I'm a sucker for Internet lists. If I come across a "Top 10 Spectacular Wardrobe Fails by International Pop Stars," I instantly lose at least an hour's worth of productivity reading about how JLo wore it better than Christina. And there are loads of lists out there -- you can't get away from them. One could argue that the Internet itself has become a collection of lists from "experts" who, in reality, are more curators (read: advertisers) than creators. David Martin, a long-time Huffington Post contributor, calls Internet lists "arbitrary, artificial classifications of people, places or things that often have little in common." He's probably right, for the most part. But even when they are arbitrary and insignificant, they are perfect little bits of fluff for those times when you're looking for that just-right, delicious-but-bad-for-you snack with no nutritional value whatsoever.
I recently became aware of another kind of list, a substantial, stick-to-your-ribs kind of list that is more Lamb Loin "à la Provençal" from Café Boulud than Cinnabon. For the last 12 years, the folks at IDC have been gathering financial information from the world's biggest and most influential technology companies in the financial services industry. The IDC Financial Insights FinTech Rankings is a list of distinctly different pedigree. Today's industry social media seems smitten, head-over-heels if you will, with #fintech, the darling of 2010's Silicon Valley tech bubble. Every day we're blasted by tweets about how a couple of tech geeks in a garage created a hair clip that monitors your Apple pay account in case your car decided it needed an oil change when you dropped it off at the garage this morning and approved the charge autonomously.
Don't get me wrong, some of these #fintech startups are brilliant and point to a future that I'm not sure we can even grasp yet. The IDC Financial Insights FinTech Rankings, however, deals with the giants of technology, the influencers, the blue chip firms that move global markets. These are the "behind-the-scenes" companies that keep your money safe, help you invest wisely, and help you buy your house. Every day, the financial institution that you send your paycheck to, that you write checks against (you're still using checks?!), that insures your car, and that you trust more than any other organization with your money, buys 60% of all of their technology from one of the 125 companies on the FinTech Rankings list. Combined, those 125 technology firms earn as much as the annual GDP of New Zealand, nearly $180B in 2014. If there were a market index specifically for companies providing technology to financial services, the IDC Financial Insights FinTech Rankings would be it.
Here's an example: there are over 12,000 banks and credit unions in the U.S, and the majority of them source most of their technology from only four companies, the largest two of which, Jacksonville-based FIS and Brookfield, Wisconsin-based Fiserv, appear as #2 and #3 on the FinTech Rankings, bringing in over $10B in combined revenues. If you'll pardon the continued food metaphor, that's a lot of cheddar.
And yet most people have no idea about the size and importance of these companies, or their role in making sure your bank runs safely and efficiently. In fact, FIS held the #1 spot on the IDC list for many years, but was unseated this year by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) from Bangalore, India, which took the top ranking. TCS may have to guard that #1 spot jealously, however, now that FIS has announced plans to acquire Pennsylvania's SunGard (#9 on this year's Rankings). Unless something even bigger happens next year, FIS is almost guaranteed to retake the throne in 2016. Completing the top 5 is Cognizant, a consulting and technology company from Teaneck, New Jersey coming in at #4, and NCR, the Dayton, Ohio brand that I'm sure you've seen on cash registers and ATMs everywhere, making the list at #5.
Ok, so maybe it's not as sexy as the world's 20 most beautiful people, or as humorous as the top 10 network news bloopers. But the IDC Financial Insights FinTech Rankings is the Top 125 list that market analysts and financial services executives read to guide their investments every September. The latest #fintech launches are fascinating to read about, but the tech firms on the FinTech Rankings list eat those startups for breakfast -- sometimes literally -- and those are companies you can bank on.