Darren Franks is a highly accomplished entrepreneur, non-executive director, advisor, and investor with an impressive track record of success in the fintech sector. He is the CEO of TalentintheCloud, a company specialising in fintech recruitment, and the Co-Founder of the FinTech Association of South Africa. With a wealth of experience in the industry, Darren is a respected thought leader and advocate for gender equality in Fintech.

Darren Franks is a highly accomplished entrepreneur, non-executive director, advisor, and investor with an impressive track record of success in the fintech sector. He is the CEO of TalentintheCloud, a company specialising in fintech recruitment, and the Co-Founder of the FinTech Association of South Africa. With a wealth of experience in the industry, Darren is a respected thought leader and advocate for gender equality in Fintech.

In addition to his professional pursuits, Darren is deeply committed to promoting diversity and financial inclusion in Africa. He is a strategic partner for the African Women in FinTech and Payments Network and actively supports various groups focused on these crucial issues. Darren’s dedication to driving positive change in the industry and beyond makes him a true leader and inspiration.

1. Greetings, Darren Franks. Firstly, thank you for taking the time to chat. I am excited about this interview; our audience will do too. How did you end up in Fintech? Can you give us a summary of that journey?

How did I first get into FinTech? Well, let’s just say it was a bit of an accident.

I was actually buying a car in the UAE and was asked to write 36 handwritten cheques! I found this absolutely crazy, the UAE had just launched the world’s tallest building which was a feat of scientific genius, and there was I, sitting in a showroom hand writing cheques. That’s when I started exploring the world of FinTech. I had to learn more about this industry. And before I knew it, I was knee-deep in the world of FinTech.

I think what really drew me in was the innovative and disruptive nature of the industry. Plus, I’ve always had a love for technology and finance, so it was a match made in heaven.

But I have to admit, when I first heard the term “FinTech,” I thought it was some kind of new dance move that the kids were doing these days. Needless to say, I was relieved to learn that it was something a bit more practical.

All jokes aside, I truly believe that FinTech has the power to transform the way we do business and interact with money. And as someone who’s always been interested in financial inclusion and empowering people through technology, it was a no-brainer for me to dive headfirst into the FinTech world.

So that’s how I ended up here today, talking to all of you about the exciting world of FinTech in South Africa. And I have to say; it’s been one heck of a ride so far!

2. Fintech has been a very exciting industry in South Africa and Africa. According to a McKinsey report, revenue generated by fintech start-ups is set to grow eight times to $30 billion by 2025. Foreign investors are funding a large number of fintech start-ups. Why is there this big buzz about FinTech in Africa?

There are several factors that have contributed to the big buzz about FinTech in Africa. Firstly, Africa has a large and growing population, with over 1.3 billion people on the continent. However, traditional banking systems have struggled to provide financial services to the vast majority of people, particularly those in rural and remote areas. This has created a huge opportunity for FinTech companies to leverage technology to provide financial services to underserved populations, including those who have never had access to banking services before.

Secondly, the high mobile phone penetration rate in Africa has made it easier for FinTech companies to reach potential customers. With over 477 million unique mobile subscribers, many of whom do not have access to traditional banking services, mobile money has become a popular way of sending and receiving money in Africa. This has created a huge opportunity for FinTech companies to develop innovative mobile payment solutions.

Thirdly, the regulatory environment for FinTech in Africa has been relatively favourable, with many African governments recognising the potential of the industry to drive economic growth and financial inclusion. This has led to a more supportive environment for FinTech companies, including streamlined licensing procedures and supporting policies.

Finally, the growth potential for FinTech in Africa has caught the attention of foreign investors, who are now funding a large number of FinTech start-ups on the continent. This has further fueled the growth of the industry and attracted even more attention to the opportunities that exist in Africa’s FinTech space.

So with, the combination of a large and underserved population, high mobile phone penetration, a supportive regulatory environment, and strong investor interest has created a big buzz around FinTech in Africa, and there are exciting times ahead for the industry on the continent.


3. There are significant challenges that are faced in the industry. Markets are becoming flooded with competition; mostly, start-ups are looking to disrupt the market. Also, the increase in funding for start-ups and lack of investment in established Fintech companies can affect the growth and longevity of fintech companies. What are your thoughts about the increase of competition in the market and the sustainability of Fintech companies?

The increase in competition in the FinTech market is a natural consequence of an industry that has grown rapidly in recent years, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Competition can drive innovation and ultimately result in better products and services for consumers. However, I acknowledge that increased competition can be a challenge for start-ups looking to establish themselves in the market.

In terms of sustainability, the ability of FinTech companies to thrive in the long term will depend on a number of factors, including their ability to differentiate themselves from the competition, their ability to adapt to changing market conditions, and their ability to scale their operations efficiently. While increased funding for start-ups is certainly a positive development, it is important to recognise that funding alone is not enough to ensure long-term success. Fintech companies need to have a solid business model, a clear path to profitability, and a strategy for sustainable growth in order to succeed.

It is also worth noting that there is a role for established FinTech companies in the market, particularly those that have established a strong brand and a loyal customer base. These companies may face less competition from start-ups and can leverage their existing customer relationships to expand into new markets and offer new products and services.

While there are certainly challenges associated with increased competition and the sustainability of FinTech companies, I believe that there are still plenty of opportunities for innovative and well-managed companies to succeed in the market. It is important for these companies to remain focused on meeting the needs of their customers, developing sustainable business models, and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging trends and technologies.

