May 24, 2023
Video: Future of Finance - Indian and Asian perspectives
In this video, QED's Managing Partner Nigel Morris and Head of Asia Sandeep Patil discuss the findings of the Global Fintech 2023: Reimagining the Future of Finance report that we co-authored with the Boston Consulting Group.
Nigel Morris is the co-founder and managing partner of QED Investors, a fintech venture capital platform focused on disruptive, high-growth financial services companies. QED has made numerous unicorn investments, including Credit Karma, Nubank, Avant, SoFi, Klarna, GreenSky, and AvidXchange.
Nigel is the Chairman of ClearScore and Mission Lane and serves on the boards of Remitly, Quinto Andar, Bitso, Amount and Current. Additionally, he serves on the board of Ideas42 and Scotia’s Digital AdvisoryCouncil, and he works in an advisory capacity with General Atlantic and Oliver Wyman. Nigel previously worked on the boards of Capital One, The Economist, Brookings, National Geographic, Klarna, Braintree, TransUnion, and London Business School. He frequently keynotes at industry-leading conferences, including Money2020, LendIt, Finance Disrupted and the Bernstein Annual Financials Summit.
Prior to QED, Nigel co-founded Capital One Financial Services in 1994. Under Nigel’s leadership as President and Chief Operating Officer, Capital One pioneered an information-based strategy that transformed the consumer lending industry.
Although Nigel grew up mostly in England, he takes immense pride in the fact that he is at least half Welsh. He has an MBA with distinction from London Business School, where he is also a Fellow. Nigel was recognized as a Top 100 Venture Capitalist by CB Insights in 2019 and Midas List member in 2020 and 2021. He is an avid cyclist, but he is happiest when he is at home in Virginia with his wife, four children, and three grandchildren.
Sandeep Patil joined QED in 2020 in London as a partner and heads the fund’s investments into Asia. His current portfolio includes Refyne, OneCard, Jupiter and Upswing.
He has extensive experience in consumer internet and is a global veteran of the banking and financial services industry. Over his career spanning more than two decades, he has developed and executed major growth strategies and led, operated, advised, and invested in companies of all sizes in the U.S., the U.K., India and Southeast Asia.
Sandeep was based in the U.S. and the U.K. in the first 15 years of his professional life. He started at Capital One in the U.S. developing product and credit strategies for underserved and upmarket consumers. Later, he was part of the investment team at Actis Capital, a London-based growth equity fund and covered opportunities in India and Africa. After that, at McKinsey and Company, he served prominent banks, insurers, and investors in Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Europe, on matters of growth and mergers and acquisitions.
Over the next five years, Sandeep led several consumer internet businesses in India. He was part of the senior leadership team at Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce company. As business unit head, he was the general manager and P&L owner for the home and furniture division. He served as the head of corporate strategy for the group contributing to a $4 billion fundraise in 2017 and the successful acquisition by Walmart in 2018. As the head of fintech, he scaled consumer, SME and vendor financing products to 1.3 million borrowers.
Thereafter, he was the managing director and chief executive officer for India at Truecaller, a consumer technology company with over 250 million monthly users. He directed global adtech, fintech and enterprise businesses, overseeing an increase of 4x in revenues to around $100 million in two years and paving the way for the company’s IPO.
Sandeep holds a B.Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology (I.I.T.), Mumbai, India and an MBA from the London Business School (L.B.S.).
Though an avid traveller, paragliding pilot and deep-sea diver, Sandeep’s most incredible adventures these days are with his two sons in the parks of London.
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Hello everybody, I'm Nigel Morris. I'm the managing partner at QED Investors, and it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Sandeep Patil. Sandeep looks after all things Asia for QED, and we are going to have a talk today on the heels of the QED BCG study that has just been released. Just to hit some of the highlights on the study. And then we'll deep dive into Sandeep's area of expertise. The trenchant question we're wrestling with our limited partners was where is fintech in its evolution? And we framed it up as, is it in Chapter 2 or Chapter 8, i.e., is it in the very beginning or is it at the swan song at the end?
