The banking industry appears to be undergoing a renaissance driven by changing consumer behavior and technical innovation. Software is eating the industry. In retrospect, we can see how the first wave of innovation came in areas such as online account access and payments. Changing consumer behavior (such as the shift to mobile) and the use of big data has enabled increasingly complex transactions (such as lending and asset management) to move online. Consumers have largely stopped going to retail branches, and reserve the occasional branch visit for major one-off transactions.
Our first investment in the financial services industry came many years ago with an investment in LendingClub. We put both equity and debt into the company, making a sizable purchase of loans via the platform itself. We saw the company’s potential to bring marketplace dynamics and software disruption to the lending industry. The end goal for borrowers and investors on the platform was simple: lower cost loans for borrowers, increased yields for investors, and high levels of customer satisfaction. As a result, LendingClub has grown into a sizable public company. With experience on the platform and a realization of the potentially transformative nature of this model, we’ve gone on to invest in companies across the online lending space: Kabbage (www.kabbage.com), LendUp (www.lendup.com), and SoFi (www.sofi.com).
The renaissance in financial services has drawn in substantial amounts of venture capital. In the past year alone, the number of fintech deals has grown 16% and the capital funded is up 46%.
While many entrepreneurs develop expertise in the specific segment they intend to disrupt, we’ve noticed that startups usually don’t have the time or resources to look outside their niche and understand how they fit into the larger context of banking and lending markets. To help put the industry in perspective, we developed an overview of the banking industry in the US. What’s remarkable is not only the insights this gives into the financial lives of Americans (be it millenials or seniors), but also the perspective this gives us on the large banks we’ve all come to use. Indeed, consolidation over the last several decades has led the four major banks (JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo) to hold around half of the market’s depository assets.
Today we’re happy to provide the first version of this industry overview. We’ve chosen brevity over depth, so as to provide a snapshot of the overall banking landscape. We’ll continue to iterate on this overview and welcome questions and comments. In subsequent posts, we plan to provide deeper dives into sectors that are of interest to both ourselves and others. We look forward to contributing to what feels like yet another opportunity to be at the front door of history-making companies.