Non-Obvious Observations About the Future of Fintech With Plaid COO Eric Sager (Podcast #480 and Video)

Fintech entered the SaaS landscape with startling speed, and it’s continued to pervade every piece of our lives. But what does the future hold for this exciting new space? CNBC Technology Reporter Kate Rooney interviews Eric Sager, the COO at Plaid, asking for his take on the state of fintech today and tomorrow.

 

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Digital Finance Today

Fintech has evolved in stages. Sager lays out his observations on fintech’s history and describes the three main stages of development over the years:

  1. Stage One: Original fintech circled closely around some of the storied industry players like Square and Robinhood. In this era, entrepreneurs were exploring the merging of financial services with technology. 
  2. Stage Two: More companies –– primarily financial institutions –– decided to build digital tools themselves. The technology and capability began to spread, evolve and improve.  
  3. Stage Three: Today, non-financial organizations are looking at ways to embed financial tech solutions within their operations and integrate those tools into the consumer experience.

 

When Rooney asked Sager about the state of fintech, Sager immediately emphasized its staying power: “Fintech is here to stay. It’s now embedded in how consumers think about financial services and how they want to consume them, and that trend will only continue.” 

Expounding on this point, Sager mentioned the proliferation of choices that consumers have when it comes to financial services and fintech. Financial companies know that they must offer a supreme customer experience to keep their business alive, and fintech plays a prominent role in that arena. Digital financial tools enhance the customer experience and ultimately make businesses more money. Sager says, “It’s increasingly becoming a strategic imperative I think, even for non-financial companies, to start thinking about their embedded financial strategy and the types of solutions they want to bring to the market because if they don’t, their competitors will get an edge.” Financial tools bring several benefits to businesses, including:

  • Improved customer experience. 
  • Potential to increase revenue from customers.
  • Reduced business costs. 

 

Observations and Predictions About Fintech

Sager shares some of his thoughts on where the industry is headed based on subtle seeds being planted today.

Fintech Consumer Benefits are Extremely Widespread. While it’s apparent that fintech has benefits, it’s less evident in how large of an impact it has, even on customers who don’t directly interact with digital financial tools. For example, since companies can save money by using fintech to streamline specific processes, they can lower prices, and so the customer saves on costs too.

The Innovations are Just Getting Started. No one can quite predict how fintech will evolve, but Sager suggests new innovations will be huge based on the variety of industries getting involved with fintech. “The mix of innovators includes fintech, it includes banks, and it includes a lot of tech companies. So it is a very diverse set of players…many of them partnering with Plaid…who are able to innovate in this way.”

Automation is Coming. While some automation exists already, Sager predicts that hundreds of day-to-day financial decisions will be automated. “I think there is a world, where if the infrastructure is good enough, and you have trust in the institution that you’re working with…you can start to automate [personal financial decisions].” Less friction and optimal outcomes will be the goal.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fintech benefits both businesses and consumers through improved experiences and reduced costs.
  • More diverse industries are beginning to develop their own digital finance tools, which will pave the way for significant innovations in the near future.
  • Automation will rapidly grow in the fintech space to help consumers make personal finance decisions.
Published on September 21, 2021

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