“I sense that it's going to be stickier, it's come off its peak, but it's going to be stickier and more resilient.” - Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said of inflation.
One thing has been on everybody’s mind lately — the U.S. debt ceiling. While it appears that a default has been averted, the crisis only added to the nervousness in the financial markets. Inflation continues to rear its head in the economy, threatening to derail the chances of a pause in the Fed’s hawkish interest rate hike campaign.
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has warned that unwieldy inflation is only going to get “stickier and more resilient,” leaving the Fed with little choice but to fight it with higher rates. The inflation rate currently hovers at 4.9%, more than double the Fed’s 2% target.
Fortunately, consumers have also proven to be resilient despite the economic headwinds, making it easier for fintech companies to innovate. Here’s a wrap-up of the latest developments in the fintech sector.
U.K.-based neobank Starling is reeling from a C-suite defection. Starling CEO and co-founder Anne Boden announced her resignation and will leave the company at the end of June. Boden, who will be replaced by COO John Mountain, was worried that her interests as a shareholder and chief executive would collide, creating a conflict of interest.
Starling, which is backed by Goldman Sachs, also reported record profits of GBP 195 million for its fiscal year ended in March. Revenue grew more than twofold to GBP 453 million. Lending and customer deposits were on the rise, reaching GBP 4.9 billion and GBP 10.6 billion, respectively.
Separately, Money transfer company Wise experienced a shakeup in its executive ranks that sent the stock sinking. Wise revealed that CFO Matt Briers will be stepping down from his role at the end of Q1 2024.
The company has launched a “comprehensive search for a new CFO.” Shares of Wise, which trade on the London Stock Exchange, fell 4% in response.
Wise Chart by TradingView
Separately, U.K. entrepreneur Tom Blomfield, co-founder of challenger bank Monzo, has crossed the pond to San Francisco for a new opportunity. Blomfield is now a group partner at Y Combinator, which he first encountered years ago when he brought his maiden billion-dollar company GoCardless through the program. Blomfield told Bloomberg that the U.K. has a “listings problem” and that entrepreneurs have greater opportunities stateside.
Also, card issuer Marqeta’s Q1 fell short of consensus estimates, culminating in the company announcing a restructuring. Marqeta reported a Q1 loss of $68.8 million, or -$0.13 per share, a wider loss vs. the year-ago period. Wall Street was expecting the company to report a loss of $0.10 per share.
Marqeta was burdened by expenses tied to its recent acquisition of Power Finance for $223 million. As part of its restructuring, Marqeta expects to slash its workforce by 150 jobs or 15%. The company’s stock tumbled 5% in response.
The banking crisis that has been unfolding in the U.S. has reached into the operations of some fintechs. Enterprise-focused payments company Plastiq has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the state of Delaware.
The company had intended to go public via a SPAC deal through a combination with Colonnade Acquisition Corp. II. However, that deal went bust earlier this year, making a precarious situation worse for Plastiq. The company was already experiencing a liquidity crunch amid exposure to the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank.
Takeaway: Incidentally, the Great Financial Crisis is when fintechs gained notoriety as they filled the gap left by troubled financial institutions in areas like lending and other services. Now fintechs that are looking to access the capital markets or do a fundraising round must be sure to demonstrate a strong balance sheet given the fallout from the latest banking crisis.
Strike, a Chicago-based app that seeks to be the Venmo of bitcoin payments, is expanding. The company is extending its footprint into over 65 countries where it expects to reach 3 billion people. Strike is pushing into Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean. Up until now, Strike has only operated in the U.S. and bitcoin-friendly El Salvadoran markets.
With the final month of the second quarter upon us, 2023 is moving fast. And while it may not be smooth sailing, the economy has managed to stave off a recession so far. Fortunately for fintechs, tech innovation never goes out of style.
The interest rate trajectory remains on the upswing, which is actually serving as a tailwind for some fintechs as interest-related income increases. While nobody knows for certain what lurks around the corner, for now fintechs are weathering the economic turmoil in stride.