July 12, 2019

#Fintech50: Most Successful Fintechs Focus on Acquiring Clients and Data First

In 2014, KPMG together with AWI and FSC released the “50 Best Fintech Innovators” report, one of the first papers that examined the most prominent Fintech players globally. 5 years on, CFTE is taking an in-depth look at the evolution of these 50 companies.


The five most successful Fintech startups in the 2014 KPMG report, namely Square, Stripe, Coinbase Robinhood and Credit Karma, are collectively valued at a staggering US$71 billion today. This can be attributed to their focus in acquiring customers as cheaply as possible, allowing them to steadily build up a database of hyper-focused and -segmented users. Although their initial business was built on low margins, the curation of such relevant customer data allowed them to expand into higher-margin operations.

In the case of Credit Karma and Robinhood, they advertised free credit checks and trading respectively, allowing them to obtain millions of customers rapidly. Today, Credit Karma boasts 85 million users, allowing them to sell this data for potential borrowers while Robinhood has six million, which now gives them leverage to rebundle their product offerings, making it more profitable to themselves. In addition, Robinhood now offers premium services for a fee to users, while Credit Karma has branched into offering mortgages and other borrowing opportunities to consumers.

The most valuable startup of the five, Square, currently has 15 million monthly users on its cash app alone, with a further two million businesses onboard. Beginning as a business payments service, Square now uses its customer data to determine if clients qualify for financing. Launched in 2014, its lending program Square Capital has recorded impressive growth of 50% year-on-year, lending more than US$500 million in Q1 of 2019 alone!

This strategy of offering a better or cheaper version of an existing service, before expanding or branching out into other financial services is known as rebundling, which you can learn more about in our Fintech course.

The details and more will be available in the Fintech 50: Back to the Future Report available on July 22. Sign up here to automatically get it, for free, upon release.


The “Fintech 50: 5 Years in Fintech” report by CFTE presents their milestones, investment deals, growth and talent trends. We examine their hiring, survival rate, changing business models, success against incumbents, and expansion both geographically and in terms of market share.

About CFTE

We are a platform supported by senior leaders from the largest institutions, startups, and universities. We address the needs of professionals in finance to upskill in a rapidly changing industry being transformed by emerging technologies. More than 50,000 participants learn from our online courses, such as AI in Finance, Fintech Foundation or Extrapreneurship, a mini-MBA with fast-growing startups such as Revolut or Shift Technology.

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