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How To Herd Unicorns; More Banks Hunt For Fintech Startups As Customers



The financial industry has undergone a significant transformation with the rise of fintech startups. These innovative companies have disrupted traditional banking models by leveraging technology to provide new and improved financial services. As a result, more and more banks are recognizing the value of partnering with fintech startups to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world.

In this article, we will explore the benefits that fintech startups offer to banks, the unicorn mentality they embody, and how banks can effectively identify and collaborate with these startups. We will also provide insights into successful bank-fintech partnerships and discuss the challenges involved in herding these unicorns.

Fintech startups differ from traditional banks as they are nimble, agile, and have a customer-centric approach. They leverage cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics to provide innovative financial solutions. These startups have gained traction by addressing pain points in the traditional banking industry, including lengthy approval processes, high fees, and lack of personalized services.

By partnering with fintech startups, banks can tap into their technological expertise and enhance their product offerings. These collaborations enable banks to stay competitive, attract new customers, and improve customer experience. Through collaboration, banks gain access to innovative solutions that can streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.

However, herding unicorns, a term used to describe the process of identifying and partnering with high-potential fintech startups, is not without its challenges. Banks need to carefully assess potential partners, considering factors such as their business model, scalability, market traction, and regulatory compliance. Furthermore, banks must navigate through complex regulations and establish a culture of innovation to foster successful collaborations.

Throughout this article, we will explore best practices and case studies that demonstrate successful bank-fintech partnerships. By understanding the dynamics of this evolving relationship and embracing the unicorn mentality, banks can position themselves at the forefront of the fintech revolution.


The Rise of Fintech Startups

The financial technology (fintech) industry has experienced explosive growth in recent years. Fintech startups have emerged as disruptors, challenging traditional banking models and revolutionizing the way individuals and businesses access financial services.

The rise of fintech startups can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, advancements in technology have made it easier and more cost-effective for entrepreneurs to develop and launch financial solutions. The advent of cloud computing, mobile devices, and open-source software has democratized access to the tools and resources needed to build innovative financial products.

Secondly, changing consumer preferences and expectations have created a demand for more convenient and personalized financial services. Fintech startups have been quick to capitalize on this demand by developing user-friendly platforms, mobile apps, and digital wallets that make financial transactions faster and more accessible.

Additionally, regulatory changes and open banking initiatives have paved the way for increased competition and collaboration within the industry. Governments and regulators are recognizing the potential of fintech startups to drive innovation and improve financial inclusion. As a result, traditional barriers to entry have been lowered, allowing startups to enter the market more easily.

One of the key areas where fintech startups have made significant strides is in providing access to financial services for the unbanked and underbanked populations. These startups leverage technology to overcome traditional barriers, such as distance, cost, and lack of infrastructure, to offer financial products and services to individuals and businesses that were previously excluded from the formal banking sector.

Furthermore, fintech startups have introduced innovative solutions in areas such as peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, robo-advisory, digital payments, and blockchain-based technologies. By leveraging these technologies, fintech startups are able to streamline processes, reduce costs, and provide faster, more efficient financial services compared to traditional banking institutions.

As fintech startups gain traction and attract investment, they are disrupting established players in the financial industry. Traditional banks are recognizing the need to adapt and stay competitive in the face of this disruption. Many banks are now actively seeking out collaborations and partnerships with fintech startups to harness their technological expertise and innovative solutions.

In the next section, we will delve deeper into the benefits that fintech startups offer to banks and why these collaborations are crucial for both parties.


Benefits of Fintech Startups for Banks

Fintech startups offer a range of benefits to traditional banks, enabling them to adapt to the rapidly evolving financial landscape and meet the changing needs of their customers. Here are some key advantages of partnering with fintech startups:

1. Technological Innovation:

Fintech startups are renowned for their expertise in leveraging emerging technologies to develop innovative financial solutions. By collaborating with fintech startups, banks can access cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain, which can help streamline operations, enhance security, and improve efficiency. These technologies enable banks to deliver faster and more personalized services, enhancing the overall customer experience.

