Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar from The Fintech Times along with Georgy Sokolov, Co-Founder and VP of Partnerships at Wirex; and Natasha Zurnamer, CEO of Optty. The topic of this latest installment of The Fintech Times’ webinar series was “How Can Partnership Fuel Innovation in Fintech.”
Fintech partnerships is a topic I am passionate about. Mainly because Wildfire’s business is entirely based on partnerships: we don’t have a direct-to-consumer offering (instead, we offer a white-label rewards platform that financial institutions and fintechs can in turn deliver to their own consumers.) But quite frankly, I don’t see that our entire industry would be moving forward if not for the fintechs driving innovation through the partnerships that they are creating.
At one point we were asked, “What is the one key ingredient for a successful partnership?” In my experience, especially at Wildfire as we bring on large financial institutions and other big partners, an ‘unequal’ partnership can often result in great success. Although it’s unintuitive, each partner can bring complementary value to the partnership even though it might seem diametrically opposed.
I found it interesting to hear my fellow panelists’ answers to the same question: Georgy said a strategic and cultural fit was most important. Natasha said there must be a win-win (revenue opportunity for both parties, equivalent effort, good growth opportunities, etc.)
You should really listen to the whole webinar on demand at the Fintech Times’ site, but here are some of the other key takeaways.
Partnerships provide leverage and extend a company’s resources. Partnerships can enable a company to add a new feature by just integrating it from a provider, rather than building it all themselves. They can enable a company to be more efficient with marketing: for example, by partnering on a joint marketing campaign if products are complementary. Each company gets exposure to the others’ user base.
It’s critical to set up your partnership agreements so that they are a win-win for both parties. Oppty sets up partnerships so they provide revenue opportunities for both partners, and allow them to accelerate growth and become so valuable to the partner, that the partner doesn’t end up becoming a competitor.
Speed isn’t a word you’d typically use to describe the financial industry. But in the last decade or so, with the rise of fintechs, there’s been a paradigm shift transforming the entire industry to a much more consumer-focused industry, delivering lower friction for consumers, and better ways for them to do things. The fintechs are the engine driving this innovation.
You should only consider collaborating with partners when there is a total value-add in terms of complementing one another. If you’re too identical in the services offered, then it might not make sense.
It is possible to innovate by yourself, but most companies are innovating using partnerships.