In 2022, the fintech world took a beating, with some of the world’s most richly valued companies seeing their valuations slashed. But innovation is still happening — with a vengeance.
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CNBC and independent research firm Statista are working together to identify the world’s top fintech companies, to be named in a published CNBC report in August.
The research will identify fintechs disrupting the giants of finance with services that are faster, cheaper and more accessible — from established firms in payments and digital banking, to rising stars in emerging fields like cryptocurrency.
In 2022, the fintech world took a beating. Some of the world’s most richly valued companies saw their valuations slashed as investors reexamined the sector against a backdrop of climbing interest rates, higher living costs, and the prospect of stricter regulation.
But innovation is still happening — with a vengeance. The rising cost of living has opened opportunities for firms to develop tools that can help people navigate economic uncertainty — whether through better budgeting and financial planning, or education on how to manage money.
That has made the need for a transparent overview of the top fintech companies more important than ever.
As part of the research, we are inviting entries from eligible fintech companies to register their interest in being considered for the list. To qualify, a fintech — defined as a company that provides innovative, technology-based and finance-related products and services — must have successfully completed at least one Series A funding round.
Firms will be required to submit information on their business model and certain key performance indicators.
If you would like your company to be considered for this research, please click on this link, which will take you to the short application form hosted by Statista. Further information about the project can be found here.
Switzerland has created what they dub “Crypto Valley” in the region of Zug.
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Crypto firms are scrambling to find institutions to bank with after the collapse of Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital, two lenders that were friendly to digital currency companies.
Some of these companies have turned to crypto-friendly Swiss banks, flooding them with requests for banking services, according to multiple industry insiders who spoke to CNBC.
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Typically, the crypto industry has found it difficult to access banking services from traditional lenders, who don’t want to touch anything that does not have a clear regulatory framework. This has included blockchain and crypto firms, who have instead had to turn to specialist banks.
But with two of the biggest lenders, along with SVB, now out of the picture, cryptocurrency firms have turned to Switzerland, which has sought to market itself as a crypto hub with solid regulation.
“We have been inundated with requests,” said an advisor at a private Swiss bank, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
The advisor said on the Monday after Silvergate and Signature Bank’s winddown this month, the private lender had more requests in a single day than ever before.
“It is just nuts,” the advisor said.
U.S., non-Europe firms look to Switzerland
Dominic Castley, chief marketing officer at Sygnum, one of Switzerland’s biggest banks that is focused on servicing digital asset companies, said it is seeing an influx of enquiries.
“Over the past weeks as the current banking industry events have unfolded, we have seen a significant increase in onboarding enquiries from various international locations,” Castley said, adding that Sygnum’s location in both Switzerland and Singapore is attractive to companies.
Sygnum has a Swiss banking license and a capital markets services license in Singapore, bringing it under the purview of regulators.
One Switzerland-based advisor to financial technology companies, who also preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the situation, said that has been “a lot more inflow from U.S. customers” to Swiss banks.
An executive at a European trading firm, meanwhile, said their company had been seeing “non-Europe based entities” making enquiries for new banking relationships. The executive, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic, said these firms include crypto-focused hedge funds and venture capital firms.
Castley said interest is “mainly coming from investors, asset managers and blockchain projects looking to diversify their crypto investments with a trusted Swiss partner like Sygnum Bank.”
Switzerland’s other major lender that deals with the digital assets industry — SEBA Bank — did not respond to a request for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Switzerland’s crypto-friendly stance
Part of why companies are seeking out Swiss banks is the country’s regulation which is welcoming to cryptocurrency firms in need of a stable operating environment.
The country has created what locals dub “Crypto Valley” in the region of Zug, just outside the Swiss capital Zurich, where start-ups and more established digital currency firms have set up shop.
In 2021, the government introduced a regulation on companies using so-called “distributed electronic register technology” or blockchain, which originated with the cryptocurrency bitcoin but has since evolved.
Thierry Arys Ruiz, CEO of Swiss-based blockchain firm AgAu.io, said Switzerland is “more stable” and there is “more certainty to what the rules are.”
The anonymous advisor at the private Swiss bank said that companies are coming to Switzerland to be in a “safer jurisdiction” for crypto regulation.
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank was a “Lehman moment” for the technology industry, according to a top Goldman Sachs deal-maker.
Cliff Marriott, co-head of technology, media and telecoms in Europe for the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs, said that the March 10 shutdown of SVB was “pretty stressful,” as the lender’s clientele scrambled to figure out how they would make payroll.
“That first weekend was a little bit like the Lehman moment for technology and it was really more operational for those companies,” Marriott told CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal in an interview at a Goldman Sachs tech symposium that aired Tuesday on “Squawk Box Europe.”
“They needed access to capital. A lot of their balances were on SVB. And, secondly, SVB was propelling and making a lot of their payments for payroll to pay their employees.”
Founded in 1983, SVB was considered a reliable source of funding for tech startups and venture capital firms. A subsidiary of SVB Financial Group, the California-based commercial lender was, at one point, the 16th-biggest bank in the U.S. and the largest in Silicon Valley by deposits.
SVB was taken over by the U.S. government after its clientele of venture capitalists and tech startups withdrew billions from their accounts. Many VCs had advised portfolio companies to pull funds on the back of fears that the lender may crumble.
SVB Financial Group’s holdings — assets such as U.S. Treasury bills and government-backed mortgage securities that were viewed as safe — were hit by the Fed’s aggressive interest rate hikes, and their value dropped dramatically.
Earlier this month, the firm revealed it had sold $21 billion worth of its securities at a roughly $1.8 billion loss and said it needed to raise $2.25 billion to meet clients’ withdrawal needs and fund new lending.
The future of SVB remains uncertain, even though deposits were ultimately backstopped by the government and SVB’s government-appointed CEO attempted to reassure clients the bank remained open for business.
Marriott said there is “still a big question mark regarding what bank or firm or set of firms is going to replace SVB in terms of providing those utility-like services for technology, giving them bank accounts, allowing them to make payroll, holding their cash balances.”
Read more about tech and crypto from CNBC Pro
The SVB collapse has also raised questions over the potential consequences for other banks, with SVB being far from the only lender that has come under strain. Swiss investment banking titan Credit Suisse was rescued by its main rival UBS in a government-backed, cut-price deal last week.
Marriott also addressed tech IPOs and their outlook for 2023. Europe’s tech initial public offering market has been largely closed due to a confluence of market pressures, including higher interest rates, which make the future cashflows of high-growth tech companies less attractive.
Marriott said he would have been more optimistic about a recovery in tech IPO activity two weeks ago.
“I’m still hopeful that we’ll see tech IPO activity in 2023. And if we don’t, I think 2024 will be a big year for tech IPOs,” Marriott said.
“I think what we’ll see is the more established profitable companies come first, so the easier-to-understand business models, profitable companies, before we see the really highly valued profit or negative profit companies that we saw in 2021.”
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