2. Enhanced Product Offerings:

Partnering with fintech startups allows banks to diversify and expand their product offerings. Fintech startups often specialize in niche areas or provide unique solutions that address specific pain points in the market. By incorporating these offerings into their portfolio, banks can attract new customers and cater to underserved segments. For example, banks can collaborate with robo-advisory startups to provide low-cost investment advisory services or partner with digital payment providers to offer seamless mobile payment solutions.

3. Improved Customer Experience:

Fintech startups prioritize customer-centricity and design solutions with a focus on user experience. By working with fintech startups, banks can adopt a more customer-centric approach, leveraging intuitive interfaces, personalized recommendations, and 24/7 access to financial services. This shift towards a seamless and user-friendly experience can greatly enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

4. Access to New Customer Segments:

Fintech startups often target underserved or unbanked populations, providing financial services to individuals and businesses who have limited or no access to traditional banking. By partnering with these startups, banks can tap into these new customer segments and expand their reach. Additionally, fintech startups have a deep understanding of digital marketing and customer acquisition, which can help banks attract a younger demographic and tech-savvy customers.

5. Cost Efficiency:

Fintech startups are typically leaner and more agile than traditional banks, allowing them to operate at lower costs. By collaborating with fintech startups, banks can leverage their lean operations and innovative solutions to reduce operational costs, enhance efficiency, and improve profitability. Additionally, fintech startups often offer scalable and flexible solutions, allowing banks to adjust their services according to changing market demands.

In the following sections, we will explore the unicorn mentality that fintech startups embody and how banks can effectively identify and collaborate with these high-potential startups.


Understanding the Unicorn Mentality

The term “unicorn” originated in the startup world to describe privately-held companies valued at $1 billion or more. In the context of fintech startups, the unicorn mentality refers to the innovative and disruptive mindset that sets these companies apart from traditional financial institutions.

Fintech startups embody the unicorn mentality in several ways:

1. Innovation and Disruption:

Unicorns are known for their ability to challenge the status quo and disrupt traditional industries. Fintech startups embody this mentality by introducing groundbreaking technologies and business models that reshape the financial landscape. They are driven by a relentless pursuit of innovation, constantly seeking ways to improve and reinvent financial services.

2. Agility and Adaptability:

Unicorns are agile and able to respond quickly to changing market dynamics. Fintech startups possess this trait, as they are not bound by legacy systems and bureaucratic processes that can slow down traditional banks. They can swiftly adapt to market trends, customer demands, and regulatory changes, giving them a competitive edge in the fast-paced fintech industry.

3. Customer-Centric Approach:

Unicorns prioritize the needs and preferences of their customers. Fintech startups adopt the same approach, placing the customer experience at the forefront of their solutions. They leverage data analytics and user feedback to deliver personalized and tailored financial services that meet the specific needs of their customers.

4. Focus on Technology:

Unicorns harness the power of technology to drive their growth. Fintech startups excel in this area, leveraging advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and big data analytics to develop innovative financial solutions. They understand the transformative potential of technology and leverage it to create disruptive offerings.

5. Collaboration and Partnerships:

Unicorns understand the value of collaboration and strategic partnerships. Fintech startups actively seek partnerships with banks, financial institutions, and other industry players to access their resources, expertise, and customer base. These collaborations allow them to scale their operations, expand their reach, and bring their innovations to a wider audience.

Understanding the unicorn mentality is crucial for banks when identifying potential fintech partners. Collaborating with startups that embody the unicorn mentality can drive innovation within banks, help them stay ahead of the competition, and deliver exceptional value to their customers.

In the next section, we will explore effective strategies for identifying fintech startups with high potential and building fruitful relationships with them.


How to Identify Fintech Startups with High Potential

Identifying fintech startups with high potential is crucial for banks looking to establish successful partnerships and benefit from their innovative solutions. Here are some strategies to help banks identify fintech startups with the highest potential:

1. Research and Due Diligence:

Conduct thorough research on the fintech industry to gain insights into the latest trends, emerging technologies, and promising startups. Stay updated on industry news, attend industry conferences, and engage with industry experts to identify fintech startups that are making waves in the market. Perform due diligence by assessing their business model, financial stability, management team, and market traction.

2. Market Validation:

Look for fintech startups that have gained market validation and traction. Consider factors such as customer adoption, revenue growth, and market share. A strong and growing customer base is a good indicator of a fintech startup’s potential for success.

