FinTech location Germany set for growth

Germany’s segment of emerging technology companies operating in the financial services sector (FinTech) is increasingly successful in establishing itself as a dynamic and diversified cluster on its own steam. This is one of the key findings of the recent study “Germany FinTech Landscape” carried out by auditing and consultancy company EY which, together with Frankfurt Main Finance, analysed the German FinTech sector and outlined additional opportunities for its promotion. According to the study, there is a clearly discernible trend among financial institutions to respond more vigorously to the challenge posed by the products and services offered by FinTech companies. The majority of the ten biggest banks are today investing in and/or cooperating with FinTechs. The study also shows that the business models of the FinTechs are becoming more mature, and that the companies are entering the next development phase, e.g., through cooperative ventures with each other, in order to strengthen their market position sustainably.

In the first half of the year, the number of FinTech companies in Germany rose by five per cent year-on-year to 295 (2016: 280). The inflow of capital had already reached 307 million euros in the first half of the year, whereas the FinTech companies in Germany collected 400 million euros for the full year 2016. The number of deals also went up, as did the average size of the deals, rising slightly from 7 million to 7.3 million euros.

While absolute growth rates may have levelled off slightly, consistent positive momentum persists for all key metrics. This showed that the FinTech landscape in Germany continued to be on an encouraging path, said Jan-Erik Behrens, co-author and partner at EY: “The trend we are observing here in Germany is headed for another record year, and it impressively demonstrates the innovative power of Germany as a location, with differing regional strengths.”

FinTech sector shifts focus, with business models gaining maturity

The German FinTechs are increasingly moving in on the core functions of the financial services providers. This applies, for example, to payment systems via the Internet or mobile devices (Payments), loans (Lending), but also to offerings for the property sector (PropTech), the insurance industry (InsurTech), the investment sector (InvesTech) and electronic marketplaces (Financial eMarketplaces & Aggregators). Approximately 67 per cent of the new FinTechs come from these core segments, 33 percent are start-ups in the field of Enabling FinTechs, which includes financial and process control software (Processes & Technology), financial data analysis and regulatory management services (RegTech).

The study reveals that there has been a shift in FinTech activities. The segments that had been strong growth drivers in recent years were InvesTech, Financing & Funding and InsurTech. In the first half of 2017, however, there was a very high level of activity in the PropTech area, which is probably due in part to the robust real estate market in Germany, as the study assumes.

Berlin and Rhine-Main-Neckar are the leading FinTech locations in Germany

The regions of Berlin and Rhine-Main-Neckar in particular are consolidating their status as FinTech hotspots within Germany: Berlin currently boasts 80 FinTech companies, while 72 corporations are active in the Rhine-Main-Neckar region. Munich, the third-ranked FinTech location in Germany, is a distant third, with 45 FinTechs based in the Bavarian capital.

The study confirms that the Rhine-Main-Neckar region, led by Frankfurt, is making significant progress towards establishing itself as the leading destination for settlement of FinTechs. The study identifies the special strengths of the Rhine-Main-Neckar region as being events & networks, as well as in infrastructure. Numerous incubators, accelerators, investor meetings and networking initiatives have been initiated and launched successfully. However, the region still has further potential for growth in terms of image and financing opportunities. “International investors continue to focus on London or Berlin,” Behrens notes. “For this reason, the FinTech community needs to work on its international visibility, so as to attract foreign investors as well.”

Amongst the trends that will influence the development of FinTech in the future, the study suggests that Brexit –the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) –is likely to enhance the appeal of GermanFinTech centres. Like many financial institutions that have already decided to relocate business units from London to the EU, and especially to Frankfurt, FinTech companies are likely to follow suit.

“Frankfurt’s strong appeal to banks makes the region even more interesting for FinTechs,” says Hubertus Väth, managing director of Frankfurt Main Finance. “The EU’s leading financial centre is well placed to attract FinTechs and become a leading location for young, innovative and agile companies. It is a matter of further enhancing the location’s appeal to FinTechs. Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main-Neckar region are facing global competition, and for the foreseeable future London is likely to remain the benchmark in Europe against which company founders will judge us. In particular, we still need to improve in terms of our openness to cooperation with company founders, the social acceptance of failure and subsequent new starts, and the tax treatment of venture capital losses sustained.”

Financial institutions becoming increasingly active in the FinTech segment

The growing presence of FinTechs in the financial sector has prompted banks and other financial institutions to launch various initiatives in an effort to respond to the challenge posed by FinTechs. Nine of the ten largest banks in Germany have already entered into co-operative ventures with FinTech companies; some of them have invested in FinTechs themselves, such as Commerzbank via its investment vehicles Commerz Ventures and Mainincubator, or Deutsche Börse via db1 Ventures. “The banks are closely monitoring the FinTech companies and their solutions – they cooperate with the start-ups and in some cases invest in them directly. However, they still have some catching up to do in the development of their own innovative solutions and products,” observes Christopher Schmitz, co-author and partner at EY. The banks’ current initiatives are still isolated and largely uncoordinated responses to the FinTech challenge. An extensive range of services on a digital platform, where both own products and those of external service providers are offered, would be an appropriate response to FinTechs – banks are working on it, but as yet there has been little by way of tangible added value for customers.” Such digital ecosystems could also be created in co-operation with FinTechs. The DZ BANK Group’s travel bank, with its Bankomo Smartphone Banking product, is in the process of establishing such an ecosystem.

FinTechs cooperating with FinTechs

While financial institutions are still busy working on finding an appropriate response to the FinTech challenge, more and more FinTechs are expanding outside their core market segment, Schmitz observes. In doing so, they are increasingly relying on partnerships with other FinTechs. It is also noteworthy that the more mature FinTechs are already attempting to build their own ecosystems around their core product portfolios. This can be clearly seen in examples such as N26, which have rapidly expanded their range of services by co-operating with other FinTechs. The PSD2, which will be establishing access for third parties to payment accounts from 2018 onwards, in combination with the expected further opening-up within the framework of “open banking” efforts, is paving the way for the digital platform economy in the financial services sector. Competition with established financial institutions will therefore intensify, according to Christopher Schmitz: “Financial institutions should now consider strategies that will be appropriate to the competitive environment and establish their digital ecosystems with recognisable added value for customers, in cooperation with innovative players.”

The study is available as a pdf document here.