Fintech Is a Scam — A Listicle in Eight Parts

$91.5b per year, doubling every year

Cory Doctorow
Published in
7 min readDec 1, 2021


Bosch’s painting ‘The Conjurer,’ in which a fast-fingered magician bamboozles a bunch of gawping rubes with a shell game. In the original, the conjurer holds a pea from under a shell; in this one, he holds a Bitcoin logo.

The world’s economy ground to a halt during the pandemic as millions died, production slowed or stopped altogether, and the resulting supply chain disruptions made many essential products and services impossible to deliver. And yet, the world’s billionaires added $5.5t to their net worth during that time.

Thank “financialization,” the subordination of the real economy — the economy that makes and delivers the things we need — to the financial economy, a global high-stakes casino where wanton destruction of businesses and lives can be a path to unimaginable wealth and power.

Financialization has infected every sector of our economy. No matter who you are, there’s a casino game for you. But as with every casino, the only way to win is to own the casino, not to play the games. We’re all the proverbial suckers at the table.

Take the investor class. They are piling into “fintech” startups, with 2021’s fintech investments cresting $91.5b, more than double the eye-popping 2020 figure. What’s “fintech,” then?

Writing for Naked Capitalism, Satyajit Das — an ex-financier turned critic — calls fintech “the untidy agglomeration of finance and technology.”

Das divides fintech into four buckets:

i. Payments (e.g. Stripe and Square)

ii. Lending (including the spectacular fraud of ‘supply chain finance’ epitomized by Greensill Capital)

iii. Buy now/pay later (BNPL) — short term consumer loans

iv. Deposit taking (online banking startups)

All follow the same simple formula: “take a function, digitise it, toss in a little jargon — ‘financial engineering,’ ‘technological disruption.’ Season generously with mystique; add some high profile spruikers or fawning media endorsements.”

Fintech uses some combination of the following eight tactics to transfer money from investors and users to the finance sector:



Cory Doctorow

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