Why is Canadian Fintech Sizzling?

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Downtown MontrealDowntown Montreal

In recent weeks, Canadian fintech companies have made major splashes in the world market. In the sphere of acquisitions, lending, funding, products and even digital assets, multiple Canadian cities and the companies that call them home have gained a reputation for being a focal point in fintech progression. Cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal have become start-up hotspots for companies looking to ride the wave of Canadian financial innovation.

In the country’s most internationally impacting financial move, Montreal-based payments company Mobeewave’s acquisition by Apple is set to come to fruition, as the company is about to take their phone-to-POS mobile merchant terminal live around the world. Apple acquired Mobeewave last year for $100M and will use the company’s technology to allow merchants and customers to conduct payment transactions by touching phones.

Other companies of note are Hopper, the Montreal-based mobile travel agency that is embedding ‘travel fintech’ into their products. Things like insurance, price drop guarantees, and price freezing are now offered on the Hopper app, which is now valued over $5B after an influx of capital from Brookfield Asset Management.

BNPL giant Klarna has also made moves in the north, opening offices in both British Columbia and Quebec in an attempt to further their expansion into the Canadian market. In a recent interview, the company’s CEO said their research had found at least half of Canadian shoppers were a prime contender to get the best out of Klarna’s services.

So this all begs the question- Why is Canada so ripe for fintech?

“We’re a fast growing market with a strong immigration policy, cheaper technical talent, and strong government hiring incentives,” said Tal Schwartz, Senior Product Manager at Nomis Solutions. “Secondly, we’ve been successful at ‘Canadianizing’ global solutions. For example Brex and Ramp have no client presence here, but Caary and Float have successfully built homegrown solutions that fill a local need.”

Schwartz spoke further on Canadian companies putting their own improvements on established products, making ‘Canadianized’ versions of fintech products and ideas. “Revolut tried entering Canada with little success,” said Schwartz. “Now two years later Koho, Wealthsimple and Neo have cornered the digital banking market from within.”

CanadaEven Canada’s legacy financial institutions have been challenged by fintech, as the nation with the notorious ‘Big Five Banks’ has seen neobanks creeping towards the top as the highest used, as the neobank dubbed Equitable Bank is now Canada’s 7th largest after acquiring Saskatoon-based Concentra Bank earlier this month. Equitable has newly grown its mortgage portfolio thanks to its partnership with Canadian fintech Nesto, a mortgage broker marketplace. The move also gives Equitable a footing in the credit union space, as Concentra provides treasury and trust services to over 200 credit unions in Canada. 

Even the metaverse has taken interest in what Canadian finance can offer it. Terra Zero, a Canadian metaverse real estate platform is now offering mortgages on Decentraland for those looking to purchase property in the trendiest space on the internet.

Canadian finance has made a big leap since a year ago. Pandemic-induced restrictions decimated the country’s financial fortitude, and international competition has never been more intense. Like Schwartz mentioned, it’s the ability for Canadian companies to innovate the innovators, using ideas stemming from other products to “Canadify’ fintech, that has surpassed their industry past the point of survival.

“I think Canadian fintech is hot right now because in Canada, we don’t have the alphabet-soup-level of federal bodies as the U.S. does, primarily leaving enforcement to smaller, more personal, more flexible provincial organizations,” said Nick Chandi, CEO of Forward AI, a Vancouver-based fintech. “In addition, Canada is set on Open Banking, with the Advisory Committee’s final report published in August 2021 and follow-up survey showing that the majority of the Canadian financial services industry wants to move ahead on implementing open banking in Canada ASAP.”

On top of financial friendly politics, Chandi believes it’s Canada’s concise population centers that breed collaboration and innovation. “It’s also a smaller community,” Chandi said. “With most fintech workers living in one of a few key cities, it’s easy to network and make things happen.”

Last modified: March 1, 2022
Adam ZakiAdam Zaki is a Reporter at deBanked. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

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