Fintech Growth Insights from Fintastico's Fabrizio Villani

Jane O'Hara
Jane O'Hara
Fintech Growth Insights from Fintastico's Fabrizio Villani

My recent interview with Fabrizio Villani, co-founder and Head of Growth at Fintastico, offers insights into the world of fintech and how he predicts it will change over the coming months — including his own monetization efforts.

"We believe there may be benefits for those media that focus on a single sector, because the elimination of third-party cookies substantially increases the importance and exclusivity of "walled gardens" and it will alter the role of publishers in where and how ads are seen."
Fabrizio Villani, Fintastico

What first inspired you to create Fintastico?

As we all know, banking and financial sectors are facing digital challenges nowadays. A fintech “movement” that started a few years ago has triggered the unbundling of traditional financial services. A lot has changed since the last financial crisis: many fintech startups became unicorns, banking infrastructure startups like Plaid were acquired by big players like Visa, and we are starting to see rebundling dynamics of fintech players and incumbents. Technology is changing Finance.

According to many fintech reports, there are over 12,000 fintech startups around the world. Many of them will not survive during this new crisis but others will establish themselves as new major players in the financial sector.

There are simply too many fintech companies on the market, and consumers and businesses — who are usually not experts in financial technology — are looking for news, opinions, reviews, and guidance in their financial choices.

Fintastico was born from the need to bring order and simplicity to the complex and varied world of fintech, in order to allow consumers and businesses to discover and use new fintech service providers and thus create a fintech marketplace.

How would you describe your business model and target audience?

Fintastico's current business model is based on bringing together consumers and businesses looking for fintech solutions with fintech providers who can likely solve their financial needs. Consumers and businesses that use Fintastico can discover innovative new financial services, categorized and mapped by type and through filters and tags, refine their search until they find the service that best meets their needs. Fintech companies benefit from being on Fintastico by obtaining more traffic and potential leads from a qualified target audience.

We put a lot of time and effort into creating content that appeals to our target audience, i.e. normal people searching for guidance about fintech related products and services. Aside from bankers and insurers who know that technology is quickly overtaking their world, our current audience consists mainly of early adopters: typical techies, product enthusiasts, founders, investors, reporters, engineers, designers, and marketers. A trend that we saw even before the pandemic is the rapid growth in the number of "normal" users who are approaching fintech and growing month after month.

How would you describe your current revenue model?

Fintastico's current revenue model is based on offering various digital marketing services to various fintech startups and incumbents, with a clear focus on reducing their CAC (customer acquisition cost).

We help fintechs and incumbents to promote their innovative services through digital PR services, to find new customers through affiliate campaigns and to find new talents to be included in their teams by promoting their job offers.

How and when do you hope to build out Fintastico as an ad platform — and what form might that take?

We are working on a real recommendation engine able to profile users with respect to different financial needs and to offer them only the offers in line with their preferences. We are open to any form of sponsored services that meet our requirements for being innovative financial services.

How are the current crisis and economic downturn affecting your business and/or influencing your decisions?

The forced digitization to which COVID-19 has subjected us is profoundly changing many of the habits to which consumers and businesses were accustomed. We do not know if things will return to normal, or if we will have to get used to this new normal, but one thing is certain: some sectors have experienced rapid growth (e.g., ecommerce, elearning, telemedicine). Life insurance searches in recent months have grown by 800% in some countries and the pleasure or ability of customers to physically visit their bank branch is certainly at an all-time low in this period.

"This crisis is proving, if there is still some doubt, that the future of traditional finance is digital."
Fabrizio Villani

Some fintech verticals have grown a lot in this period, as evidenced by the numerous donation or fundraising campaigns that have been launched through various crowdfunding platforms. Some fintech are experiencing a slowdown or will have to pivot their business model, but in general, the impacts of coronavirus on fintech have been more positive than negative so far. A negative aspect will be the slowdown in venture capital investments, which will impact all startups.

What effects are you seeing — or do you anticipate — with the SameSite cookie attribute changes in Chrome 80 and/or the elimination of third-party cookies generally?

We believe there may be benefits for those media that focus on a single sector, because the elimination of third-party cookies substantially increases the importance and exclusivity of "walled gardens" and it will alter the role of publishers in where and how ads are seen.

The role of quality content on financial websites will become more important than ever.

Organizations like ours have the opportunity to take full advantage of first-party data which includes behavioral data collected by observing customers as they browse our website.

How are you preparing for/addressing consumer privacy laws such as the GDPR, CCPA, LGPD, etc.?

While it may seem like hard times are coming, the elimination of third-party cookies presents an opportunity for transformation. Third-party cookies are a legacy technology that was never intended for advertising and, especially in recent years, has been a source of concern for consumer privacy.

Third-party cookies are highly fragmented, nonpersistent, and nontransparent. We welcome the shift from a cookie-based world to an identity-based world not only for advertising but especially for the financial world. These changes will allow a view across channels, platforms, and devices based on a persistent identifier of a consumer. Clearly, regulations are not easy or immediate to comply with, but users’ privacy must be guaranteed.

We intend to collect and analyze users' browsing data and preferences within the Fintastico ecosystem and then users will be able to decide which data to share with Fintastico in exchange for a better personalization of the service.

We do not plan to transfer personal data in any way, except in an aggregate form, in a fully compliant way with the rules on data processing. An approach that we are investigating is BYOI (bring your own identity) where the digital authentication of an end user's username and password is managed by a third party. This approach enables people to securely and safely re-use their verified identity across financial providers and other organisations, so that they don’t need to be re-verified every time they want to access or use new services.

We want to become an intermediary for an engaging communication between service providers and potential customers through targeted communications towards specific clusters or the personalization of the information displayed on the website.

What common misconceptions about fintech would you like to correct?

Unfortunately, one of the most used concepts in the world of sustainability is that of greenwashing. Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound. This happens above all because there is not a common and clear definition among the different stakeholders regarding what sustainability means and what it is.

The same thing is true for fintech. If we ask bankers what fintech is, they will probably tell us that it is nothing new and in his opinion is comparable to their old development and research department. A fintech entrepreneur will probably tell us that it is the disruption of the banking sector. Regulators will likely tell us it is an innovation and therefore they will regulate it as soon as possible, since regulation is always lagging behind technological innovations.

I have been working in fintech for the last seven years and I have developed my own definition/methodology that allows me to distinguish a fintech product or service from one that is not: Imagine an ancient Greek building, an image often used also to represent a traditional bank. The three columns that support this building are those of technological innovation and therefore of the most recent programming languages without legacy systems, another column is the one of a superior user experience (UX) that create customers (not consumers), and the third is represented by transparency, the possibility to know the cost structure clearly and without nasty surprises. These three elements make it possible to distinguish between a service that is really fintech from one that claims to be fintech even though it is not, what I call "finwashing" or “fintech washing”.

Fabrizio Villani is the co-founder and Head of Growth at Fintastico — “the TripAdvisor of innovative financial services”.

Thanks to Fabrizio for sharing his fintech perspectives.

Jane O'Hara
Jane O'Hara

Jane is the Senior Marketing Manager at Kevel. She enjoys discovering user-first ad platforms and articulating the value of Kevel's ad serving APIs.