Hurricane Harvey and the Impact of Fintech

Hurricane Harvey

Today at FintekNews we are devoted to providing a different angle to the Hurricane Harvey story.  We brought you some much needed levity in another story we published today – The Not So Fintech News – The Story of Harvey the Hurricane Hawk.  In this piece, we want you to delve in with us and consider not just the economic impact, but the fintech impact of this storm.

From a startup standpoint, Houston – thought the fourth largest city in the nation – is never a city that comes up when one discusses financial technology innovation.  And yet, it is a thriving center of commerce. According to the Greater Partnership of Houston, it is the Number 1 manufacturing city in the US, the Number 1 export port in the US (think energy) and the Number 1 best metro for STEM (science/ technology/ engineering/ math) workers.

So it is an incredibly diverse and well educated business ecosystem, but not focused heavily on the financial sector.

Now, how has this hurricane affected fintech specifically?

First, Houston and Dallas both have huge Federal Reserve cash vaults that provide currency liquidity to banks.  With the upcoming Labor Day holiday, the timely and measured flow of this physical cash is in question.  No official statement from the Fed, but they did release the following announcement on August 26th:

Federal and state banking agencies issue statement on supervisory practices regarding financial institutions and borrowers affected by Hurricane Harvey

Many local area bank branches are also waiving ATM fees, while other banks’ ATMs were completely closed down:

Houston-area banks waive ATM fees in Hurricane Harvey’s wake

Crowdfunding site GoFundMe has set up a Hurricane Harvey funding page for various groups seeking financial assistance during the storm, and there are over 5600 pages posted to date.

Payments platform Western Union is waving sending fees for money being sent thru its agent locations and by phone in the US to Texas

Heck, even a Houston drag queen has set up a Facebook live performance to help raise funds for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts (the page seems to have been removed, though).

All that said, we encourage you to consider the full ramifications and the usefulness of fintech – particularly the investing and payments sector – during this time.  It’s FABULOUS that payments, money transfers and investing, trading, etc. can continue to be conducted online and via mobile devices during a storm of such magnitude.  One of the reasons we believe so fervently in the need for this technology to be more widely used and accepted in the mainstream.

All well and good when there is cell service and electricity to recharge your cell batteries.

However, in a storm zone, both are not always available, in which case, good old paper money becomes the most important “fintech” of all.

Sometimes, CASH IS STILL KING, even in our world of advanced financial technology.  We believe it has its place in conjunction with financial technologies.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those affected by this hurricane.