No one wants to miss out on the next big fintech trend.
And at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), I’m confident we won’t. Innovation is a part of our history, beginning with when we started a digital services group way back before internet use became widespread and “fintech” was not widely understood. As one of the top financial firms in Japan and one of the largest banks in the world, we’ve always stayed ahead.
In 2014, the company formed a Global Innovation Team to research new and emerging fintech trends, sitting outside of our Japanese headquarters to be “boots on the ground.” My role as Director of Digital Transformation is to help us source new opportunities and partnerships in fintech or enterprise technologies.
We didn’t use a research tool initially, outside of traditional media sites. Instead, we focused on building out our network, meeting with venture capitalists, software integrators, and startups to source for emerging trends and companies.
As we were meeting with these different groups, we would always ask, “How do you stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the ecosystem? What are you reading to get ahead of the trends?” All roads led back to CB Insights. It’s a powerful tool to do the “top down” research into major trends and the “bottoms up” research into specific companies.
Making the Case for Innovation
It’s never easy to measure innovation. For us, we look at the new products and services we have brought into the bank, and our north star, and how many have been implemented at the bank. Along the way, we always keep an eye on how many companies we are meeting with, introducing to our business lines and doing a POC with our teams.
Part of our success depends on our ability to react quickly to market shifts, and then educate the rest of the organization on them. CB Insights plays a major role in that: helping us not only see what’s coming, but also build the case for why we need to prioritize or invest. We can’t just pitch a gut feeling or some whispers about a new trend to our business leaders. We need more ammunition than that.
With CB Insights research, we have that. For example, Buy Now, Pay Later is a very hot topic in the fintech space right now, and we not only knew about it, but also educated our small business banking division on it before the trend became as widespread as it is today. The data and research we brought to the team triggered a discussion on what we’re doing in the Buy Now, Pay Later and Point-of-Sale financing space and the benefits to merchants. This eventually led to a successful partnership that now allows MUFG to gain new capabilities to better serve our small business clients.
Whenever we even hear about a trend, CB Insights already has a report on it. The timing is unbelievably spot-on with what’s happening next, which I know is because the analysts are using the platform to see ahead of the market trends.
The research is especially helpful as I try to build those inter-company relationships. When a colleague comes to me and says “What’s happening in the creator economy?” I know I’ll get everything I need in the CB Insights platform. It’s just that good.
CB Insights is our go-to resource for understanding the fintech market.
Sourcing Our Opportunities
After I read through the relevant CB Insights research on a space, I start to look at the companies within it. This is where I use CB Insights’ Collections feature. It’s a real-time spreadsheet that pulls in every relevant company within a space, that I can then filter by my own criteria, like funding stage and particular geographies. I’ve been able to find companies that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
Once we’ve moved past the initial scan of the landscape, we need to start diving deeper into what individual companies are doing. We get asked for very granular and specific information about fintech companies, and we need a trusted, in-depth source of information.
I search for private companies in the CB Insights platform every day. It’s my go-to resource. When I’m reading a news article or in a meeting with a VC, you’ll always see the CB Insights platform open on my browser so I can reference company profiles during the conversation. We review everything about a company, but find their stage, investor syndicate, founding team, and business relationships have been the most helpful in our evaluation.
CB Insights’ Mosaic Score is a good indicator of a company’s potential.
Enabling Every Step of the Research Process
One of our goals as a company is to build a culture of innovation. We know how important open innovation is to the longevity and growth of our company—and CB Insights plays a major role in that. It’s not just a research platform or another dataset; it brings everything together for us so we know what’s coming next and what we need to do about it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Director, Digital Transformation Division
Bill Baxter is a Director in MUFG's Digital Transformation Division leading business development and partnership initiatives with emerging fintech and technology companies. He's also responsible for America's coverage for the bank's corporate venture capital arm, MUFG Innovation Partners. Prior to this he held roles in product management and internal audit. He started his career at KPMG and is a licensed CPA.