Behalf Raises $100 Million Debt Facility for B2B BNPL Offering

https://finovate.com/behalf-raises-100-million-debt-facility-for-b2b-bnpl-offering/
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Now more small businesses can get in on the Buy Now Pay Later game just like retail consumers.

Courtesy of a new $100 million debt facility, small business financing company Behalf will be able to make its In-Purchase Financing offering available to a broader range of B2B merchants and their small business customers. In-Purchase Financing gives B2B merchants the same sort of Buy Now Pay Later benefits that retail consumers enjoy, and includes a range of features designed especially to meet the needs of B2B commerce. The facility was provided by funds managed by Ares Management Corporation.

Behalf also announced $19 million in new venture financing led by MissionOG, Viola Growth, Viola Credit, and Vintage Investment Partners. Migdal Insurance and La Maison Partners also participated in the round. Behalf’s total funding now stands at more than $250 million.

Describing the B2B e-commerce market as more than ready for transformation, Behalf CEO Rob Rosenblatt said that in-purchase financing gives merchants the opportunity to source new revenues. The offering also gives small and medium-sized businesses access to an affordable financing alternative.

“Even as the U.S. economy is improving, SMBs continue to seek financial assistance to purchase critical supplies, inventory and equipment,” Rosenblatt explained. “Oftentimes they lack the requisite spend capacity on their personal or business credit cards. By offering In-Purchase Financing with flexible terms, B2B merchants can increase average order size by as much as 50-80 percent while reducing their risk, improving cash flow and driving operational efficiencies,” he said.

Among the features included in Behalf’s In-Purchase Financing solution are:

  • Seamless checkout to improve CX and customer loyalty
  • Easy integration with existing point-of-sale systems
  • Advanced underwriting and scoring models to handle the complexity and risk of SME lending

The solution scales to enable merchants to serve a range of business customers, from small to large, and supports financing for transactions of “significantly greater” average order value relative to consumer financing options.

“We think there is a great market opportunity for a B2B offering targeting the more complex, real-time financing needs of SMBs,” Ares Credit Group Partner Jeffrey Kramer said. “We are excited to provide a debt facility that will help support the company to achieve its growth objectives.”

Founded in 2011, Behalf made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall three years later. Since then, the company has enabled its B2B merchant partners to achieve an 83% increase in Average Order Value (AOV), an 80% gain in purchase frequency, and 44% growth in sales revenue.


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pexels

https://finovate.com/behalf-raises-100-million-debt-facility-for-b2b-bnpl-offering/

Issue 322

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https://www.fintechweekly.com/fintech-news/issue-322

Paysafe Partner With Parx Interactive to Provide Better Payment Solutions for Michigan Players

https://thefintechtimes.com/paysafe-partner-with-parx-interactive-to-provide-better-payment-solutions-for-michigan-players/
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Paysafe (NYSE: PSFE), a specialised payments platform, has partnered with Parx Interactive, the Bensalem, Pennsylvania-based gaming company owned by Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc. The first phase of a multi-state partnership sees the Parx Interactive-powered Play Gun Lake online casino and sportsbook for Michigan plug into Paysafe for access to all its traditional and alternative payment solutions.

Whether Michigan players want to wager on video slots, casino table games, or US and international sports, Play Gun Lake, which is powered by Parx Interactive in partnership with the Wayland, Michigan-based Gun Lake Casino property, offers a comprehensive range of real-money iGaming options. The brand’s single streamlined integration with Paysafe through its technology partner Playtech’s Information Management Solution (IMS) platform also maximizes consumer choice by providing players with all the ways they want to pay when betting online.

Players who prefer traditional payment methods such as their credit or debit card can now make a frictionless and secure online deposit to wager at Play Gun Lake, with the transaction processed by Paysafe’s best-in-breed payment gateway. Alternatively, players who prefer to use a digital wallet can select Skrill to seamlessly make a deposit, while cash-focused players will also be able to wager using Paysafe’s paysafecard eCash solution. The integration also provides access to other industry-leading alternative payment methods.

As well as enabling deposits, Paysafe provides Play Gun Lake players with the ability to withdraw their winnings. Payouts can be transferred into their bank accounts using their Skrill account, where funds are transferred in real time, or via ACH.

In addition to serving all players’ transactional needs, Paysafe allows Parx Casino to monitor and streamline Play Gun Lake’s payments offering with the platform’s Analyze and Business Portal back-end. This sophisticated suite of reporting and analytics tools will help Parx Casino’s optimise its payments offering, as the operator rolls its partnership with Paysafe into other states. Integrations are already planned for Parx Interactive iGaming brands in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Greg Kirstein, Vice President of Business Development for iGaming at Paysafe, said: “We’re strongly focused on providing Parx Casino’s players with the payment methods that suit their specific preferences and ensuring a frictionless experience for depositing and payouts. Through our comprehensive approach to payments, we look forward to helping Parx Casino maximise customer acquisition and retention as well as revenue growth in Michigan and other states.”

Matthew Cullen, Senior Vice President of Interactive at Parx Interactive, commented: “Offering Paysafe’s top payments product through an integration with the Playtech platform will strengthen our offering in Michigan and result in a great user experience, to which we are highly committed. These partnerships are key for Parx
Interactive’s national success, and we couldn’t be more excited to roll-out this partnership with Paysafe so close to the time we also launch our sports-betting product.”

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/paysafe-partner-with-parx-interactive-to-provide-better-payment-solutions-for-michigan-players/

Blockchain Is Democratising Art for Everyone

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The days of the starving artist myth may be over soon, as the figure of the blockchain savvy artist-entrepreneur seems to be emerging in recent months. A host of artists, including well-known singers and performers, are jumping on the blockchain bandwagon thanks to the increasingly popular Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).

One of them is the singer and digital artist Grimes, who last March made over $6million in one day after she put up some digital artwork for auction on Nifty Gateway, an NFT marketplace. Another digital artist known as Beeple, sold $3.5million on the same platform.

But what is an NFT and why is it important for the art world? Non-Fungible means that it cannot be replaced, just like art. An NFT is a unit of data that certifies a digital asset to be unique and can be traced to help prevent fraud. That’s something appealing to artists, who are always concerned about fakes, copies, and plagiarism. But the main appeal is the end of the galleries as the sole gatekeepers of who gets to access the fame and money of the artists’ Olympus.

“Traditionally you’d take your art to a gallery and they would represent you and bring in clients,” Elissa Waverly, an artist selling her artwork in NFTs told The Fintech Times.  “There’s a lot of things happening in the world of art galleries that don’t make sense to me as an artist. They’re not built for the average person to go in and buy art. Artists are also told ‘don’t make a lot of art’, because it would drive down the price for their artwork. So the outcome is there’s less art for the art world and buyers,” she said.

But now, according to Waverly, we can jump over the middleman and buy a piece of the artwork itself thanks to NFTs, which act like assets. “You can codify what would be a traditional contract you sign with the gallery, but this way people represent themselves with this code, this smart contract,” Waverly said. For this artist, the first layer of the digital revolution that allowed creatives to ditch the middleman were places like Instagram and other platforms to showcase and sell artwork, like Etsy. Now, with NFTs buyers can have a stake in the artist’s work, which may increase in value over time and also allow creators to continue selling royalties of their art, in perpetuity.

There are already some popular platforms where artists can sell their art, including songs or poems, like opensea.io and rarible.com, but for most of them, you need to have a digital wallet and cryptocurrency to shop. You can even tokenise yourself on Bitclout and create your own crypto coin, which users can buy, determining its value. “Many artists and famous people are tokenising themselves so when you buy, you’re investing in them, hoping their value will increase,” Waverly said, adding she has her own coin in Bitclout too.

For Dr. John C. Edmunds, an economist who teaches at Babson College, the key is access to a much wider audience without the limits imposed by galleries. “Think of NFTs like you’d think for example, of a lithograph,” Edmunds told The Fintech Times. “You can make 200 copies and sign them, and the gallery pays you let’s say, $500, but sells each one of them for thousands. With NFTs you don’t need to have a limited number and it’s harder to get ripped off,” he said.

