Movers and shakers: Notable November hires in fintech and banking

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/focus/innov-strat/movers-and-shakers-notable-november-hires-in-fintech-and-banking/

November saw new ventures and hires at some of the country’s largest financial institutions. Meanwhile, smaller players like BankMobile and Stash added key technology posts, and a SaaS fintech landed a major industry vet as its chairman of the board. Here are the most notable November hires: Truist snags JPM exec for new payments group […]

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/focus/innov-strat/movers-and-shakers-notable-november-hires-in-fintech-and-banking/

Clarity AI: Unlocking the Potential of Social Impact Investment

https://thefintechtimes.com/clarity-ai-unlocking-the-potential-of-social-impact-investment/

As people become more aware of the problems we face as a society, such as climate change, impact investing has become more and more popular across the globe. This refers to investments made into companies that have the intention of contributing to social good – whether that’s reducing carbon emissions or building houses for those in need. 

Someone who is well aware of this is Rebeca Minguela, founder and CEO of Clarity AI, an end to end technology solution that optimises the societal impact of investment portfolios. Here Rebeca outlines the company’s purpose and how it plans to achieve it.

Rebeca Minguela, founder and CEO of Clarity AI

2020 has been the most volatile and unpredictable year in recent history. The global pandemic has overshadowed everything. Its impact on countries, markets, companies and people will be felt for many years to come. But beyond Covid-19, we have seen powerful protest movements rise up for racial justice. We have also seen the US elect a president who envisages a very different role for his country in the fight against climate change. These are seismic events that fundamentally change our approach to life and the way we do business.

But how can we best interpret and act on these changes? How are companies adapting to the “new normal”? Will Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement actually change investment strategies in the long term? Indeed, do the growing number of investors actively seeking to increase their stakes in socially and environmentally conscious businesses have the tools they need to confidently do so?

These are the questions and challenges that inspire us at Clarity AI. I believe it’s never been more important for investors to gain accurate insights on the true impact of the companies in which they place their trust and their money. Expectations have changed and there are now significant reputational and commercial consequences for any investor who chooses to neglect what we call “impact”: the measurement of a company’s environmental and social role beyond just those metrics traditionally considered under ESG (which is based around the concept of avoiding risk). We believe it’s crucial that investors consider both ESG risk and impact when making decisions, which is why we built a platform that delivers more comprehensive and sophisticated analysis.

Historically, investors seeking to evaluate a company’s societal impact were faced with fragmented and unreliable data, inconsistent and subjective definitions, and a lack of tools and resources to measure at scale. It was too hard and resource-intensive to get accurate, transparent and comparable insights across companies and sectors, so many simply gave up or settled for less. That’s what Clarity AI was built to change. We use the power of technology and AI to create the world’s most reliable platform on social and environmental impact.

This is an area I’ve focused on for well over a decade, since discovering the world of impact investment at Harvard Business School. I recognized that this idea had the power to change the world. The theory is simple: focus the world’s most powerful investors towards the companies that make the most positive difference. The challenge has always been how you provide data-driven investors with the actionable insights to bring it to life.

As an entrepreneur, I am naturally an optimist! I believe that companies should focus on tackling big, difficult challenges. That’s the approach we take at Clarity AI and we have grown an incredible amount in a short space of time. In the last six months, we’ve seen a significant increase in demand – including signing clients with eight times the assets under management as in the preceding period. Today our network of clients represents USD trillion of assets under management.

We are scaling up our business and expanding our network to maximise growing demand. Last month, we raised US$15 million in our latest funding round – led by Deutsche Börse and co-investor Mundi Ventures – to bring our total funding up to US$30 million. We are signing new strategic partnerships with the biggest players in the investment and financial services sector to further expand our reach and influence. And we are working alongside global organizations like the World Economic Forum which seek to make sense of how we measure profit and purpose.

