Monica Desai Weiss is an investor at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, where she focuses on fintech and blockchain. Previously, she led operations and strategy at digital wallet startup Blockchain and was a bond trader at JPMorgan. Forbes spoke with her about the past year in fintech and her top predictions for 2020. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Forbes: For fintech in 2019, what events or milestones stand out as the most important?
Desai Weiss: There were a few big themes. Financial services incumbents took notice of fintech startups, and some parts of the fintech industry matured. There were several mergers and acquisitions around payment processors
—these companies are coming to terms with Stripe and Square’s success in payments. There was also a great reckoning around trading fees. Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Etrade all dropped their trading fees to $0, matching Robinhood and Square. This all counters the notion some held that fintech has a ceiling.
Second, everyone is becoming a bank. Big tech made its presence known, with every tech company trying to be a bank and every bank trying to get into tech. Apple, Google and Facebook all entered financial services, or at least announced their entry. Fintech startups Acorns, Betterment and Dave launched checking accounts. Uber and Lyft are adding banking features. There’s huge saturation in banking services.
Third, blockchain made inroads within large enterprises. Fidelity launched a crypto custody service. For Facebook’s new digital currency libra, many big companies came to the table, regardless of where they ended the year. JPMorgan created a digital coin [to speed up payments]. Bison Trails, a startup we recently invested in, is helping companies build blockchains. Think about what Amazon Web Services did for cloud computing years ago. Bison Trails is trying to do that for blockchain, so that any app developer or enterprise that wants to create access to a blockchain can do this easily without needing to hire a blockchain team.
Forbes: Regarding the adoption of blockchain technology over the past couple of years, how has that played out compared with your expectations?
Desai Weiss: You always think these things are going to happen faster than they do. I thought things were going to move more quickly. But I’ve realized that they have to move slow and then fast. You need a certain level of regulatory clarity. There needs to be technological stability on the underlying blockchain. We’re starting to see that come into place. On regulation, there’s still a lot more to be done, but with projects like libra, sovereign digital coins [like China’s] and other things, it’s going to push the conversation forward such that we’ll get more clarity in the next year or two. forbes.com