Edmunds, who’s written about NFTs and art in one of his books, thinks that it also attracts creators because it makes forgery much more difficult. “With NFTs I can create an image and send you a copy, but I can code it so that you can’t post it anywhere unless I give you a key,” he explained.

But new ways to sell work means new ways to market it and let audiences know about it. And though the gatekeepers may have fallen, this means the brunt of the marketing side is left to the artist, who may not have the savvy or time to bring their creations to the millions of eyeballs hungry for NFTs. The competition is tough, and it’s only getting tougher as NFTs popularity increases, despite the brutal fluctuations of cryptocurrencies.

Of course, some Silicon Valley companies have also jumped on the NFT cryptowagon, though most of them are investing on metaverses. In these metaverses, users and companies can invest in virtual real state and experiences and Silicon Valley heavyweights like Gemini Frontier Fund (funded by the Winklevoss twins), Galaxy Interactive and others, are backing many NFT-based virtual ventures. One of the most famous ones is Sandbox, where gamers, artists and performers can gather to create or contribute to virtual worlds. The expectation with Sandbox is that users will be able to buy and sell their virtual properties and goods using blockchain.

  • Susana Mendoza is a tech journalist based in Silicon Valley, with a background in broadcast and coding. She reports on startups, finance, science and politics for various international media outlets. She is also a conversation designer (aka robot whisperer).

https://thefintechtimes.com/blockchain-is-democratising-art-for-everyone/

BNY-backed crypto platform Fireblocks seals unicorn status

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/infrastructure/bny-backed-crypto-platform-fireblocks-seals-unicorn-status/
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Fireblocks has raised $310 million in a series D round that values the digital-asset platform at $2 billion, sealing its status as a unicorn.

The latest funding round is co-led by Sequoia Capital, Stripes Group, Spark Capital and Coatue Management, as well as DRW Venture Capital and SCB 10X, the venture arm of Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank Pcl. Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and SVB Capital are among Fireblocks’ existing backers.

The Fireblocks platform allows for usage of digital assets in areas like payments, gaming and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. The firm’s technology can help financial institutions implement direct custody without having to rely on third parties. Its infrastructure has been used by over 500 institutions and secures more than $1 trillion in digital assets. It supports banks, crypto exchanges, lending desks, hedge funds and market makers such as Revolut, BlockFi, Celsius, Crypto.com and eToro.

“We have seen a certain maturity in the space and the development of projects utilizing blockchain technology that are outside of the crypto native arena,” Fireblocks’ Chief Executive Officer Michael Shaulov said. “We are working with a number of financial services firms around the world to expand use-cases regarding projects for digitization of currencies, securities and other real assets.”

The company plans to use the funds for hiring in areas such as research and development and customer support, as well as in sales and marketing to facilitate expansion in regions including Asia Pacific, Shaulov said. Fireblocks has also seen an uptick in demand given increased regulatory interest in digital assets, he said.

“As Thailand’s largest bank, we are looking forward to bringing Fireblocks’ solutions to future users in Southeast Asia,” said Mukaya Panich, chief venture and investment officer at SCB 10X.

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/infrastructure/bny-backed-crypto-platform-fireblocks-seals-unicorn-status/

StackSource Brings Innovation to Commercial Real Estate Lending

https://finovate.com/stacksource-brings-innovation-to-commercial-real-estate-lending/
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Fintech’s innovations in the real estate market for homebuyers have prompted the emergence of an entire new kind of fintech company, the mortgagetech, that specializes in leveraging technology to improve the homebuying experience for all parties involved.

Less discussed are the ways that technology is helping those involved in the commercial end of the real estate market do their jobs better and more efficiently. To this end, we caught up with Tim Milazzo, co-founder and CEO of StackSource, a company that connects borrowers and lenders seeking commercial real estate financing.

Headquartered in New York City and founded in 2015, StackSource recently made fintech headlines with the appointment of commercial real estate industry veteran Richard Caldwell as EVP – Head of Originations. We talked with Milazzo via email about his company, how it serves the CRE industry, and the importance of blending technical innovation with human experience and talent.

What problem does your technology solve and who does it solve it for? 

Tim Milazzo: StackSource simplifies the process of finding the best commercial mortgage for a given property investment by tracking the loan programs of hundreds of active lenders and offering borrowers a transparent experience.

Commercial mortgage brokerage has traditionally been a local, relationship-driven game. If you’re buying a home in 2021, you can know your rate and get pre-approved for a mortgage in minutes. But in commercial real estate, finding the right financing is only unlocked by developing relationships with the right set of lenders based on dozens of variables from the property’s asset type, location, income, and physical characteristics, as well as the borrower’s track record, financial strength, and business plan. We’ve streamlined that process of finding and connecting with suitable lenders to boost the investors’ financial returns with the right debt.

What in your background gave you the confidence to tackle this challenge? 

Milazzo: My first exposure to commercial real estate was through family ties. My father was a successful commercial real estate broker in New York City, so I’d hear stories about office building negotiations at the dinner table growing up. While I went to college to study Finance, I interned at a large real estate firm, where I was known as the smart spreadsheet kid that sat in the corner. Honestly, I didn’t come away with a big interest in the industry at that time; my eye was on big tech companies. I went on to work in advertising technology, first with Google and later with Facebook. I came back to commercial real estate because I found an area where online technology could deliver a superior value proposition: helping investors find the best financing for a commercial property investment without the need to track hundreds of lenders’ programs themselves.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of investing in commercial real estate? 

Milazzo: Many old-school brokers are quick to point out that commercial real estate is a “relationship business.” And that’s true. But what’s missed is the fact that it’s also an information business. If you can leverage the correct information, you can scale beyond your local relationships in the capital markets, which is a significant advantage.

You recently launched a new Chrome browser extension to make the discovery process easier. Can you tell us more about this feature?

Milazzo: We’ve been delivering competitive financing quotes to real estate investor clients for a couple of years now. Still, we wanted to go the extra mile in the name of transparency and efficiency. We came up with a tool that draws on our pool of loan quote data to allow real estate investors to apply financing quotes to any commercial property listing across the web and analyze potential investment opportunities. Sourcing acquisition opportunities is a competitive process, and this tool can add speed and accuracy to acquisition analysis. It’s completely free and open, with no obligation to use our financing service.

One interesting aspect of StackSource is how you combine a technology platform with a fleet of experienced industry veterans. How do you see the balance between enabling technologies and “the human touch”? 

Milazzo: The commercial mortgage space is not nearly as commoditized as residential mortgages. Even in the most “simple” commercial mortgage lending scenarios, where we can go as far as automating an instant soft quote, these are major financial investments, and borrowers want the guidance of an experienced Capital Advisor from submission to close.

How did COVID-19 impact your business and customers?

Milazzo: We doubled our market share in 2020 as many investors were looking for answers on how to secure the best financing for their real estate investment properties. People were staying home, and our online process is easy to access from anywhere, which was especially attractive. At the same time, funding from many local banks was pulled back in response to the pandemic. We even saw many traditional financing sources get distracted by things like issuing PPP loans, while we kept our focus on the long-term and stayed exclusively focused on commercial real estate.

What can we expect from StackSource over the balance of 2021? 

Milazzo: We just raised our first proper fundraising round for the company in Q2, allowing us to push the limits of how efficient the commercial mortgage origination process can become. Think automated quotes on specific qualified properties and integrating additional data sources seamlessly into the investment and financing process.


Photo by George Becker from Pexels

https://finovate.com/stacksource-brings-innovation-to-commercial-real-estate-lending/

Interoperability between Wallets and Cards to Empower the Financial Landscape in India

https://gomedici.com/interoperability-between-wallets-and-cards-to-empower-the-financial-landscape-in-india
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There was a time when cash reigned supreme—a trip to the shopping mall, watching a film at a movie theater, or dining at a fancy restaurant. However, with the rise of credit and debit card payments, ‘plastic’ money made its way into wallets. Digital wallets such as Paytm, PhonePe, and Google Pay (Tez) started gaining momentum, but it was the demonetization drive in 2016 that brought these disruptive players to the limelight.