3. Scalability:

Evaluate the scalability of the fintech startup’s business model. Assess its potential to grow and expand beyond its current market. Look for startups with products or services that have the potential to scale rapidly and address a large market opportunity. Scalability is a key criterion for identifying fintech startups with the highest growth potential.

4. Industry Expertise and Team:

Assess the experience and expertise of the fintech startup’s management team. Look for teams with a strong background in both finance and technology. A well-rounded team with a deep understanding of the industry is more likely to navigate regulatory challenges, develop innovative solutions, and build successful partnerships with banks.

5. Technology and Innovation:

Evaluate the technological capabilities and innovation of the fintech startup. Look for startups that are leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and data analytics. Innovations in these areas have the potential to transform the financial industry and deliver significant value to banks and their customers.

6. Strategic Fit:

Consider the strategic fit between the fintech startup and the bank. Look for startups that align with the bank’s strategic goals, target market, and product offerings. A strong strategic fit increases the likelihood of a successful partnership and collaboration that benefits both the fintech startup and the bank.

It is important for banks to assess multiple factors and conduct thorough evaluations before selecting fintech startups to partner with. Building relationships with startups that have the highest potential for success will ensure that banks can leverage their innovation and expertise to drive growth and enhance their offerings.

In the next section, we will discuss the importance of building strong relationships with fintech startups and how banks can foster successful collaborations.


Building a Relationship with Fintech Startups

Building a strong and productive relationship with fintech startups is key to the success of collaboration and partnership between banks and these innovative companies. Here are some essential steps for banks to follow when establishing a relationship with fintech startups:

1. Cultivate an Innovation-Friendly Culture:

Encourage a culture of innovation within the bank by fostering an environment that embraces new ideas and rewards creativity. Establish dedicated teams or innovation labs that focus on exploring emerging technologies and trends in the fintech space. This will attract fintech startups and demonstrate the bank’s commitment to innovation.

2. Establish Clear Objectives:

Define clear objectives and goals for the collaboration with fintech startups. Understand what the bank aims to achieve through the partnership, whether it’s enhancing customer experience, improving operational efficiency, or entering new markets. Clear objectives provide a foundation for effective collaboration and ensure alignment between the bank and the fintech startup.

3. Nurture Open Communication:

Promote open and transparent communication channels between the bank and the fintech startup. Encourage regular meetings, brainstorming sessions, and workshops to facilitate the exchange of ideas and foster collaboration. Actively listen to the startup’s feedback and suggestions, creating a mutually beneficial relationship built on trust and respect.

4. Provide Resources and Support:

Assist fintech startups by providing necessary resources and support. This may include access to customer data, regulatory guidance, technical expertise, or mentorship from seasoned professionals within the bank. By offering valuable resources, banks can help startups navigate industry challenges and accelerate their growth.

5. Embrace Agile Development:

Adopt agile development methodologies that allow for rapid prototyping and iteration. This flexible approach enables both the bank and the fintech startup to adapt and refine their solutions based on user feedback and market demands. Agile development fosters a collaborative and iterative process that leads to more effective outcomes.

6. Emphasize Regulatory Compliance:

Compliance with regulatory frameworks is crucial in the financial industry. Ensure that the fintech startup has a solid understanding of the regulatory landscape and is committed to compliance. Collaborate closely with the startup to navigate regulatory requirements and ensure that their solutions meet the necessary standards.

By following these steps, banks can establish a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with fintech startups. This collaboration will enable both parties to leverage their respective strengths, drive innovation, and deliver enhanced financial services to customers.

In the following section, we will discuss the importance of collaboration and partnership between banks and fintech startups and how it can drive success in the financial industry.


The Importance of Collaboration and Partnership

In the rapidly evolving financial industry, collaboration and partnership between banks and fintech startups have become increasingly important. Here are some key reasons why collaboration and partnership are crucial:

1. Leveraging Technological Expertise:

Fintech startups possess cutting-edge technological expertise that can greatly benefit banks. By collaborating with these startups, banks can tap into their knowledge and experience in areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics. This enables banks to enhance their operations, improve customer experiences, and stay competitive in the digital age.

