Stratyfy Earns Spot in FIS Fintech Accelerator Incoming Cohort

Predictive analytics innovator Stratyfy is one of ten companies selected to participate in the incoming cohort of FIS’ 2020 Fintech Accelerator program.

“The ten companies selected for the fifth year of FIS’ Accelerator program bring a wealth of promising ideas and technologies,” FIS Chief Growth Officer Asif Ramji said. “We look forward to working with these firms to bring their ideas to life.”

Joining Stratyfy in the program are:

  • Cirrus Secure
  • Cobbler Technologies
  • Dasceq
  • Mall IQ
  • Sequretek
  • Silot
  • Surfly
  • TrustStamp
  • XpenseOne

Seven of the companies in the cohort have headquarters in the United States. Of the others, Sequretek is based in Mumbai, India; Silot in Singapore; and Surfly in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. And after four years in operation, the accelerator, in partnership with The Venture Center, will conduct its fifth program virtually due to the challenges of the global public health crisis.

In addition to being entirely virtual, this year’s program will run for 18 weeks instead of the usual 12 weeks to allow for increased mentoring and training time. The program will culminate with a Demo Day technology presentation on October 14th. Participating startups will also receive a monetary investment; the amount was not disclosed.

Executive Director for The Venture Center, Wayne Miller, pointed to the program’s success in empowering startup companies and helping improve access to financial services and technology. “With our partners at FIS and the State of Arkansas, we’re honored to be a part of bringing cutting-edge technologies to the places and people who need them, particularly in this moment of monumental technological advancement,” Miller said.

The news comes in the wake of Strayfy’s announcement of a new strategic partnership with Innovesta Technologies. The two companies are collaborating on a machine learning solution that will help businesses better measure the risk of and opportunity in non-public companies. The partnership combines Stratyfy’s decision engine and advanced machine learning technology with Innovesta’s comprehensive data assets to deliver real-time insights into the forces that impact business performance.

“Models built from historical data offer little help during an unprecedented health and economic crisis like the current global pandemic,” Stratyfy co-founder and CEO Laura Kornhauser said when the partnership was announced in May. “Achieving an inclusive global financial recovery requires robust risk management strategies, and those strategies necessitate an understanding of the unique challenges being faced by every business. Stratyfy’s decision management solutions will leverage Innovesta’s trustworthy data to directly address this need.”

Founded in 2016, Stratyfy is headquartered in New York City. The company was named one of the world’s 100 most promising startups to watch last year by CNBC.

Wex nabs $400M investment from Warburg Pincus

Wex Inc. a fintech specializing in fleet management and corporate payments, nabbed a $400 million investment from Warburg Pincus, according to a press release.

The investment includes $310 million in convertible notes and $90 million through a private placement of common stock.

Wex also got an amendment to senior secured credit facilities that provides it with increased financial flexibility.

“We are pleased to further fortify our balance sheet during the current uncertain operating environment, while reaffirming our relationship with Warburg Pincus, who has demonstrated their strong commitment to the future growth of Wex,” Melissa Smith, chair and CEO of Wex, said in a company release.

Aire Launches Pulse to Help Underwriters During COVID-19

There are two words that help summarize 2020: unpredictability and volatility. It turns out that both of these attributes are bad for a lot of things and that’s especially true for underwriting consumer loans.

Recognizing this issue, U.K.-based credit assessment services company Aire launched Pulse, a product to help lenders calculate risk in the post-COVID borrowing landscape.

“Lenders have always played catch up when understanding how existing customers perform on commitments elsewhere, and this challenge is exacerbated by the major CRAs’ Emergency Payment Freeze,” said Aire CEO and Founder Aneesh Varma. “In a rapidly changing economic situation, lenders need new tools that can understand the context of the consumer to help them detect emerging risks. Pulse is a quick, convenient and FCA-regulated way for lenders to spot financial change as it happens, providing lenders with a truly holistic view, gathered from the most up-to-date data source available to them: the consumer themselves.”

At its core, Pulse is a scalable communications tool. It enables lenders to collect current information from customers about their changing financial circumstances while maintaining fair and FCA-compliant account handling. The tool enables lenders to reach out to their existing borrowers via SMS and email to conduct an Interactive Virtual Interview (IVI) to gather information regarding disposable income levels and risk of financial difficulty.

It takes consumers an average of three-to-five minutes to complete the IVI, which asks for information such as employment status, current working hours, income level, household bills and expenses, and levels of savings. In order to ensure the information is correct, Aire cross-checks it against its own database of consumer information. After the assessment, Aire sends the lender insight into the consumer’s financial difficulty, affordability, and engagement.

Because of its proactive approach, Pulse offers lenders information about a consumer’s changing financial situation much faster than the traditional method of waiting for historical information from CRAs who identify changes in customer circumstances.

The underwriting and credit scoring space has always been an area of disruption for fintechs. Given that the new reality across the globe has multiple impacts on the economy and unemployment, we can expect to see more existing companies adapt their services to not only help underwriters understand and assess risk but also help consumers access cashflow when they really need it.

Aire was founded in 2014 and has since raised $24 million. Aneesh Varma is CEO.

Photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash

Banking with Crypto: Where Will It Go Next?

This is a guest post written by Shannon Flynn, managing editor at

Amid the market instability caused by COVID-19, a major shift seems to be taking place in the crypto industry.

After years of false starts and criticism from the banking sector and traditional financial institutions, new partnerships and legislation seem to suggest the industry may be on the verge of a large-scale crypto service adoption.

Here’s the current state of the crypto market, and how financial institutions are beginning to offer it in earnest.