People slowly began to lighten their pockets—not everybody carried a wallet full of banknotes. Mobile phones became the preferred mode for making payments. QR codes, be it Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, or new contend …

https://gomedici.com/interoperability-between-wallets-and-cards-to-empower-the-financial-landscape-in-india

Listen: Armed Forces Bank’s automation underlies its service member-focused mission

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/retail/listen-armed-forces-banks-automation-underlies-its-service-member-focused-mission/
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Armed Forces Bank serves a young, highly decentralized, tech-savvy customer base, and must be available 24/7. Automation and digitalization underlie the $1.2 billion bank’s ability to deliver on that mission. For this podcast, Bank Automation News sat down with Chief Operating Officer Tom Kientz and the Director of Military Consumer Lending Jodi Vickery to better […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/retail/listen-armed-forces-banks-automation-underlies-its-service-member-focused-mission/

Apple Card ‘scaling’ with growth rate +20%

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/payments/apple-card-scaling-with-growth-rate-20/
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Apple’s new credit card is part of a basket of products that drove 33% revenue growth last quarter, the company announced yesterday. Services revenue, which includes Apple Card, climbed to $17.5 billion last quarter, up from $13.2 billion during the same quarter in 2020. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, made particular mention of Apple Card during […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/payments/apple-card-scaling-with-growth-rate-20/

Bahrain EDB: Why UK Fintechs Should Build Their Future Foundations in the Sand

https://thefintechtimes.com/bahrain-edb-why-uk-fintechs-should-build-their-future-foundations-in-the-sand/
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The UK is a beacon in the financial services industry and has for a long time led the way in innovation and progress. The country regards the sector as a crucial part of its economic future. 

Dalal Buhejji is the Executive Director of Investment Origination at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), heading the responsibility of sourcing and attracting high value investments into the Kingdom of bBahrain from Europe and the Americas. Here she shares her thoughts on UK fintech, and the benefits of a potential partnership with Bahrains’ Sandbox.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the financial services sector as a “crown jewel” on a call with major UK banks recently. On the call, Sunak pledged that the City will remain “competitive and dynamic” amid any post-Brexit pressure on the UK’s financial services sector. If the UK is to consolidate its strong position it makes sense for firms to try and learn from the extraordinary developments taking place outside of Europe.

Fintech is obviously an integral part of the UK economy, and analysis by KPMG found that the industry represents 10% of global market share and £11bn in revenue. The current UK model is certainly well established and has for a long time been a blueprint for other markets. However, a recent article published by a UK national newspaper highlighted that the country also has challenges because of a lack of start-up finance, limited access to scale-up finance accelerated by COVID-19, and slower regulation, so there are other areas, particularly around regulatory innovation in next-generation technologies, that are ripe for synergy. In short, fintech hotspots outside of Europe and other traditional markets simply need to be on the radar for UK firms.

One financial services hotbed for UK fintechs to watch closely is the Gulf region. Here, countries that were once minnows compared to the UK are increasingly becoming credible competitors. The latest Global Opportunity Index (GOI) report from the Milken Institute, which assesses countries’ attractiveness to international investors, shows that countries in the Gulf are quickly ascending the world rankings. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become fixtures, nimble financially-focused innovation hubs like Bahrain, which rose seven places in the Global Financial Services category, are coming up on the rails. In fact, the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in June found that Bahrain is set to be the fastest growing economy in the Middle East this year. Regional GDP is expected to grow by 2.4% in 2021, compared to the regional average of 2.1%. Here, a more flexible regulatory infrastructure allows multinational businesses to be nimble while a sandbox environment facilitates the upscaling of experimental solutions and strategies.

Bahrain Fintech

Bahrain has for decades been known for its financial services sector and is known among its GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) peers as a hub for innovation. The first formal banking branch in the region opened in Bahrain in 1920, and today, nearly 400 financial institutions call the island home. The country’s success in the financial services sector is partly down to its pro-innovation single financial regulator, the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), which even set up a specialist Fintech and Innovation Unit tasked with enhancing the local ecosystem. Key developments include the Unit launching the region’s first onshore fintech regulatory sandbox, just one of several initiatives aimed at providing fintechs from around the world with a pro-innovation regulatory framework where companies can test their solutions before rollout to global markets.

When you consider that the UK has one of the world’s leading fintechs scenes and Bahrain has one of the best fintechs sandboxes, there are potentially very powerful and profitable partnerships to be made. A suitable testbed could be the key for UK fintechs looking to expand on a global scale and ultimately compete on the world stage during these uncertain times. In line with ambitious, region-wide economic diversification efforts, Bahrain has made itself an attractive hub for strategically important industries like fintech, resulting in a supportive and accessible government and a highly trained, tech-savvy population. The Kingdom has long held a reputation as the regional leader in financial services but has increasingly come to be known as the regional hub for innovation too.

At a time when UK fintechs are looking to reaffirm their position in an uncertain post-pandemic, post-Brexit world, it is vital that firms look beyond Europe for strong international collaborations. An obvious starting point for British businesses is partnerships with countries like Bahrain, which offer a testbed and unique opportunity to get ahead of the game – and ultimately, protect and polish one of UK’s ‘crown jewels’. As long-term partners of the UK, the sands of the Gulf region promise particularly robust foundations for the next generation of UK fintechs.

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/bahrain-edb-why-uk-fintechs-should-build-their-future-foundations-in-the-sand/

71% of UK Digital Bank Customers Want Embedded Insurance Offers Based on Transaction Data

https://thefintechtimes.com/71-of-uk-digital-bank-customers-want-embedded-insurance-offers-based-on-transaction-data/
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A recent survey of 527 bank customers in the United Kingdom from Momentive.ai (the research company of SurveyMonkey), commissioned by Cover Genius, sought to understand how customers of banks, neobanks and other fintech apps would react to embedded insurance offers based on real time transaction data. It asked the following:

Suppose your bank, with your permission, monitored your transactions and offered a prompt for purchasing protection products based on your purchase history inside of your banking app. Please indicate how interested you would be in allowing them to make these offers.

The findings show that 71% of British digital bank customers would be highly interested in receiving embedded insurance offers based on their transaction data, as would 64% of traditional bank customers. ‘Convenience’ is the primary driver for their interest, stated by 49%.

“The past 15 months has accelerated the volume of digital activity, alongside a massive growth in attach rates for protection products,” said Daniel Poole, Head of Strategic Partnerships EMEA for Cover Genius. “Banks, neobanks and financial institutions have an opportunity to better serve their customers with embedded offers by adding value to major purchases with a tailored, convenient insurance offer”.

The research mirrors surveys of 3,551 Americans commissioned by Cover Genius published last month, and 11 other countries, which similarly examined 14 life events or activities or major purchases that lead to insurance consideration, such as childbirth, purchases of car, property, pets and expensive items, contracting for a wage and becoming a lessee or landlord. Across the globe, the data points to significant demand for timely and relevant transaction-based insurance offers, with dramatically higher preferences if they’ve recently had major purchases or life events, or if they used a traditional insurer in the last 12 months, or if they purchased insurance from their bank. The authors note the significant gap between an insurtech approach and the “bancassurance” reality, where traditional banks partner with traditional insurers for offerings that are typically divorced from underlying activities.

The survey of British customers also confirms that there’s broad support for bank-embedded offers for property insurance such as Renters, Homeowners and/or Landlords (43% of respondents are highly interested), travel insurance (28%), auto insurance (26%) and a range of warranties for high value personal and household items (43%).

The role and nature of traditional insurers as a “second step” in the buying process is also examined in the paper. Digital bankers and younger demographics are more likely to purchase insurance, however the data also points to a healthy future for banks as insurance distributors: 80% of Britons who chose a traditional insurer or broker in the last 12 months would prefer bank-embedded offers for next time.