Our friends at BCG did a substantial amount of interviewing and research in the marketplace and came back pretty resoundingly saying, "Look, we're in the early stages of fintech." And then built a really robust, exciting model to predict how fintech was going to evolve over these next seven or eight years all the way through to 2030. So just the highlights on that at the moment, as of 2021 I think, fintech revenues were $250 billion, but financial service revenues worldwide were $12.5 trillion. So fintech has a whopping great 2% penetration Sandeep. So in one sense that's a pretty compelling statistic in itself. It's hard to believe that you are at the end of something when it only has 2% penetration.
They predict that fintech revenues are going to grow 6x over the next seven or eight years to $1.5 trillion worldwide, while the market will grow a lot less. Another remarkable number is the profit pool in financial services worldwide, again, banking and insurance is $2.3 trillion, so it's very fat. On average, the margin is 18% and banks have a margin of 30% and insurance has about 6%.
If we go to APAC, APAC is $70 billion in size, so it's about a quarter of all fintech revenues at the moment, and they predict that fintech revenues will grow at 8.5x, so substantially faster than the overall market. And in the study Asia region is going to accelerate, India, China, Singapore in particular. So I think the study massively suggests that there's huge opportunity. And Sandeep, if I were being bold here, I would talk about how you'd like to bait me that the Indian economy is now bigger than that of the British economy. Sandeep, is this true?
Yes. This has been the year of a significant changing tide, right? First of all, thank you for having me here. It's just a pleasure to be talking to you yet again on this forum. So very excited to be here. Look, if we roll back the picture to the dawn of the century, right at the beginning, that point, India was barely a top 10 economy in the world, still the second-biggest population in the world, but barely a top 10 economy in the world. And there had been a lot of stories. I have read a lot of them as well about the potential of India and how big it can be, but quite frankly, it was the 10th biggest economy and therefore whatever percentage of global GDP it was at that point. But what has happened over the last two decades, two and a half decades of the century is as the three main sort of disruptions that have rolled through the global economy.
And so I'm talking about the dotcom bust and then September 11th and the consequences of that as the first one, the 2008 financial crisis, and then what we are seeing with pandemic and sort of the conflict in Europe. In each of those situations, India has just bounced back much stronger. And so it is not just that India has gone from being the 10th biggest economy to fifth-biggest economy and now bigger than U.K. or just about the same size somewhere there, it's about the fact that structurally the economy has improved. So that shocks that affected all other economies did not affect India in that significant way. It's a story of resilience and of building the fundamentals, and that's what gives me a lot of promise and most macroeconomics would take a lot of comfort that if you see a story like this, then you know that the underlying construction itself is stronger. There's a lot of resilience, there's a lot of human capital infrastructure coming through.
As part of this QED BCG study, I've had the chance to interview a number of the partners involved in prosecuting QED strategy on a worldwide basis. In this re-imagining of finance, the future of fintech, it's pretty clear that China and India in particular, given this equal size populations now and both growing much faster than the West present, at least on paper, massive opportunities for fintech investors and for disruptors building businesses. But China and India are very, very different, of course. Sandeep, you kicked off with talking about the resilience of the Indian economy to macro shocks that have occurred and indeed how many wonderful things are now in place that will spur on India's growth in the years to come. But how do you see these two titans in the region and from a QED investment perspective?
So that's a very interesting question, Nigel, something we grapple with. In fact, if you recall when I joined, we wanted to have a thought process around India versus Southeast Asia versus China as what would be the main investment theme and how we would think about it. Look, I think we are much long on India and then probably on Southeast Asia, and there's a very strong reason for it from an India story perspective, I think India has built world-class digital infrastructure, not just in terms of UPI, I think I read that it crossed 200 billion in monthly transactions or something like that last month. So not just real time networks, but kind of the work that has been done on financial inclusions opening what 700 or 800 million bank accounts over the course of last seven years, national identity system. But all of this has been done with a line of site to making the infrastructure publicly available and open so you can have innovation on top of it.
It is not done in a mechanism to control the citizenry. It is not done in a way to make the ecosystem more isolated. In fact, India's going on a limb and trying to integrate UPI with the real-time payment systems in G20 countries. So they actually want to go and disrupt cross border payments, which is another thing we should talk about. But in that sense, so there is not just a attitude towards technology, but there's an attitude towards using that to be progressive, to be development oriented towards the masses. You and I have talked to regulators in India and Singapore and one of the themes we picked up was regulators in India and Singapore and ASEAN in general, they think of regulation as a way of guiding the development of the ecosystem. So it's a very different outlook from just being a bad cop and just being a police to control the activities is actually about encouraging players to do the right thing, not just for themselves but also for the constituents, right, for the people who are participating and the businesses that are participating in that ecosystem.