The Current Health of the Crypto Market

Like other asset classes, crypto wasn’t immune to the crash caused by the coronavirus. In mid-March, as assets of all categories fell — even those typically more secure against market shocks, like gold — so too did major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Prices for both dropped sharply, with Bitcoin’s market value nearly halved.

Crypto, however, was remarkably quick to bounce back, with prices recovering to near pre-coronavirus levels over the next two months. So far, crypto seems to have come out as one of the better-performing asset classes, recovering much faster than others.The disruption caused by COVID-19 seems to have been small enough that banks and major financial institutions are continuing with plans to offer crypto services.

JPMorgan Announces Partnership With Crypto Exchanges

One of the biggest announcements of the past few months has been the partnership between JPMorgan Chase and crypto exchanges Gemini and Coinbase. In May, the bank announced it would accept the exchanges as banking customers — making them their first clients from the cryptocurrency industry.

Coinbase is the largest U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange. Gemini is less prominent but is notable in its moves to secure support from major institutions outside of crypto.

The partnership is big news for American cryptocurrency traders and firms, especially in light of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s previous comments on bitcoin. In 2017, Dimon famously bashed the currency as a “fraud” and said he expected that global governments would take action against crypto.The partnership isn’t JPMorgan’s first foray into digital currency, though. In 2019, the bank introduced its own version, JPM Coin. Each coin represented one dollar stored in the bank and could be used to more quickly settle transactions between members.

While the move isn’t JPMorgan’s first experiment with digital currency, it is a sign that traditional financial institutions may be getting more comfortable with the idea of trading in crypto. Large banks have traditionally been fierce critics of cryptocurrency.

Concerns about the inefficiency of blockchain and the potential environmental impact of bitcoin may be enough to dissuade broader adoption. After all, bitcoin miners use up the same amount of energy as 6.8 million average U.S. households.

However, investors seem like they are becoming more interested in crypto. According to the Wall Street Journal, “average daily trading volume this year of CME’s bitcoin futures contract has risen 43%” compared to last year. Other crypto vehicles, like Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, have also seen similar upticks in trading volume.

Even if traditional financial institutions shy away from full crypto adoption, cryptocurrency banks in the U.S. may still become a possibility over the next few years. In June, Former Wall Street trader Caitlin Long secured $5 million in funding for a cryptocurrency bank, Avanti. That gave the institution enough cash to follow through on filing for a charter with the Wyoming Division of Banking. The bank currently plans to open for business in 2021.

Banks Around the World Consider Crypto Service

The trend toward cryptocurrency banking isn’t limited to the U.S. In Germany, more than 40 financial institutions declared their intent to offer crypto services under new legislation. Two of Switzerland’s largest banks have also launched digital asset-based transaction services.

Earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court overturned a Central Bank ruling that prohibited banks from providing services to traders and firms dealing in cryptocurrencies. While it had signaled it would challenge the decision, it instead issued formal guidance giving commercial banks in India the green light on providing banking services.

Following the court’s decision, CoinDCX — India’s largest crypto exchange, which received a major investment from Coinbase in early June — integrated bank account transfers. This allows customers to purchase and trade cryptocurrency using their bank accounts.

However, as in America, trust remains a significant barrier. Even with the prohibition on services for crypto traders lifted, few Indian banks have moved to seriously integrate crypto offerings.

The Future of Cryptocurrency Banks

Despite the major instability caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the cryptocurrency market has managed an impressive rebound and emerged as one of the best-performing asset classes so far.

At the same time, major institutions — including JPMorgan and several European banks — are moving ahead with new plans to offer crypto- and digital asset-based transactions. There’s reason to believe that banks may soon provide financial vehicles that make it easier for investors to purchase and trade bitcoin. It’s hard to know what the future of crypto banking will look like right now. For the moment, it’s all good news in spite of current market disruptions.

Shannon Flynn is a technology and culture writer with two+ years of experience writing about consumer trends and tech news.

Euromonitor: Consumers don’t trust business to handle data

Share It seems consumers still haven’t come around to trusting business with their digital security. According to Euromonitor International’s Digital Consumer Survey 2020, which came out this week, just under 30% of consumers agree most companies handle sensitive consumer data responsibly. “With more aspects of consumers’ lives unfolding on digital platforms, security concerns have become …Read More

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Bud launches Open Banking payments product, signs pan-european trial with

The Open Banking fintech Bud has launched an Open Banking and PSD2 payment API designed to provide an alternative to card payments and bank transfers.

The new product makes use of Open Banking APIs to allow users to initiate payments directly from their bank account to the recipients – providing a faster and cheaper alternative to existing payment channels without the necessity to share card details with third parties.

Alongside the launch, Bud and have announced a pan European trial to make the new payment channel available for Blockchain’s customers. The product will allow’s customers to fund crypto wallets directly from their bank accounts without sharing card details. As the partnership progresses, plans include expansion both in terms of its use within the Blockchain app and its roll out to European customers.

Ed Maslaveckas, Bud’s CEO commented “Payments will be an important part of the puzzle when it comes to realising the value that Open Banking can create. People look at Open Banking and think about aggregation, but in many ways, that’s the least disruptive part of it.

“The value comes when you can understand someone’s financial data and help them to act on the insight. Most of the time that action will result in a payment being made.

“Open banking payments have some amazing benefits for customers – they’re faster, with most UK transactions clearing within minutes, they’re cheaper for clients and removing the need to enter card details means that you don’t have to decide between convenience and security because you never have to enter your card details, the banks handle all the security.” 