Ultimately our purpose is simple: to bring impact to markets and contribute to a more socially efficient allocation of capital. That’s why I’m extremely proud that our platform is enabling more investors than ever before to identify and support the companies helping to solve society’s biggest challenges. This is our way of changing the world.

https://thefintechtimes.com/clarity-ai-unlocking-the-potential-of-social-impact-investment/

Integral: Changing Consumer Behaviour Pushes Banks to Rethink FX Infrastructure

https://thefintechtimes.com/integral-changing-consumer-behaviour-pushes-banks-to-rethink-fx-infrastructure/

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced organisations from all over the world to embrace digital transformations in order to keep serving their customers, with banks and financial institutions no different. 

Vikas Srivastava is the Chief Revenue Officer at Integral, joining the company in 2010. Prior to joining Integral, Vikas spent ten years at Citigroup in New York in numerous senior management positions, leaving as its global head of e-commerce for the fixed income division. In this role, he was responsible for building and distributing electronic execution products and services across all fixed income and foreign exchange businesses, and managed Citigroup investments in multi-dealer platforms. Prior to working at Citi, Vikas was the head of currency trading and risk management at Barclays Global Investors (now BlackRock) in San Francisco.

Here Vikas discusses the digital transformations happening in banks as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Vikas Srivastava, Chief Revenue Officer, Integral

Digital transformation is happening across every sector, and banks, in particular, are beginning to recognise a digital framework that allows their services to be accessed from anywhere will be key going forward.

For banks of all sizes, implementing a digital-first infrastructure is top of mind as the latest Covid lockdowns underscore a lasting remote environment. As businesses and individuals continue to adapt to working from home, digital advancements have penetrated areas that previously have remained reluctant to technological change.

As we approach the end of 2020 banks are looking at how the digital push will begin to shape their evolution. Already, in other areas banks have seen individuals seeking out new digital capabilities, such as mobile deposits instead of visiting a branch in-person or sending money abroad to family members via online banking portals. The push for banks to implement modern payment technology infrastructure is upon us. Whether banks opt to build out their own updated technology frameworks or work with a technology provider to do that work at scale for a lower cost, their customers will increasingly assume that their banking partners are undergoing this alteration to meet their changing needs.

 Goldman Sachs has just debuted a new application programming interface (API) that allows users to integrate Goldman’s services with their own products, to help facilitate cross-border payments. The software allows clients’ programmers to build on top of the bank’s platform, providing that customisable layer that customers are increasingly asking for.

While Goldman, as a banking giant in its own right, is making moves to facilitate better cross-border payment infrastructure for clients, many players will likely turn to trusted providers in order to leverage scalable technology to continue on with digital transformation. A 2020 Innovation in Retail Banking report found that 73% of banks believe identifying the right partner is a roadblock to achieving their business goals. Likewise, 75% of those surveyed noted that digital banking transformation was their top priority moving into 2021. For small and mid-sized banks, updating payment infrastructure could be a costly endeavour to undertake during the current volatile market climate. Instead, leveraging a provider helps to minimise cost while still capitalising on the ability to offer clients modern technology solutions that fit their digital needs.

For many banks, legacy payment infrastructure has not been updated as consistently as other areas of the business that often take circumstantial precedence, such as regulatory reporting tech or client onboarding solutions. However, as more clients demand a digital-first banking partner, the more important it becomes for banks to prioritise their payments infrastructure and partner with the correct providers to make the infrastructure needs a reality.

While many unknowns loom on the horizon, it’s clear that digital transformation, and specifically payments technology with flexible FX infrastructure, is a top priority for banks. In today’s world where technology is accessible everywhere we go, it’s no wonder that the changing nature of the consumer is shaping how banks and the sell-side not only cater to their customers but also how they organise their back-office infrastructure.

https://thefintechtimes.com/integral-changing-consumer-behaviour-pushes-banks-to-rethink-fx-infrastructure/

Using AI to Combat Bias: Marcia Tal on the Advantages of Identifying Bias in Customer Complaints

https://thefintechtimes.com/51383-2/

Marcia Tal is the CEO and founder of Tal Solutions, a New York based advisory and management consulting firm that powers The PositivityTech Platform. This platform utilises customer listening to identify and implement opportunities for financial institutions to anticipate complaints and their causes and address customer feedback. Earlier this year PositivityTech launched the Bias Index, utilising AI to identify bias within customer and employee complaints.