So it's a very different attitude, if the overall guiding principle is very progressive, very development oriented, that to us as investors gives us a lot of optimism about what that ecosystem can produce and therefore where we can generate returns by providing the right sort of value as advisors to the companies and to the founders in that ecosystem. I think that is at the heart of difference between the China story source to say and the India story and what I think is the ASEAN story as well.
So practically Sandeep, if you have a scarce dollar to invest, and by the way that scarce dollar is competing with all the other things that we could do at QED on a worldwide basis, you've been very much inclined to make the investments in India rather than China.
Yeah, Nigel. So I certainly take that position. I think the returns in India are going to be tremendous over the next few years. Driven by the macro story we talked about driven by the technology story we talked about and driven by the talent story quite frankly that we have seen, right? You recruited me out of for Capital One, 24 years ago now. If you look around, I'm in New York today. If I look around any of the global banks sitting here in New York, I look at the middle management and senior management there, there'll be a disproportionately high proportion of people from Indian origin there. And this is not just a story in New York, this is the same story in London, same story in the Middle East, same story in Singapore. So the country has a very long history of producing professional financial services executives for a long time.
We already know the story of India in terms of technologists and tech startups coming out of the country. And so fintech at some level is a confluence of these two sets of talents coming together. And that confluence then sits in India because they have financial services talent and they have technology talent. And that's a theme that again supports the India story very strongly. That's actually one of the themes that we want to see more of in ASEAN, right? When we look at the talent pools in Singapore, when we look at talent pools in Jakarta, that's one of the things that we are keenly looking for founders who are of global standard and who can differentiate themselves at that stage, not just locally, but at Global Standard.
Somebody introduced me the other day as one of the fathers of fintech and somebody butted in, I won't say who it was, Sandeep, and said, no, no, not a father, but the grandfather of fintech. But putting that aside, particularly the Indian diaspora that now has spread across financial services a great deal of talent that went through its formative years at Capital One 20, 25 years ago, bringing that talented in leveraging off it, the vast analytical firepower from the top IIT schools, and then offering that talent the opportunity to spread out around the world. And we have so many friends who came through that world, but India growing faster than China. Now the same size population, much smaller GDP, yeah. But it has rule of law has these wonderful universities and as you said is looking outward rather than sadly looking inward. But in the BCG study, BCG estimate that the growth rate in going to be very substantial, of course off the base of Tencent and financial, these are entities, but really as an investor, that's a really difficult nut to crack at this point.
Yeah, Nigel. I think as an investor we have to take a view beyond growth rates, right? Because we are the guardians of our LPs money also. And so we have to see a very strong ability to leverage capital when it needs to be leveraged into the ecosystem and then be able to extract it back to get our returns that we then give back to LPs and they hopefully reinvest back. So it's a full cycle on both sides that we have to think about. And so when we are facing founders and thinking about what will grow, I think the stories are very comparable and I wouldn't shy away. I think China might actually be still a bigger growth story in quantum than India is. Maybe, maybe not. No one knows the numbers to that level, but I won't be surprised, let me put it that way. I won't be surprised if China is a bigger growth story, but I think from an investor perspective, we have to be cautious about where we think we can efficiently get capital in deployed in a meaningful way and then be able to extract the returns back home so that there is a through cycle view there that is important.
Let's talk a little bit about the opportunity then that does exist and we affectionately called a geo arbitrage. If a business works in geography A chances are null hypothesis, it'll work in geography B. You have to augment it coming out of our Capital One days. But talk a little bit about where the opportunities are in India in general and across the region, and then we'll drill down more perhaps into some of the smaller geographies. But you've been with us now. You joined just at the start of COVID, so it's been three years I think, Sandeep since you came on board. How do you see the landscape?
