First off, this summer has brought one of the greatest competitions in the world back to our TVs. The UEFA European Championship is here after five years, and it is that much sweeter after a year-long delay due to that blasted coronavirus. While the US is semi-officially ‘back’, the rest of the world is still slowly trying to adopt vaccinations and ease restrictions.
At the same time there is another battle waging in this twilight. This competition doesn’t happen on the soccer field, instead taking place in app stores and global markets. Financial technology companies all over the world are growing at a fever “pitch”, with multinational legacy banks and budding startups alike vying to be players in the world’s next financial era.
While the US is certainly the largest market for fintech developers and providers, the growing wave of money has already started splashing on shores across the globe. That includes smaller markets in the Asia-Pacific, South America and Africa, but also in the sometimes-forgotten old court of the world: Europe.
To celebrate these two storms picking up, and casting winds across Europe: Starting today, I will be writing a 4-part mini-series of posts highlighting European challengers. Each post will handle:
- 2 of the 8 European Championship games from Saturday through Tuesday.
- A short write-up on four emerging, growing and exciting fintechs, one each from the four countries playing that day.
- A quick preview of each game, including key players, history and recent form for each team.
- My predictions for the winner and outcome of each game.
Saturday Games and Fintech Breakdowns
Now let’s get to the first two knockout games, which kick off the European Championship’s Round of 16 this Saturday, June 26.
Denmark vs. Wales
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Venue: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Odds: Denmark -115, Wales +400, Draw +220
Over/Under (1.5 goals): Over -145, Under +152
Preview: The first knockout game to take place is an exciting one, with a fiery Welsh side taking on a Danish side that is desperate to win.
Wales didn’t blow anybody away in their group stage (1-1-1), but did what they had to do to move on to the elimination portion. At the same time, they have two of the best players in the world in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who can ignite any game with a combination of speed, shooting and passing chemistry.
Denmark (1-2) has had ups-and-downs since the tournament started, losing the first two games after its best player, Christian Eriksen suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest in the opener against Finland. Eriksen actually died on the field before being resuscitated by paramedics, and although he is stable now, the emotions have certainly affected the team. The team lost their next game against Belgium but were able to thrash Russia 4-1 to move on in the competition.
While the team isn’t anything special on paper, there are sharp emotions tied to this game and I can assure you they will try their hardest to move on for their fallen countrymen. Denmark are the clear favorites because of this, and the probability that a large number of Danish fans will make the short trip to the Netherlands as a result.
Prediction: Although Wales can flick their goalscoring on in an instant, I don’t see them being able to play as hard as Denmark. I expect 2 or more goals, with Denmark moving on.
Even if the game is a draw after 90 minutes, it is hard to see a team with that much weight on their shoulders not leaving it all on the field.
Fintechs of the Match:
Cardlay is a fintech which allows issuing banks and card issuers to capitalize digitally on existing portfolios. The Odense-based company offers payment card functionalities, including travel expense management, mileage, instant virtual cards, and cross-border Value-Added Tax (VAT) reclaim in a single platform. While these aren’t novel services and the company has not raised eye-popping money ($28.4M to date), the company is notable due to its new partnership with Mastercard Europe.
The partnership is aimed at incorporating Cardlay’s services and card functionalities across Mastercard’s issuing banks network, and is expected to accelerate Cardlay’s expansion of services across Europe.
Sonovate is a frontrunner of Welsh fintech at the moment, providing financial technology solutions for businesses enlisting contractors and freelancers. The UK government’s Digital Economy Council recently named the Cardiff-based fintech a potential future unicorn (valuation over $1 billion), citing the company’s £1.9bn provided in funding and the rise of the gig economy.
As coronavirus moved many employees to work-from-home, a large chunk of the globe’s workforce was instead laid off. Pressed by cash-flow struggles associated with the pandemic, many companies realized that with a large at-the-ready pool of remote workers, it was more cost efficient to utilize contract work.
People needed work, businesses needed workers, and both realized from the situation that they could do it from home, without the need to come into the office. It’s not surprising that this type of work is taking off as a result, and I speak from experience when I say the flexibility and more-relaxed contracting environment works for me (not needing to offer contractor’s benefits probably works for employers, too).
Sonovate’s platform provides as-needed cash-flow to businesses and removes uncertainty with contract work payment, and also gives clients peace-of-mind that funds are in place and payment deadlines can be met.
Italy vs. Austria
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, UK
Odds: Italy -200, Austria +600, Draw +305
Over/Under (2.5 goals): Over +115, Under -140
Preview: The second game on Saturday is not as exciting as the first, unless of course you’re Italian. The Blues (Italy) finished the group stage 3-0, and look like the best team in the tournament with seven goals scored and zero allowed.
While Europe’s boot has long-been known for its strong defensive foundation, league and players, they are proving to be capable at switching it forward this year. The team scored three goals in each of its first two games, and would have probably scored more against Wales if they weren’t resting their starters (top scorers Immobile and Locatelli sat the final game).
Austria has done well with the hand they were given, facing a rather weak group of North Macedonia, Ukraine and Netherlands. Two wins against two lower-tier teams moved them through, but a 2-0 loss to Netherlands shows they don’t have the talent or depth to go against the top international squads.
Prediction: This should be an easy game for Italy, with a rested squad and the best form in the competition. Austria will probably sit back and rarely move men forward to try and score, which combined with Italy’s defensive history makes this look like a low-scoring game. However—Italy is a proud country and team, and I believe they will come out of the gates red hot to show the world they can also score if you aren’t careful. I expect another 3-0 game for Italy, over 2.5 goals.
Fintechs of the Match:
Satispay is an interesting startup, providing an independent mobile payment platform which can be used by anybody with a bank account. Despite no formal partnership with debit or credit card networks, the allows both online and offline merchants to accept payments using any device or point-of-sale (PoS).
As Europe jumps forward with open banking, the idea of an independent payment platform is incredibly exciting. The service has real potential to take some power (and money) back from large financial institutions and back into the hands of small businesses.
The Italian fintech most recently raised a €93 million Series C co-led by payment processing giant Square, Tencent, LGT Lightstone and TIM Ventures. The fact Square, one of the most notable payment processors to rise to prominence in the past decade, is on board shows that the product has real disruption capability and could cause damage to existing legacy banks and financial institutions.
Kompany is a RegTech platform which offers Global Business Verification and Business KYC for AML compliance. I know that’s a bunch of acronym’s and jargon, but the bottom line is the company provides a web-based workspace that allows financial institutions, payment processors, insurers and other regulated corporations a regulation compliance and anti-money laundering automation platform.
The company (kompany), recently announced a new anti-money laundering solution, using AI, RPA and blockchain tech to simplify and audit-proof business verification and client onboarding (proving and verifying they actually have money). An automated client could help banks and other financial institutions save on the somewhat astronomical cost of administrative duties (most of which comes from time-intensive research, paperwork and audit-prevention measures).
That’s it for now, I hope you enjoy this mini-series and continue to read (or at least open the email). I know this was a long one, but I got excited about the idea and it all kind of came out. I promise the next three parts will be shorter. Talk to you tomorrow!