For years, traditional retail banks have dominated the industry. With few rivals competing for space in the financial world, there was no reason for the likes of Citigroup and Chase to update their services, products, or methods.

Things are starting to change. A group of FinTech companies has emerged as a significant challenger to the status-quo. Their popularity has skyrocketed in the last five years, and they’re on the cusp of changing the financial world completely. These are some of the ways FinTech companies are doing it:

Mobile wallets

A mobile wallet lets you pay for your latte with just a tap of your smartphone or scan of a barcode displayed on your screen — no debit, credit, or cash required. While retailers like Starbucks, Amazon, and Walmart embrace digital payments, the US is slow to adopt this new cash-free method when compared to Sweden. In 2015, the Swedes used cash for barely 20% of transactions at the till, and cash transactions represented just 2% of the total payments made in the country.

The US has a long way to go to match their Nordic friends. Millions of underserved Americans can’t afford to keep a checking account open when the average retail bank enforces minimum balances and charges monthly fees. Without an account, they’re excluded from this budding cash-free economy.

Widespread adoption of mobile wallets hinges on mobile banks connecting underserved Americans with basic, no-fee checking accounts that sync to a mobile wallet app like Apple Pay or Google Pay. If these mobile banks offer an alternative to expensive retail banks, the underserved could use mobile wallets in place of pawn shops, check cashers, and other ad hoc financial services frequented by those without bank accounts.

Online lenders

The underserved are so named because retail banks, operating within the traditional banking model, don’t serve these individuals to their greatest abilities. While some of the underserved can afford basic services to perform daily banking tasks, bank policy limits how the underserved can borrow, invest, or save their money. A growing number of consumers — many of them Millennials — are also purposefully choosing to bank elsewhere.

This has created an opportunity for companies like MoneyKey that provide an alternative option for the underserved. Unlike some of the country’s biggest retail banks, they eliminate much of the red tape that limits who can apply for a loan. They also do most of their business online through their website or app. By offering cash loans online, online lenders release borrowers from having to travel to brick-and-mortar locations during opening hours. As a result, lenders like MoneyKey can accelerate the borrowing process and connect their customers with cash faster and easier than before.

Online investing

There are millions of Americans who, though they have access to a complete portfolio of financial services that includes investing, choose not to deal with a financial advisor or stockbroker. Many of them cite poor financial literacy as the reason why they stay away from trading, as they believe they don’t have the knowledge needed to make smart investments.

FinTech offers them a passive way to participate in the stock market through online investing apps, automatic saving services, and robo-advisors. These services build an automatic investment portfolio based on users’ interests, risk tolerance, and financial capabilities. They require very little supervision, so users can set and forget their investments. Alternatively, they can check in on their portfolio with just a swipe of their thumb.

As FinTech companies bridge the gap between traditional financial services and the underserved, they represent a new, profitable wave within the industry. Whether you use a mobile wallet, an online loan, or a robo-advisor, these FinTech alternatives offer reactive services at the touch of your fingers.

FinTech’s online platform is its greatest strength, and consumers of all kinds are latching onto its convenient, largely automatic methods. No longer a niche service, FinTech is a powerful trendsetter within the financial sector, and savvy retail banks will have to adopt fresh, online services to retain their digitally inclined customers.

Richard is an experienced tech journalist and blogger who is passionate about new and emerging technologies. He provides insightful and engaging content for Connection Cafe and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments.