Financial technology (fintech) is all the rage lately with investors pouring money into startups to the tune of $22.3 billion in 2015. Experts continue to debate whether or not these new services really are changing our views towards money and posing threats to established financial institutions and practices.
As a leader in fintech and an owner of a fintech company, I see firsthand how the latest technology is creating a shift in how consumers and businesses conduct transactions, but it doesn't necessary threaten banks or other financial institutions that are partnering with companies like mine to address the shift in preference to things like mobile payments, digital wallets, and what may become a cashless society.
Here are 8 fintech services that I see as helping consumers and businesses by offering money-related services that combine traditional aspects with the latest technology to ensure compliance and security to build trust.
Acorns: A penny "spent" is a penny invested
Even I have been at that point in my life where I thought I didn't have enough extra money laying around to start investing in stocks for my own retirement plans. However, Acorns is changing all that because the company believes that there's no such thing as too small to invest. It gives a slight variation to the old adage, "A penny saved is a penny earned." Rather than saving those pennies in a piggy bank, Acorns encourages investing those pennies.
The California-based startup enables users to start investing by rounding up purchases to the nearest dollar and then investing those extra cents into exchange traded funds (ETFs). The service links to my credit or debit card and can be used every time a purchase is made. I like this idea because it rounds out what I spend and has me investing without making a real effort to do so. To encourage bigger investments, users can also set recurring investments and lump sum funding options. They have raised almost $62 million to date.
Trustly: Pay with the money you have
Old school financial wisdom encourages you to cut up those credit cards since they carry the temptation of spending money that you don't really have. Plus, I often find that most credit cards come with a number of fees, including membership fees, late fees, and interest fees, which mean using those cards costs even more. Although I like paying my credit cards off every month, I still have to consider certain extra costs.
However, I find it's almost impossible to go without some type of card if I wan to make purchases with online stores and ecommerce sites. Trustly is making it easy for me to go without the use of cards to make these purchases. The Swedish fintech company uses bank accounts instead of cards as fund sources for online purchases. It is secure, free for consumers like myself, and cuts out the need for credit cards. Trustly is available in 29 countries and brings speed, security, and simplicity to shopping online. It's essentially preparing me for a point in time where we may no longer use cards at all. They have raised almost $29 million to date.
Level Money: Know how much money you can spend
I see good personal financial management as setting -- and keeping -- a budget. While that's easier said than done, I've been using Level Money's app, which helps me track how much money myself and my wife can spend in a month. Starting with my monthly income, the app takes away expenses and savings in order to leave me with a total they refer to as "Spendable." This amount can then be divided into your weekly or daily allowance.
Knowing how much I can spend each day makes a great difference. It's stopped both of us from the common tendency to impulse buy. Those are the purchases that tend to add up faster than imagined and really crush the ability to save money for the future. I've also linked the app to our bank and credit card accounts for a more detailed glimpse into our finances. They have raised $5 million to date.
Digit: Pay yourself first
A cardinal rule in budgeting and saving is to pay yourself first. Once your paycheck hits your account, wisdom has it that you should move some amount to savings even before you pay the bills. It's a great rule of thumb to follow, but the problem is that I get so busy with running my businesses that I forget to do it, and my wife is in the same boat. However, by automating that process with Digit, we've been able to stick to this rule.
Digit's service monitors my bank account balance and puts away some of my money (around $5 to $50 every two to three days) into a Digit savings account. I get a text message notification every time Digit saves my money. Money in my Digit account can be withdrawn in just a day -- once I need it. I was very surprised at how much money can be saved. Out of sight, out of mind is really helping me save much more money each month.
HelloWallet: Seek sound advice
"Out of sight and out of mind," can be a double-edge sword especially when it doesn't refer to savings and investments but involves spending. D.C.-based startup HelloWallet offers its employees a "financial wellness program" as part of an employees benefits.
The service links an employee's pay account, savings account, credit cards and investments. It then sends reminders and financial advice via email, text, or app notifications. The dashboard shows easy-to-understand charts and visuals that provide a clear picture of your financial standing. HelloWallet aims to solve financial illiteracy and helps their employees save and build wealth through timely information.
Paymently: Save money with wholesale credit card processing
As a small business owner, I've had to find ways to keep costs as low as possible while still providing customers with the ability to use their credit cards for payments. Many credit card processing companies are so expensive when it comes to fees that it started to feel like a losing proposition to offer this payment option.
However, since switching to Paymently, many businesses have been able to take advantage of wholesale credit card processing prices and enjoy a plan customized for the number of transactions I conduct each month. This has slashed the cost of offering this payment option for customers and I recently had to upgrade to the next tier because I was attracting so many more customers by having this credit
AlignCommerce: Simplify wire transfers
Wire transfers are still a necessary service that I use in my business, especially when dealing with larger sums of money or any international business partners. The problem is that wire transfers can often take five business days or more to transfer the money and they can come with significant fees for the sender and the recipient.
That's what AlignCommerce has addressed, helping businesses like mine get money faster and for a much more reasonable rate. They take the middleman out of the wire transfer equation, speeding the money to its delivery point. This service has helped me close more deals and increased the rate of speed on projects, adding productivity and cash flow as well as work through manyregtech problems that exist today.
BluePay: Leverage multiple payment processing options for your business
Many startups like mine have struggled to find a payment processing partner that can offer multiple options and pricing plans that fit the budget, but BluePay has more than delivered.
While I don't personally use the POS options, I have benefited from the affordable payment gateway and payment options that have helped to attract more customers and facilitated the various payment options I can offer my clients to use with their customers.
Bridging the Gap Between Traditional Services and the New FinTech Landscape
Despite all of these new and creative services, there are startups that understand that revolutionary change may still be on the horizon, so they are promoting age-old money principles that still make much sense even in today's world.