Banks Playing Larger Role in 2014 FinTech Funding

  • Ian Kar
  • July 23, 2014
  • 3

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / gnomeandiBig banks aren’t known for their technological savvy, but that could be changing quickly.

Corporate venture capital firms have been the biggest surprise of 2014 in FinTech, according to experts in the financial technology industry. Financial institutions such as BBVA, Sberbank, American Express, Citibank, Visa, and others have been very active in the startup space this year.

Bain Capital Ventures’ Matt Harris told Bank Innovation, “What’s been surprising and dramatic is the entrance of corporate players. There’s now over $1 billion in strategic venture capital, which is ten times what it was. There’s also somebody at almost any firm that’s the ‘FinTech’ guy.”

Matteo Rizzi at SBT Ventures — the venture capital arm of Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia — agrees, saying that “banks are moving… this year, large players like HSBC and Santander have announced their FinTech fund.”

SBT Ventures itself has been active this year, leading an $8 million seed round for Moven.

These new bank-funded venture capital firms have been sprouting up over the past few months, and have a lot of capital to back them up. HSBC’s fund was given $200 million and Santander’s fintech fund has $100 million in capital. Similarly, UBS has been involved in “innovation spaces,” which the WSJ says has “dedicated funds to finance their operations and will comprise individuals from both the IT and the business divisions of the bank.”

The size of the deal from corporate funded venture capital groups are increasing too. Amex Ventures, along with Northwestern Mutual and Accel Partners, financed LearnVest’s Series D $28 million investment earlier this year, which brought LearnVest’s total funding to $69 million. Citi Ventures has two big investments this year: a $32 million Series C round in Betterment and a $38 million Series C investment in Platfora. Similarly, BBVA (the bank, not the VC group) acquired digital bank Simple for $117 million, which is another example of the money big banks are willing to spend on FinTech startups.

Bank-led VC’s becoming more active in their investments is only more good news for FinTech startups. It shows that banks are not only conscious of these startups, but eager to help in hopes that these startups will serve a strategic advantage for banks in the future.

A similar trend exists in the tech industry, where companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook invest in companies that they’re excited about — One of Facebook’s initial investments came from Microsoft. Established banks and startups working together can only help both companies improve and grow rapidly and efficiently.

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