A New Age: Consumer Finance in 2021

A small breakdown of some emerging players in the fintech space.

A special edition for this pleasant Friday. As I have started building in the consumer fintech space, I decided to scope out what other players are up right now. Here are some of my insights from using each platform.

Consumers are not dumb.

Tired: Start investing, even if it is just $5 a month!!
Wired: Invest well, using critical thinking skills.

For years the trend has been for apps to simplify as much as possible and optimize for user growth. Which was absolutely the right play. Monster companies have been built with this line of logic such as Robinhood, Square, Wealthfront, and CashApp. Lockdowns and excess free time have driven unthinkable adoption rates for these apps, and increased the total number of investors worldwide.

Now it is time for these investors to level up.

The stock market is a big place. It is not a zero-sum game and younger investors realize this. Gen Z has been proficiently breaking taboos for years now with social media, what will they do now with real jobs and investable incomes? A full generation of investors are ready poised to get into more serious financial deals. I fully expect to see financial influencers start to break away from their scammy past and carve out a serious niche. These new investors aren't day traders, nor are they purely retirement focused. They will look to make serious money from betting on mid-term trends such as growth technology companies. They will likely be modestly diversified, with some holdings in retirement accounts, robo-advisors and self-managed portfolios. Unlike with older demographics cause-driven investing like social justice, climate responsibility, and transparency are sure to become impactful reasons for allocation.

So, how will these consumer investors proceed?

Social


Younger investors are not scared to talk about money. They understand that transparency can be be very rewarding if played correctly. With investing, most people feel like they don't know what they are doing -and often they are right! By learning together in social groups or cohorts more knowledge and market coverage will be available. This isn't about one-upping your friends, it is about helping the whole crew get rich.

Players getting into this space:

Commonstock

A new social app that has a lot of potential. Marketed towards prosumer users, Commonstock is a platform that lets users share ideas, trades they have made, and portfolio performance. Instead of becoming a broker themselves, they have opted to let users connect existing brokerage accounts. This feels like the right call, as their target users will almost certainly have existing accounts. I have been using it a fair amount this last month and have had many fascinating conversations with different users. The signal-to-noise ratio has been especially good over the early days of the app. By building up a wealth of user data they will be able to monetize indirectly, giving them a uniquely user-aligned position.

Public

Gunning for the novice investor is Public. Designed with soft round shapes and colors it is meant to be a welcoming place for users to share trades. The risk here is strong potential for adverse selection. The platform hast chosen a ‘safe space’ approach and lacks a host of features that professionals would want including day trades, options, charting. Making it worse, they operate as a broker, mis-aligning incentives. My usage of it led me to worry it will end up as a platform of the blind leading the blind, but I am happy to be proven wrong. After playing with it on and off for a week I have not find a good reason to keep using the app. Also of note, I don't know if I have ever seen a company more aggressively target me with marketing spend. But hey Ramp Capital and Tony Hawk on are there, so there is that.

Fairmint

Approaching from a different angle entirely is Fairmint. Positioned as a fundraising tool, this platform promises to let private companies sell equity to anyone through Ethereum-based tokens. With more and more value being created before companies go public, this is a massive opportunity to attack. If they are able to deliver on their promises we could see an entire ecosystem of trading spring up; funding creators, influencers, and startups without the need to a 10-year VC hold. Buyers will be directly incentivized to promote their holdings and the underlying assets, making the whole proposition a social activity. I have been following this space for many years, even spec-ing out something very similar a few years ago (as I am sure many crypto fans have done as well). There are significant regulatory hurdles to clear before this can truly take off, but sign me up for the ride anyway.

Existing players

There are more than a few elephants already packed into the community investing room. #Fintwit remains very active with golden nuggets of information to be found among all the noise. StockTwits represents largely the same thing, though sometimes it seems to have an even worse signal-to-noise ratio. Reddit breaks topics up into subreddits, often exaggerating the communities personality. r/WallStreetBets has become the de facto home of the YOLO crowd where people unabashedly gamble on the stock market using high-risk assets. Countering that madness are company-specific subreddits for small-cap stocks that often contain a treasure trove of hard-to-find info.

TradingView is undoubtedly the most full featured of these social-powered platforms offering a great set of graphing utilities, social commentary, screeners, and notably a Twitch-like live streamer option. With stunning 100M monthly visitors they are a force to be reckoned with.