So Nigel, I think geo is a fantastic lens to look at it because it translates what has transpired in the U.S., the U.K., LatAm to an extent that translating into other geographies, India in particular, but Asia brought more broadly, we'll talk about it. And I think last three years of insights support a lot of it, right, with a very important caveats. I'll cover the caveat as well of what we are seeing. So everyone raves about how Indians are unbanked and how banking penetration is very low and insurance penetration is very low and a lot of those things are true in numbers. Some may or may not be true in spirit, but I think it's fair to say that an average Indian is not as well banked. In fact it's far from as well banked as an average American is. And that creates a lot of opportunities for grassroots financial services providing the better banking experience, better borrowing experience, better insurance experience, better wealth management experience.
All of the stories that we as investors have seen play out in the U.S. certainly to an extent in LatAm, certainly in U.K.. And then we are able to translate those back to how we will be able to see them in India. If I may highlight our investments, our investment in One Card is a direct thesis of what we have seen with Capital One initially, then Nubank in Brazil play out. And so it's a very strong coalition of that coming at it from a lending point of view. And then same story if you looking from a deposit or debit perspective, then Jupiter is a strong play on the same story that we think that the banking experience can be not just 5x, 6x better but 10x better and then provide a far better basis for cross sell of lending products, cross sell of insurance products and time soon to come, right?
Refyne, which is the earned wage access company that we have in India is a parallel to Wagestream in the U.K. primarily, but also Rain, Minu and other companies that we have seen globally in saying that being able to allow liquidity to salaried employees is a massive opportunity to provide access to greater financial services. So eventually again, it becomes a vehicle for lending and the instruments, but that becomes an important play. The investment we have made in Upswing is a parallel to some of the pipes and fintech technology work that we have seen done here in U.S. in a strong form where, for fintechs to integrate directly with banks is not just difficult, but it is very hard to accomplish. So it's not just high effort, but the probability of success is also quite low on it because every bank has its own nuances and Upswing is trying to simplify that for consumer technology and financial technology companies in India.
So being able to translate insights from one market and arbitrage it into another market is certainly a theme we play into. And someone like UD is very well suited to do. I think the caveat comes in forms of the differences that are important to understand. So we talked about regulation and how not just the actual on ground regulation are different, but the outlook of the regulator is different in these markets and therefore you need to adjust for that. What I would add to the same bucket is sort of the classical old competitive intensity, going back to Porters five forces of how the existing players look at new players coming into market, how strongly do they compete, what they believe to be their strengths versus others. That competitive intensity is very different. What we observe in U.S., what is different from U.K. will be different in India, will be different in Indonesia and so on and so forth.
And another big difference I would say is the user behavior. I pointed out a time, and again I grew up in India, and India tend to be far more discerning as consumers and therefore are not, don't find it difficult to unbundle products. And that's why in India for example, super apps have not been very successful. But Indonesia right next door, not far away, Indonesia has two three very successful super apps because they're the customers like to buy from a trusted source and originating different products from the same app is not just a well accepted behavior, but it's a standard behavior. And so therefore super apps have been much stronger in Indonesia than we observe in India. So customer behavior nuances are quite different by geography and those will also drive differentiation. I guess the one other thing worth adding just to complete the conversation would be the technology basis.
Something like UPI would spur a different type of innovation. We just haven't seen a real time zero cost payment system of this scale operate in any country before. And that should theoretically lead to different type of innovation in India. What India is doing in terms of open banking is not just building it to the European standards, so as to say, but actually taking it further in terms of providing access to existing and new players to it. So again, that will spur a different type of innovation that is yet to come though. I haven't seen dramatic leaf frogs on that front yet, but I think that will be another difference that we'll observe regard to these geographies.
Sandeep, that was a huge amount to unpack. I could respond to so much of it and resonate with it. Couple things off the top of my head. One is we have noticed that net promoter scores can be lower in India for what would be the equivalent service levels versus the U.S.. So there is that sort of criticality or discerning nature of the Indian consumer that I think is quite different culturally, which you posit suggests that they're going to be less likely to be willing to bundle up services and more willing to unbundle, so to speak. Nubanks across the world, we've noticed either start with debit or start with credit, so debit, Chime, Current Albert, Monzo. And then on the credit side, Nubank, remarkably you've mentioned them earlier, Mission Lane lending of course is harder nut to crack because it is more actuarial, more complicated.
