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Last year, when Fortune decided to start an annual conference focused on fintech companies, cryptocurrency investing, and blockchain-related innovation, I suggested that we call the event “Brainstorm Finance.” My argument was that some number of years down the road there would be no more fintech, only financial companies that use the best technology, including alternative currencies and new record-keeping techniques.
A spate of blockbuster finance-industry deals suggests a swallowing-up process is helping things along. Visa is buying Plaid, a newfangled payment-processing tech company, for example. Morgan Stanley last week disclosed plans to acquire Web 1.0 stalwart E*Trade, a way to give the Wall Street firm an electronic trading platform and oodles of retail customers. Similar-wise, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Intuit, maker of the tax software Michael Bloomberg won’t be using to generate his returns, is purchasing Credit Karma, whose services include free tax-preparation software.
Not every deal involves old finance gulping down new fintech. Upstart Lending Club is buying online bank Radius, a combination of not-so-big financial players Breakingviews.com cleverly describes as “tech tots.”
The point here isn’t that fintech is over, even if the distinction may not matter much longer. With every wave of innovation some newbies dominate. Payments companies PayPal and Stripe look like keepers, for example. But in finance, the strongest, biggest banks, with their massive balance sheets and legions of complacent customers, can buy the tech they don’t build.
Speaking of Brainstorm Finance, later this week I’m co-hosting, with the event’s co-chairs, a private dinner that will feature many of the hottest companies in this combining industry. Spots remain available for the big event this summer in Montauk, N.Y., June 17-18.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
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