The financial technology sector continues to grow throughout Tampa Bay, yet many people do not fully realize its applications in everyday life. We’re highlighting the companies and leaders utilizing fintech solutions to solve problems and increase business. This is the Functionality of Fintech.
Since relocating to St. Petersburg from Chicago in 2013, Intrinio has become a global leader in financial technology by providing the data needed to spur innovation – both for itself and its clients.
Rachel Carpenter, co-founder and CEO of Intrinio, said that as a fintech company supporting fintech clients, Intrino occupies a “ton of space” in the industry. While most people think about the capital side of fintech – think payment companies like PayPal – she noted that insurance, artificial intelligence and banking corporations are all powered by financial technology and data.
Carpenter explained that while the stock market is completely dependent on information, most people are unaware of the process. She said websites like Yahoo Finance are awash in data, yet most people do not realize how it is acquired or supplied.
“But companies like Yahoo Finance pay millions of dollars every year to plug that data in and display it to people on their website,” said Carpenter. “And so, there’s this whole world kind of happening behind the scenes in the data space.”
Carpenter said the challenging part for fintech startups is affording the same costly data used by large corporations like Yahoo. She used the investment app Robin Hood – an Intrinio client – as an example of a newer company that needs the same tools and information as more established financial institutions. She also noted that companies like Bloomberg typically have a stronghold on that space, something Carpenter is working to change from the Sunshine City.
“Our mission basically as a company is to unlock those data sets in a really efficient way and open up the flow of data to developers who then build fintech apps,” she said. “So, we’re innovating ourselves around access to data, and then our customers are taking that data, and they’re innovating.
“So, it’s kind of like an innovation ‘Inception’ in the investment space.”
Carpenter said nearly 500 different fintech clients now buy data from Intrinio, which often provides her a first look at what others are building. She called her company “plumbers for data,” who power developers that build applications.
“When our customers get their hands on the data, they build some really innovative solutions in the fintech space,” she said. “Robo-advisory platforms, retail trading apps, risk analytics, software, trading terminals, AI (artificial intelligence) bots – all that kind of stuff for investors to use.”
Originally from Wisconsin, Carpenter and her co-founder started building the technology for the business in Chicago. They knew they had years of collecting data and developing their product ahead of them, and the cost of living in the Windy City was not conducive for the early-stage company. The duo also grew disenchanted with the weather, she added.
Carpenter’s mother had recently moved to St. Petersburg and opened a wine bar, and she soon followed suit, working at the wine bar when she wasn’t building her company.
“I like to joke and say that I programmed all day long, served wine at night and then drank the wine,” said Carpenter. “And then repeat it.”
While the weather and cost of living appealed to the midwestern co-founders, Carpenter said they remained undecided on whether they would stay in St. Pete for the long term. However, she said they fell in love with the city’s energy, art, music, waterfront, walkability and nightlife.
Carpenter said “Main Street” provided a competitive advantage over Wall Street or Silicon Valley, and Intrinio’s investors were also on board with the location.
“Not only because they could come to visit during the wintertime, but also because they knew our money was going farther,” she said. “So, it ended up being a place we fell in love with and never left.”
Carpenter has a unique perspective on St. Pete’s burgeoning fintech scene, as she has watched “six or seven” clients move to the Sunshine City during the pandemic alone. She noted that Intrinio has clients throughout 50 countries worldwide, and she never expected to have so many in her backyard.
People started to reevaluate things after the onset of the pandemic, said Carpenter, and as a traditional industry, she believes the world of finance felt the change the most. She said people were used to wearing a suit into the office every day and realized they could still get their work done from home wearing flip-flops.
Even before the pandemic, Carpenter said she met several angel investors who left Wall Street to retire in St. Pete. She called the city a perfect confluence of former Wall Street executives, retired business owners, and a new generation of fintech founders and entrepreneurs intersecting with established companies in the area – such as Raymond James and Franklin Templeton.
“If you understand the economic value of being here, and you’re sick of being in the office and sick of the winters on the northeast coast, this is like a paradise for you,” said Carpenter.
“It’s cool to see the retired executives moving … the bigger, established business like Ark moving down, and the fintechs moving down – because it takes all three of those groups to make the ecosystem work – and obviously, the universities are key, too.”
As the fintech industry continues to grow and evolve, Carpenter said she sees more financial institutions behaving like fintech startups. She said established corporations have three choices when faced with pressure from innovators: stick to business as usual, innovate and try to compete or buy the smaller companies.
With large incumbent financial institutions such as Dynasty Partners, ARK Investment and Raymond James calling St. Petersburg home, Carpenter said she is interested to see if the changing tide leads to acquisitions or more innovation.
“We need to start thinking about fintech not just as the early upstarts, but what are these big institutions doing, as well?” said Carpenter. “Is it competitive? Is it collaborative? Is it an acquisition opportunity?
“That’s kind of the biggest trend that I’ve seen in fintech – just how it’s leaking into these big institutions, and they’re starting to play along.”