While recent experience purchasing insurance is one way to identify early adopters, another is identifying users of popular fintech apps. The breakthrough findings show that 75% of customers who use mobile wallets, 89% of buy now pay later loan users and 79% of investing account/app users are highly interested in receiving insurance offers. Interest is also high for small business operators (89%).

“The clamour for seamless servicing has meant we’ve added partners like Wayfair and eBay in retail, several airlines and online travel agents such as Booking Holdings and Icelandair, auto, gig economy and mobility companies like National Express, Intuit and other fintechs and more, ”Daniel Poole adds.

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/71-of-uk-digital-bank-customers-want-embedded-insurance-offers-based-on-transaction-data/

Vault Platform: Why Financial Services Firms Are Racing Against the Clock To Raise Ethical Standards

https://thefintechtimes.com/vault-platform-why-financial-services-firms-are-racing-against-the-clock-to-raise-ethical-standards/
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Many employees within the financial sector find themselves slowly but surely returning to the unfamiliar four walls of the office. But will they be returning to the same working environment?

Neta Meidav, Co-Founder & CEO, Vault PlatformNeta Meidav, Co-Founder & CEO, Vault Platform
Neta Meidav, Co-Founder & CEO, Vault Platform

Neta Meidav believes otherwise. Neta is the Co-Founder & CEO of Vault Platform; a prominent trusttech that specialises in the provision of ethics-enabling workplace technology. In this guest-authored piece for The Fintech Times, Neta dissects the culture that plagued the pre-pandemic workplace, and discusses how the future of the employee-employer relationship can become far more ethical with the use of suitable HR frameworks. 

In recent history, we have seen heavy-handed treatment towards whistleblowers in the financial services sector, but there is one noteworthy example, Barclays.

Boss Jes Staley harnessed the full firepower of the organisation’s security team to try and uncover the identity of an individual who had made allegations about a former colleague “Mr. Staley” had recruited to work at the bank, as well as the chief executive’s decision to hire him.

Apart from riding roughshod over the presumed confidentiality of the process, the response had wider repercussions – seemingly deterring other potential complainants from following suit as the bank’s whistleblowing cases dropped by almost a third the following year.

Fortunately, voice silencing and inertia have become much less palatable in the wake of employee activism amid a cultural zeitgeist that is seeing a more empowered workforce demand higher standards of its leaders and colleagues, transforming attitudes to speaking up. Accountability has become the Holy Grail and pressure is rife across all sectors, but especially acute in a financial sector that has never quite recovered reputationally from the 2008 credit crisis dogged by failures of corporate culture, conduct, and governance.

From customer protection lapses, rogue traders to anti-money laundering deficiencies, an estimated $350 billion to $470 billion in penalties (including fines and litigation charges) has been paid out by the banking industry in response to conduct-related matters since the crisis, evidence that what has all too often been readily dismissed as ‘soft people’ issues, can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

It’s why it is in everyone’s interest to drive reform in conduct and culture, to root out wrongdoing, heighten expectations and hold senior management to account – essentially demand much more from them as leaders to do the right thing to ensure positive ethics filter down through the ranks. To this end, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out its intent with a new campaign, reminding firms of the importance of governance and fostering a culture in which employees feel able to have a voice and can be confident their concerns will be acted upon.

Meanwhile, the imminent EU Whistleblowing Directive will see firms of more than 250 employees required to have misconduct reporting systems, the underlying principle being to afford greater protection to the individual raising a concern.

Against this backdrop of greater scrutiny, we can’t overlook the unique conditions of the post-Covid working environment and the implications this presents. With home working and less employer/office visibility, there is potentially greater opportunity for rogue behaviour and risk. As such, the priority of improving internal employee reporting processes and policies by implementing the best possible tools that can also encourage timely and proactive interventions before issues escalate has never been higher on the agenda.

Not surprisingly, attention is turning to these reporting mechanisms. Discreet mobile apps that combine the human touch with technology are one answer; we need approaches that delve deeper into internal cultures and behaviours rather than simply digitising old methods and relying on software that simply scans and alerts to bad practice.

If we accept that one of the most prevailing barriers to raising concerns and achieving effective resolutions has largely been employee discomfort – the knock on the door of HR, a perceived (or real) lack of discretion, and the sense of acting alone and putting your head above the parapet – a progressive system should address this by shifting control of the process from individuals to fostering a more collective approach from the outset. Identifying repeat problems by providing a digital escrow and connecting the dots on repeated patterns can be the game-changer. We also know that data is more powerful when it is big data – collated and integrated to uncover trends and patterns as opposed to isolated observations that are easy to overlook.

Both points are crucial; today’s employees expect to have more control than in the past and today’s leaders need to show the willingness and transparency to provide it. Furthermore, we have seen with crystal clarity, the power, and progress that comes from a collective voice and shared experience when it comes to impact and achieving sufficient visibility on misconduct.

For instance, how did 700 whistleblowers reporting the sales tactics at American Multinational Wells Fargo get so easily ignored, when the financial services company fraudulently opened as many as 1.5 million bank accounts? The prevailing consensus was a lack of focus with reporting leading to a tendency to lump together important issues with the more trivial ones. This led to speculation rather than hard evidence and a muddled disparity that chipped away at the credibility of the case.

In conclusion, we have witnessed time and again that employees are standing up to wrongdoing in the workplace, however, in too many scenarios they have been let down by the inadequate reporting framework that their employers have in place. Transparency and accountability are the most important factors that financial services firms must get right before they can establish a culture of trust, integrity, and high ethical standards within their organisation.

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/vault-platform-why-financial-services-firms-are-racing-against-the-clock-to-raise-ethical-standards/

Stablecoin News for the week ending Wednesday 28th July.

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Stablecoins are spooky!

Here is our pick of the 3 most important Stablecoin news stories during the week.

This week we saw a lot of talk from regulators about what we should be scared about, but it remains unclear if and what they will ever do.

Stablecoin Regulations Are Coming Soon – CoinDesk

Part of the problem is when the gamekeeper turns into the poacher, if the regulators decide to leap into the provision of stablecoins such as CBDC, who is going to protect our privacy when the protector is also the issuer, operator and regulator?  Well maybe there is a technology solution, this paper lays out a technical architecture where you don’t have to trust humans because it is all in the code.  Sounds familiar, a bit like Bitcoin for Central Bankers!

“Abstract.  Most central banks in advanced economies consider issuing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) to address the declining use of cash and to position themselves against increased competition from Big Tech companies, cryptocurrencies, and stablecoins. One crucial design dimension of a CBDC system is the degree of transaction privacy. Existing solutions are either prone to security concerns or do not provide full (cash-like) privacy. Moreover, it is often argued that a fully private payment system and, in particular, anonymous transactions cannot comply with anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) regulation. In this paper, we follow a design science research approach (DSR) to develop and evaluate a holistic software-based CBDC system that supports fully private transactions and addresses regulatory constraints. To this end, we employ zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP) to impose limits on fully private payments. Thereby, we are able to address regulatory constraints without disclosing any transaction details to third parties.“

Designing a Central Bank Digital Currency with Support for Cash-Like Privacy by Jonas Gross, Johannes Sedlmeir, Matthias Babel, Alexander Bechtel, Benjamin Schellinger :: SSRN

With all of the fuss about what is actually backing Tether and Circle stablecoins, two co-founders of the Puerto Rico-based digital FV Bank say they have become the first in history to be awarded a U.S. patent for a stablecoin design based solely on government debt.

The patent application, filed last year on the back of a pre-existing patent by Nitin Agarwal and Miles Paschini, describes their instrument as a “tokenized crypto asset backed by sovereign debt.”  Its working name is Yuga Coin, which in Sanskrit means the “joining of two things,” or in this case, “generations,” Agarwal told CoinDesk in an interview on Tuesday.  “We aim to create multiple stablecoins that are government-friendly, know-your-customer (KYC), anti-money laundering and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) compliant based on different currencies,” Agarwal said.