Xen Baynham-Herd, COO commented “Open Banking presents an opportunity to redefine how customers securely link their bank accounts to their service providers by removing friction from the experience. We’re excited to trial Bud’s solution to improve the onboarding experience for our customers in Europe”.

Uber in talks to buy Postmates for $2.6B: report

Uber Technologies Inc., fresh off losing out on a deal to buy meal delivery platform Grubhub, is now in talks to buy rival delivery service Postmates Inc. for $2.6 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Postmates is widely considered the fourth largest meal delivery platform in the U.S., trailing Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash.

The report said such an agreement, if completed, could be announced as early as next week.

Wirecard North America goes on market, while operations allowed to resume in UK

Wirecard North America officials said the company was looking for a new owner as the multi-billion accounting scandal at the German-based payments firm reverberated across the globe. UK regulators reached agreement to let operations resume there.

Wirecard North America Inc. said that it is seeking new ownership amid the massive accounting scandal surrounding Germany’s Wirecard AG, and said an investment bank is coordinating the sale, while regulators in the U.K. have allowed Wirecard to resume operations in that market.

Wirecard AG has been under a regulatory microscope in recent weeks after more than $2.1 billion went missing and the payments giant was forced to delay financial statements. The company fired CEO Markus Braun who was later arrested by Munich authorities.

Wirecard North America formerly operated as the Citi Prepaid Card Services business until it was sold to Wirecard AG in 2016. Wirecard North America said in a company release that it is a “self-sustaining entity that is substantially autonomous” from Wirecard AG.

“Wirecard North America continues to operate without any disruption to clients and cardholders,” Seth Brennan, managing director at Wirecard North America, said in a company release. “The strong, independent cash flow and financial position of Wirecard North America allow us to operate the business on a completely standalone basis.”

Wirecard said that cardholder and client funds are being held at well capitalized and independent banks in the U.S. and Canada, including Sunrise Banks, Fifth Third Bank and People’s Trust Co.

Meanwhile in the U.K., the Financial Conduct Authority said today that it lifted the freeze it placed on Wirecard’s U.K. operations. Customers of several fintechs, including Curve, Anna Money and Pockit, were temporarily unable to access funds due to the suspension.

“The Wirecard situation is interesting as it exposes how reliant some challenger banks and fintech services are on other fintechs, meaning that if fintechs encounter difficulties this will have knock on effects throughout the ecosystem,” said Nick Maynard, lead analyst at Juniper Research in the U.K. “However this will not have a huge impact going forward.”

“Prior to the fraud, executives generally have pressures to meet capital market expectations and small problems lead the executives to push out into the gray zone,” Bradon Gipper, assistant professor of accounting at Stanford Graduate School of Business, told Mobile Payments Today via email.

Maynard said the Wirecard problem is more of a corporate governance and mismanagement problem rather than an industry wide indicator of the fintech industry as a whole.

i2C Inc., a Redwood City, California-based provider of digital payment and open banking technology, said that it stood ready to assist clients of Wirecard or any other insolvent bank or processor that has been negatively impacted of late.

The company said that it would be able to help Wirecard clients secure new bank sponsors and support a smooth and rapid transition of credit, debit and prepaid card issuer programs to minimize customer disruption.

Credorax Partners with Anti-Fraud Solution to Provide Merchants 360° Monitoring

New collaboration will bolster payment flow protection and reduce fraud, offering merchants 360° monitoring to combat financial crime

Today, licensed bank and smart payments provider Credorax  and risk management platform Feedzai  announced a new partnership to provide Credorax merchants with advanced anti-money laundering (AML) and anti-fraud capabilities, leading to increased payment security, reduced operational costs and an improved customer experience.

The partnership between Credorax and Feedzai first began in 2018, when Credorax elected to combine its merchant acquiring technology and services with Feedzai’s advanced machine learning capabilities to protect its customers from fraud. Since then, Credorax’s merchants have been protected in real-time from threats , while improving the overall customer experience.

“Credorax has a long-standing relationship with Feedzai and we are excited to continue collaborating with a company recognised as best-in-class in the fraud and anti-money laundering market,said Moshe Selfin, Credorax CTO &COO. “With increasing regulation in the payments ecosystem, extending the relationship to help identify and guard against money laundering is a natural step. We’re excited to work with Feedzai to drive innovation in this space.”

Credorax and Feedzai’s platform combines both AML and fraud solutions to add a crucial layer of protection to the payments flow, offering a 360° view to better monitor and combat financial crime. This partnership will allow fraud and compliance teams to share information and eliminate manual checks, thus remaining compliant at lower costs and with fewer resources.

“We are thrilled to strengthen our partnership with Credorax, as they continue to invest in future-proof technology that will protect their customers from fast-evolving threats,” said Richard Harris, EVP of Global Operations at Feedzai. “As more financial institutions move forward in their digital transformation journeys, the adoption of robust, end-to-end systems is increasing.”

Bank ABC Group enters founding partnership agreement with Bahrain FinTech Bay

Manama, Bahrain: Bank ABC, MENA’s leading international bank, along with its subsidiaries, the digital, mobile-only, ila Bank, and the MEA region’s leading payment solutions provider and fintech enabler, Arab Financial Services (AFS), enter a founding partnership with Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB). This strategic alliance illustrates Bank ABC and Bahrain FinTech Bay‘s continued commitment to play a pivotal role in the development of the fintech ecosystem in the Kingdom of Bahrain and expedite its transformation into a cashless, digital economy.

