Time to buy stocks in stock brokers?
Visa, a $500bn payments processor, towers over the fintech industry with its huge global network and millions of daily users swapping currencies and paying for things. If Visa had a penny for every time someone made a transaction… Oh wait, they do. Visa and its 65% operating margins puts it amongst the S&P 500 companies with the highest margins. In fiscal 2021, the card processor pocketed $12bn in net income on $24bn in net revenue. The company was founded in 1958 and went public in 2008 in the largest IPO in US history at the time. Priced at $44 a share, San Francisco-based Visa raised $17.9bn before its debut, now trading above $200.
Mastercard is one of the most recognizable brands in the world – and for good reason. The fintech firm is best known for its global credit card network that is almost impossible to avoid. Merchants are more or less forced to accept the plastic or the alternative – Visa. Together, these two form an insurmountable duopoly over the payment processing ecosystem as they process more than three-quarters of all US credit-card transactions. Mastercard boasts a $300bn market cap and earned $8.6bn in 2021 on earnings of $18.8bn. Shares of the payments giant were virtually flat for 2021 and that trend was maintained in the first half of 2022.
American Express, or simply Amex, was founded in 1850 as a delivery service that used horses and wagons. In 1977 the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and today it practically wires the US financial system with more than 50 million cards in force – about half of its global card count. Amex debuted for trading at $3.17 a pop and has been through four stock splits since then to allow accessibility for smaller investors. Nowadays, the credit card issuer sits on a roughly $120bn valuation, though most of that is owned by large-scale investors like Berkshire Hathaway, Vanguard, and BlackRock.
Nasdaq-listed Intuit is a tax and accounting software company and produces a multitude of tax solutions software. In early 2020 Intuit acquired Credit Karma in a $7.1bn merger deal. Later, in November 2021, the firm bought email marketing platform Mailchimp for $5.7bn in cash and 10.1m shares worth $6.3bn. Those deals helped propel the accounting software giant to a $118bn market cap. And with shares floating around $420 a pop, INTU is the third largest SaaS company trading on the US stock market. For the whole of 2021, the company pulled in revenue of $9.6bn and ended the year with more than 100 million customers.
Payments company PayPal had its humble beginnings in 1998 when Max Levchin and Peter Thiel founded money-transferring platform Confinity. At that time, aspiring entrepreneur and programmer Elon Musk was working on his Internet-based bank X.com. In 2000, the two companies merged into the firm known as PayPal. And the online banking revolution began. The firm quickly rose to fame and went public in Feb 2002 with shares hitting the trading floor at $13 and a valuation of $1bn. Later that year, it was snapped up by e-commerce giant eBay for $1.5bn. PayPal now sits on a $100bn market cap and reaped $4.2bn in profits on $25.4bn revenue in 2021.
US-based Fiserv is a $65bn payments giant that sells financial processing systems to help banks complete their debit, credit, and cash machine transactions. Fiserv was founded in 1984 and became a public company just two years later. The firm enjoyed strong growth on the back of the booming payments-processing industry which is helping commerce move online. So much so, that in 2019 the financial tech group purchased indebted rival First Data in an all-stock deal priced at $39bn. Its stock resisted the early-2022 bear market and finished the first six months virtually flat.
Mobile payments company Block (originally called Square) was founded in 2009 as a platform aimed to help businesses and users transact money. The company has since grown in other directions but the key one is the innovative area of blockchain – hence the name change. Block’s founder Jack Dorsey, an outspoken Bitcoin maxi, has repurposed the company to provide permissionless and decentralized financial services with a focus on BTC. The firm was also one of the first to hold crypto on its balance sheet – in 2020 it put 1% of its assets ($50m) into Bitcoin. Block is worth roughly $40bn and its stock was down about 50% in the first half of 2022.
Canadian e-commerce company Shopify has been around since 2006 and has enjoyed tremendous growth, especially during the pandemic – shares of the company soared more than 300% from early 2020 to late 2021 thanks to stay-at-home shoppers. Post-lockdown, however, the retailer fell off a cliff. Shares erased all pandemic gains as they slipped from a record high of $170 in November 2021 to pre-Covid levels of $30 by mid-2022. In efforts to slash costs and regain momentum, Shopify pared back 10% of its workforce in the second half of 2022. The move pushed the stock further down to a 75% decline for the year so far.
