Technology is shaping more than your shopping experience or social opportunities. A large category of technology has revolutionized how you take care of your finances, and the companies that make that happen are in the fintech industry, a contraction of "financial technology."
As opposed to some of the overvalued tech start-ups that don't necessarily have revenue-generating systems, many of today's fintech companies are powering old-school banks and making the way we do business today easier and more efficient.
There are lots of companies that provide different functions for financial transactions. Three of the best bets for creating shareholder value right now are Blackline (BL 0.45%), Square (SQ 5.02%), and Paypal (PYPL 3.69%). Let's take a closer look at them.
1. Blackline: The modern solution for accounting
Blackline espouses a simple concept with a very sophisticated toolbox. It provides complex accounting software for companies that helps make the processes easier, more efficient, and more accurate for customers, including making automatic reconciliations.
It operates on the software-as-a-service model, often referred to as SaaS. It disrupted the accounting scene with its constant monitoring of operations, which was a completely new interpretation of the "batching out" of credit cards.
The idea that the tedious and time-consuming elements of accounting could be simplified with a strong backbone of software has an obvious attraction, and the company has been able to grow its business tremendously. Fourth-quarter earnings, released on Feb. 13, showed a 29% increase in revenue year over year to $80 million, which was better than expected.
While earnings per share showed a loss of $0.59 for the full year, Blackline expects EPS to rise to $0.45 to $0.48 for the fiscal year 2020. The company notes that it has a "$17 billion total addressable market -- consisting of more than 165,000 potential customers and over 13 million finance and accounting professionals worldwide."
2. Square: Always new solutions
When Square originally came out with its mobile device plug-in credit card reader, it was a revolutionary answer for small businesses that were trying to break into their industries. Square shot off and became a strong player in payment processing systems, challenging companies like Paypal and forcing others to innovate and offer more to their customers.
Square's stock price has fluctuated along with its new product launches and competitors catching up to some of what it is doing, but it also points to Square's biggest attraction, its ability to keep bringing new products to market. Square makes both hardware and software products that enable small businesses to run their companies easily and without huge investments in tech. The company offers a large range of options that center on payment processing but include digital payments and payment terminals in addition to standard credit card processing.
Square continues to grow, seeing a 44% increase in total net revenue in its third quarter of 2019 to a total of $1.27 billion. Net income is back in the positive, to $27 million, after three quarters of losses.
The stock price has increased 27% already in 2020 after a volatile 2019, but with its increased revenue and profitability mixed with its products in the pipeline, it should continue to deliver value for shareholders.
3. Paypal: Leading the way
No list of the best in fintech is complete without at least one industry leader. For fintech, Paypal has built a solid customer base and offers strong capabilities that make it (still) the company to beat in this area, where it emerged before fintech was even a concept.
Paypal released its fourth-quarter earnings report in January showing a 17% increase in revenue to $4.96 billion and a 34% increase in operating income. There were 9.3 million net new accounts, a 14% increase. That's quite a feat considering how long the company has been around and how many competitors have sprung up over that time.
One of the company's exciting developments is the popularity of Venmo, a person-to-person payments system, which came along when Paypal bought Braintree in 2015 and processed $29 billion in payments in the fourth quarter, a 56% increase. Paypal continues to branch out into new areas of growth, such as the acquisition of Honey Science, a digital shopping and rewards platform, and a 70% stake in GoPay, which makes it the first foreign company with a license to provide digital payment processing in China.
Paypal stock had a rocky 2019 while the company faced short-term challenges, but it's already up almost 10% in 2020.