[Matrix Moments] How coronavirus will continue to impact India’s fintech ecosystem

In this episode of Matrix Moments, Gautam Chhugani, Director of India Financial Services and Fintech Bernstein got together with over 30 fintech founders from Matrix India’s portfolio to discuss how coronavirus has impacted the financial services ecosystem.

18th Apr 2020
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The global economy has come to a standstill thanks to the outbreak of the coronavirus. And while the financial services sector has been acutely impacted, all is not lost. There is a fair chance that those who take the right steps and emerge out of this crisis relatively unscathed, and even end up creating large value for all stakeholders.


On a call hosted by Matrix Partners India, Gautam Chhugani, Director of India Financial Services and Fintech Bernstein, joined 30 fintech founders from the Matrix India portfolio to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the ecosystem.


fintech



“There is nothing short-term about this crisis. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, it has taken three months for people to come back on the streets. Factories in China have started but if there is even one case, they need to be shut down again. Additionally, once the labour force goes back to rural areas, they don’t come back easily,” said Gautam.


He went on to elaborate the impact on fintech and financial services sector will face, summed up below.


  • Despite some normalcy returning to China, fintech players have been severely impacted. New disbursals are down by approximately 70 percent versus pre-coronavirus era and fintech delinquencies are up anywhere between 100 to 200 percent. China Merchants Bank, one of the largest providers of consumer credit, has stopped issuing new credit cards.


  • In India, credit has almost frozen. With the three-months moratorium given to borrowers by RBI, lenders across the board have moved away from new customer acquisition. Even large corporates are requesting moratoriums, and banks are still assessing which pockets and segments will be most severely impacted.


Everyone (lenders, corporates) is used to eight to 10 percent nominal GDP growth in India and no one is prepared for a GDP contraction, which we might go through for the first time.


  • Players focussed on unsecured retail lending will be the hardest hit. India had witnessed one of the longest consumer growth cycles amongst emerging markets on the back of unsecured credit. Since these highly profitable products will become challenging in the near-term, expect RoE, growth, and hence multiples of such companies to come down significantly. The growth engine of India’s consumer credit companies, unsecured lending, has hit a sudden brake


  • Lenders need to disregard their old risk models and re-assess and re-price risk. Segments considered safe traditionally (e.g. salaried class with high CIBIL score) could also be impacted. Credit Bureau is not as relevant in times of crisis. It does not take into account future income potential, income shocks and hence the ability to pay in the future – which is going to be the biggest issue as corporates streamline costs and employees.


  • The supply of capital to non-bank lenders has also been severely impacted – there is uncertainty about whether RBI’s moratorium on repayments covers NBFCs or not. Fintech lenders should focus on collections as going forward, banks will only lend to companies that do relatively better in the current environment.


This year will be a year of pause. Growth should be parked for now. NBFCs that are not able to manage collections will find it hard to borrow in future.


  • Banks’ and insurance companies’ systems and processes are built around physical touchpoints. They will soon be aggressively looking for partners to help them drive online/remote sales. Further, regulators will be supportive of such innovations. If fintechs can build products that can help convert sales of banking products online, especially the more complicated products, that’s a big opportunity. Fintechs have the ability to truly become business-critical for large banks, insurance companies, etc. in this time.


  • Demand for simple, protection-oriented insurance products (term insurance, health insurance etc.) will go up in the post-coronavirus era. However, life insurance products built around investments will be impacted. Anything related to health will see an uptick.


  • High-yield savings products and safe haven assets (e.g. gold) will be in demand as real interest rates in India head to zero percent (or even negative). Fixed Deposits yields might come down to four to five percent in the near future.


  • Many new retail investors are opening new trade accounts, primarily attracted by cheap valuations, however, the bear cycle could be longer. New account additions have gone up significantly in the US, and China retail stock market (A-shares) has rebounded.


However, foreign institutional investors will take time to rotate back to emerging markets. Zerodha has opened more retail accounts in March than ever before.


  • Large fintech players emerged in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. The coronavirus situation, too, can accelerate the adoption of fintech. Incumbents will look to partner with fintechs for driving their core business while overall competition is likely to reduce. However, these are unprecedented times and we do not have all the answers.


Find more details of the call here.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)

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