Financial technology, also known as FinTech, is an economic industry composed of companies that use technology to make financial services more efficient. Financial technology companies are generally startups trying to disintermediate incumbent financial systems and challenge traditional corporations that are less reliant on software.

The National Digital Research Centre in Dublin, Ireland, defines financial technology as “innovation in financial services”, adding that “the term has started to be used for broader applications of technology in the space – to front-end consumer products, to new entrants competing with existing players, and even to new paradigms such as Bitcoin”.

FinTech refers to new solutions which demonstrate an incremental or radical / disruptive innovation development of applications, processes, products or business models in the financial services industry. These solutions can be differentiated in at least five areas.

  1. First, the banking or insurance sector are distinguished as potential business sectors. Solutions for the insurance industry are often more specifically named “InsurTech”.
  2. Second, the solutions differ with regard to their supported business processes such as financial information, payments, investments, financing, advisory and cross-process support. An example is mobile payment solutions.
  3. Third, the targeted customer segment distinguishes between retail, private and corporate banking as well as life and non-life insurance. An example is telematics-based insurance that calculates the fees based on customer behavior in the area of non-life insurance.
  4. Fourth, the interaction form can either be business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) or consumer-to-consumer (C2C). An example is a social trading solutions for C2C.
  5. Fifth, the solutions vary with regard to their market position. Some, for example, provide complementary services such as personal finance management systems, others focus on competitive solutions such as e.g. peer-to-peer lending.

Global investment in financial technology increased more than twelvefold from $930 million in 2008 to more than $12 billion in 2014. The nascent financial technology industry has seen rapid growth over the last few years, according to the office of the Mayor of London. Forty percent of the City of London’s workforce is employed in financial and technology services. Some of the better-known FinTech companies in London include Funding Circle, Nutmeg and TransferWise.

In the United States, there are numerous FinTech startups, including Affirm, Betterment, Behalf, Fundera, IEX, Lending Club, Money.net, Plaid, Prosper, Robinhood, SoFi, Square, Stripe, and Wealthfront.

In Europe, $1.5 billion was invested in financial technology companies in 2014, with London-based companies receiving $539 million, Amsterdam-based companies $306 million, and Stockholm-based companies receiving $266 million in investment. After London, Stockholm is the second highest funded city in the EU in the past 10 years.

In the Asia Pacific region, the growth will see a new financial technology hub to be opened in Sydney, Australia, in April 2015. There is already a number of strong financial technology players like Tyro Payments, Nimble, Stockspot, Pocketbook and SocietyOne in the market and the new hub will help further accelerate the growth of the sector. A financial technology innovation lab is also being launched in Hong Kong to help foster innovation in financial services using technology.

Within the academic community, on the technology side the Financial Data Science Association (FDSA) was founded with its first event organized by members from the artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing domain. The FDSA aims to build a research community around computer science and investment statistics. On the business side,Wharton FinTech was founded at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in October 2014 with the objective of connecting academics, innovators, investors, and other thought leaders within the FinTech industry to each other and to the ideas that are reinventing global financial services. The University of Hong Kong Law School in conjunction with the University of New South Wales have published a research paper tracing back the evolution of FinTech and its regulation.