10 of the most innovative fintech firms right now, according to research

An employee scans a quick response (QR) code displayed on the Ant Financial Services Group's Alipay app, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding.
Anthony Kwan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Financial technology — a sector focused on developing new technologies to disrupt traditional financial markets — is growing rapidly.

Last year alone, $17.4 billion in venture capital investment was pumped into the space, according to industry body Innovate Finance.

A number of fintech firms have transitioned from starting up to being valued at billions of dollars. China's Lufax, for example, is reportedly worth well above $10 billion.

But start-ups aren't the only companies disrupting the financial services, as competition from established fintechs continues to put pressure on mainstream financial institutions.

CNBC lists the 10 most innovative fintech companies around, based on research by auditing giant KPMG and venture capital investment firm H2 Ventures.

Ant Financial

Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

Owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Ant Financial is best known for its Alipay digital payments platform.

With a market capitalization of at least $60 billion, it is the most valuable fintech in the world.

In addition to Alipay, the firm runs the world's largest money market fund, Yu'e Bao, and credit rating service Sesame Credit.

The company has been eyeing a much anticipated initial public offering (IPO), but this could reportedly be delayed until next year.

ZhongAn

Yaping Ou, chairman of ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance, left, and Jeffrey Chen, CEO, strike a gong during the company's listing ceremony at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017.
Anthony Kwan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After going public in September, this fintech titan is worth more than 110 billion Hong Kong dollars ($14 billion) now.

China's first online-only insurance firm, ZhongAn Online Property and Casualty Insurance is one of many insurance technology (insurtech) companies that seek to simplify the insurance industry with a digital offering.

Co-founded by Alibaba's Jack Ma and Tencent's Pony Ma, ZhongAn uses big data and analytics to determine product price and control risk.

ZhongAn reportedly scored $1.5 billion from its float on the Hong Kong stock exchange, with Japan's SoftBank buying a roughly 5 percent stake in the firm for $550 million. The stock offering broke a record, becoming the biggest ever fintech IPO to hit Hong Kong's exchange.

Qudian

Min Luo, CEO of Qudian rings the bell at the NYSE on Oct. 18th, 2017.
Bob Pisani | CNBC

Alibaba-backed micro-lender comes third on KPMG and H2 Venture's list.

Based in China, Qudian offers short-term microloans to users on its mobile app.

The firm on the New York Stock Exchange last month.

On the day of Qudian's stock offering, Chief Executive Min Luo told CNBC that its growing user base and low delinquency rates allow it to lend at relatively low risk, while simultaneously collecting "really big data."

Oscar

Mario Schlosser, Kevin Nazemi and Josh Kushner (left to right), founders of Oscar
Source: Oscar

Launched on the back of former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, Oscar Health Insurance is an insurer that uses an online platform to provide individual health plans to its customers.

Backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, the company sells Obamacare-focused insurance products.

In July, it was revealed that Oscar was moving to offer small business health insurance.

Avant

Al Goldstein, CEO, Avant
Source: CNBC

An alum from Y Combinator's accelerator program, fintech start-up Avant launched in 2012.

The firm offers personal loans ranging from $2,000 to $35,000 and terms of up to five years.

Its technology applies machine learning and analytics as well as consumer data to evaluate how much credit it will offer to customers.

Lufax

Greg Gibb, chairman and chief executive officer of Shanghai Lujiazui International Finacial Exchange Co. (Lufax).
Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China's Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange Co — otherwise known as Lufax — is an online peer-to-peer (P2P) lender.

One of the largest P2P lenders in China, Lufax matches borrowers to investors on its digital platform.

Last year, a report by the Financial Times put Lufax's market value at $18.5 billion. This was after the firm raised a huge $1.2 billion in funding from investors.

Like Ant Financial, the company aims to go public but has reportedly delayed its IPO plans to 2018.

Kreditech

Topp Yimgrimm | Getty Images

Another fintech firm backed by Peter Thiel, Kreditech provides credit ratings and loans to people without a credit history.

The digital lender analyzes its users' online data to assess someone's creditworthiness, opening up loans to those who otherwise wouldn't have access.

The firm has raised nearly $500 million to date, according to Crunchbase data.

Atom Bank

Atom Bank

Britain is host to several banking newcomers, and Atom is one of them.

The challenger bank was granted a U.K. banking license back in 2015, and has raised $290 million in total funding. It and relies solely on an app.

Created by one of the entrepreneurs behind the U.K.'s Metro Bank, Atom offers a number of financial products to consumers, including mortgages, savings accounts and business loans.

Atom boasts celebrity backing, with U.S. rapper and producer will.i.am serving as a consultant and board member.

JD Finance

Billionaire Richard Liu, founder and chief executive officer of JD.com.
Billy H.C. Kwok | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The financial arm of Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com, JD Finance is another Chinese fintech to feature on this list.

It provides a range of finance, banking and credit services to consumers and businesses in China.

The company raised $1 billion in funding early last year, which reportedly put its market capitalization at $7.1 billion.

But Alibaba rival JD.com is in no rush to list its fintech business. Chief Executive and Chairman Richard Liu told CNBC in September that his firm wasn't pushing to float JD Finance before Alibaba's Ant Financial goes public.

Kabbage

Kabbage founder and CEO Rob Frohwein
Source: Kabbage

Billion-dollar start-up Kabbage is a small business lender that provides funding directly to firms via an automated lending platform.

SoftBank poured $250 million into the company . This brought its total equity funding to nearly $500 million.

Kabbage combines machine learning, public data and other information to determine the creditworthiness of small businesses.