As part of the agreement, Bank ABC Group representatives, Dr. Yousif Almas, Group Chief Innovation Officer, Mohamed Al Maraj, ila Bank Bahrain Chief Executive Officer, Amira Ismail, Head of Business Development – Acquiring, AFS, joined BFB’s advisory board to enhance collaboration between the two parties and support BFB’s endeavor to foster innovation and empower fintech start-ups to contribute to the development of the fintech landscape in Bahrain.

This partnership builds on Bank ABC’s commitment to lead the fintech revolution in the MENA region and support local efforts to attract fintechs and entrepreneurs to establish a footing in Bahrain and tap into the vast potential for innovative financial services in the MENA region. The MENA region’s growing youth population, with more than half of its residents under the age of 25, and large underserved blue-collar segments make it an ideal market to deploy inclusive fintech solutions.

On behalf of the Group, Bank ABC Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Yousif Almas, remarked: “At Bank ABC, we are dedicated to cultivating disruptive thinking and innovation in the financial services industry. The current unprecedented pandemic underscores the importance of empowering customers with accessible digital solutions that fulfil their needs and has nudged financial institutions to rethink their offerings. We are delighted to facilitate the industry’s digital transformation through our collaboration with Bahrain FinTech Bay.”

On his part, ila Bank Bahrain CEO, Mohamed Al Maraj, said: “The success of our fast-growing digital, mobile only bank illustrates the strong appetite in the Kingdom of Bahrain for seamless, smart banking solutions that empower customers to take charge of their financial lives.”

“This is further evidenced by the surge in ila’s customer base and transaction volume, which has quadrupled, amid the current social distancing practices. Our partnership with Bahrain FinTech Bay will help us bridge the local community with a global network of fintech enablers and providers, boost efforts to create a vibrant digital economy and promote Bahrain as the region’s leading fintech hub, creating long-lasting positive change for our community,” he added.

Amira Ismail, Head of Business Development – Acquiring, AFS commented on the development: “AFS has been part of the larger regional fintech movement for many years. We are committed to expediting the growth and acceleration of fintech activities across payments ecosystems in Bahrain and beyond. Our innovative merchant acquiring and fintech solutions are game-changing and market leading offerings that support our partners, seamlessly embedding fintech innovation through lifestyle-driven solutions that enhance how we transact.”

Bahrain Fintech Bay Chief Executive Officer, Khalid Danish said: “We are delighted to announce our partnership across the Bank ABC group. Our commitment to enabling innovation within the financial services industry, coupled with our robust network of like-minded partners will further drive our strategic national efforts towards enhancing our digital economy.

During this global health crisis, innovation and ingenuity will be more significant than ever before. Through this collaboration we will support Bank ABC Group’s endeavor to deliver best in class solutions and services to collectively position the Kingdom of Bahrain as the leading FinTech hub in MENA.”

Bank ABC is a leading player in the region’s banking industry, with a presence in 15 countries across five continents. It provides global innovative Wholesale Banking coverage & products that include Corporate & Financial Institutions coverage, Transaction Banking (Trade Finance & Cash Management), Project and Structured finance, Syndications, Treasury and Financial Markets products and Islamic Banking. It also provides retail-banking services through its network of retail banks in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Brazil.

ila Bank is a digital, mobile only banking entity in Bahrain powered by Bank ABC, MENA’s leading international bank. Aided by Artificial Intelligence and data analytics, the intuitive app is designed to appeal  and serve a wide section of users ranging from millennials and older age groups to blue collar workers. The app’s current offerings include completely digital onboarding, instant virtual card for online transactions, physical debit card, multi-currency account and a current account that offers interest without a minimum balance or tenure. ila app is available for download on Google Play and App stores. For more information, visit and follow ila Bank on social media @ilabankbhr.

Established in 1984, Arab Financial Services (AFS) is the MEA region’s leading digital payment solutions provider and FinTech enabler. AFS serves over 75 clients across the financial sector in more than 20 countries. A subsidiary of Bank ABC, it is owned by 37 banks and financial institutions and regulated by the Central Bank of Bahrain. The company offers innovative and end-to-end payment services and solutions that span card processing, merchant acquiring, FinTech and a state-of-the-art value-added services suite. AFS has offices and data centers in Bahrain, UAE and Oman, and was the first processor in the region to become Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) 3.2 certified. Recipient of several global awards, AFS has most recently been recognized as “Best Fintech Solutions Company 2019” and “The Most
Innovative Fintech Solution Provider 2018” at the GCC Enterprise Awards and “Best Payment Service Provider – Bahrain 2017” by Global Banking and Finance Review.

For further information, visit

Bahrain FinTech Bay is the leading FinTech Hub in the Middle East and aims to further the development, interaction and acceleration of the FinTech ecosystem. Bahrain FinTech Bay incubates impactful and scalable fintech initiatives through innovation labs, acceleration programs, curated activities, educational opportunities and collaborative platforms. Bahrain FinTech Bay partners with governmental bodies, financial institutions, corporates, consultancy firms, universities, associations, venture capital and fintech start-ups to bring the full spectrum of market participants together.


IronFX to Launch a Virtual Fintech Accelerator Program

Forex leader IronFX is creating a virtual accelerator program to support FinTech ventures aimed at minimising the trading knowledge gap.

The virtual accelerator program will specifically focus on FinTech enterprises providing training and knowledge solutions to forex traders. It will be open to pre-seed, seed, and round A startups worldwide, giving remote guidance and services to support ventures in development and go-to-market.

The program will comprise of an incubator (dedicated to early-stage startups) and an accelerator (designed for more mature FinTech companies). It will focus on key growth issues such as R&D, business development, marketing, and sales, and will connect founders with mentors and leading entrepreneurs. Ventures applying to the programs will get an opportunity to take part in a 3-month journey and enjoy essential support and resources to establish their business and grow internationally. The company reports advanced negotiations with a first venture are already in place and are expected to be completed soon. The technology will be implemented into IronFX’s platforms as a proof of concept.