In this interview, Marcia discusses the inspiration behind this platform and how organisations can prevent bias in the first place.

What is PositivityTech?

PositivityTech is an intelligent platform that integrates both human insights and artificial intelligence with different types of advanced analytic capabilities. It uncovers hidden opportunities that are sitting inside of customer complaints that can help with growth, risk management and much more.

The platform itself provides not only an understanding of current complaints but also gives early warning indicators. Leading indicators usually come about from what we call outliers – things that are outside of the norm. The whole idea of using complaints as a data source is outside the traditional box so the whole goal is to apply leading indicators.

What was the inspiration behind creating the platform?

I spent 25 years in banking and spent the majority of those years in different roles related to analytics. Over the course of all of that time, I developed a passion for listening to customers and I would do that in various ways by going to visit customer-facing centres. One of the things that I took away from all of this is that your customers tell you so many things that you really need to know, but we don’t really have a systematised automatic way of using that information as a credible data source. Additionally, I understood that if we actually looked at this as a credible data source, then we would have the ability to build all different types of tools by using this data, whether those are predictive tools, preventative tools, or even visualisation automation tools so that you could have easier access to seeing and understanding what your customers are saying.

I wanted to take all of this and actually build technology around it, fuelling that technology with data and then build the tools to demonstrate all of these capabilities. And that was the beginning of PositivityTech.

You launched the Bias Index on the PositivityTech platform earlier this year, could you tell us more about that?

The Bias Index is an AI predictive model that identifies prejudice within customer and employee complaints and makes it possible for financial institutions to repair products or unjust practices.

I wanted to empower people by using their voices, and now with the intersection of our health crisis, economic crisis and social crisis, it’s become more commonplace for people to use their voice. Everyone should be given a chance to express their opinion and everyone deserves dignity and respect. We recognise that if we listen to what customers are telling us in their complaints then we can identify the biases and work to remove them.

How do these personal and societal biases reveal themselves within these complaints and how does your software pick up on them?

If you can understand the driving forces behind the complaint, then you’ll be able to identify and extract the broader implications from it. We understood that it wasn’t just the words but the contextual reference of the words and the framing that indicates the suspected bias. We also understood that bias in customer complaints isn’t hugely prevalent, in fact, there is a relatively small amount of bias in these complaints making it harder to identify. However, it is important to be able to identify it and use it to grow.

We look at bias in three ways: explicit, implicit or suggested. Explicit means that the customer has actually told you that they have experienced discrimination. Implicit is where what someone is telling you suggests there is bias or potential bias there in the context. And then suggested bias is that the situation can lead to or is suggestive of the potential of bias. It might not always seem apparent that there is bias withing these complaints, but when looking at them with the contextual references around it with the AI tools we have to help then you can identify these kinds of biases.

Where in the industry is the most bias found?

Generally speaking, the most bias takes place face to face. So, in theory, all of the digital environments that we’re spending time on is actually better for bias, because you’re taking out that direct contact where the bias can happen, whether intentional or not.

The index has been live now for quite a few months, have you had much feedback from your clients?

We released the index back in June and one of the exciting things that has been happening is that we’ve now broadened across different industries as well. The reason for that is because bias is universal, it’s not as if it’s only going to be present in one in one kind of industry versus another. We’re finding the opportunity to expand beyond financial services where PositivityTech was first focused and now are moving into health care and the public sector.

What steps can banks and financial institutions take to prevent bias from happening in the first place?

The first step is recognition and awareness, which has to be rooted in data. You have to recognise what your customers are telling you as a credible data source and analyse it in a way that it can be utilised. At PositivityTech we have a four-step process: identify, understand, predict, prevent. First, identify where your risks are and understand them and the bias that is present. Then prediction is using tools like the bias index, where we can find a correlation between the severity of a complaint and the presence of bias within that complaint. And then finally there is prevent, which obviously means stopping it before it can happen.

