最近几个月，几家金融科技公司相继获得许可证，可以作为银行从事经营活动——并最终成为银行。 金融科技公司的特点是规模小巧、创新性强且灵活性大。他们对传统的银行模式不仅仅是憎恶——他们甚至以瓦解这种模式为使命。 因此，这些公司选择和巨大笨重的银行同样的道路，并且真的获得许可证，似乎有违直觉。对于我们很多人来说，可能要费点脑筋，才能理解这一新的趋势。
获得银行牌照是成功商业模式的证明吗？ 这些公司是否需要获得信任？ 在金融科技公司的扩张大赛比赛中，这一举动是获得低成本资金来源的方式吗？ 或者，这是否仅仅是一个以防其他相关因素告急（声誉，财务等）的区别性因素？
我们曾经见证PayPal采取这条路线。 它于2007年5月申请并随后获得了卢森堡银行牌照，由此在金融监管委员会监督的银行指令指导下开始了运营。 然而，金融科技公司银行业务类应用的份额量清楚地表明，全新的趋势已经出现了。
获得银行牌照基本上意味着金融科技公司无需再依赖与现有银行的合作伙伴关系。 然而，选择与现有银行合作可能是更小的金融科技公司更容易做出的选择。 如上表所示，银行章程申请可能是一个漫长而繁琐的过程——Klarna花了20个月才获得许可！
银行牌照可以成为一系列全新的银行产品的开端，这些产品符合深受消费者喜爱的一站式格式数字化产品（即单一的综合数字银行应用程序）这一新兴趋势。 它也可能是营销或品牌感知方面的重大举措。 例如，金融科技公司可以发行品牌支付卡，通过这种方式允许基于互联网的公司进一步深入线下交易。
事实上，银行牌照可以被认为是金融科技终于获得更广泛的认可和合法性的证明。它将有助于消除金融科技面临的发展障碍和怀疑。 更重要的是，它在更广泛的金融环境中提升了金融科技公司的地位。数千家金融科技公司拥有不同的控制水平，一桩丑闻可能会对整个行业产生负面影响。 这在2016年的贷款俱乐部事件中显而易见。在这种情况下，银行牌照可能将成为一种区别因素。
银行牌照也意味着额外的义务，如（增加的）资本要求，成本，程序和存款保险计划。 在面临与传统金融公司相同程度的监管的情况下，金融科技公司能否保持业务模式和竞争优势？ 时间会说明一切。
这一商业模式将如何演变？ 金融科技公司能在保持其成本优势的同时，保持“酷、小而敏捷”的吸引力吗？ 他们会继续对现有银行的建立产生积极影响吗？ 银行1.0能否修复其在消费者心中的消极形象和声誉？ 银行1.0，银行 2.0和无银行执照的金融科技公司之间的差距是会扩大还是缩小？
The last few months saw several fintech companies obtaining licenses to operate as a bank and - ultimately - become a bank. Fintechs are characteristically small, innovative and agile. They not only detest the traditional banking model - their mission is to disrupt it. For these companies to go down the same road of huge, lumbering banks and actually get a license to become one seems counterintuitive. For many of us trying to understand this new trend, it can be a long head-scratching moment.
Is getting a banking license the confirmation of a successful business model? Is it required to gain trust? Is it a cheap source of funding in the race to scale up? Or, is it simply a differentiating factor in case others succumb to crisis (reputation, financial, etc.)?
Many thought leaders in the industry have been proclaiming that we no longer need traditional banking because fintech companies are able to provide the same services much more efficiently. Indeed, many fintechs have been trying to position themselves as worthy alternatives to the incumbent players.
On the other hand, many established banks have attempted to mimic the disruptive newcomers by acquiring fintech startups, partnering with them, or trying to develop their own digital offerings. Examples of these are Citi's investment in lending companies C2FO, BlueVine, FastPay as well as JP Morgan's investment in Prosper, LevelUp or Gopago.
Now, it seems like the fintechs are trying to be more like banks.
Despite the disdain towards the culture, cumbersome KYC procedures, etc., obtaining a banking license appears to be the trusted path for many cool fintech founders. From payments to marketplace lending, we observe all sorts of newcomers across many jurisdictions moving towards obtaining a bank charter.
We witnessed PayPal take this route in the past. It applied for, and subsequently gained, a Luxembourg banking license in May 2007, thus operating under the Banking Directive with CSSF oversight. Still, the share volume of fintechs' banking application clearly points to an emergence of a whole new trend.
Being granted a banking license essentially means that fintech companies no longer need to rely on partnerships with incumbent banks. However, choosing to partner with established banks may be an easier alternative for smaller fintech players. As the above table indicates, a bank charter application can be a lengthy and tedious process - it took 20 months for Klarna to obtain a license!
So, what could be the reasons for taking the licensed road?
Despite all the woes and hassles, a banking license can offer several advantages for fintechs:
- broader scale and a larger customer base, especially in retail (deposits!);
- gain retail depositors trust via deposit guarantee schemes;
- long-term efficient capital base;
- competitive advantage in the increasingly more crowded fintech startup space;
- validation of their business model to the entire ecosystem;
- passporting benefits in the EU's single market;
- preparation for new opportunities and a level playing field for PSD2.
A banking license can open up a whole new range of banking products, which fits into the emerging trend of customers favouring digital offering in a one-stop-shop format (i.e., a single comprehensive digital banking application). It can also be a significant move in terms of marketing or brand perception. For example, there is the possibility of issuing branded payment cards and therefore, allowing online-based companies to venture deeper into the "offline".
Indeed, a banking license can be perceived as the fintechs finally receiving broader acknowledgement and legitimacy. This will help overcome barriers and suspicions. More importantly, it elevates their standing in the wider financial landscape. With thousands of fintech companies having different control levels, one scandal can negatively impact the entire sector. This was evident in the Lending Club incident in 2016. Having a banking license can be a differentiating factor in these circumstances.
The Art of Possibilities comes with a cost
Due to much lighter (or lack of) regulation, fintechs have long been criticised for not being on the same level playing field as traditional banks. This will change as more and more start applying for a banking license and become subject to the regulations. It can be signal a fundamental shift in the landscape. Incumbent players will no longer be able to claim that fintechs enjoy a relative regulatory advantage. This will undoubtedly put pressure on them to step up the game regarding efficiency, costs, consumer-orientation and flexibility, particularly towards the so-called millennials.
A banking license also implies additional obligations, such as (increased) capital requirements, costs, procedures and a deposit insurance scheme. Will fintech companies be able to sustain their business model and competitive advantage when faced with the same level of regulation as incumbent players? Time will tell.
Key questions remain...
How will the business models evolve? Will fintechs keep their cost advantages and maintain their "cool, small and agile" appeal? Will they continue their positive impact on the setup of existing banks? Will Banks 1.0 be able to repair their negative image and reputation among consumers? Will the gap between Banks 1.0, Banks 2.0 and Fintechs Without License widen or tighten?
Looking at it from a broader view, this banking license trend may contribute to creating a more robust and safer fintech ecosystem.
Who would have thought 10 years ago that in 2017, the market cap of PayPal will be 2 times that of Deutsche Bank? One thing is sure: in 10 years time, the banking landscape will look very, very, very… different.