US Patent Granted to Stablecoin Concept Backed by Government Debt – CoinDesk

So in summary, while the regulators increasingly talk the talk, we have a proposed solution so that they can maybe walk the walk.  In the meantime some young entrepreneurs have jumped in and promised that if you really want government money, you can have it from a private issuer and it’s called Yuga.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alan Scott is an expert in the FX market and has been working in the domain of stablecoins for many years.  

We have a self imposed constraint of 3 news stories per week because we serve busy senior Fintech leaders who just want succinct and important information.

For context on stablecoins please read this introductory interview with Alan “How stablecoins will change our world” and read articles tagged stablecoin in our archives. 

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New readers can read 3 free articles.  To  become a member with full access to all that Daily Fintech offers,  the cost is just US$143 a year (= $0.39 per day or $2.75 per week). For less than one cup of coffee you get a week full of caffeine for the mind.

https://dailyfintech.com/2021/07/28/stablecoin-news-for-the-week-ending-wednesday-28th-july/

UK Fintech News Round-up: The Latest Stories 28/07

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Each week, we take a look at some of the latest fintech news in the UK. This week, banks miss out on potential savings worth £6billion, Watford FC is paid in cryptocurrency and the UK’s first digital only credit card launched.

UK innovators attract record levels of Venture Capital Investment

Barclays Support Lance's Freelancer Orientated Business Bank Account

Barclays Support Lance's Freelancer Orientated Business Bank Account

The research published today using data supplied by PitchBook, recorded more than £6.5billion invested into fast growth UK businesses in Q2 21. A strong COVID-19 vaccination programme and greater business confidence in the post-Brexit environment, resulted in 708 deals being completed in Q2 21, up 7% on the previous quarter.

Fintech and healthtech businesses attracted the largest deals in Q2 21, including a $500million (£360million) raise by B2B payments firm SaltPay.

Bina Mehta, Chair of KPMG UK and Head of the firm’s UK Emerging Giants Centre of Excellence said: “The UK has demonstrated resilience and adaptability in attracting overseas investment in a post-Covid, post-Brexit era, which is likely due in part to the maturity of our scaleup ecosystem.

“Whilst it is our established late stage businesses that are attracting the big investment, Angel investors and university incubators are playing an increasing role in developing strong and active programmes in the regions, which attribute to our diversity and growing number of disruptive scaleup businesses. It is great to see that early stage businesses are starting to attract the funding they need in order to scale. Supporting our early stage businesses will be crucial in order to continue to develop our ecosystem and maintain our global position as leaders in innovation.“

UK retail banks miss out on potential savings worth £6billion

UK retail banks stand to save £6billion simply by reviewing the contracts they have in place with third-party vendors. This is the claim made by Strategic Resource Management (SRM) Europe and comes shortly after the Kearney Retail Banking Radar reported that European banks must reduce costs by over £25billion in order to become profitable within five years. 

David Royle, managing director UK, SRM comments: Third-party contracts are a huge proportion of banks’ operational costs, but where vendors have entire teams permanently negotiating and renegotiating their contracts day in day out, banks will typically only review their contracts once every few years, with little point of reference to comparative data. This leads to a negotiating imbalance and sub optimal contracts.

“Those banks have historically been fixated on reducing headcount and branch cuts as a means of balancing the books. In doing so, they ignore the real issue: they are continuing to pay their vendors too much. IT costs alone, including core processing, payment providers, automation, and digital platforms have increased a staggering 80% since 2015.

“Despite being so-called strategic partners, and regardless of their business alignment with the bank, it is in every vendor’s best interest to keep the banks paying as much as possible, for as long as possible. We want to change this in the UK market.”

NewDay launches Bip the UK’s first digital only credit card

Vodafone and AWS Trail Keyless' Software-as-a-Service Biometrics To Improve Payment Experience

Vodafone and AWS Trail Keyless' Software-as-a-Service Biometrics To Improve Payment Experience

NewDay, a UK provider of accessible credit, has launched Bip – the first completely cardless consumer credit proposition in the UK. Bip has been designed around the customer, offering a fully digital credit experience that is simple to use, fully transparent on costs and with the customer in complete control.

With no physical card, Bip customers can apply and have access to appropriate credit within minutes. Bip is available via the App Store and Google Play – and can be added to the digital wallet of the user’s mobile phone. Just like a traditional card, it can be used anywhere 

Sharvan Selvam, Commercial Director at NewDay said: “We worked with our customers all the way through the design, testing and launch of Bip. It is a proposition designed to make credit easy to access, simple to use and, importantly, puts the customer in full control.”

Watford FC paid in cryptocurrency, as part of new sponsorship deal

Premier League football club Watford FC said their new shirt sponsor has paid in cryptocurrency. The news comes as the football club previously featured the bitcoin logo on their shirts, as well as being one of the first English football clubs to offer bitcoin as a payment option.

Paul Roach, Co-Founder of crypto wallet and payments platform Zumo“We may be early on in the crypto game, but this is just one more sign of crypto making it onto the big stage. It’s great to see crypto finding this level of mainstream adoption, and we can surely expect to see a lot more of these kinds of deals in the business-to-business arena.

Sports is a hot space for the crypto industry, and we’re starting to see a lot of high-profile sponsorship deals across football, rugby, and Formula 1 to name just a few. Clearly, crypto and sports is something that’s not going away.”

UK financial institutions spend an average of £374k each year on preventing financial crime

Financial crime prevention costs UK financial institutions an average of £374k every year, according to new research from the global legal business, DWF.

The survey of 300 financial crime decision makers working in the financial services sector in the UK, also found that on average, organisations spent £53 annually on financial crime defence for each customer relationship they have. Moreover, they refused an average of £90,240.77 and exited an average of £90,869.52 worth of UK customer relationships for financial crime reasons during the last 12 months.

Andrew Jacobs, head of regulatory consulting at DWF, said: “In a climate where businesses are being held to account on their Environmental, Social and Governance approach by investors, clients, employees and society more broadly, it is important for financial services business to make sure that they are considering evolving parameters, so that governance is robust and their control framework remains alive to new risks.”

Fintechs turn to partnerships to offer market leading savings accounts to their retail clients

Finnovex Europe Saw a Virtual Gathering of European Banking Leaders To Reignite the Industry

Finnovex Europe Saw a Virtual Gathering of European Banking Leaders To Reignite the Industry

Fintechs are using partnerships with more mainstream financial services companies to offer market-leading savings products to their retail clients, according to new research from Investec. 

By using their technology and the infrastructure of the larger banks they partner with, Investec’s analysis reveals that fintechs can offer some of the most attractive savings account interest rates in the marketplace.

Investec found that the average interest rate on instant access savings accounts from fintechs was 0.28%AER, which is in the top 20% of all easy access savings accounts in the market.

David Hunt, Head of Funding Partnerships at Investec, said: “Fintechs continue to revolutionise the retail financial services sector.  With digital offerings and state of the art technology, combined with leveraging the infrastructure of larger banks, they are able to offer very attractive savings propositions whilst retaining control of their customer journey.

UK home to top three global e-commerce market when compared to national GDP

e-commerce

e-commerceThe latest research by leading BNPL provider, Butterhas provided insight into the scale and influence of the e-commerce retail sector in the world’s ten biggest e-commerce nations.

The world’s biggest e-commerce retail market is, unsurprisingly, China. In 2020 alone, almost $2.3 trillion was generated through online retail. China’s GDP is $14.7 trillion. This means that the $2.3 trillion created by e-commerce retail is comparable to 15.6% of the overall GDP. No other country on earth comes close to having a e-commerce sector of such immense scale. The nation to come closest within the western world is the United Kingdom, where total e-commerce retail sales of $180 billion equate to 6.7% of the nation’s GDP which currently stands at $2.7 trillion.

