iVeri has always been the odd one out. During the Internet startup wave in the late 1990s, we went against the current and backed banks against the new nonbank players who claimed they were going to put banks out of business with this new technology. Our position was that the banks needed tech partners to further
Two decades and another tech wave later we are in the same place. The new players have a name now, fintechs, but the warcry is the same, their mastery of technology is going to eat the bank’s lunch.
Although the message is the same, there are some fundamental differences this time around. The subprime crises which started in 2017 totally undermined the trust foundation of banking, and trust is fundamentally essential to banking. So, if you could not trust your bank to look after your money, who could you trust. Enter the big Fintech brands … and a host of startups. This loss of trust has
put the banks firmly on the back foot and forced them to relook at fintech. Most notably, the banks, which had tons of capital, decided that if they could not beat the fintechs, they would join them.
In Africa, where iVeri operates, banks were not immune to worldwide trends. However, their needs and markets were different from the obscene complexity of the products that caused the industry crises in the developed world. AFRICAN banks were facing a tech wave that was totally different, but just as traumatic, Mobile money. Launched in 2007 and growing rapidly, banks faced new
competitors in the retail market that had more customers than them and bigger budgets than them. They were more lightly regulated and did not have legacy systems. The brands of the mobile network operators were also, in many cases, more trustworthy.
These customers of iVeri’s technology looked to us to keep them in the game. Not just to compete with the mobile network operators, but also to compete with fintechs. In a way, we were a Fintech that they trusted.
Jack Ma, Technology visionary and the recently retired head of Alibaba, coined the phrase TechFin (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimmarous/2018/08/27/future-of-banking-fintech-or-techfin-technology/ ). This is really where iVeri is positioned. iVeri is positioned as a techfin and not fintech as we are always finding better ways to deliver financial products as part of a broader offering of services, while supporting the banks we are in partnership with.
We use the “rails” of banking to create accessibility and products. By doing this, we export our experience and deep skills to our customer banks, many of which operate in low skill environments. We have long term relationships with all our customers and deeply understand the tremendously difficult conditions they operate in. We cannot solve all their problems, but in the area of payments, we
hope to be their partner of choice to provide their customers with solutions that range from the basic to extremely complex.
There are not many techfins in Africa. We are proud to be one. It is also cool to have a name to describe the wave that we are part of. So we are actually not the odd one. We are just part of a different wave. Like all the other waves in the financial services ocean, ours is rapidly evolving and we are evolving with it. Watch this space.