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‘Fintech’ boom evident in Las Vegas’ Money 20/20 show

Updated October 20, 2018 - 7:50 pm

Kenneth Lin, an Eldorado High School class of 1994 graduate, is helping individuals get a better grip on their financial lives.

His online company Credit Karma is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and cloud computing to instantly match a person’s credit profile with the best credit cards or auto insurance offers available to them.

The entire process of signing up and receiving the free credit score as well as recommendations takes no more than a few minutes. Before he started his company in 2007, people had to pay for their credit reports, and it could have taken days or weeks to receive.

Lin’s Credit Karma is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of technology companies that are revolutionizing the banking and financial services industries, altering the way people pay for goods, invest or shop for financial services. Some are opening the door to financial education and services for segments of the population that have historically been underbanked.

Lin will be among the 11,500 industry professionals gathering in Las Vegas starting Sunday for the biggest U.S. conference dedicated to emerging financial technology, or fintech as it is most commonly called.

“We want to become the independent trusted adviser,’’ Lin said. “The math and data are very inexpensive to scale out, and with it, we can help make people’s financial lives much better.’’

The four-day Money 20/20 show will feature representatives of 3,500 companies, including too-big-to-fail powerhouses such as Wells Fargo as well as 400 startups, like Edquity.

Featured speakers include Virgin founder Richard Branson and “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran as well as executives from Google, Amazon Pay, Morgan Stanley, Quicken Loans and Mastercard.

Panels will focus on topics such as the growth of voice commerce powered by devices like Amazon’s Echo; the implementation of biometrics to combat fraud; and the use of artificial intelligence to solve financial service problems as well as fintech’s expansion into lending.

The future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in the banking sphere, hot topics at last year’s show, will be featured prominently this year as well.

Money 20/20, which will be held at The Venetian and is not open to the public, attracted roughly 2,300 professionals in its inaugural year in 2012.

The surge in show attendance underscores the massive growth the financial technology industry has experienced over the past six years.

Fintech boom

Fintech startups raised $26 billion from venture capital funds over the first half of 2018, compared with just $3.8 billion for all of 2013, according to CB Insights, a private market intelligence firm.

Fintech companies have raised nearly $90 billion over the past 5½ years, CB Insights data show. The number of fintech fundraising deals this year is on pace to hit nearly 1,500, more than double the number in 2013, according to CB Insights.

One of those deals was a $500 million investment in Credit Karma by Silver Lake, a technology-focused venture fund that valued the online personal finance company founded by Lin at $4 billion.

Despite the rapid industry change and explosion of companies in the industry, plenty of disruption and investment are still to come, said Mark Ranta, head of digital banking at ACI Worldwide.

Traditional banks are still reliant on an old technology infrastructure, and billions of dollars are needed to upgrade it. That creates opportunities for startups, he said.

“I think you are going to see a proliferation of startups still,” Ranta said. “We are still at a very early stage of the development of the new payment ecosystem and dawn of real-time transactions. The technology keeps accelerating.’’

From payments to lending

Fintech affects a wide range of banking and financial services, including payments, money transfers, personal finance, insurance, lending and wealth management.

Payments and money transfers are among the financial services segments that have experienced the greatest change, with the appearance of companies such as PayPal, Square and Transferwise.

PayPal and Square, both publicly traded, are valued at nearly $100 billion and $33 billion, respectively.

The next segments slated for major change are personal finance and personal loans, according to a 2017 report by PwC. The show will feature many startups seeking breakthroughs in those segments.

Uphold, a member-based fintech startup, will begin lending fiat money backed by cryptocurrency reserves later this year. It will also pay interest on cryptocurrency deposits. Uphold currently allows people to exchange, hold or transfer 23 currencies; four commodities, including gold and silver; and 10 cryptocurrencies, all from their mobile phones.

Edquity, another fintech startup, offers high school and college students and their families a one-stop shop of financial planning to help them understand aid and manage the costs of higher education. It also offers high schools and colleges the ability to track and interpret data to better advise students.

Cybersecurity

As more and more people conduct financial transactions online, the risks of fraud, money laundering and hacking are increasing.

Ken Meiser, chief compliance and consumer support officer at IQ Analytics, an exhibitor at Money 20/20, said synthetic identity fraud is a growing problem.

Traditional identity fraud involves an individual getting another person’s data and using it to open unauthorized credit card accounts in that person’s name.

In synthetic fraud, an individual creates a completely fictitious person with a Social Security number that looks real.

Meiser said IQ Analytics is seeing double the number of account applications with new Social Security numbers than demographic data would imply.

IQ Analytics uses artificial intelligence to crunch as many as 400 inputs to decide within a quarter of a second whether a credit application made to a bank or telecom should be approved.

Andrew Jamieson, a testing manager for UL’s Transaction Security division, said credit cards could soon have biometric components, such as fingerprint sensors, to help protect against fraud as well.

Jumio helps companies like online casino operators and cryptocurrency exchanges battle fraud and money laundering by requiring up to three layers of verification.

Jumio, which will also exhibit at Money 20/20, carries out ID verification, facial recognition and document verification in minutes from mobile phone uploads. Jumio’s clients include Coinbase, Airbnb and gaming companies such as 888.com and Betfair.

Meiser and Ranta said the key to getting companies to adopt an enhanced verification process is to make it painless for their consumers.

“Being able to do that in a real-time environment and making that seemless to the user is a big thing,’’ Ranta said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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