FinTech Female Fridays: Lindsay Davis, Senior Intelligence Analyst, CB Insights
How were you able to pivot your career from DTCC to CB Insights?
My career started off like most, trying to unwind a “fat finger” trading error that resulted in a $460 million loss that nearly bankrupted Knight Capital, a major market maker in financial services.
As a newly minted internal auditor, my role was to unpack why incidents happened, develop frameworks to assess risk exposures and battle test controls, and make recommendations on how to prevent any from happening again. I did not realize it at the time, but that has a lot of overlap with my role as a Senior Intelligence analyst today where I build, test, and refine a thesis and surface trends in the financial services and FinTech ecosystems.
The pivot between being an internal audit at DTCC, to a FinTech intelligence analyst at a fast-growing startup like CB Insights, was as smooth as it sounds. The scar-free version is that it took patience and persistence.
At DTCC, I learned how the capital markets operate, which was still largely manual and built on technology coded in COBOL (the Latin equivalent for coding). My last 2-years at DTCC were spent building what Eric Reiss calls “internal startups.” I moved from Tampa to New York and formed a new team to help advise and project manage these new businesses. The first was focused on building a digital repository for AML/KYC documents. The second was focused on cyber security and building a threat sharing community among banks. I recognized these businesses were failing, (and applying what I’ve learned from being at a startup), it’s because we could not get our minimum viable product (MVP) off the ground and didn’t have product market fit. Unironically we’ve spotlighted at CB Insights these are some of the top reason’s startups fail.
I decided I was ready to leave due to the realization I wasn’t learning, and I loved rolling up my sleeves and getting through the challenges of launching new businesses. To me, that meant going to work at a startup, but breaking into the startup space was like mission impossible. A creature of habit, I built a simple framework to keep me focused on getting into a startup 1) am I passionate about the mission, 2) is this an entrepreneurial place, 3) is this the right role. I built a jobs dashboard to track all the companies I applied to, ways I’d pitched why being an auditor was like being in “X department” (sales, operations, etc.) since audit/compliance are not the first hires a typical startup makes, and my progress in the pipeline.
I found CB Insights while I was trying to source companies in New York and found their market map of fintech. After exhausting the list, I got down to the last logo, CB Insights’, and had an epiphany that they were a startup in New York. When I found the intelligence unit (FKA tech industry analyst) role at CB Insights, I knew it fit my framework and more.
It took 100 cold emails, 50 rejections, and a handful of finals rounds to get to the offer that mattered at CB Insights.
In the Q2 2019 Global FinTech Report published, you highlighted that Latin America Fintech funding surpassed both China and India and deals surpassed China, both a first in Latin America (LATAM). Why this is happening?
LATAM and India’s FinTech ecosystems are thriving because the market opportunities to fix financial pain points for consumers are massive.
From an impact perspective, there are 1.7 billion unbanked people according to the last World Bank, and the largest concentration of those people are in developing markets that lack banking infrastructure.
Additionally, we’ve reached an inflection point in the cost of mobile phones and access to the internet in emerging markets, which are vital to increasing the availability and delivery of financial services. These macro-economic factors have given these regions the ability to leapfrog the physical branch-based banking model and go from cash to digital platforms.
In LATAM, the market pull for challenger banks has been acute because there are approximately 100 million unbanked consumers. Challenger banks have been one of the largest cohorts for customers and funding for FinTech in LATAM.
In India, there are over 1.33 billion people, on track to surpass China’s 1.38 billion by 2024. This makes the scale of the financial services opportunities exponentially larger, for either startups or tech players like Amazon, to solve. What we’ve seen in FinTech are deals shifting away from online comparison tools and point-of-sale to mobile payments, digital wallets, credit, insurance, lending, and investing.
While the FinTech space in India has seen funding accelerate, China’s has decelerated in 2019, due in part to the tighter regulatory oversight in China. Fraud has been prevalent in China’s online lending sector, and the government has been actively cracking down on bad actors and issuing guidance for top tier lenders.
China also has entrenched technology “super apps” with Ant Financials’ Alipay, which has 900 million users, and Tencent’s WeChat, which has 1.3 billion users. These super apps and tighter regulatory controls make it harder for earlier-stage startups to break into mature spaces like payments and helps explain some of the funding pull-back in China. However, I’m still optimistic about Asia broadly and have been watching for emerging opportunities in Southeast Asia and continued growth in India.
Where do you see the newest trend in Q4 of 2019/ upcoming trends in Q1 of 2020 within the Fintech space?
