial executive with plenty of experience in both traditional finance and fintech. Stapleton is a founding member of Salt Labs, Inc., where she’s currently the Head of Corporate Development. She also oversaw the startup’s pre-seed financing, which brought in more than $10 million.
When we heard about Salt Lab’s goal of enabling hourly workers to own the value they create from their work, we knew that she was the expert we were looking for to join us in a discussion of what’s happening in fintech right now and clear up some of those common misconceptions.
To understand the current potential for disruption within fintech, we have to rewind a bit and consider Stapleton’s past roles in both fintech and traditional finance.
Stapleton’s first major role in fintech was with DailyPay, “a hypergrowth financial technology company that works with enterprises and Fortune 500 companies in almost every industry, disrupting the payroll industry by reimagining the way money moves between employer and employee.”
As part of the executive office, Stapleton had oversight of the company’s massive growth in the neighborhood of 10x headcount and revenue growth.
So why is that important to the discussion? Because this role gave Stapleton an in-depth, firsthand look at fintech in action and how these companies maneuver in order to support further growth and of course the clients and customers as well.
“The experience at DailyPay equipped me with deep insights into how fintech companies operate and how to build unique strategic infrastructure and operational strategies. It also taught me valuable lessons about how to build successful and sustainable businesses that prioritize developing disruptive, innovative solutions to close the gaps in the payments technology space.”
And on top of this fintech experience, the first of many, Stapleton also worked within traditional finance companies and organizations, including the international audit firm PwC and one of Ireland’s top banks, Bank of Ireland.
With such a wide range of work experience in finance, Stapleton was uniquely primed to disrupt finance with her team at Salt Labs, and the company’s priorities are a reflection of the lessons and insights Stapleton has carried with her throughout her career.
“As I transitioned into the fintech industry, my priorities shifted towards developing new and innovative financial solutions that address the needs of underserved communities. My team and I are committed to developing fintech solutions that empower everyday workers who are often overlooked by traditional financial services.”
Stapleton feels that fintech is uniquely situated to address specific challenges that traditional finance simply hasn’t been able to solve, and as she mentioned above, there are definitely communities that have been largely overlooked.
“My focus on developing fintech solutions for underserved communities has allowed me to contribute to the development of financial infrastructure that is more inclusive and accessible for everyone. It has also highlighted the need for a more ethical and socially responsible approach to financial decision-making, which is something that I prioritize in my work today.”
So while we can’t say that these communities currently have an equal level of access to vital financial tools, Stapleton and her work with Salt Labs provide clear evidence that this is changing, and that change also represents opportunity.
“At Salt Labs, our goal is to bring asset ownership to the labor economy by leveraging the intersection of technology and capital markets. Our mission is to enable hourly workers to own the long-term value of their work. We envision a future where workers are able to capture the value of their work beyond their hourly wage, leading to greater financial freedom and long-term wealth creation.”
These underserved communities are essentially an untapped customer base, but there are lots of other opportunities for disruption in fintech, and we asked Stapleton to outline a few of those opportunities.
“One area where I see a significant opportunity for disruption is in the way that financial services are delivered to consumers and businesses. Fintech can also help to tighten the employee and employer value chain, which is something I witnessed firsthand at DailyPay. By offering financial technology solutions that solve real problems faced by employers and their employees, we were able to make a meaningful change to employees’ financial lives and improve employers’ bottom lines.”
These disruptions all orbit around the concepts of convenience, affordability, and accessibility. In other words, there’s potential that can be unlocked by putting the power of fintech in more people’s hands and making it easier to access and utilize that power.
Before bringing the article to a close, we need to address those misconceptions we mentioned earlier on.
Specifically, Stapleton described three different misconceptions she’s noticed to be prevalent and offered her own rebuttals to each. Let’s see what she had to say.
The same, but digital
First up, Stapleton mentioned that certain incumbents of the traditional finance industry seem to think that many fintech offerings are simply digital versions of the traditional offerings. But Stapleton says that shows an unbalanced focus on delivery.
“Some people believe that fintech is solely focused on disrupting traditional financial institutions and replacing them with digital solutions. While fintech has certainly introduced new ways of delivering financial services, it has also brought innovation and efficiency to existing financial institutions. In fact, many traditional financial institutions are partnering with fintech companies to enhance their products and services.”
So rather than simply offering digital avenues for accessing financial tools, the tools themselves and how they can be used have changed significantly thanks to major fintech players.
Yes, digital delivery is common to many fintech products, but it doesn’t define the industry as a whole.
Only for the techies
Next up is the misconception that fintech is only meant for specific communities and age groups.
Even if that might have been true, or nearly true, in the distant past, it’s definitely not applicable to fintech today.
“Some people believe that fintech is only for millennials or tech-savvy individuals. However, fintech solutions can benefit people of all ages and backgrounds by providing greater access to financial services and improving financial literacy.”
Fintech is no longer a niche service. More people than ever before are aware of fintech products and services, and strides in UX have made it easier for users to make use of all that technology. In fact, fintech products are likely easier to navigate than many traditional financial services.
Not for business
Last but not least is the idea that fintech is really just for consumers, and not so much for businesses, organizations, etc.
Once again, that’s just not the case.
“There is a misconception that fintech is primarily focused on consumer-facing applications. While consumer-facing applications like mobile banking and investing apps have received a lot of attention, fintech is also making significant strides in areas such as enterprise financial management, insurance, and regulatory technology.”
These areas of fintech will continue to develop and evolve, expanding the industry even further beyond banking and retail investment apps.
So to sum up, fintech is much more than its public image, and its potential for positive impact goes far beyond convenience.
“By providing consumers with the tools and resources they need to better understand their finances, fintech companies can help individuals make more informed financial decisions, improve their credit scores, and avoid debt. This can have a cascading effect on the economy and improve financial wellness at all levels of society.”
We’ve really enjoyed exploring contemporary fintech with Ms. Stapleton, and we hope you have, too. If you’re looking to learn more about Stapleton’s startup, Salt Labs, you can take a look at the official website.