And there you have One Card in that space. And then Jupiter's on the debit side. Is there an inevitability Sandeep that these entities become full service financial institutions, i.e. they offer a full range of debit and credit products and wealth management products and maybe other services. What does that mean about the regulatory structure? There's a lot of discussion going on in the U.S. in particular about the role of banks, legitimate banks that enable fintechs to be able to do what they do and the relationship between the two. What does that landscape look like?
Yeah, Nigel, if you roll the picture forward, if you look at long-term evolution, then in some ways all roads lead to Rome. So everyone would have lending at their core and all the banking products attached to that. But that's a reality and a long-term sort of equilibrium of the ecosystem played over a very long time horizon. I think if you want to think about more from a fund horizon, a five to seven, 10 year horizon, then I think the outcomes are different. I think One Card where it's starting from is going after the, I would say top of the pyramid, customer segment in India, building the most differentiated credit card experience for people who already have credit cards, right? 70, 80% of their customers already have credit cards to begin with, and every person who has a credit card in India has 1.8 credit cards. So they're already multi carded and this is the third card that they're getting and then becomes their main card soon after they activate the card.
So One Card is going after a different segment. I think Jupiter is going after probably this segment next down, which is the emerging affluence, the early professionals, people in urban population, but probably also extending to tier two cities now that there's a lot more growth and development coming to that part of the country than expanding to that. So if I rule the picture forward 20 years, then yeah, sure. I think both of them could have elements of full service bank. So Jupiter becomes deposit institution, but also becomes a lending institution. They already have introduced investment products and that becomes a meaningful part of the proposition. Insurance becomes a very meaningful part of their proposition and so on.
And then from One Card side, starting with a credit card company base, a bit like Capital One, we started as monoline lender, but then we went out and acquired, in our case, we acquired two brick and mortar banks. In this case you could build the next digital bank, they could come to a similar shape. But as an investor, I don't worry about it for two main reasons. One, they're going after two very different segments. And two, if you roll the story forward going by the numbers the BCG QED report is saying, but also what you and I believe to be the reality, the market will be so significant that having two players of our own in that huge market is much more of an advantage than anything else.
It is interesting that the founders of both of those entities are particularly fine with us having multiple companies in spaces that could over the long run, potentially go into conflict. Cause the market is so big and growing so fast
And they're investors into each other's companies as well.
So yeah, quite right, and they're investing as angels in other geographies, which is where I wanted to go. We talked to China, we've talked a bit to India, so let's talk about the other countries. You and I were just in Singapore two weeks ago, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore itself. Talk a little bit about the region there.
Nigel if you look at Southeast Asia as an economic block. Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and few others sort of pull together. It's probably the third-biggest economic block after EU and LatAm, you could take bets on who, which will be the second-biggest economic block of [inaudible 00:21:56], right? Because of very strong growth stories associated with the underlying countries. Indonesia in particular, if you take an example, is a export oriented economy. It's quite heavy on commodities and food related exports. So they actually have benefited significantly from the conflict in Europe and all the implications of it on food inflation and fuel inflation. Indonesia actually benefited from it. It's one of the currencies that has performed particularly strongly this year. It has actually appreciated against the U.S. dollar this year. I can go on about Philippines and Thailand and Singapore to an extent following a similar story. Each of those is a very strong economic story where you could have a lot of appetite for financial innovation, financial technology innovation in the next few years to come.
The big nuances there are the following, right? I think they are an economic block, but each of the countries is actually individual. So the consumer behavior, the regulatory behavior, the incumbents behavior actually varies quite a lot. How people in Indonesia think about investments for example, or about financial services is very different from how people in Philippines think about it. So going across regional is helpful because they're next to each other and this have somewhat similar geography, but that's where the similarities and right, it's actually kind of going international in a fairly specific way that you have to start thinking about, I think all the macro factors that we talked about in terms of banking penetration, vending penetration, insurance penetration hold across each of the countries. But the nature of those products again varies by each of the countries because the openness, the keenness of users to adopt different products varies by different countries. And so you would have to think about a One Card in Indonesia differently than a One Card in Philippines, for example, and so on and so forth.
Let's just go to regulators for a second. You and I met with the regulators in India last year and recently in Singapore. How would you characterize philosophically how regulators are seeing the role that fintech will play in the region?
