From Disruptors to Dominators: The fintechs taking over the world

By Aisling Finn on Monday 28 June 2021

FeaturesAlternative LendingDigital BankingSavings and Investment

Fintechs first set out to disrupt traditional financial services, but now they are taking over the sectors they started out in just a few years ago.

From Disruptors to Dominators: The fintechs taking over the world
Image source: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

At AltFi’s Festival of Finance last week, we explored a whole range of fintech topics and trends that are hot right now. From payments to open banking and crypto to alternative lending.

But, there was one topic that was touched upon in nearly every panel—how fintech has gone from being the underdog to now bleeding into every aspect of financial services.

On day two we ran a poll asking the audience if they thought every company would be a fintech company in the next ten years and the vast majority (62 per cent) said they would be.

So, just what are these companies that have gone from disruptor to dominator? We compiled a list of those dominating the world of finance.

Checkout.com

Payment fintechs have been some of the biggest winners over the last 18 months as more and more of us turn to digital payments during the Covid-19 pandemic and Checkout.com is no different. 

In June 2020, Checkout.com became one of the first fintechs to triple its valuation, following a $150m Series B fundraising effort.

Come January of this year, Checkout.com’s valuation had jumped from the $5.5bn it reached in June 2020, up to $15bn, nearly tripling for the second time.

The payment processor experienced record growth over the past 12 months thanks to consumers turning to online shopping in light of lockdowns across the globe.

Coming off a Covid-19-related payments boost, Checkout.com moved from a payments disruptor to a dominator in the payments space in just a matter of months.

Klarna

Klarna is undoubtedly the biggest buy-now-pay-later fintech in the world.

The BNPL fintech closed one of the biggest rounds fintech has ever seen earlier on this year, scooping a $1bn funding round in March at a $31bn valuation, just under triple its $10.65bn valuation from its previous raise in September 2020.

Founded in 2005, Klarna is one of the oldest fintechs (most fintechs were founded post-2008 financial crisis) and, before it existed, the only way to buy-now-pay-later was to use a credit card or purchase items on finance plans. 

A pioneer of its own sector, it’s safe to say that Klarna is now everywhere.

The fintech has branched out into savings products, bank accounts and, most recently, Klarna launched its own virtual cards meaning that consumers can buy-now-pay-later with any online retailer, regardless of whether or not the retailer supports their services.

Going from a complete unknown to counting the likes of Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky as backers (and even temporary CEO in Rocky’s case) it’s had to see how Klarna can be described as anything other than a dominator in its sector. 

Nubank

Brazilian digital bank Nubank is the biggest digital bank in the world, both in terms of the number of customers and valuation.

As David Brear, Group CEO of fintech consultancy firm 11:FS pointed out at the AltFi Festival of Finance last week: “Every big bank starts as a small bank,” and Nubank is no different.

The fintech has over 40m users across Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, with plans to expand across Latin America, and, following a recent $750m extension to its Series G funding round the digital bank also saw its valuation skyrocket to $30bn.

To gauge just how big Nubank is, if you added up the number of customers that the biggest digital banks in Europe have, Revolut (15m), Monzo (5m), Starling (2m) and N26 (7m), you still don't even come close to Nubank’s ever-growing customer base.

While Nubank purely operates in Latin America, it’s hard to deny that in the eight years since it was founded, the fintech has dominated the digital banking space in a region that previously lacked a strong fintech presence.

Plaid

Off the back of a failed acquisition by Visa, Plaid certainly earned its stripes (a hint of what fintech is next on the list) as one of the most prominent names in the fintech world. 

Just a few months after the plug was pulled on the Visa takeover, the fintech closed a $425m  funding round with a price tag nearly three times higher than what Visa was dishing out to buy it, up from $5.3bn to $13.4bn, solidifying its place as one of the most valuable fintechs in the world.

The financial API provider counts some of the world’s most well-known fintechs, including the likes of Wise, Monzo and Curve, and nearly every large financial institution in the world.

With Plaid’s notoriety growing by the day, and the fintech entering new markets and joining forces with even more companies, it’s safe to say it is a driving force in the world of open banking and API providers.

Stripe

And last but certainly not least, Stripe.

Silicon Valley darling Stripe is officially the world’s most valuable startup, with a $95bn price tag thanks to its most recent $600m funding round, and worth more than the four previous fintechs on this list (which come in at over $84bn in total) it can’t be denied that it’s taking over fintech.

Another fintech to have benefited from the Covid-19-related payments boom, the payment infrastructure provider powers the likes of Google, Amazon, Asos, Deliveroo, Shopify, the list goes on.

Stripe’s long-held mission has been to “increase the GDP of the internet”, with its latest funding and hefty price tag being a testament to the ability of fintechs to become some of the world’s most valuable companies.  

If you needed more reassurance about the weight that Stripe has, in February 2021, the fintech also added former governor of the Bank of England and Bank of Canada Mark Carney to its board, marrying old finance with the new.

With Stripe’s size and value, it is hard to deny that it is almost a law unto itself and the very definition of a fintech dominator.

UPDATE 02-07-2021 - A previous version of this article contained out-of-date information about Nubank.

Sign up for our newsletters


Your daily 7am download of all things alternative finance and fintech.

Fintech and alternative finance headlines with an exclusive Editor's Note each week. Delivered Monday at midday.