FinTechs Could be a Vital Tool in Solving Coronavirus Problems

There’s no way to get around talk about the coronavirus. Now in over 80 countries, it’s touched on nearly every aspect of life for people around the world. Its impact on the FinTech landscape is no less profound, but its long-term effects are still an open question.

A consumer slowdown and long-term recession could lower valuations for FinTech startups and lead to a pullback in funding. This is a particular risk for consumer-facing FinTech offerings and companies that rely on heavy market spending.

There’s reasons to think the worst may not come to pass, though; private equity and venture firms entered 2020 with record levels of cash on hand—some $1.5 trillion that will still largely fund investments. And that’s good news for more than just startup groups, as developments in the FinTech space could help to alleviate problems in pandemic situations like this one.

Following the U.S. government’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, alternative lenders may move faster than traditional lenders in getting loans to the small businesses that need cash now. And a FinTech working with a community bank wants to deliver money to the underbanked.

Many FinTech providers, are offering free, discounted, or accelerated services to financial institutions to help keep things on an even keel.

On the payments front, the Financial Times recently noted some of the issues that the coronavirus has made plain for legacy spending—cash is dirty, literally. It’s not difficult for it to become contaminated, and a number of businesses are refusing to accept it. Cards don’t offer much protection either, though; they can transfer viral contamination to a cashier’s hand just as readily. Contactless, cashless payment options have been in development for a while now, and investors should be taking note of how useful they’d have been in this situation, and how useful they’d be should it arise again.

And it’s not just about moving away from cash—advancements in automation, faster payments, and a host of other services can all help solve problems in the new reality we’ve found ourselves in. Many FinTech providers, recognizing this, are offering free, discounted, or accelerated services to financial institutions to help keep things on an even keel. Ron Shevlin, a senior contributor with Forbes, is maintaining a list of such FinTechs, and the services on offer are extensive—from virtual assistants to help cope with a reduced workforce, easier bill payment in a time when many companies desperately need better remote payment options, to simple account creation tools and fraud protection suites.

FinTech innovations have always been about finding new solutions to the logistical challenges of the modern world. Now, more than ever before, those new solutions are critical. We need our financial institutions to keep enlisting their aid; FinTechs are ready to answer the call.

Jess Purdy