The launch is a part of an ongoing effort on IronFX’s part to locate and obtain innovative tech with significant market potential, including a soon-to-be-opened R&D centre in Mumbai. Their strategy is two-fold: Firstly, the company will combine new solutions within its offering for beta testing. Then, the same technologies will be used to develop products for leading financial service providers worldwide. With the new accelerator, IronFX is issuing a call to arms – encouraging entrepreneurs and innovators to create unique, state-of-the-art FinTech solutions that will help people around the world improve their financial status in the following years.

IronFX, one of the largest Forex service providers around the world, announced the accelerator launch six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown circumstances around the world drive innovators to action and unique solutions and ideas are popping up everywhere. IronFX takes advantage of that movement to create state-of-the-art training and knowledge solutions that will teach traders all about what is day trading and make forex trading safer and easier. While Forex companies are often branded as a scam, IronFX is proving it is worthy of trust by actively working to ensure traders are as informed as possible.

“We tried to recognise the barriers people face when they want to start trading,” says Spyros Teocallis, Chief Customer Officer at IronFX. “People want to know exactly what is day trading before they start trading. We get that – people are trading their money here, and we want them to be as safe as possible. We know there is a forex trading stigma in society. IronFX is doing its best to prove it is not a scam and giving people as much information as possible to earn traders’ trust”.

The Finovate Fintech Halftime Review eMagazine

What a week it was for the first Finovate Fintech Halftime Review; we heard from experts across the fintech spectrum, covering LendingTech, PayTech, FraudTech, BankingTech and WealthTech.

Missed some of the live sessions? Want to dig a little deeper and get the Finovate Analyst view of the first half of 2020? Well look no further, as the Finovate Fintech Halftime Review eMagazine brings all the content from the week together in one place.

Download it now and have all the latest insights at your fingertips.

Stablecoin News for the week ending Tuesday 30th June


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

According to the Central Bankers Bank, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), this week, CB speeches on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) have turned net positive in 2020, either in their stance or because a pilot is mentioned.

But it had nothing to do with Facebook’s Libra announcement.  Yeah, sure!

Net support for retail CBDCs (or centralised, where people hold money directly with the CB) remains negative but its positive count is now similar to that of wholesale CBDCs (or decentralised).   There are very few negative takes on wholesale CBDCs.

CBDC SpeechesNo it’s not Facebook, Instead, the BIS, in a Chapter on digital payments of its annual economic report published Wednesday, said central bankers have come around to CBDCs because the technology presents an opportunity for them to shape the future of payments.

This article from Cointelegraph discusses the BIS paper and some of its implications including the change of heart.  Bank for International Settlements Calls CBDCs a Potential ‘Sea Change’

Also this week, the world’s oldest Central Bank, Sweden’s Riksbank weighed in with a lengthy 99 page report on the pro’s and con’s of the various designs of CDBC.  It looks at centralised, decentralised and a synthetic hybrid, which it comes down in favour of.  World’s Oldest Central Bank Reviews Possible Digital Currency With Mixed Results


The Riksbank report also has an interesting analysis of private money versus public money and suggests that public money, besides providing a regulatory framework for private money also provides competition to private money so they are not tempted to over issue!  Bitcoin’s design with a total issue restricted to 21m is perhaps good money after all, whilst certainly many ICO’s are obviously bad.  But what about the current issuances from the largest CB’s, the Fed and the ECB?  

Finally, we have a discussion about how the Pandemic is hastening Central Banks efforts as they realise the limitations of the current system.  Coronavirus is hastening central banks’ efforts on digital currency plans to deliver faster pandemic stimulus


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. 


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.

Starling Bank wins Covid with a shed

Starling Bank is the only challenger bank to record more app downloads in May than the year before, thanks to a tv ad starring a shed and lockdown loans for struggling businesses

Did a shed just win lockdown?

Was banking’s lockdown crisis solved by a shed?

As the UK went into lockdown, there was a massive question mark over how the challenger banks would fare.

Much of their appeal is based on travel-related deals and discretionary spend on nights out. As lockdown began, then, it was not a huge surprise to see figures from Curve, reported on exclusively by The Fintech Times, showing spending on challenger cards instantly dived 90%. Spending on traditional bank cards dropped 60% over the same early lockdown period.

With bars and restaurants shut and travel plans put on hold, the fintech industry was left wondering how would challengers fare as lockdown progressed? What shape would they be in when consumers began to prepare to once again shop in non-essential retail outlets, while still waiting for bars and restaurants to open.

The answer emerging from exclusive figures shared with The Fintech Times by Apptopia, is that Starling is the only challenger with cause for optimism. It is the only neo bank to post better app download numbers for May 2020 than May 2019. To be more precise, with 127,000 monthly app downloads in May 2020, Starling has seen numbers increase by a third compared to May 2019.

starling bank revolut monzo app downloads

With 195,000 app downloads, Monzo was nearly 50% down in May 2020, compared to 2019. Revolut posted a 28% drop to just 78,000 downloads.

The figures show that while Monzo still has larger overall download numbers, Starling is closing the gap and has overtaken Revolut for monthly app downloads in the process.

This turnaround begs a rather unusual question? Was a shed the key to winning lockdown? Or at least, did a shed put Starling in a position where it was best placed to take advantage of bail-out loans for cash-strapped businesses?

To advertise or not?

