After the media and enterprise IT industries, technology is probably upending the financial industry the most these days. New technologies are taking inefficiencies out of many financial processes, including money transfers, payments, and loan underwriting. These innovations are driving down costs for businesses and consumers alike and giving rise to a new class of financial industry titans that are collectively known as fintech.
Yet the reach of fintech is fairly broad and affects multiple industry categories. Here are three winning fintech names across different financial verticals, including payment networks, payment processing and authorization, and consumer loans: Mastercard (MA -0.79%), Adyen (ADYY.F 2.73%), and LendingClub (LC -1.45%).
Some may think that Mastercard is a fairly mature business, but its growth has continued to impress over the past few years with the help of technology. As the second-largest card network behind Visa, Mastercard is benefiting strongly from the global transition away from cash and toward electronic payments.
Mastercard has also been racking up some impressive customer wins, serving as the payment network for the new Apple credit card and the upcoming Samsung virtual card. I think the Apple card could be a bigger deal than many anticipate, and these customer wins are showing that Mastercard is holding its own in the technology race against its peers.
But Mastercard is targeting new markets beyond its consumer card processing network, too. For instance, card networks have virtually no toehold in business-to-business payments, government-to-business payments, or person-to-person direct payments. Those collective markets make up about $185 trillion in transactions, versus about $50 trillion for traditional consumer-to-business transactions.
Mastercard has been investing to capture more of these direct payment flows, most recently with its $3.2 billion acquisition of the corporate direct payments division of Nets, a European fintech company. Mastercard also just unveiled the Mastercard Track business payments service, a comprehensive business-to-business platform incorporating cards, Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions, and blockchain capabilities all under one unified service. Given the long-term transition to cards from cash and the entry into these large new markets, Mastercard looks poised to keep on winning.
European payments processing platform Adyen has made quite a splash over the past few years. After developing an open-source technology for managing payments, Adyen has become a modern disruptor to the payments processing industry. Legacy competitors are often cobbled together across different technologies for processing, payment gateways, risk management, and analytics. International businesses may also have to use multiple processing vendors for each geography.
Adyen has unified all of these functions together across multiple geographies and employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to snuff out fraud and while approving more payments more efficiently. These capabilities have allowed Adyen to win business from many of the world's leading digital companies. In fact, online marketplace eBay recently chose Adyen to take over as its main payments platform from PayPal, which certainly says something, considering PayPal itself was developed within eBay years ago.
Though Adyen's revenue base is concentrated in Europe and among international internet businesses, Adyen has more recently begun winning business even among U.S.-based physical retailers, such as Timberland and Restoration Hardware. As more businesses go omnichannel, with options to purchase goods across online, mobile, in-store kiosk, and traditional point-of-sale payments, Adyen's flexible and simplified offering should continue to win over more and more merchants of all types going forward.
While the above two stocks are high-flying growth stocks, LendingClub can safely be characterized as the value stock of the bunch. One would think that LendingClub could be a growth stock, though -- after all, it isn't so much a lender as it is a two-sided marketplace, matching borrowers of unsecured loans with investors spanning banks, asset managers, and even individuals.
Nevertheless, the stock ran into trouble in 2016, when its founder and several executives were caught altering information on a small number of loans in order to satisfy borrower criteria. Later that year, loan charge-offs increased, casting doubt on the company's underwriting ability.
Still, 2019 is a different story than 2016, when the company replaced founder Renaud Laplanche with current CEO Scott Sanborn. Under Sanborn's watch, LendingClub has done just about everything right. It has tightened credit, leading to better loan performance. It's also diversified its investor base, which should de-risk the platform somewhat in times of broader economic stress. In addition, it has developed new products, such as securitizations; CLUB certificates, which trade on an exchange; and its new LCX marketplace, which enables real-time, dynamic pricing of loans and next-day settlement.
Furthermore, after years of investment in tighter controls and product development, LendingClub is projecting to become profitable in the third quarter, excluding restructuring costs and lingering legal expenses due to prior-year lawsuits. That's an important milestone, as the company has been unprofitable ever since the scandals of 2016.
LendingClub's stock also appears incredibly cheap: Its market capitalization is just over $1 billion, yet the company currently has $671 million in cash and loans held for sale on its balance sheet, net of debt. That means the downside to LendingClub is likely limited. And if the company can continue to grow and expand margins as it has, the upside could be quite substantial.