Unveiling the Future of SaaS: The Evolution of Embedded Fintech

Embedded Partners

How is embedded fintech transforming the vertical SaaS platform landscape and creating unparalleled business opportunities? Uncover the future of financial services integration with insights from Seema Amble, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. This episode explores the intricate dance of embedding financial technologies into software platforms, focusing on the strategic value and challenges that come with it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Early interest in merging fintech with SaaS predates the current trend.
  • Embedding fintech is complex and requires more than merely adding services.
  • Highlighting operational challenges in embedding fintech services.
  • Selection of fintech services should align with the core offerings of the platform.
  • Examples of successful embedded fintech that enhance SaaS platforms’ core value.
  • Shopify enhances value with embedded banking and lending.
  • The right timing for SaaS companies to offer fintech products.
  • Matching fintech products with customer needs and familiarity.
  • Selling fintech to new versus existing customers.
  • Discussing “minimum delightful product” versus full development.
  • Addressing risks and compliance in embedding fintech.
  • Excitement about AI in professional services and of new companies leveraging data.

Listen to the podcast and read the highlights below.

Shaping the Next Wave of Tech Innovation with Seema Amble

In business innovation, the synergy between Software as a Service (SaaS) and Financial Technology (fintech) has become a driving force behind revolutionary changes. In this SMB Tech Innovators podcast episode, Seema Amble, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, provided captivating insights into embedded fintech for SaaS companies. As someone deeply entrenched in the intersections of technology and finance, her perspectives shed light on the evolving landscape of SaaS and fintech integration.

At the Intersection of SaaS and Fintech

Seema’s career journey runs in parallel with the gradual convergence of SaaS and fintech. With a background in financial services investment, she traversed through various roles, gradually gravitating towards the intersection of technology and finance. Her experiences span from working at Intuit while in law school to the tumultuous times of the financial crisis, where she analyzed investment opportunities at Blackstone, to her current role as an investor at Andreessen Horowitz, focusing on early-stage SaaS and fintech companies. Through her journey, Seema witnessed the emergence of vertical SaaS businesses and the subsequent integration of fintech solutions long before it became a mainstream trend. And now, with cloud transition and AI, she sees several new technology shifts that are making it exciting to invest in these categories today.

 “Fintech wasn’t even a term, funny enough, just 15 years ago. And now it’s, ‘everything is fintech,’ as we like to say.” - Seema Amble

Understanding Embedded Fintech for SaaS Companies

Embedded fintech is a new approach for SaaS companies that allows them to integrate financial services into their platforms seamlessly. Seema believes embedded fintech is a game-changer, citing Shopify as an example. Shopify has successfully embedded various fintech products into its platform, which has improved the user experience for merchants and increased the stickiness of the platform. By providing banking services, lending products, and insurance within its ecosystem, Shopify eliminates the need for merchants to navigate external financial applications for services. This streamlined approach has contributed to Shopify’s exponential growth and market dominance and made operations easier for their merchants.

One example of a company that offers payroll as part of their service is Toast. During one of their recent earnings calls, they discussed that payroll is easier to sell to a new business than a switcher, such as a restaurant switching its POS system. Generally, new products or fintech offerings are more straightforward to bundle in when first selling to a customer, especially those setting up a new business. For example, if you are setting up a restaurant or HVAC company, you will need insurance and payroll services. Therefore, getting these customers at that point in their business journey is much easier. However, Seema points out that it can be challenging to cross-sell to existing customers who are already accustomed to using other systems. It is important to understand the profile of your customers and the stack of services they currently have when acquiring them.

Balancing Complexity and Value of Embedded Fintech Products

When contemplating embedded fintech products, SaaS founders must navigate a spectrum that ranges from simple payment gateways to complex financial offerings like lending and payroll services. Seema highlights the importance of understanding the nuances of each product and its impact on the core SaaS offering. While payments may enhance transactional efficiency, lending, and insurance can drive revenue growth and customer retention. However, founders must assess each product’s operational and organizational complexities, ensuring alignment with customer needs and market demand.