So fantastic question Nigel, and I think we were talking about it on our way back from Singapore about the big themes here. So to contrast it, I'm sitting in New York, so to contrast it with U.S. regulators, I find the regulators in India and in Southeast Asia to have a far more integrative view of financial services, the view themselves as developers of an active ecosystem rather than policemen and bureaucrat of the financial services ecosystem. I'm obviously not being very generous to regulators here in U.S., but that's for contrast. I think the mindset in the philosophy in India and in Singapore and in Southeast Asia is to build up the ecosystem. To grow the ecosystem, both in terms of the number of financial services players operating in the market, but also build it from a consumer and banks and businesses that are operating within the ecosystem. So to benefit of all is how they think about it.
And what that means then is how they encourage the regulation works out differently. So one big difference is they see collaboration as being far more important, both in India and in Singapore. Regulators actually said that they see distinct strengths for banks and distinct strengths for fintechs. Banks are fantastic at managing balance sheet risk, at thinking about ALM, about KYC, about treasury management, balance sheet management aspects of things, very traditional, very core banking aspects of it. Fintechs are fantastic at using technology to drive customer acquisition, to do customer servicing, to improve underwriting. And so for both of these sets of regulators, the future lies in the collaboration between these two players being able to work together so that each can bring their best to the table and therefore serve the ecosystem much better. And that's one big takeaway. I think the second part of it is their deep motivation to shape the ecosystem.
And what that boils down to is sort of they're at the forefront to on one hand identify and eliminate rogue behavior. And we have certainly seen a fair chunk of it in India where we acted very strongly when it saw that its guidelines were not being followed properly in curbing the action, but also at the forefront of encouraging the right behavior. Kind of talking to fintech even if they're not regulated entities, talking to them directly to tell them what would be the right ways of behaving within the ecosystem so they can contribute to and benefit from the ecosystem. You rightly ask the question that there's a mindset difference between how regulation is being thought about and therefore very significant difference in what their actions are.
Yeah, I think you articulated it really well. Let's imagine that in the year 2013, which is the end point of the BCG QED study. If you and I having this conversation looking back on the last seven years at the big breakthroughs, looking for the Stripes and the Squares and the Nubanks and the Credit Karmas and the Creditas’ and the Quinto Andar or whatever, where do you think they're going to be? Who are going to be those juggernauts?
So my biases aside, I sit on board of several of our investments, so I declare those biases up front. So look, I think I would like the story to be 60% India, 40% Southeast Asia, but from everything that looks like, I think it's probably going to be 75% India and 25% Southeast Asia. That's a mix, at least right now it appears to be. In terms of success stories, I think in terms of the themes that would be the most successful. Again, looking back at 2030, I think consumer is still going to be a very big theme because the consumer story in India and Indonesia is just very strong on ground. You have this massive chunk of middle class that's becoming affluent and they will drive a whole different consumption, payments, insurance, investment story. So consumer story is going to be very strong, I think to the extent that these economies become larger and larger contributors to global economy, export oriented businesses, and therefore B2B businesses will do really well.
So there's a big theme around cross-border payments, but then there are a bunch of cross-border lending, cross-border insurance themes that we haven't even talked about. That will become very important I think because this innovation is happening now. The third big theme would be that technology will make finance more embedded finance than standalone finance. And so embedded stories will be very important. Be it financial services integrated into agriculture in India and Indonesia, be it integrated into mining, be it integrated into manufacturing. We don't know what all is coming, but I think because those are growth themes in the core economy, financial services and Fintech will get integrated in those themes in a big way.
And also into services, into tourism, entertainment. Can I just say, Sandeep, this has been a really brilliant and thoughtful discussion. We appreciate so much acuity, your energy and entrepreneurism around things in the region. Just been joined by Mel and she's working really hard with you on the next generation of investments that we'll make in the area. No, I can't thank you enough and we'll draw this discussion to the end. Hope our listeners enjoyed this thought leaders session and we will talk to you in 2030, Sandeep.
Fantastic, Nigel. Hopefully before that also. And let me also thank you for having me on this forum, and as always, pleasure to talk with you and to debate ideas with you. Thank you.
Thank you my friend.
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