At the end of March, fintechs were like any other business. The pressing question was whether to pull marketing and advertising spending and sit out the coming storm?

Rachael Pollard Chief Growth Officer Starling BankRachael Pollard, CGO, Starling Bank

According to Rachael Pollard, Chief Growth Officer at Starling, the company took the decision to plough on with a national television campaign for its business banking service. It had previously run a general branding television advert but April’s campaign was specifically aimed at entrepreneurs.

It features a nervous new business starter logging on from her shed and, literally, taking off as her family waves encouragement from the garden.

“Nearly all the competition pulled their traditional and digital advertising as soon as lockdown started, but we thought that would be a mistake,” she says.

“We were able to change the original voice over to let business people know we were there with them in a difficult time and the result has been amazing. In this year so far, we’ve improved our prompted brand awareness scores by 20%, to 73%.”

A bounce back from loans

The original idea for the advert was to tap into business people looking for a smarter way of banking digitally by the campaign coinciding with the start of the new financial year in April. It would be an understatement to point out Starling’s timing turned out be fortuitous.

As the UK went into lockdown, the Government announced the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) scheme for large businesses and “Bounce Back” loans for small companies borrowing up to £50,000.  Starling remains the only challenger bank set up for both schemes.

“With an advert all about people working from home and setting up businesses at the end of the garden, we were saying exactly the right thing and the right time,” says Pollard.

“The television advertising meant people realised they could trust us. It helps to be relatively small and agile because we were able to get people trained up and help with the onboarding because we’ve seen a real rush of new customers. We’ve had a 147% increase in business accounts since we ran our April tv advert and the Government loans schemes were introduced. The biggest increase for us was during May.”

This observation would concur with Apptopia’s figures showing Starling’s app downloads increased for Starling by a third, year-on-year, compared to large drops for both Monzo and Revolut.

Beyond banking for millennials

Another factor, Pollard claims, is that Starling customers are, on average, slightly older than those drawn to the colourful, trendy-looking banking cards offered by rivals. Given the headlines of younger consumers in more junior, less secure roles being harder hit by lockdown, she believes economic factors could also account for Starling growing while rivals’ growth slowed.

She recognises the behaviour laid out in a recent The Fintech Times article whereby experts believe customers are using challengers as secondary banks. Typically, big bills are paid through a traditional account and small sums are put on a challenger card for discretionary spend on nights out.

“That definitely happens, and we do see that,” she says. “We realise we’re new and people won’t want to go from discovering us to the equivalent of a marriage overnight. However, we attract slightly older AB1 demographic customers. We also have a decent amount of people using us for the grocery shop which has been where most of the big spending is currently going, so it’s put us in a better position than rivals in lockdown.”

Both Monzo and Revolut were asked for comment but did not take up the opportunity to contribute to this article.

Business banking features

So, was it the shed that won it? Was it the shed that put Starling in a position to be in better shape in May 2020 than May 2019?

Fintech industry advisor and author of The Financial Services Guide to Fintech, Devie Mohan, believes that there are a couple of additional factors at play. Starling had already seen business banking as a major route to growth and, in her opinion, the smart strategic move has been to partner with external companies. The bank’s marketplace has partnerships with more than 20 providers which include a lockdown offer of free health insurance for business banking customers until August 2020, via Equipsme.

This agility in its market place combined with two other lockdown initiatives to put Starling on a good growth trajectory, she says. These included offering the aforementioned business loan schemes but also launching an additional debit card that self-isolating customers could give to friends and volunteers to shop on their behalf.

Just as importantly, though, Mohan believes one cannot underestimate how customers that have been researching digital banking under lockdown are looking for an offering that can work like a traditional bank.

“In the past 3 months customers have been looking for digital solutions more frequently than ever before,” she says. “However, this demand is not just coming from millennials or existing app users, but from people who have probably never used a banking app before. And this group will use a challenger bank app only if it also meets their traditional banking behaviour expectations.

“This has been the biggest advantage that Starling offers over its competitors like Monzo and Revolut. Starling supports e-cheques or digital cheque imaging whereas Monzo doesn’t. These types of “traditional-friendly” features also have helped Starling expand in this market to a whole new group of customers.”

The shed and social, won it

While these features and partnerships are important, for Luc Gueriane, Chief Commercial Officer at payment provider, Moorwand, the big step forward in lockdown was clear. Not only did Starling offer loans to large and small customers, it managed to convey a feeling of truly caring.

“Starling was the only challenger bank to offer the government-backed loans for businesses and, crucially, approve these loans faster than anyone else – some being approved in under 10 minutes,” he says.

“And the communication of this offering via social media was great. It positioned Starling as being on the side of small businesses at a time when these businesses needed support the most.”

It is a sentiment shared by Peter Pawlick, who leads the European fintech practice at creative advertising agency, R/GA London. Additionally, he points out that that we might now forget that Revolut, Monzo and N26 (now closed in the UK) all approached lockdown with what, he terms, “their own crisis”. These involved deep-rooted questions about either how they were being run or what their true market value was. Conversely, Starling he claims, was freer to grab an opportunity when it saw it.

“Starling and its investors have been bullish and are likely seizing upon this moment as a breakaway opportunity for the bank,” he says. “With no handicaps, relative to its peers, the bank is accelerating while others may well be decelerating to derisk their account portfolios: throttling their account openings and in some cases even cancelling accounts.

“It’s still too soon to say how things will shake out for Starling and the other challengers post-pandemic but it’s likely that the field will be narrowed and possible that this will prove to be a turning point for Starling.”

So, from a decision to carry on advertising made right at the start of lockdown, Starling was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right messaging. Whether it will also be a catalyst for it to fare better than rivals once lockdown ends time will tell.