For example, when balancing value, offering insurance as part of your software platform may not directly impact its usage. However, it can be an effective way to increase the average revenue per customer (ARPU). On the other hand, Seema points out that offering payroll services can increase the usage of your software because people spend more time on core software through payroll. Both these products are different in how they compound the overall value of the platform. While they both increase revenue, it’s also important to consider what types of financial products your customers are used to and what seems most natural for them to use through the vertical software product you provide, whether it’s the CRM or the storefront. Ultimately, you want to offer the most natural solution to the customer and encourage them to return to your product.

Earning the Right to Offer Embedded Fintech

Earning the right to offer embedded fintech involves a strategic evaluation of timing, customer appetite, and operational readiness. Seema underscores the significance of internal readiness, emphasizing that SaaS companies must possess the organizational capabilities to manage complex financial products effectively. Additionally, founders must gauge customer interest and familiarity with financial services, ensuring seamless adoption and integration within their existing workflows. SaaS companies can unlock the full potential of embedded fintech offerings by balancing timing, operational readiness, and customer demand. Seema provides a few examples of topics to explore when considering embedded fintech in SaaS platforms.

  • Develop fintech products that complement the software platform’s core value proposition, providing a comprehensive solution for customers.
  • Offer fintech products that simplify operational processes for customers, eliminating the need to seek other solutions.
  • Provide fintech solutions such as banking services or lending products that help customers grow their businesses effectively.
  • Check if target customers are interested in utilizing fintech products based on their existing practices and preferences in the industry.
  • Focus on aligning embedded fintech with your customers’ existing financial practices.

Redefining Minimum Viable Products

In embedded fintech, the concept of minimum viable products (MVPs) undergoes a transformation, evolving into minimum delightful products. Seema highlights the importance of delivering exceptional user experiences and value propositions, even in the nascent stages of product development. Whether launching referral programs or developing in-house financial solutions, founders must prioritize economics, operations, user experience, and risk management. By embracing innovation and focusing on delivering delightful customer experiences, SaaS companies can differentiate themselves in the competitive landscape of embedded fintech.

Trends and New Technology for SaaS and Fintech

Looking ahead, Seema identifies several trends shaping the future of SaaS and fintech, including integrating AI in professional services, utilizing real-world data for actionable insights, and the emergence of high-risk payment solutions. As the boundaries between technology and finance continue to blur, SaaS companies must embrace these trends to drive innovation and maintain competitive advantage. By harnessing the power of AI, leveraging untapped data reservoirs, and addressing niche market needs, SaaS companies can pave the way for groundbreaking advancements in embedded fintech.

 “There’ll be a shift in AI. We’re seeing a lot in legal tech and accounting software. You’ll see that extend into other categories of professional services.” - Seema Amble

Embracing Embedded Fintech

Integrating fintech solutions can give SaaS providers more control over the customer experience. However, it also comes with greater complexity and risk. For instance, it may involve offering lending or insurance as a service or even launching a captive insurance program. Providers must navigate regulatory compliance, risk management, and operational intricacies to achieve this. Although incorporating embedded fintech requires a higher level of investment and complexity, it provides the potential for greater economic returns and a more customized customer experience. Seema adds that SaaS providers must carefully weigh the trade-offs along the spectrum. They should consider factors such as customer satisfaction, financial investment, and risk management. This way, they can ensure that the chosen approach aligns with their business objectives and delivers value to customers and stakeholders.

The integration of fintech within the fabric of SaaS represents a paradigm shift for SaaS platforms. As Seema highlighted, the strategic implementation of embedded fintech offers many opportunities for SaaS companies to enhance customer value, drive revenue growth, and redefine industry standards. By navigating the complexities of embedded fintech products, embracing innovation, and aligning with market trends, SaaS companies can embark on a new journey toward sustained success in the evolving landscape of technology and finance

Listen to Shaping the next wave of tech innovation with Seema Amble, connect with Seema on LinkedIn, and watch My First 16 on YouTube.

Brian Busch Brian is currently Head of Marketing at Gusto Embedded; the only payroll API with 10 years of experience and actionable data behind it. Before joining Gusto, Brian held leadership positions at Cloud Elements, Kapost, and Captricity. He holds a BS in finance and a BA in philosophy from Boston College and an MBA from the Cal Berkeley Haas School of Business.
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