Fintech is on pace to best venture capital 2015 fundraising by 36% this year as startups focus on transparency and ease-of-use to disrupt the incumbents.
Last year, VCs poured $11.9 billion into the sector, Bruce Taragin, managing partner, Blumberg Capital, said at a recent gathering at Columbia Law School in New York.
But the early-stage investor dismissed the notion that high tech in general was in a bubble. He noted that at the height of the dot-com mania, tech accounted for 35% of the S&P 500. Today, that number stands at less than 10%.
Investors are pouring money increasingly into insurance, he noted. Indeed, this week Lemonade launched a mobile app for homeowners seeking coverage. Coverhound, an online marketplace, added small business insurance this week as well to its menu of homeowner and auto offerings. (Blumberg is an investor.)
Insurance has long baffled consumers — it’s both boring and confusing. The new products are promoting greater transparency, cutting through bureaucratic language and highlighting costs. For Yoav Zurel, co-founder and CEO of FeeX, transparency is at the heart of his business model — surfacing hidden fees in retirement accounts. “Most 401(k)s suck,” Zurel bluntly told the audience. “The reason: Human resources doesn’t know what it is doing.”
Four years ago, FeeX began its quest to show investors just how much they were paying in fees in their retirement accounts. Zurel said they thought it would be a six-month project. It has taken FeeX four years to reach their goal. “We are structuring the unstructured.” The data they needed was publicly available in a fund’s prospectus, but “there were a thousand different ways fees are recorded,” Zurel lamented.
Like many other consumer-oriented fintechs, FeeX has re-oriented its focus to institutional customers, including financial advisors and financial institutions. Bank of America is one such customer showing how much money 401(k) participants can save in fees by rolling over into a BoA IRA. Zurel said the conversion rate on its B2B product has been 20%, an exponential gain from the more typical 0.2% conversion rate.
Until now, Zurel said in the world of 401(k)s there has been “no transparency to the employer, the advisor, or the individual.” For him, FeeX exemplifies “transparency as a business model.”
The Innovations in Fintech: Considerations for Emerging Israeli and American Fintech was co-sponsored by Columbia Law’s Center for Israel Legal Studies and the Zvi Meitar Institute for Legal Implications of Emerging Technologies at Israel’s IDC Herziliya. Other speakers at the conference included Dror Oren, co-founder of AI startup Kasisto; Yuval Tal, founder of Payoneer, and Ruth Polachek, CEO and co-founder of FinCheck. Speakers also discussed the blockchain, including Professor Aharon Wright of Cardozo Law School; Todd Kornfeld, Pepper Hamilton; Michael Nonaka, Covington Burling.
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