Timothy Davis, Co-Founder and CEO of Butter, commented: “E-commerce retail is booming and is set to become the default choice for shoppers across vast swathes of the world. Its dominance is a result of the ease, affordability, and choice it offers over more traditional retail methods.

“Physical retail won’t completely disappear, though. Instead, successful retailers are already starting to blur the lines between online and high street shopping by offering the ability to transact while spreading the cost of a purchase in-store.

“It will be key for retailers to ensure that the in-store experience offers at least as much flexibility as the online experience if they want to boost physical retail sales.”

UK crying out for financial help even as lockdown restrictions lift

Creditspring, the subscription loan provider, reveals that it is signing up over 2,000 new members per month for its Stability Hub service, and has seen an 82% increase in members since the start of the pandemic. The free tool provides personalised support for members, including monthly financial health checks, alerts to tell them when they are pre-approved to borrow money, and actionable tips to support more informed and responsible financial decision making.

Neil Kadagathur, Co-Founder and CEO of Creditspring, comments: “The financial impact of the pandemic is still being felt acutely by people across the country and they are in desperate need of support even as restrictions begin to lift. Our goal is to help people improve their financial health and prevent those who could easily fall into a cycle of expensive debt from falling prey to unscrupulous lenders. Our Stability Hub gives these people personalised guidance to regain control over their finances and helps work towards being able to access more affordable forms of credit.

“Unlike high-cost lenders that lure borrowers into a spiral of long-term debt, much like the dating app, Hinge, our job is done when our customers don’t need us anymore. We want to educate our members and be their guide and ally, helping them work towards a more financially stable, resilient and independent future.”

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/uk-fintech-news-round-up-the-latest-stories-28-07/

Fly Now Pay Later Partner With ChargeAfter To Expand Network of Retailers

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Continuing its upward trajectory of roll out across Europe and the United States, fast-growing fintech Fly Now Pay Later, which offers shoppers a new, and more flexible way to finance travel has partnered with ChargeAfter, the global network of personalised buy now pay later (BNPL) and point-of-sale financing for merchants.

Under the agreement, Fly Now Pay Later will be added to ChargeAfter’s global point-of-sale financing portfolio in the UK and US. Fly Now Pay Later will be the first travel-specific instalment payment option available on the platform.

ChargeAfter is the market-leading BNPL network that connects retailers and lenders to offer consumers personalised point-of-sale financing options during shopping and at checkout from multiple lenders when and where they are ready to shop. Merchants on the ChargeAfter platform include iconic national retailers across travel, home appliances, furniture, mattresses, consumer electronics and automotive, amongst other verticals.

As a travel-centric lender, Fly Now Pay Later will be available to ChargeAfter travel partners and enable them to provide flexible payment options for their customers. Travellers using ChargeAfter and Fly Now Pay Later can now easily apply for affordable instalments for their next flight, cruise, car rental or booking by filling out a quick online application at checkout or at the counter while receiving and accepting a personalised offer in seconds.

With Fly Now Pay Later’s integration into ChargeAfter, US and UK consumers will no longer be required to pay for travel in full at the time of booking – easing the financial burden of arranging a trip and helping to facilitate a smoother and less stressful booking experience, through spreading the cost into instalments over time.

“Payment flexibility is playing an integral role in the travel industry’s recovery strategy as it provides consumers with lower upfront costs, thus increasing conversion rates for travel merchants at checkout and ultimately converting lookers into bookers.” said Fly Now Pay Later Chief Executive, Jasper
Dykes.

“There are millions of people globally who need a frictionless way to finance their flights. We share ChargeAfter’s mission to create a new generation of credit by providing transparent alternative BNPL financing with flexible payment options designed for every shopper, regardless their financial or banking history.”

Dykes concluded with, “By removing financial boundaries, we hope to open the post-covid-19 world for travellers and reconnect people with their friends and families around the globe.”

“Partnering with Fly Now Pay Later enables ChargeAfter to take another step forward in our ongoing mission of democratising credit, and placing the power of choice in payments back into the hands of the consumer. As ChargeAfter continues to expand and onboard segment-focused lenders such as Fly Now, Pay Later; Airline, Cruise, OTA’s, and other travel-related services can now easily and effortlessly provide their guests and travellers with affordable instalments that are customised to their unique financial needs in just seconds directly on the website at the time of purchase”, said Meidad Sharon, CEO of ChargeAfter.

“ChargeAfter merchants see approval rates ranging between 80-90%. Part of the success in delivering industry-leading approval rates is being able to provide our merchants and their consumers with leading, and modern lenders that have eCommerce know-how, and that are able to work with a wide-variety of merchants across new, growing and expanding verticals.”

What is Fly Now Pay Later?

Fly Now Pay Later, founded by CEO Jasper Dykes (32) in 2015, recently secured a further £10m ($14m) in Series A funding, bringing its total to £45m ($62m). It now serves thousands of consumers in the UK, US and Germany.

Fly Now Pay Later is aiming to create over $1B of enterprise value within the next 18 months, driven by the success of its direct to consumer app, checkout integrated solution with and the rapidly expanding Buy Now Pay Later sector.

Since launch in late 2015, Fly Now Pay Later has focused on building a best-in-class product around its audience and their purchasing habits; seeing demand and customer loyalty solidify in the process.

It can be used to book flights, hotels, package holidays, car hire and more and offers frictionless financing options to support businesses and the end consumer.

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/fly-now-pay-later-partner-with-chargeafter-to-expand-network-of-retailers/

Genesys: Transforming to Customer-Centric Service in Financial Services

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The influence of the pandemic has shaped the relationship between financial service institutions and their customers in unprecedented ways. But the game isn’t over yet. Service provides must continue to cultivate an optimal experience for their customers if they’re to stand any chance of competing in the long term.

Helen Briggs, Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA, GenesysHelen Briggs, Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA, Genesys
Helen Briggs, Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA, Genesys

This view is shared by Helen Briggs, the Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Genesys; a prominent provider of global customer service channels. In this guest-authored piece for The Fintech Times, Helen describes the importance that customer service holds over the success of financial service provision, and discusses what institutions can do to better their offering to their customer base. 

The global pandemic has been a wake-up call for the financial services industry, forcing it to adapt at a pace never experienced before. With cash and cheque usage dropping and electronic, card, and mobile app transactions rising, open banking is gaining new global momentum brought on by both regulatory mandates and commercial market forces.

Many of us naturally have a heightened set of expectations for this industry because of our attachments to and reliance on financial matters being dealt with swiftly and professionally. In fact, a recent survey by Finder found that poor customer service appeared to be a running theme with digital-only banks, with 14% of customers complaining about the level of customer service they received over the phone and digitally.

With so much emotion and goodwill riding on companies in the sector performing as desired, regardless of circumstances that might otherwise be forgiven by consumers in other sectors of business, financial services organisations have a real opportunity to lead the way in creating a gold standard for customer interaction. As banks look to embed themselves further into customers’ lives, they must evolve how they view and interact with people. It has never been more imperative for these companies to work in a more collaborative manner with users, allowing both end-to-end engagement whilst providing a feeling of control and choice.

Exceeding Expectations in 2021

Consumers today expect to have the convenience to connect with their financial provider on any device and channel 24/7. Where people have become accustomed to high levels of security and resilience banks and other financial organisations have put in place, a new trend of disjointed experiences has become the next thing customers will no longer tolerate.

Businesses now have many opportunities to positively connect with customers, but this fails when the focus is placed on the channels themselves, rather than the thinking that goes into why those channels are being used. Instead of examining individual interaction touchpoints devoted to areas such as billing, onboarding, and customer service calls, financial services organisations need to pay closer attention to the complete consumer journey and the reasons they are contacting their providers. Only then can they truly get to know their customers as people.

