The Italian FinTech ecosystem: the current status according to the EY and FinTech District research

EY, together with the FinTech District, conducted a research on the FinTech ecosystem in Italy.

After an introduction on the Italian financial industry, the study focuses on FinTech start-ups operating in Italy.

THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY

The banking sector in Italy is in a rationalisation and consolidation phase, mostly created by regulators. Banks are trying to increase revenues and, at the same time, reduce costs. They are focusing on renewing their operating models, reducing NPL exposition and digitalising processes. Open banking is a key tech trend of the industry. Other “hot” tech trends are: cybersecurity, hybrid cloud, voice revolution, blockchain and 5G/Wifi6.

The Italian insurance sector is affected by macroeconomic and political uncertainty, low interest rates, rising competition, technological innovation, and regulatory shifts. Therefore, Italian insurance companies are rationalising their businesses, seeking to dispose underperforming assets, and looking to expand into new markets and products.

On the other hand, the wealth and asset management services are growing in Italy. Today, Italian private clients are demanding innovative services, and are easily open to change their intermediary. Sustainable investments, fee compression and new disruptive technologies are the main trends in the Italian market.

From the customer point of view, Italians have yet to fully understand and embrace FinTech. Italian people still see incumbents as the first point of contact for financial services. In fact, 69% of them worry about the security of personal data when dealing with companies online.

Despite that, some important steps forward are happening. Customers’ needs and expectations are evolving. Italians are asking for more customised and user-friendly services. For example, 45% of Italian users would prefer to view all their financial products in one place through an online or app-based tool.

THE FINTECH ECOSYSTEM

According to the EY and FinTech District analysis, the Italian FinTech ecosystem is heterogenous, small in size but with high potential.

The research team identified 345 FinTech start-ups operating in Italy in 2019. These companies offer either new digital financial solutions or new technological solutions to serve the financial industry.

A survey was then conducted on 116 FinTech start-ups from December 2019 to March 2020.

The analysed start-ups’ business model was in 46% of the cases a B2B business model, 18% B2C, 25% B2B2C, and in 11% of the cases companies have multiple business models. 51% of the start-ups offer banking services, 23% extend investment services, 17% provide marketing solutions, big data, security and other services, and 9% deliver insurance services. Most of the companies offer money transfer and payments services.

Source: FinTech waves – Italian FinTech Ecosystem 2020, EY and FinTech District analysis

The largest number of start-ups in the sample were founded between 2014 and 2018. They usually have small teams, with a median of 8.5 employees per start-up. The average age of the founders (who are 100% male) is 46 years. Most of the companies are currently in the intermediate stages of growth.

Regarding fundraising, overall the surveyed start-ups have raised a total of € 1.2 billion. Funding grew at a 60% CAGR from 2016 to 2019.

The median funding per start-up was € 700k in 2019; 80% of the start-ups have raised less than € 5 million and 60% less than € 1 million.

The main investment sources are business angels and personal resources. Institutional investors prefer to invest in B2B business models.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the financial services industry, accelerating digital transformation, innovation and remote services.

According to a survey conducted by the FinTech and InsurTech Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, 54% of the Italian FinTech start-ups have not been adversely affected and 19% have been positively impacted by the COVID-19 situation, such as smart payment and money transfer, lending, insurtech and e-commerce related.


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