Deal activity in the global financial sector dipped a bit in the first quarter (Q1) amid heightened political and economic uncertainty, although financing for financial technology (fintech) start-ups remained strong, according to new data from London, U.K.-based research firm GlobalData PLC.
The volume of overall deal activity in the global financial services sector declined to 561 transactions in Q1 2017 from 587 deals in the fourth quarter of 2016. Political and economic developments — including uncertainty surrounding the new U.S. government, Brexit and a slowing of growth in China — likely contributed to the pullback, according to GlobalData.
Merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions accounted for 72% of total deal activity, the GlobalData report states, with venture financings making up 22% and private equity (PE) representing 6%. M&A deals were down by 8% from the previous quarter whereas PE dropped by 26%. Conversely, venture financing jumped by 23% as investing in fintech continued to surge.
Despite the overall decline in M&A activity, the consolidation trend remains strong within the insurance segment, GlobalData reports. Insurance accounted for 43% of M&A deals in the sector, followed by banking, wealth management and payments.
“There has been a rise in regional M&A deals in Asia-Pacific. International banks are downsizing operations, providing an opportunity for local banks to expand their presence to other markets within the region and increase scale,” says Ravi Sharma, senior financial analyst with GlobalData, in a statement.
The insurance segment also continues to attract PE investments, with insurance PE deals rising by 38% during the quarter despite the overall decline in deal activity, the GlobalData report says: “As an increasing number of insurers dispose of their non-core operations, PE firms are acquiring them at attractive valuations.”
In terms of venture financing, GlobalData reports that investments in fintech firms continue to grow, with funding for blockchain ventures, digital currencies and robo-advisors, leading the way. In Europe, fully digital banking ventures are also attracting venture investments.
“Fintech will remain at the forefront of deal activity,” Sharma says, “as an increasing number of financial institutions are investing or entering into partnerships with these companies in order to improve their business.”