US-based Fidelity National Information Services, or simply FIS, makes technology that helps banks and other institutions transact payments. To get into specifics, FIS deals with merchant-facing services but also helps lenders with commercial-loan processing and risk management. FIS is the result of a spin-off following a separation from its parent company Fidelity National Financial in a $500m IPO in 2004. Today, FIS boasts a market valuation of just over $50bn with shares changing hands around the $80-mark. Not much has been happening to impress investors, though – shares are down 34% over the last five years.
Global Payments is an Atlanta-based payment technology and software provider that has been in the industry since 1967 as part of a larger firm called National Data Corporation. The company’s main business is to carry out billions of transactions every year and provide a connected infrastructure for commerce. In 2019, Global Payments acquired Total Systems Services Inc., better known as TSYS, in a $21.5bn deal as a way to expand its e-commerce presence in the US. Fast forward to August 2022, the firm struck a deal to buy payment technology company EVO for $4bn. Global Payments stock finished the first half of 2022 down by roughly 20%.
Fleetcor Technologies is a $15bn global provider of business payments solutions. The firm’s predecessor was founded in 1986 but it wasn’t until 2010 when Fleetcor became a public company with shares landing on Wall Street at $23 a share, or slightly under 10 times less than the stock’s present levels. In 2022, the company has been active on the acquisition front – in August, it purchased automation software company Accrualify in a bid to expand its portfolio of payments solutions. In March, Fleetcor bought airline software company Levarti, which provides services such as passenger notifications, rebookings, and hotel accommodation.
Market-linked business MSCI is an index provider that had its humble beginnings in 1996 as a spinout of Morgan Stanley’s modest benchmarking venture with Capital Group. What was then valued at just $20m is now worth around $36bn and hosts international indexes and stock gauges around the globe. The benchmarking business made it into the “Big Three” of a once-sleepy industry that is now dominating exchange-traded fund and stock markets, supplying them with needed tools and services. The big success is largely due to MSCI Chairman Henry Fernandez seeing the potential of MSCI to be an industry leader – or even the Microsoft of investing.
Card company Discover Financial Services has a not-so-far-reaching network of about 12m US merchant locations, significantly lagging behind competitors Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. Further, Discover accounted for just 2% of all card transactions on major US networks in 2020, while Visa boasted a lofty 65%. The company offers lending services to students but was caught in a whirlwind in mid-2022 when it halted share buybacks during an internal investigation into its student-loan servicing practices. Discover is worth about $27bn and its stock has been fairly resilient recently, down about 20% in the first half of 2022.
Coinbase is a new breed of fintech. And as such, it’s going through never-before-seen challenges such as class-action lawsuits for not properly registering its crypto assets. A crypto-centric firm, Coinbase is the largest US-based digital-asset exchange where billions of dollars are traded for Bitcoin and other tokens daily. Coinbase dropped on the Nasdaq in April 2021 valued at $86bn but has since struggled to retain its stellar valuation. In mid-2022, right before Coinbase inked a deal with BlackRock to give its clients access to BTC, the exchange logged a record $1.1bn Q2 loss while its stock floated 80% below its listing price.
Credit rating company Equifax keeps busy by going over credit reports on more than 200m US consumers. What does it do with the data? Well, it sells it to lenders who need to know whether they’ll get their money back. With huge volumes comes huge responsibility. And during a three-week period in mid-2022, Equifax provided inaccurate credit scores on millions of loan-seeking people. “It was a glitch,” said Equifax. “Buy up, then!” the trading pit echoed, as the stock rose more than 5% on the news. The company is worth $25bn and its shares were down more than 35% in the first half of 2022 before they pared back some losses in Q3.
FactSet Research Systems brings to the table financial analytics and data products that help us all make sense of numbers. The combined loss of your top three stock picks? Or how many IPOs flopped in the past year? FactSet has you covered with those numbers. FactSet is working with more than 7,000 financial services companies, supplying them with statistics and market performances in real-time. It generates a big part of its revenue through the selling of subscriptions to over 170,000 investment professionals. The research firm is worth roughly $16bn and has been in the industry for over 40 years.
Bill.com is a leading US-based financial operations platform that helps small and midsize businesses pay invoices, cover expenses, and clear up all basic finance-related duties. The bill-payment automation company is steadily growing in customer additions and by mid-2022 it served more than 400,000 businesses. The company has set out to secure a foothold in more than 150 countries with its platform and the ecosystem is positioned to simplify and digitize the financial operations of millions of firms. Its stock peaked at $334 apiece in November 2021, but has since lost about half of its valuation.