2. Innovation and New Perspectives:

Fintech startups bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. Collaborating with these startups exposes banks to new ways of thinking and encourages them to challenge traditional models. By embracing innovation and incorporating fintech solutions, banks can transform their offerings and meet the evolving needs of their customers.

3. Accelerating Time to Market:

Partnership with fintech startups allows banks to accelerate their time to market for new products and services. Startups are known for their agility and ability to develop and deploy solutions quickly. By collaborating with these startups, banks can leverage their speed and agility to bring innovative offerings to market faster and gain a competitive advantage.

4. Access to New Markets:

Fintech startups often target underserved or unbanked markets, providing financial services to individuals and businesses that traditional banks have overlooked. Partnering with these startups enables banks to access new customer segments and expand their reach. By extending their services to these markets, banks can increase their customer base and drive growth.

5. Enhanced Customer Experience:

Collaboration with fintech startups allows banks to enhance the customer experience. Fintech startups are experts in delivering user-centric solutions, leveraging intuitive interfaces, personalization, and seamless digital experiences. By partnering with these startups, banks can leverage their expertise to create seamless and personalized interactions, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

6. Mutual Benefit and Growth:

Collaboration and partnership between banks and fintech startups create a win-win situation. Startups gain access to the bank’s resources, customer base, and regulatory expertise, which can fuel their growth and scalability. On the other hand, banks benefit from the startups’ innovation, technology, and disruptive solutions. This partnership allows both parties to thrive and create significant value for their stakeholders.

The success of collaboration and partnership between banks and fintech startups relies on open communication, shared goals, and a mutually beneficial relationship. By leveraging each other’s strengths, banks and fintech startups can drive innovation, enhance customer experiences, and shape the future of the financial industry.

In the following section, we will explore some real-world examples of successful bank-fintech partnerships that demonstrate the positive outcomes of collaboration in the financial industry.


Overcoming Challenges in Herding Unicorns

While collaborating with fintech startups offers numerous benefits, there are also challenges that banks must overcome in the process of “herding unicorns.” Here are some key challenges and strategies to address them:

1. Cultural Differences:

Fintech startups often have a different culture compared to traditional banks. Startups are known for their agility, risk-taking, and fast-paced decision-making, while banks tend to have more structured and risk-averse cultures. To overcome this challenge, banks need to foster a culture of innovation, flexibility, and open communication. Encouraging cross-pollination of ideas and embracing a startup mentality can bridge the cultural gap and foster effective collaboration.

2. Regulatory Compliance:

The financial industry is highly regulated, and compliance with regulatory requirements is essential. Fintech startups may face challenges in navigating complex and evolving regulations. Banks can help startups overcome this obstacle by providing regulatory guidance, expertise, and resources. Collaborative efforts in compliance ensure that the solutions developed by startups meet regulatory standards and build trust with customers.

3. Scalability and Robustness:

Fintech startups often begin with niche offerings and have the potential to scale rapidly. However, scalability and robustness can be challenges for startups as they grow. Banks can aid startups by providing support in areas such as infrastructure, technology, and risk management. Collaboration can help startups enhance their scalability and robustness, enabling them to meet the increasing demands of their expanding customer base.

4. Data Security and Privacy:

Data security and privacy are paramount in the financial industry. Startups may have limited resources to ensure robust security measures. Banks can offer their expertise, infrastructure, and knowledge in data security to help startups address these concerns. Collaborating closely to establish stringent security protocols and compliance with privacy regulations ensures that customer data is protected and helps build trust with customers.

5. Access to Funding:

Fintech startups often require funding to fuel their growth and innovation. Banks can help by providing access to capital, through investments or funding partnerships. Collaborative funding initiatives, such as corporate venture capital funds, can support startups in their development and enable banks to gain exposure to innovative solutions in the fintech space.

6. Integration and Legacy Systems:

Integration with existing legacy systems can be a challenge when collaborating with fintech startups. Banks need to assess the compatibility of their systems with the startup’s technology infrastructure. This challenge can be addressed through effective project management, robust APIs, and gradual migration strategies. Collaboration in system integration ensures a seamless and efficient implementation process.

