Are Banks and Fintechs Partners, Competitors or Suppliers?

Over the past decade+ we have seen thousands of fintechs arise. Many are challenging and disrupting, whilst many more are providing and supplying. What is the role of a fintech?

My advice is that fintechs are there to fix the things that banks do badly and offer service to those who banks don’t serve. The unbanked and underbanked is a huge market where fintechs are making a difference. The online processes of checkout and trading is where fintechs are making a difference.

Payments, lending, savings, investments and more are massively transformed by fintechs. Thisis why it is such a greatly transformational space.

Yet, given all of this, there is a debate that started recently about whether fintechs are competing with banks, disrupting banks, partnering with banks or are just suppliers to banks.

I’m not sure I buy into this debate tbh, as I think it is all of those things. We wouldn’t have 30,000 start-ups worldwide, and hundreds of unicorns in the fintech space, if it wasn’t transformational.

Nevertheless, there are a few interesting insights out there and, as often is the case, Ron Shevlin sparked a debate about whether fintechs are partners with banks or just suppliers.

2024: The Beginning Of The End Of Bank-Fintech ‘Partnerships’ (

Ron claims that “many bank-fintech partnerships aren’t really partnerships—they’re client-vendor relationships”.

That’s an interesting view. We talk about ecosystems, platforms and open banking, and my claim is that banks need to curate this system to deliver the best customer experience. I said that years ago and maintain the core role of a bank’s technology structure is curating the partners involved in delivering the best that they can be.

The big four drivers of the bank of the future

So yes, many fintechs are the new software providers to banks. Instead of offering core systems and integrated systems, they offer APIs and apps to improve banks capabilities to deliver.

Nevertheless, there’s an interesting report that just dropped from Bain & Company. If you don’t know Bain, they’re all about customer experience …

What's your focus: customer or profit?

… and are a firm that I have worked with for years. Their new report …

United We Thrive: The Untapped Power of Bank-Fintech Partnerships | Bain & Company

… is interesting. The main headlines include:

  • As banks look to move faster on digital product design, time to market, and security, partnerships with fintechs have become increasingly attractive.
  • But realizing the full value of partnerships has been elusive for most participants.
  • Common pitfalls include vague definition of the business need, unclear performance metrics, and opaque decision-making processes.
  • Success in this area entails looking beyond the technological issues to focus more on partnerships rather than providing solutions.

The main theme in the report is the build versus buy option which, in context, would clearly position a fintech-bank partnership as a supplier-buyer relationship.

Build or Buy or Build and Die?


Oh, and just by the by, fintechs are partners, competitors and suppliers.

Related: The AI Versus EI War