LATAM is a market where we continue to see a lot of opportunities. Just considering the region’s large unbanked population was last estimated by the world bank to be 100 million, and that the biggest startup by accounts (NuBank) only captures ~15% of that gap, there’s a lot of room for more innovation.
In Brazil, NuBank was one of the earliest challenger banks to tap into the unbanked problem. NuBank has had viral growth to date, opening more than 15 million accounts across its credit card and the NuCanta checking account. It was also the first FinTech unicorn based in LATAM, with a current valuation of $10B.
Challenger banks have been cropping up across LATAM and picking up funding. In Argentina we saw Uala quickly take-off and cross 1 million customers earlier this year. In Mexico, there are a handful of upstarts including Klar, Albo, and Cuinca.
One of our 2019 trends to watch was that non-traditional players would enter financial services because digital wallets are complimentary for business with a large addressable market and a high frequency of transactions. We’ve been seeing early signs of this trend taking shape in the micro-mobility, on-demand, and food delivery spaces. In LATAM this includes players like Grow, Rappi, and now Uber, and I’m watching for these and others to deepen their foothold in financial services and in South East Asia there’s Grab and Go-Jek.
Do you see a certain sector within the FinTech space that is in need of disruption and change? If so, where do you predict that may be?
Wealth management is going through a historic transition period that in the long-term, will have the most positive impact on consumers globally.
In the US, in the span of 2 weeks, 6 major brokerages slashed trade commissions to $0.
Robinhood has built its mobile-first trading on the belief that free trading should be accessible to all and are using new business models to bring first-time investors into the market. In 5 years, the company has amassed 6 million customers -- surpassing 35-year incumbents like E*Trade. However, it wasn’t until mid-October they were finally ready to compete on fees, in part because more disruption is coming from players like Sofi and Square.
To me, it's a recognition that the old way of doing business, is not going to cut it if the large brokerages want to remain relevant with the next-generation of customers.
Outside developed markets, I see wealth tech spreading in markets where mobile and internet are creating jobs and an emerging middle class. Markets I am following include India, among others, which are attracting newly richer consumers with similar low-cost investing and trading apps in order to grow distribution and a belief they can monetize their base of customers in other ways.
Globally, wealth tech startups have raised over $1.1 billion so far this year, but only ~10% of wealth tech deals in the past 5 years have gone to startups based in India.
A positive signal that India’s wealth tech market is growing is that in Q3’19, Bangalore-based Groww raised a $21 million Series B and Mumbai-based Upstox raised a $25 million Series B.
These and other startups are disrupting the traditional wealth management model, and I’m excited to see them bring more investors into the market at a quicker pace.
This year there has been an explosion of IPOs (SNAP, UBER, LYFT) compared to past years of acquisitions; how do you think that this is changing the startup and Fintech ecosystem?
FinTech companies have been slower to go public, and at the beginning of this year, we predicted that this slow path to IPO would continue. One reason is that many of the IPO contenders have recently raised multiple mega-rounds ($100 million+) and have the funding needed to fuel growth without having to go public.
FinTech companies, specifically alternative lenders, have struggled in the public markets. Seeing the stock price volatility in the public markets may also be detouring IPOs, in addition to the ease of raising in the privates.
A broader trend I’ve been digging into and one I continue to see positive developments in, are technology companies “unbundling the IPO.” One of the reasons is because the process of going public has not evolved and there is a hunger from all parties involved to realign incentives for companies to go public, for VCs to get liquidity, and retail investors to get-in on the upside of tech companies.
In the past few months there has been several severe dips in the market; how do you think this is affecting the Fintech space?
Volatility and market cycles are unpredictable. FinTech however, is not cyclical, but it’s secular. Innovation has remained constant, creating more investable opportunities. This is a part of the reason why investing has remained strong in terms of funding and geographic distribution.
For fintech, the swings have actually helped lead to spikes in account openings and engagement with investors that want to put more money into the markets to get in on the dips. Personally, I used my birthday money to double down on my tech portfolio on Christmas Eve --likely my closest Warren Buffet moment!
Uncorrelated but related, Coinbase grew from 20 million to 30 million accounts through the crypto, which is a positive sign investors are still eager to experiment in the markets.
The bigger concern is if there is a correction that investors will pull out to stop a loss. However, recent examples and assets under management suggest investors have stayed the course. By getting into the market earlier and staying invested for the long-term will have compounding effects that we will start to unfold positively over the course of the next few decades.
Reach out to Lindsay on LinkedIn.