However, Rachael Pollard reveals the bank is hoping the momentum behind its surge in business banking customers will make up for a predictable dip in new customers this summer. The holiday season is normally a strong acquisition channel for all the digital banks offering a better deal on foreign exchange. It is a potential hole in new customer acquisition Starling’s rivals will also be keen to plug.

The Search – Global Startups Tour from FinTech Abu Dhabi 2020

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (UAE) 30th June 2020 – The fourth annual FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival (FinTech Abu Dhabi) which will be held from 24 to 26 November 2020 is today hosting its “The Search – Global Startups Tour.”

The webinar is the inaugural online launch event of The Search – Global Startups Tour. The launch event of today will lead up to the main event end of November.

From June until til November, FinTech Abu Dhabi will be scouting and listening to founders of innovative and exciting early stage FinTech startups via a digital tour of 23 countries. The best would be then invited to join the prestigious FinTech100 programme, which would be incorporated in the FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival, 2020. “So, if you are leading a disruptive startup in the financial technology space, make sure you apply to present at the tour stop closest to you. See you there!” – a message from the organisers of FinTech Abu Dhabi.

For more information and to register not only for today’s webinar (June 30th – Welcome and Remarks begins at 3:30pm (GMT+4)) but for the rest of the digital tour click here. Today’s speakers will include Daniel Seal (CEO of Unbound Innovations), Richard Teng (Chief Executive Officer, Financial Services Regulatory Authority, Abu Dhabi Global Market), Lucy Liu (Co-founder and President of Airwallex) – to name a few.

FinTech Abu Dhabi 2020 is co-hosted by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) and powered by Unbound.

SOURCE: FinTech Abu Dhabi

The missing WHY of Robinhood


Once you finish reading this article, I suggest listening to the Supermode song Tell me why

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer – No.3 influencer in the finance sector by Refinitiv Global Social Media 2019.

I had not planned to write two posts on two high growth, two valuation Fintechs in an atmosphere that has turned sour because of the demise of Wirecard and its potential domino effect. And of course, I am unhappy that such business practices have been adopted from Fintechs and especially publicly traded ones. Wirecard was part of the DAX index and was also included in several large ESG ETFs because of this[1].

Last week I wrote about my disappointment with certain business practices of the digital bank Revolut. Today I will focus on Robinhood and will make every effort not to discuss the very emotional suicide incident triggered from a very common issue with forward and option trading (i.e. position netting is delayed).

There is clear evidence that retail trading overall has been on the rise since 2019 and spike during Q1 2020. This is due to so much cash sitting around (M2 in the US is up 23% and we have to believe that some of it found its way into the stock market) and of course to what I have been calling the `Robinhood effect`. In plain words, the extreme commoditization of stock trading.

Scott Galloway is a clincal professor of marketing at NYU Stern university and a serial entrepreneur and wrote last week a great article Robinhood Has Gamified Online Trading Into an Addiction Tech’s obsession with addiction will hurt us all. According to his estimates of the online trading activity rise (mostly based on the rise of account openings not the size of the trades or volume) it is clear that Robinhood is leading this trend. The increase for Robinhood is x3 times, Schwab is x1.6 times, TD Ameritrade is x2.5 times, and Etrade is x2.7 times.

brokerage aaccounts

I have not found any figures that support the narrative floating around that retail trading has had a significant or even leading contribution to the stunning US stock market rally since its bottom in mid-March.

The figures that we can report is that the order flow business was very strong in Q1 2020 and Robinhood`s revenues from selling order flow is leading the pack.

Alphacution was the first to report Robinhood`s hidden revenue stream last year. I wrote about this in October 2019 in `What has triggered the explosion of payments for order flow? Not Fidelity`.

Now, starting 2020 there has been a new disclosure requirement around order flow business practices. As a result, we have concrete figures in hand from the entire industry, incumbents, and fintechs.

Frank Chaparro reported in mid June `New filing shows Robinhood brought in close to $100 million by offloading order flow in the first quarter`. So, Q1 revenues were $100million for Robinhood and Alphacution estimated $69miilion for the entire year of 2018.

I have two problems with these increased figures. One is a lack of transparency in terms of the Robinhood`s business proposition and monetization strategy. The narrative that has been left floating for years, is that Robinhood makes money from margin accounts and interest on cash. No Robinhood manager contradicted that or presented proudly their growing order flow business. And of course, since everybody else does it (except Fidelity) why not Robinhood. And this is where the irony comes in. How is Robinhood different than incumbents?

The second problem I have is that the details of the order flow disclosures (see here) show clearly that most of these revenues come from option trades rather than plain vanilla stock order. Needless to say that option trading requires more education and sophistication and is more risky than plain vanilla stock trading. And again all this didn’t matter, until it did.

In addition, back in December 2019 when Robinhood got fined by FINRA for violation of best execution practices, it didn’t matter. The question is when will it matter?

I rest my case, as I have always had a big question mark next to the value proposition of Robinhood. Evidently, it is around democratization of retail trading. But I have always struggled to come up with a solid argument on `Why` is this kind needed. I have yet to answer it. I do understand the `Why` for fractional shares, I do understand micro-savings into investing, crowd investing, social trading etc. and other propositions that over time develop better personal financial habits around investing.

I also understand various DIY offerings but this Instagram like tool does not address any core financial need. We need to manage budgets, invest wisely, save, plan retirement. What big need is Robinhood and its future roadmap solving?

