70 per cent of all credit card, debit card and rewards points payments in the US run through Atlanta, Georgia.
Most people don’t know that Atlanta is a payments hub or becoming a fintech hub. In an attempt to increase awareness about all the fintech activity happening in Atlanta, TAG (Tech Association of GA) put together the Fintech South conference recently in Atlanta at the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Atlanta doesn’t come to mind as a fintech hub compared to San Francisco, Seattle, Austin or even NYC.Kabbage and Groundfloor are headquartered there and one of the best schools for training the tech workers of tomorrow, Georgia Tech, is there as well.
Here are some highlights from the conference:
Four tracks of sessions on Next Generation Retail & Commerce, Fintech Entrepreneurship & Intrapreneurship, Reinventing Payments & Financial Services, and Technologies Disrupting & Enabling Fintech
The top 20 Georgia-based fintech firms generated almost $72 billion in revenue last year
Ron Suber, the Godfather of Fintech, gave an updated version of his ‘Golden Age of Fintech’ keynote outlining the opportunities available in fintech now that the focus is on solving problems and creating profitable companies. Google, Amazon and Facebook emerged out of the tech wreck of 2000 into the giants they are now and fintech is positioned for similar growth.
Payments and enterprise investments
The two overriding themes of Fintech South, aside from showing the great things going on in the region, were payments and enterprise investments. Since 2016, Atlanta companies First Data & Global Payments (the top 2 credit card processors in the country), Fiserv, ICE and Kabbage are among the companies acquiring other firms in the name of growth.
One of the best sessions was about e-commerce and international payments from Simon Black of PPRO. This pic from the session outlines the 3 biggest growth markets for international payments: Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines where the number of unbanked is between 28-38 per cent. Despite having no bank accounts, e-commerce occurs in these countries with the voucher model. In this model, a buyer takes a printout of the voucher from the online shopping cart to a store like a bodega or convenience store where people pay their cell phone bills and pay in cash to complete the transaction. This explains how 15 per cent, 32 per cent and 65 per cent respectively (the gray on the chart) of e-commerce transactions occur with cash.
Enterprise is investing in fintech generally and blockchain in particular in a big way. Enterprise firms are investing in the consortia model of building blockchains like R3, Hyperledger and Fabric. These same firms have innovation labs inside the company to find fintech solutions to specific problems. Suntrust Bank is doing particularly well with this and their Lightstream product that competes directly with Lending Club for online consumer lending. Payment processor Elavon (another Atlanta company), discussed innovation labs in detail in one of the most packed session discussions.
Two Atlanta colleges have innovation labs with Georgia Tech’s ATDC (Advanced Technology Development Center) business incubator and their Financial Services Innovation Lab and the new Georgia State University fintech lab in their School of Business. These labs and the growth of Atlanta companies like Cardlytics, who was the first tech IPO of 2018, mean more fintech will come from Atlanta in the future.