This process successfully starts with understanding historical customer and employee data, third-party data, and behavioural data. Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities can add value by helping to understand and predict the outcomes customers are trying to drive and their intent. This enables organisations such as banks or insurance providers to facilitate more advanced forms of personalisation and positive outcomes for all parties. AI also plays a critical role in understanding the history of the customer journey and adds an additional layer of predictive technologies that can give a clear insight into why they are contacting the bank and match them with the best agent for their query.

By creating the consumer journey from the point of the user, financial services companies can align employees around customer needs and deliver value consistently through fluid, unified experiences
across channels. Here are tips for financial organisations on how they can evolve to become truly customer-centric organisations:

1. Prioritise an Interactive Dialogue With Customers

With the right digital tools in place, companies can take a fundamental shift away from the traditional
means of communicating, towards one that involves a more interactive dialogue between employees
and customers – regardless of the channel being used, allowing for greater personalisation of service.

By thinking about how to orchestrate customer data and background on the individual’s journey, staff
can create truly engaging experiences and build trust.

2. Address Skill Shortages Amongst Staff

Digital skills shortages continue to challenge the industry, in particular the shortage of data analysts, cybersecurity professionals and digital services developers. To avoid hindering innovation there is an
urgent need to upskill workforces which will also help improve productivity.

Despite a squeeze on budgets, improving current staff education must remain a priority for the years
ahead. Employers in this space need to make sure staff are equipped with the right digital tools,
specialist knowledge and soft skills to navigate this new landscape.

3. Continue To Adapt to the Hybrid Workplace

Like many industries, financial services companies have had to adapt to remote working. As millions of people set up offices from home, teams have become more agile. Collaboration has increased in many instances and employees generally report feeling more connected to colleagues.

In the race to return to the office, companies can’t afford to lose the connections built with both customers and employees. Many financial service organisations have been reluctant to move to a cloud or multi-cloud model, but the pandemic has forced a rethink and the acceleration of digital transformation projects. The businesses now considering adopting a permanent ‘hybrid model’, allowing staff to permanently work from home for a number of days each week, will undoubtedly reap cost-savings too. But to make these permanent moves, companies must ensure they have the right technology in place first.

4. Identify the Right Partners To Help Future-Proof Ecosystems

Banks and other financial institutions must continue to work with partners to create strong platforms
and experiences for users. Partner technology should be adapted to bring both digital and non-digital
channels together, integrating seamlessly into existing back-office systems and customer data
platforms.

Embracing emerging technologies such as AI, voice activated assistants and facial recognition will also set the industry on course for solid digital transformation, and ensure such businesses in this sector are best placed to deliver superior experiences across a variety of channels.

Embracing a Customer-Centric Future

It’s clear financial services organisations are looking towards their digital offerings, such as mobile banking. However, in the race to digitally transform, gaps have emerged between digital service offerings and customer expectations which require urgent attention.

A study from Cornerstone Advisors found that only a quarter of banks and credit unions had
embarked on a digital transformation strategy prior to 2019, and 45 percent hadn’t launched a
strategy prior to this year. Before embarking on any transformation effort, financial services
organisations must not forget to keep the customer at the heart of their digital strategy, as far too
often customers feel they are only coming along for the ride.

Increased digitisation has seen many banks and corporations engage with customers far more
efficiently. To continue achieving successful digital and data ambitions, banks and other financial
organisations must address customer journeys more seriously by creating an ecosystem that is fully
integrated into the digital life of consumers and meets them at their exact moment of need,
regardless of the channel.

https://thefintechtimes.com/genesys-transforming-to-customer-centric-service-in-financial-services/

How COVID-19 Influenced e-Commerce and What to Expect

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The introduction of a self-isolation regime during the coronavirus pandemic triggered rapid growth in online commerce in the FMCG sector. 

This includes food, beverages, toiletries, over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics and perfumery, all things that can be purchased in the MAKEUP online store.

COVID-19 has significantly influenced the e-commerce industry. Thanks to the fintech sector, convenient mobile apps, and the ability to order online, people can now buy everything from personal care products to food comfortably from home, without the need to visit stores. The audience now more often pays attention to the composition of products, since it is more convenient to study it in an online store than on a supermarket shelf.

Improvements in online shopping service

In many stores, demand is supported by various discounts and promotions. Many now offer free shipping when buying for a certain amount (this was earlier, too, but now there are more such offers). For example, the MAKEUP company constantly offers various discounts and favourable delivery terms.

One-third of those who were adherent of online shopping before the coronavirus pandemic began to buy even more actively for self-isolation.

This creates conditions for the development of the field of courier delivery. Therefore, the online shopping industry does not experience any problems due to the pandemic. On the contrary, it received an incentive for development.

Food delivery market in Europe

The largest food delivery market among European countries is in the UK – about $3.3 billion. According to dealroom.co, the leading services in the online ordering sector are:

  • Just Eat (# 1 service in the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, and France);
  • Delivery Hero (leader in Germany, Sweden, Finland);
  • foodpanda (present throughout Eastern Europe as well as Asia and Latin America; focus on emerging markets);
  • Takeaway.com (# 1 in Benelux and Poland, number two in Germany);
  • UberEats (leading in capitals and major cities: London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Paris, Stockholm, Vienna).

Global players in the food delivery segment, such as Deliveroo, Glovo, UberEats and Foodora, keep expanding into new regions.

What to expect further

More than 90% of people in developing countries plan to continue to increase their online grocery shopping, despite returning to a normal lifestyle after the pandemic, according to the results of the annual Credit Suisse Emerging Consumer Survey 2021.

The frequency of purchases is decreasing. Shoppers strive to reduce the number of visits to stores and spend as little time as possible in them. More planned purchases can be expected. Under these conditions, the visibility of the category and brand on the sales floor is more important than ever to stay competitive.

The authors of the study note that even amid the resumption of economic activity and the return to the pre-pandemic lifestyle, many aspects of digitalization are likely to persist. The UBS report predicts the global food delivery market and delivery of products for personal care and hygiene will grow 20-30% annually to $365 billion by 2030.

https://thefintechtimes.com/how-covid-19-influenced-e-commerce-and-what-to-expect/

Starling Bank Expands Lending Capabilities With Recent Acquisition of Fleet Mortgages

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It’s reported that Starling Bank has acquired the specialist buy-to-let mortgage lender Fleet Mortgages in a £50 million cash and share deal.

Hampshire-based Fleet Mortgages provides mortgages to professional and semi-professional buy-to-let landlords through the exclusive use of mortgage adviser distribution channels.

To date, it has originated £2.3 billion of mortgages and experienced zero credit losses. It currently has circa-£1.75 billion of mortgages under management.

Starling will become the sole funder of future originations, with Fleet Mortgages able to build on its successful lending operation by accessing Starling’s growing deposit base. Day-to-day operations at Fleet will continue unchanged with the company’s existing and highly-respected management team.

Speaking on the acquisition, Anne Boden, CEO of Starling, comments, “The acquisition of Fleet Mortgages is the start of our move into mortgages as an asset class and builds on a number of forward-flow arrangements that we’re doing with leading non-bank lenders.

“Fleet’s existing management team will remain in place and Fleet will continue to operate as a stand-alone company, keeping the original name and brand. We’re buying Fleet because it is very good at what it does, not because we want to change it.”

The acquisition – Starling’s first – is part of a wider plan at the bank to expand lending through a mix of strategic forward-flow arrangements, organic lending, and targeted M&A activity.

Bob Young, CEO, Fleet MortgagesBob Young, CEO, Fleet Mortgages
Bob Young, CEO, Fleet Mortgages

Bob Young, CEO of Fleet Mortgages, added, “We are very pleased to be announcing the acquisition of the business by Starling Bank which will deliver a significant benefit to the business, our intermediary partners and their landlord clients. It is certainly exciting times ahead.

“We started Fleet Mortgages seven years ago and have grown to become a successful mortgage originator with nine well-received securitisations. 2021 is set to become our best year yet with new mortgage loans running at £800 million and half-year pre-tax profits of £4 million.