The common ground between mortgages and technology starts with Black and ends with Knight. Black Knight, based in Jacksonville, FL, makes software, data and analytics on areas like real estate and housing finance. The company entered the spotlight in May 2022 when it was acquired by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) for $13.1bn. The deal, part of ICE’s push to cement its reputation in the US housing market data business, gave the mortgage-data firm a $16bn enterprise value. ICE expects the new acquisition to help transform its old way of doing finance into tech-powered solutions to help borrowers and lenders to agree and service mortgages.
Workplace automation firm UiPath is a leader in the rapidly-developing task automation industry. With an initial market cap of $35.8bn, the software group closed its first trading day on the NYSE on April 21, 2021. Today, the Romanian-founded, New York-based company has dwindled to a valuation below $8bn. Why the slide? The consistent new lows are a result of a continued failure to impress investors. In other words, weak outlook and struggling profitability. With about 4,200 employees in 45 offices as of April 2022, UiPath announced a 5% staff cut as part of a company-wide restructuring plan at the end of 2022’s third quarter.
Western Union is perhaps the most well-known money transfer company with over 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories. Founded as a telegraph business in New York in 1851, it is one of the oldest to start blasting people’s cash around the globe with more than 170 years of history. Today, Western Union is one of the largest digital platforms for money movement with a valuation of $6bn, and about a 12% share of the $600bn-a-year global remittances market. Oddly, the company has been public since 2006 and to date, shares of the company are roughly flat – though they’re currently at a 10-year low.
Affirm Holdings was founded in 2012 but it wasn’t until 2021 that the company became public through an IPO priced at $49 a pop, raising $1.2bn. More importantly, the firm launched with the mission to allow consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, to ‘spend now, pay later’. This new version of a customer instalment plan made Affirm one of the largest “buy now, pay later” providers. Thanks to its flashy business model, Affirm skyrocketed to a peak valuation of $47bn in November 2021. In less than a year later, the company had lost almost 90% of that figure as investors started having second thoughts about the loss-making company.
Wex is a commerce platform that simplifies the tough job of running a business. It processes business travel transactions, fuel transactions for corporate fleets, and a SaaS platform for corporate benefit programs. Surprisingly, Wex fared well through the pandemic when business travel was mostly restricted. Moving forward, the bear market of 2022… wait, what bear market? Wex’s shares were in the green for the first half of 2022 when other fintech stocks logged double digit losses. Wex was founded in 1895 under a different name - A.R. Wright - as a coal and heating oil company, and today it boasts a market capitalization of more than $6bn.
Don’t let the name fool you – Euronet is a Kansas-based, Nasdaq-listed company offering a number of services in the payments space. It’s mainly involved with ATM products and boasts one of the largest independent ATM networks in Europe. It’s also handling credit and debit cards, and currency exchanges, among other services. The company has been relatively under the radar and after Covid swept the globe, it’s been in a steady decline with no major news or developments to excite investors. Otherwise, Euronet is a roughly $4bn fintech firm with shares floating near the $80-mark, founded in 1994 and on the market since 1997.
Stock and crypto marketplace Robinhood woke up with the harshest hangover after a glorious pandemic trading boom. The California-based brokerage barely survived the pandemic with share prices down by around 80% and a market cap that sank to about $8bn from $40bn at its peak. With inflation ripping through the economy and no ‘stimmy’ for a generation of first-time investors, the trading app laid off nearly a quarter of its staff in August 2022. Some breathing space at least. Robinhood, however, will forever be the retail broker that helped usher in meme stonks and trips to the moon on rocket ships.
Fintech company SoFi Technologies was initially known for refinancing student loans but in recent history, it’s been famous among retail investors for a flurry of reasons. The online finance company listed on the Nasdaq on 1 June 2021 via a Chamath Palihapitiya-owned SPAC valued at $8.65bn on debut day. Since then, SoFi hasn’t been so fly and its shares have dived by about half with a market valuation gravitating towards $5bn. Besides its traditional money-management services, the firm also offers stock and crypto trading, and personal and mortgage loans. SoFi was originally known as Social Finance but renamed in mid-2021 to stay cool, obvs.
Fair Isaac may not ring a bell, but how about FICO? The ubiquitous credit score used to measure creditworthiness. Thank Fair Isaac. FICO began evaluating millennials at their first steps as adults when it popped open the books and started keeping track in 2005. Today, FICO is found just about everywhere – from interest rates on credit cards to people’s attractiveness as job candidates. Fair Isaac dates back to 1956 when it was founded by Bill Fair and Earl Isaac as a credit-score analytics firm. FICO landed on the NYSE in 1986 for about a dollar and has since enjoyed spectacular growth to sit on a $12bn valuation with shares near $450 a pop.