By acknowledging these challenges and adopting strategies to address them, banks can successfully navigate the complexities of herding unicorns. The collaboration between banks and fintech startups can result in transformative innovations, enhanced customer experiences, and sustainable growth in the financial industry.

In the next section, we will highlight some real-world examples of successful bank-fintech partnerships that demonstrate the potential and positive outcomes of collaboration in the financial industry.


Case Studies: Successful Bank-Fintech Partnerships

Several successful bank-fintech partnerships have emerged in recent years, highlighting the positive outcomes that collaboration can bring to the financial industry. Here are some notable case studies:

1. BBVA and Atom Bank:

BBVA, a Spanish multinational bank, has established a successful partnership with Atom Bank, a UK-based mobile-only bank. BBVA acquired a stake in Atom Bank and provided financial support and expertise, helping Atom Bank scale its operations and enhance its digital offerings. The collaboration enabled Atom Bank to develop innovative mobile banking solutions, including an intuitive and personalized mobile app, leading to increased customer acquisition and retention.

2. JPMorgan Chase and OnDeck:

JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the United States, formed a partnership with OnDeck, an online lender focused on small business loans. Through this collaboration, JPMorgan Chase integrated OnDeck’s technology into its small business lending platform, providing faster and more accessible lending options to its customers. The partnership allowed JPMorgan Chase to streamline its lending process, reduce costs, and offer tailored lending solutions to small businesses.

3. Santander and Kabbage:

Santander, a global banking giant, partnered with Kabbage, an online lending platform for small businesses. Through this collaboration, Santander integrated Kabbage’s technology into its digital banking platform, allowing small businesses to access easy and quick funding options. The partnership enabled Santander to expand its lending capabilities and reach a broader customer base, while Kabbage gained access to Santander’s vast customer network and resources.

4. Goldman Sachs and Circle:

Goldman Sachs, a renowned investment bank, collaborated with Circle, a cryptocurrency startup, to launch a digital asset custody service. The partnership allowed Goldman Sachs to explore opportunities in the emerging world of cryptocurrencies and leverage Circle’s technology and expertise in blockchain-based financial services. The collaboration paved the way for traditional banks to enter the digital asset space and provided customers with a secure and regulated platform for cryptocurrency transactions.

These case studies demonstrate the power of collaboration between banks and fintech startups. In each partnership, the bank and the fintech startup leveraged their respective strengths to enhance their offerings, drive innovation, and better serve their customers. Such collaborations highlight the potential for transformative change in the financial industry and reinforce the importance of collaboration in driving positive outcomes.

In the following section, we will wrap up the article by summarizing the key takeaways and emphasizing the significance of ongoing collaboration and partnership between banks and fintech startups.



The collaboration between banks and fintech startups has become vital in the ever-evolving financial landscape. Fintech startups, with their innovative solutions and unicorn mentality, bring a fresh perspective to the industry, while traditional banks offer resources, experience, and regulatory expertise. Together, they create powerful partnerships that drive innovation, enhance customer experiences, and shape the future of finance.

Throughout this article, we explored the rise of fintech startups and the benefits they offer to banks, including technological innovation, enhanced product offerings, improved customer experiences, access to new customer segments, and cost efficiency. We also discussed the importance of understanding the unicorn mentality and how it sets fintech startups apart.

Identifying fintech startups with high potential requires thorough research, market validation, assessment of scalability, evaluation of industry expertise, and strategic fit with the bank. Building a strong relationship with these startups involves fostering an innovation-friendly culture, establishing clear objectives, nurturing open communication, providing resources and support, embracing agile development, and emphasizing regulatory compliance.

Collaboration and partnership overcome challenges such as cultural differences, regulatory compliance, scalability, data security, and integration. Through successful bank-fintech partnerships, as demonstrated by case studies, banks and startups can leverage each other’s strengths to drive innovation, enter new markets, improve customer experiences, and achieve mutual growth.

As we conclude, it is crucial to emphasize that ongoing collaboration and partnership between banks and fintech startups are essential for continued success in the financial industry. Both parties must embrace a mindset of openness, adaptability, and shared goals to navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of customers.

By fostering collaboration and partnership, banks and fintech startups can usher in a new era of financial services, where technology, innovation, and customer-centricity combine to create a more accessible, efficient, and inclusive financial landscape for all.

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