It is likely that existing broker platforms will start offering some social features in the future, such as what SoFi recently announced.

Algorithms & Quant


Younger audiences are inherently tech-savy and increasingly literate in programming. Coupled with better tools and data we should see a rise in algorithmic trading. More accessible entry points will be created for no-code algorithms that users can easily set up without having to worry that all their capital will be lost from an unfortunate bug.

Players getting into this space:

Alpaca

Recognizing a hole in the market, Alpaca has swooped in to become the fee-free API broker of choice. Alpaca makes it easy to trade and is improving quickly. They are creating quality guides to building apps and algorithms every week, which should soon put them at the front of the content pack. I have been using their service since this spring and have had a very good experience so far. They have aggressive plans for the future, but offering fractional shares and options will cement them as a serious player.

QuantConnect

Citing over 120k members QuantConnect is significant influence in the algorithmic trading space. They offer a marketplace for developers to sell subscriptions to high-performing algorithms. This should appeal to aspiring money mangers and those that want to dabble in algo trading, without getting their hands dirty.

Quantopian 💀 (acq. by Robinhood)

With a relatively large community quantopian has represented consumer algorithmic dreams for the last 8 years. Even though they never truly broke out and found a good monetization strategy, they did attract enough users to validate that a market exists. Time will tell how Robinhood will take advantage of this new addition.

Research


Last but not least is the research market. With constant activity on thousands of assets information overload is a real problem. Newsletters, apps, and platforms have been springing up to cater to the shorter attention spans of the digital youth. This is a high-traffic space where applications frequently overlapping each other.

Players getting into this space:

Koyfin

A serious tool for any level of investor, Koyfin is a relatively new data platform that has stormed onto the scene. Offering an impressive amount of deep information, visualizations, comparisons, and analysis tools Koyfin is a must-try tool. This might read like an ad, but honestly this is the best free tool on the market right now.

Morning Brew / Robinhood Snacks / Finimize / etc

The newsletter market is thriving. Summarizing complex activities into bite-size content provides instant value and the direct delivery offers unmatched convenience. Many send daily overviews of both tech and business keeping them valuable to passively interested investors. Options like Finimize are more specifically looking to educate users how to better invest, offering approachable courses and guides to the interested.

It is not just a corporate game either. There are some fantastic individuals writing newsletters for just about every niche, from IPO analysis to long-term portfolio construction. examples: S-1 Club, Not Boring

Atom

Atom is a data platform that offers prosumer features for screening, charting, and events. In a similar fashion to CommonStock, existing brokers are connected allowing you to track your portfolios performance over time. The platform seems pretty straight-forward and while it has discussion features, they do not seem to be very active so far. Regardless, they stand to do well enough over time just by having insight into all that user data. Having raised a healthy $12.5m, I assume more is in the pipeline.

Tikr

Similar to Atom, but geared more towards the financials side slots in Tikr. They look to make it easier to explore a funds holdings or to keep track of company filings. The app does not integrate with your broker at this point, so it is a process of simply creating a watchlist. It works well enough, but there sure is a lot going on in the UI. Seeing as it is still in waitlist mode I will hold off on any judgement.

Invest Like the Rest

Oh hello. You have arrived at my project. ILTR is a prosumer-targeted website that breaks down concepts into insights rather than conveying raw data. Driven by a mission to collect high-quality sentiment data, I hope to help unlock novel forms of algorithmic trading (and share the upside with members). The goal is to approach complex topics while still keeping an entertaining enough tone that readers won't drop off. ILTR will be in an open beta by the end of the year, and general release early in 2021. The site is very much still in development, but you can sign up here.


Upcoming tools:

Finlister - ETF analysis and discovery

Public Comps - SaaS and IPO analysis + data viz

Considering the myriad of fintech offerings on the market today I am sure to have missed many cool projects. Have a recommendation? Send it over and I will update this list.

PS: After my testing I personally settled into using

  • Koyfin for data

  • Commonstock for discussions

  • S-1 Club + Morning Brew for newsletters

  • Invest Like the Rest for everything else... ;)

(with both 👀 on Fairmint)


Listen to this 🎶

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never – Oneohtrix Point Never

A little wild and experimental album this week. This new material has a clever style, that lands somewhere between M83 and Flume.