[1] Failed Wirecard held by ethical ETFs

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Standard Chartered and HKTDC Launch ‘Standard Chartered GBA Business Confidence Index’

Standard Chartered and Hong Kong Trade Development Council (“HKTDC”) are pleased to announce the launch of the ‘Standard Chartered GBA Business Confidence Index’, the first forward-looking quarterly survey in the market that looks at the business sentiment and synergistic effects across cities and industries in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area or GBA), to provide the latest business intelligence for those who are keen to grow their presence in the Greater Bay Area.

Standard Chartered: Kelvin Lau, Senior Economist, Greater China; Rose Kay, Head, Greater Bay Area; Mary Huen, CEO, Hong Kong – HKTDC: Margaret Fong, Executive Director; Johnny Wan, Director, Publications & E-Commerce; and Nicholas Kwan, Director of Research, ‘Standard Chartered GBA Business Confidence Index’ launch ceremony (6/22).

The index will be released every quarter and is computed from the analysis of more than 1,000 responses of GBA companies on their overall operations, business environment and expansion plan. The index includes five sub-indices which give indications on the business confidence for each industry, including manufacturing & trading, retail & wholesale, financial services, professional services and innovation & technology. It enables investors and businesses to better understand the current business climate, gauge future performance and formulate their market strategies in the Greater Bay Area.

Mary Huen, CEO, Hong Kong, Standard Chartered, said: “We are very pleased to join forces with the HKTDC to introduce the first GBA business confidence index in the market. We believe that the survey will help the public and companies in the region make appropriate strategic decision with economic insight in today’s ever-changing market environment. The Greater Bay Area is one of the biggest growth drivers of the Chinese economy and plays a significant role in the opening of China and gives companies in the region full play to the composite advantages of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. It will also help promote coordinated regional economic development and inject new impetus into the diversified development of Hong Kong economy. Standard Chartered will endeavour to expand our business in the region and would like to leverage its talents and technology in finance to develop our innovative financial products and services.”

Margaret Fong, Executive Director, HKTDC, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with the Standard Chartered again. By launching the first GBA Business Confidence Index in the market, we can assist businesses to formulate timely development plans and capture new opportunities. The HKTDC has signed agreements with the other 10 Greater Bay Area cities to facilitate companies in the region to expand their businesses through Hong Kong’s two-way platform, strengthening the city’s position as the region’s global investment and business hub. Going forward, we will help businesses tap into Greater Bay Area markets by providing them with intelligence, promotion and business matching opportunities through our exhibitions, conferences, missions and more.”

As a leading global bank with extensive branch network in the Greater Bay Area, Standard Chartered has been promoting the local economic development and put it as one of its key strategic priorities. Our unique global footprint and business expertise such as Belt and Road, RMB internationalisation, trade finance, bond market, digital innovation, wealth management and sustainable finance can meet the financial needs in the development of the Greater Bay Area.

bolttech enters Austria, taking its footprint to 12 markets across 3 continents

Launches device protection offering in partnership with leading telecommunications operator, Drei

Growing insurtech company bolttech announced today its expansion to Austria with the launch of its partnership with leading local telecommunications operator, Drei. The partnership will bring bolttech’s innovative device protection to Drei’s customers around the country, beginning with a mobile phone switch service “Drei Direkttausch”, the first non-insurance switch programme in the country.

bolttech’s Austria entry increases its presence to 12 markets across three continents, with its device protection offering now present in Austria, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

bolttech’s device protection is one of its four key capabilities in addition to its digital brokerage, technology and digital general insurance offerings – delivering fast and easy device protection through repair and delivery services, switch programmes, trade-ins and technical support to protect customers’ electronic devices for an uninterrupted digital lifestyle.

Rob Schimek, Group Chief Executive Officer of bolttech, said, “I’m thrilled that the launch in Austria brings bolttech to 12 markets around the world. Our business is continuing to grow faster than ever with new partnerships forged as well as key product launches. This expansion comes as we look ahead to take our technology-enabled insurance and protection ecosystem into new markets with valued partners and to connect customers around the world with more ways to protect the things they value.”

Rudolf Schrefl, Chief Commercial Officer at Drei said, “We are excited to partner with bolttech to introduce Austria’s first flexible handset swap programme. Another step towards improving our customer experience and delivering easy solutions to meet their essential service requirements. Together we will provide Drei customers with new and innovative ways to protect their smartphones.”

Elsewhere in Europe, bolttech device protection brought its switch programme to WINDTRE customers in Italy in late 2019. bolttech will also launch its brokerage offering in Italy in the coming months, connecting insurance providers with individual and corporate customers to offer digital insurance products quickly and seamlessly.

Andrew Cons, General Manager for Europe at bolttech, commented, “bolttech’s device protection enables people to live an uninterrupted digital lifestyle by protecting the technology at the centre of their lives. We are proud to bring this mobile device exchange service to Austria with our valued partner Drei and look forward to revolutionising mobile device protection for local customers through our unique programmes and fast and easy customer support.”

Vanguard taps blockchain fintech for FX

Share Vanguard and blockchain provider Symbiont are one step closer to integrating blockchain technology into foreign-exchange (FX) forwards processes across a network of a dozen banks, brokerages and asset managers. After two years of collaborating on a blockchain application to digitize and automate the FX forwards and contract process, the two companies are slated to …Read More

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Alerus, Fiserv launch financial wellness tool

Share Alerus Financial, a Grand Forks, N.D.-based institution with more than $2.3 billion in assets, is providing customers with comprehensive financial wellness scores through a partnership with Fiserv.  “If a client is going to be able to manage their financial well-being, they need to see their entire picture,” said Jon Hendry, chief information officer at …Read More

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