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20 Years of Fintech

Future banking
By Russ Bennett, CEO

Although the term ‘fintech’ might seem like a buzzword created in the last few years, we’re living proof that isn’t the case. Mid last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary.

The word ‘fintech’ is thought to have first been used back in 1971, however, things within the fintech landscape have changed dramatically since the term was first coined. After all, the technology on offer today is a far cry from anything available nearly 50 years ago.

Despite dating back several decades, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that we saw the emergence of the first fintechs as we know them today. In this blog, we’ll look at the evolution of the fintech landscape over the last two decades and how Fraedom has changed during this timeframe:

Late 1990s

The 1990s saw a number of exciting developments within the world of banking as financial institutions aimed to keep pace with new technology. Among the most noteworthy events were Wells Fargo becoming the first bank to offer online accounts in 1995 and the launch of Confinity, now PayPal, in December 1998. The latter marked a turning point in the financial landscape, changing the way people all over the world made online payments. It was followed by the launch of Fraedom, under the name ‘myPCard’ in the summer of 1999. The introduction of the first fintechs in the late 1990s, began to disrupt the banking industry as we know it.


In the 2000s, technological advancements showed no signs of slowing down and with this came the advent of blockchain technology and the first stable cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. It also saw the development of new forms of funding like peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding.


In the last decade, fintech innovation has really come into its own - from the introduction of mobile payment technology in the form of Apple Pay and Google Wallet, to the use of biometrics and artificial intelligence (AI) in banking. Meanwhile, in 2016, the first fintech bachelor program was created.

We’ve also begun to see banks and fintechs developing lucrative partnerships, as both sides realize the value of working together and how this will ultimately offer better, digitally enabled services and to customers.

The fintech sector has gone from strength to strength over the last five years, in particular, as evidenced by the growing number of fintech unicorns – those valued at over $1 billion (USD) – in existence. Currently, there are more than 30 worldwide. The fintech market also continues to attract large amounts of investment, with global investments in fintech companies totalling $37.9 billion across 962 deals in the first half of 2019.

Since our launch 20 years ago, much like the fintech sector as a whole, we’ve undergone substantial developments, including two rebrands and major global expansion, alongside a number of other exciting milestones. We’ve also increased our international presence, with offices in Auckland, Melbourne, London, San Francisco, Toronto and Sydney – a reflection of the worldwide growth of fintech.

Where to next?

During the last 20 years, Fraedom has been developing web-based technology that unshackles organisations from complexity and delivers mastery over spending processes. While we originally set up shop in New Zealand, we’ve gone on to become a global company with a passion for technology that helps businesses succeed and grow.

Strong relationships have been at the centre of everything we’ve done and that continues to be the case. We remain committed to nurturing our existing relationships and are excited to see what new partnerships are forged in the next 20 years as we stay at the forefront of innovative technology as a leader in the fintech landscape.

In the coming years, the fintech market will continue to grow as new fintech hubs emerge in countries such as Canada and Brazil, and the potential of technologies like AI and machine learning (ML) are harnessed. Partnerships between banks and fintechs will also increase to enable banks to embrace the latest technologies in order to provide added value to their customers’ businesses.