The growth of fintech (financial technology) companies is off the charts. Funding levels indicate major investment in getting financial services technology right, hundreds of companies graduating to "unicorn" status say maybe they're onto something, and growing trends for the general public preferring tech-based money solutions all point to a remarkable opportunity for accessibility advancement.
Will fintech take accessibility along on this ride?
Fintech unicorn boom
A "unicorn" is a startup with a valuation of $1 billion or more. As mythical creatures, we don't come across unicorns too often in real life. Recently, the same is not true for privately held fintech startup unicorns.
A few remarkable fintech funding and valuation statistics
- 151 fintech unicorns were born in 2021, accounting for just about one-third of the 457 of the year's new unicorns (FinTech Global).
- The United States has the most fintech unicorns with 81 as of 2021 (Statista).
- Fintech investments and valuations doubled in many places globally, including in India (KrASIA) and Europe (S&P Global Market Intelligence), which doubled and more-than-doubled their new fintech unicorns, respectively.
- Fintech funding grew 168% from 2020 to 2021 and fintech accounted for 20% of global venture funding (CB Insights).
An industry on a rise
If investment dollars and valuations tell even part of the story, fintech isn't going anywhere.
This is perhaps bolstered by the wide range of focus areas emerging under the fintech umbrella: personal finance management, investment platforms, traditional banking alternatives, and more.
The technology and vision of fintech coupled with increasing consumer behavior favoring self-serve and digital options, all accelerated by the COVID pandemic, lead us here: possibly-unprecedented growth and undeniable opportunity.
What fintech has to do with accessibility
Tech leaders tend to play a big role in advancing the awareness and practice of digital accessibility. Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple pioneer accessibility solutions and get a lot of attention for it because of the popularity of their brands and widespread use of their products.
The expectations in fintech shouldn't change too much just because these companies leverage their technologies in the financial services industry.
In fact, equal and independent access to banking and money management tools should be the minimum expectation. It should be a given that fintech unicorns will meet accessibility standards, like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, in every app and piece of content — further putting the pressure on traditional banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to catch up.
With significant investment backing and a technology focus, it will be interesting to watch which of these companies realize the opportunity to go above and beyond with their accessibility initiatives. Our hope is that enough of these companies get accessibility so right that they raise the bar and others follow.
How fintech can win at accessibility
Here are five ways every fintech company can become a leader in accessibility for their consumers:
- Invest in accessibility. Put resources and energy behind it. Accessibility is a core element of the user experience and should have the metaphorical and literal buy-in to support that.
- Hire diverse, accessibility-focused talent. To hire top talent with an accessibility mindset, look for people with existing accessibility experience, people who put the customer first, people who use inclusive language, and people with disabilities.
- Include disability in research. One of the best ways to make sure accessibility isn't bolted-on at the end is to test products and concepts with people with disabilities — and to prioritize their feedback.
- Have an enforceable accessibility policy. Don't leave accessibility dependent on optional good will. Create and enforce a mandatory accessibility policy that requires digital content and tools meet accessibility standards.
- Find a great accessibility partner. There are proven methods for meeting and exceeding accessibility standards. Accessibility professionals can help identify the best testing and remediation strategies to fit your business objectives. Contact us if we can help.