“Starling Bank will take over all of our funding, allowing us to focus on achieving our significant and ambitious lending and growth targets. This is a natural progression for our lending business, with both Starling and Fleet sharing a very similar cultural fit and provides us with a very strong lending base from which to work and to deliver for our staff, our adviser partners, and our landlord customers.”

Starling Bank was advised by Rothschild and PwC as financial advisor and TLT as legal counsel. Fleet Mortgages was advised by West Hill Corporate Finance as financial advisor and Humphries Kirk as legal advisor.

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/starling-bank-expands-lending-capabilities-with-recent-acquisition-of-fleet-mortgages/

Cisco Research Finds 85% Of Respondents Say Digital Services Are Now a Critical Part of Daily Life

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Cisco AppDynamics has released the latest report in its App Attention Index research series, revealing consumer reliance on applications and digital services has soared since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global study, which examined the digital behaviours of more than 13,000 global consumers (2,000 in the UK), also identified consumers now have a zero-tolerance policy for poor application experience and automatically place blame on the application and brand, no matter where a performance issue stems from.

Consumers blame the brand when the application experience fails

Since the start of 2020, consumers have experienced a sudden and total reliance on digital services, altering how they engage with brands, consume goods and services, and make purchasing decisions. In fact, the research shows that people are using 30% more applications today than they did before the pandemic.

The research highlights that because of their increasing reliance and use of digital services, 76% of consumers (72% in the UK) say their expectations of digital services have increased since the start of 2020. Alarmingly for brands, when their expectations aren’t met 60% of consumers (52% in the UK) will now automatically blame the application and the brand no matter where the issue actually lives. Whether it’s within the application itself – such as pages loading slowly, downtime, or security failures; or external factors like internet connectivity, slow payment gateways or technical issues with third party services – to the consumer there is no distinction and they will now place responsibility firmly on the brand.

  • 72% of people (74% in the UK) believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that the digital service or application works perfectly.
  • 92% (93% in the UK) say they expect digital services to have reliable, consistent performance.

Loyalty lies with brands that invest in application experience

Consumers have not only come to rely on applications and digital services to function in everyday life, but they also used them to facilitate social interactions in the absence of traditional ways of connecting in person. The research found that the majority of consumers (85%; 82% in the UK) say that digital services have become a critical part of daily life, with 84%; 84% in the UK) stating they helped them get through the pandemic in a positive way. Additionally, consumers are now loyal to brands based on how significantly they invested in digital services during the pandemic.

  • 72% (71% in the UK) say they feel grateful to the brands that invested in digital during the pandemic so they could get access to the services that they love and rely on.
  • 67% (63% in the UK) say they feel more loyal to brands that went above and beyond with the quality of their digital service during the pandemic.

Brands have one shot to get the ‘total application experience’ right

61% of consumers (59% in the UK) now state their expectations for digital services have changed forever and they will no longer tolerate poor performance. The research goes on to find that 72% of consumers (74% in the UK) believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that digital services work perfectly, and more than half (57%; 53% in the UK) state that brands have one shot to impress them with their digital experiences before they switch to another provider.

  • 72% (72% in the UK) say they simply don’t care who is responsible for problems with digital services, they just want them fixed and to work.
  • 68% (69% in the UK) consider it disrespectful to users for brands to offer a poor digital experience in this day and age.
  • 57 % (53 % in the UK) believe most problems with digital services and applications are completely avoidable.

“Applications have become the lifeline to normality for people in every corner of the world and consumers are no longer willing to settle for anything less than a perfect digital experience,” said Linda Tong, vice president and general manager of Cisco AppDynamics. “Technologists are now under more pressure than ever to deliver the ‘total application experience’ to users within their first interaction. AppDynamics is the only provider that can help them meet users’ expectations by delivering a critical component of Cisco’s full-stack observability solution, which helps technologists see, understand, and optimise what happens inside and beyond their IT architecture – all through the lens of business impact.”

“People contact us under their most dire circumstances and need help resolving life-altering challenges immediately. We want them to know we’re the right people for the job, so our goal is to make sure our customers get connected with an advisor quickly, never getting disconnected or languishing in a chat queue,” said Chris Younger, Senior Vice President, Freedom Financial Network. “AppDynamics gives us the visibility and insights we need to make sure that every component of the workflow that delivers a customer directly to an agent instantly and seamlessly is working exactly as it should.”

73% of consumers (71% in the UK) stated that even as life returns to normal, they know they will continue to rely on the digital services they utilised during the pandemic. This means the pressure technologists are under to tackle the complexities of modern architectures in order to deliver flawless digital experiences isn’t going away.

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/cisco-research-finds-85-of-respondents-say-digital-services-are-now-a-critical-part-of-daily-life/

Zip Unveil Unified Logo To Increase Brand Awareness as Over 7.3 Million Customers Use the Service

https://thefintechtimes.com/zip-unveil-unified-logo-to-increase-brand-awareness-as-over-7-3-million-customers-use-the-service/
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A year ago, global payment technology pioneer Zip Co Limited (ASX: Z1P) acquired US buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform, Quadpay. Zip is now unifying its rapidly growing global business under one name to increase brand awareness and leverage more resources to lead the future of digital, universal payment technology.

Under one global identity, Zip is investing deeply to escalate its brand awareness across 12 markets and five continents. Customers in the US can continue to split their purchases into four interest-free instalments, making use of the same flexible payment options, now with a bold new look.

“We believe Zip can become the fairest and most responsible global payments brand in the world, on the side of merchants and consumers,” said Zip Co-founder and Global CEO Larry Diamond. “Since Zip acquired Quadpay, we have experienced exceptionally strong growth in the United States. We’ve built a brand that will grow with us as we continue to expand our global footprint, and that allows us to celebrate our merchants, customers and our Zipsters, putting them at the centre of all that we do.”

Zip is democratising alternative payment options and increasing access to transparent, responsible and fair financial products through rapid expansion. The US business will leverage a $400million investment in Zip to fuel powerful brand recognition in the US, and will bring together 300+ top finance technology product experts and over 200 technical resources to drive more innovative global efficiencies to the retail industry.

“Zip brings almost a decade of experience in the trenches with merchants and retailers, and this rebrand gives us access to more resources than ever before,” said Adam Ezra, Co-CEO of Zip US. “The same payment technology solutions and drive that propelled us to global leadership and doubled our growth in the US will only accelerate under a single Zip brand, with more innovations coming soon.“

Zip has set a fintech industry standard for building transparent and flexible products that help people take control of the way they pay. With responsibility built into its DNA, Zip’s renewed brand purpose is about putting the financial well-being of its customers and merchants at the heart of everything it does, to help people take control of their financial future.

Collaborating with renowned international design agency Koto to bring the new brand purpose to life, Zip’s new logo features a bold purple, designed to stand out in the online and in-store checkout environments of Zip’s merchants. The letter ‘i’ in Zip is designed to flex and expand, forming a window in the heart of Zip’s logo, which allows it to showcase individual merchants and celebrate its customers and its people. The modernised branding is a powerful reflection of Zip’s commitment to people and partners.

“Zip’s revitalised purpose deserves a bold and fearless new look,” said Steve Brennen, Zip’s Chief Customer Officer. “We challenged Koto to create a brand with attitude and energy, that worked in all of our global markets and that will flex to support our business as it continues to grow internationally. Most importantly, it had to reflect our ongoing commitment to putting people at the heart of all that we do.”

Zip will continue its investment in building a unified global brand and driving increased business outcomes for merchants and value for customers across the Zip ecosystem. The new brand will roll out across its global operations starting mid-August 2021.

Following 12 months of rapid expansion, Zip now has a presence in 12 countries and serves more than 7.3 million customers, who can pay for their purchases in instalments, interest-free. Zip works with over 51,000 merchants around the world, allowing them to offer flexible payment terms to consumers and driving traffic to merchants’ businesses through its own channels.

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/zip-unveil-unified-logo-to-increase-brand-awareness-as-over-7-3-million-customers-use-the-service/