The year in quotes: 2019

By Oliver Smith on Friday 3 January 2020

Alternative LendingDigital BankingSavings and Investment

Anne Boden, Rishi Khosla, Mark Zuckerberg and more.

The year in quotes: 2019
Image source: AltFi London Summit 2019.

The last 12 months have been a whirlwind of change and development in the worlds of fintech and alternative finance.

Here are eight quotes which capture the good, the bad, and the ugly of fintech in 2019.

 

“Libra's mission is to create a simple global financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people around the world.”

It’s a cheap shot to point the finger at Facebook and Libra, but no project has garnered more attention for the crypto sector while at the same time flailing so spectacularly from the word go.

“Libra's mission is to create a simple global financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people around the world. It's powered by blockchain technology and the plan is to launch it in 2020,” wrote Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announcing Libra.

Zuckerberg’s inaugural post on the project is now a bizarre time capsule, blissfully unaware of how incredibly quickly the project would descend into congressional hearings and abandonment by its founding members.

Read more: How “big tech” finally turned its hand to fintech in 2019

 

“We have a long way to go in Washington to be fully engaged and intelligent about these issues.”

Speaking of the US, Former White House small business advisor Karen Mills had some wise words earlier this year on America’s lack of awareness on issues around fintech.

“The UK and Europe are ahead of the US, making it clear that customers own their banking data and can designate it to be available to a third party,” she said.

“Open data and open banking are important so that data streams are available to multiple financial institutions and entrepreneurs who could provide new products and services. We have a long way to go in Washington to be fully engaged and intelligent about these issues.”

Her comments certainly came to fruition as a host of UK fintechs took the fight to America in 2019.

Read more: Obama’s former cabinet member says US fintech lags UK and European rivals

 

“We’re going back to basics and starting from the beginning.”

Monzo’s attempt to launch a premium subscription service akin to Revolut ended in September with the surprise announcement that not only would Monzo Plus be shut down, but the entire team would be replaced.

“We’re going back to basics and starting from the beginning,” wrote Product Marketing Manager Tom Davies.

“While we are fortunate to see our customer base growing faster than ever, it’s important we take steps now to ensure we’re moving towards becoming a sustainable business.”

Since then it’s been quiet on the Monzo Plus front, with the offering removed from Monzo’s app and website.

Read more: Monzo replaces entire Monzo Plus team and refunds customers after admitting premium service “didn’t go according to plan”

 

“To date, we’ve still not had a single default.”

Never one to shy away from the spotlight, OakNorth’s Rishi Khosla raises the lenders lack of defaults on its books often in public

“2018 was our busiest year yet - our total loan book across business and property grew from £852 million at the end of 2017, to £2.2 billion by the end of 2018, and we had over £400m of repayments. To date, we’ve still not had a single default,” he said in March.

Unfortunately the words would come back to haunt him in December as the profitable lender revealed the first two defaults on its books.

Read more: Alternative lending giant OakNorth reveals first loan defaults

 

Open Banking “didn't really happen”

Putting her finger on the pulse, Starling CEO Anne Boden named what everyone has been thinking at AltFi’s London Summit in March.

"Open banking has not taken off yet, not because big banks are actively blocking it but due to huge organisational complexity, and ultimately the ability to transform is not there in mainstream banking."

Nearly 9 months later her words still ring true, although we’ll have to see if the tide turns for Open Banking in 2020.

Read more: Anne Boden says the dream of Open Banking “didn't really happen”, teases Starling’s credit card is coming soon

 

"2018 was another strong year of growth for Metro Bank”

On the 23 January revealing Metro Bank’s full year 2018 results and revealing an accounting error CEO Craig Donaldson said: 

"2018 was another strong year of growth for Metro Bank as we continued to invest in both new stores and digital capabilities to win customers, deposits, assets and to create FANS.”

By the end of the year Metro Bank’s Chair Vernon Hill and Donaldson would both be out of a job.

Read more: Metro Bank CEO stands down

 

“The really worrying, and baffling, issue is not the money being spent, but the lack of revenue being generated.”

One of the greatest trends of 2019 was the growing popularity of profit within the fintech sector—a word that just a year earlier was barely spoken about.

Cashplus CEO Rich Wagner named the shift in his Opinion article for AltFi, pointing out:

“Investors will, and should, back companies with viable business models, enabling growth. But downturns separate the wheat from the chaff, and fintechs will need to prove their ability to deliver more than just user growth. They’ll need to be judged on something more meaningful, like, I don’t know… profit?”

Hear, hear.

Read more: We’re sailing into choppy waters, now it’s time for fintechs to prove their business models

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