4. According to CB Insights State of Venture Report Q2 2022, global venture funding fell by 23% to $ 108.5 billion in the second quarter of this year. One of the reasons that caused that drop was the uncertain regulatory environment that businesses are finding themselves in; this has driven a slow adoption of new technologies. What is your take on South Africa's approach to regulating Fintech?

In my opinion, South Africa’s approach to regulating FinTech has been relatively progressive and supportive, which is a positive development for the industry. While it is important to strike a balance between protecting consumers and ensuring a level playing field for all market participants, it is also important not to stifle innovation in the process.

South Africa’s regulatory environment for FinTech is overseen by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), which has taken a relatively open-minded and collaborative approach to working with FinTech companies. The FSCA has established regulatory sandboxes and innovation hubs, which provide a space for FinTech companies to test new products and services in a controlled environment. This approach allows FinTech companies to innovate while ensuring that consumer protection is maintained.

Furthermore, the South African government has recognised the potential of FinTech to drive economic growth and financial inclusion, and has implemented policies aimed at supporting the development of the industry. That being said, there are still challenges that need to be addressed in order to create a more supportive regulatory environment for FinTech in South Africa. These include issues around data privacy and cybersecurity, as well as ensuring that the regulatory framework is flexible enough to keep pace with the rapid pace of technological change.

I believe that South Africa’s approach to regulating FinTech has been largely positive, and has helped to create an environment in which the industry can thrive. However, there is still more work to be done to ensure that the regulatory framework remains fit for purpose in a rapidly evolving landscape.

5. Web3 is viewed to be coming in the near future, and cryptocurrencies and blockchains are technologies that are predicted to be a big part of Fintech. What are your comments about this?

I believe that Web3, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology have the potential to be significant disruptors in the FinTech industry in the coming years. As we move towards a more decentralised and interconnected internet, the potential for these technologies to transform the way we conduct financial transactions and manage data is enormous.

Cryptocurrencies, in particular, have already shown themselves to be a major disruptor in the financial industry, enabling faster, cheaper, and more secure cross-border transactions, as well as opening up new opportunities for financial inclusion. Blockchain technology, meanwhile, has the potential to revolutionise the way we manage data and execute transactions, providing a secure and transparent platform that can be used for everything from supply chain management to identity verification.

Web3, which refers to the next generation of the internet that is more decentralised, transparent, and user-centric, has the potential to create a more open and interoperable ecosystem that enables greater innovation and collaboration between different players in the FinTech space. This could lead to the emergence of new business models, products, and services that we can only begin to imagine at this point.

However, it is important to recognise that these technologies are still in their infancy and there are many challenges that need to be addressed in order for them to reach their full potential. This includes issues around regulation, scalability, interoperability, and user adoption, among others.

6. As the co-founder of FINASA, what have been the most challenging moments in that position?

One of the biggest challenges is securing funding and resources to support the organisation’s operations and programs. In South Africa, there are many non-profits competing for a limited pool of resources, so it can be challenging to stand out and attract the funding and support needed to sustain the organisation over the long term however we’ve been very fortunate that the FinTech industry has welcomed FINASA and we’ve been able to gather an influential group of FinTech’s who have funded the Association to date.

Another challenge is navigating the complex regulatory environment for non-profits in South Africa. Non-profits are subject to a range of regulations and reporting requirements, and it can be challenging to stay on top of these requirements while also focusing on the organisation’s mission and impact.

But despite these challenges, starting a non-profit in South Africa is highly rewarding and a fulfilling endeavor, especially for those who are committed to making a positive difference in their communities. It requires resilience, persistence, and a willingness to collaborate and adapt to changing circumstances in order to achieve the organisation’s goals.

7. Most of our readers are association leaders or members. We would love for you to leave them with a few tips. Could you tell us your "3 Ways to provide value to your association members "?

1. I think it’s vital to listen to your members and be guided by them on what your association needs to offer

2. Ensure that you’re fostering collaborations and introductions to members can actively manage their returns on investments

3. Encourage members to contribute to the running of the association

8. Lastly, where do you see the industry in the next five years?

We are likely to see continued growth in the adoption of FinTech solutions, both in developed and emerging markets. As consumers become increasingly comfortable with digital channels and alternative financial services, FinTech companies will have the opportunity to offer a wider range of products and services, including more sophisticated investment and lending options.

As well as open banking, we are likely to see a continued convergence between FinTech and other industries, such as healthcare, retail, and real estate. This will enable the development of new and innovative products and services that leverage data and technology to create more seamless and integrated experiences for consumers.

In terms of advancements in technology, we are likely to see increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the FinTech industry. This will enable more personalised and targeted services, as well as more efficient risk management and fraud detection.

Overall, the next five years are likely to see continued growth and innovation in the FinTech industry, as companies continue to find new ways to leverage technology to create value for consumers and businesses alike. However, it is also important to recognise that the industry will face ongoing challenges, such as regulatory compliance, cybersecurity, and consumer privacy, which will need to be carefully managed in order to ensure that the industry continues to thrive

9. What can people expect from FINASA in 2023, and any exclusive announcements you would love to make?

2023 will be our first full year in operation and we have a vast array of activities planned, including bringing numerous international FinTech events to South Africa, working closely with our governmental partners to drive financial inclusion and forming a number of international delegations for international visits.