From these steps we can find the root cause of the bias, perhaps connecting it to certain policies you need to alter or maybe identify that more training needs to take place for your customer-facing employees. You could also look at the diversity of your employee base and see whether that aligns with the diversity of your customer base. I’m an expert in driving data-driven cultures but I think having respect, dignity, patience, understanding and listening right as part of your culture is always going to make an environment people want to be in.

 What are your ambitions for the future of PositivityTech?

The first is to get more and more clients to understand the value of what it is that we are bringing to their business. Sometimes it’s not that easy because you’re really having to change the mindset around customer complaints. To us, a complaint is an opportunity, not a problem, and needs to be resolved, and that is the work of many parts of your organisation. We’re not replacing that what we’re doing is trying to raise the discussion and to understand a complaint can be an impetus for success. I have a lot of excitement in seeing clients begin to really embrace what it is that I’m doing.

The second is that PositivityTech has many components to it, so a client doesn’t need to licence the whole thing. We want to help clients understand the four aspects, (identify, understand, predict, prevent) and pick out what they want. Whether that’s just visualisation capabilities, the predictive tools or reports that benchmark how one company is going compared to another organisation. We want to raise awareness and embracement of the integration of your customer complaints as a data source to grow businesses. We also have a lot of ambitions in the data itself, and what broader ways that we can use this data in the future.

https://thefintechtimes.com/51383-2/

Square Takes on Taxes as Justice OKs Intuit, Credit Karma Acquisition

https://finovate.com/square-takes-on-taxes-as-justice-oks-intuit-credit-karma-acquisition/

From in-house innovation to outright acquisition, businesses have myriad paths to consider when looking to expand their product portfolios. We learned late last week that mobile payments company Square has taken one of the less flashy routes to growing its offerings: paying $50 million in cash for Credit Karma’s tax business. Square will add the service’s DIY tax filing functionality to its own Cash App.

The free tax filing option will be featured along with the app’s other financial tools, including P2P payments, Cash Card, direct deposit, and the ability to make fractional investments in stocks and bitcoin. Cash App was launched by Square seven years ago as a P2P money transfer service and has grown into an integrated financial ecosystem with more than 30 million monthly active customers as of June 2020.

“We created Cash App to provide more access to the masses of people left out of the financial system and are constantly looking for ways to redefine our customers’ relationship with money by making it more relatable, instantly available, and universally acceptable,” Cash App lead Brian Grassadonia said.

One in two tax filers – a total of 80 million taxpayers – prepared and filed their own Federal income taxes electronically in 2020, according to the IRS, and the trend is expected to accelerate. Credit Karma Tax Director of Engineering Patrick Fink underscored this point, noting that despite the “challenge” of filing taxes, more customers are transitioning toward filing taxes on their own. “Credit Karma Tax provides a seamless, mobile-first solution for individuals to file their taxes at no cost,” Fink said. “We’re excited to be joining an entrepreneurial team and continue to build simple, innovative tools for Cash App customers.” Credit Karma tax processed more than two million tax filers last year.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2020 and is subject to customary closing conditions.

Square’s investment in its Cash App is timely. At the beginning of the month, the company noted in its third quarter financial reporting that Cash App had generated more than $2 billion in net revenue and $385 million of its gross profit for the quarter. The performance reflected gains of 5.74x and 2.12x, year over year, respectively.

The timeliness of the transaction also has a lot to do with Intuit’s acquisition of Credit Karma, which was cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice last week. Announced at the beginning of the year, the $7 billion deal is Intuit’s largest acquisition to date, and by shedding Credit Karma’s tax business, an obstacle to the union between the two companies has been removed. Intuit is the developer of it own online tax filing service, TurboTax.

“We are very excited to reach this important milestone today,” Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi said. “This brings us one step closer to transforming personal finance by making it simpler for consumers to find the right financial products, put more money in their pockets, and provide financial expertise and advice.” 

The Credit Karma Tax announcement also comes one month after Square announced a $50 million investment in bitcoin, a sum the company said represented “approximately one percent” of the firm’s total assets as of the end of Q2 2020. Bitcoin trading has been available on Square’s Cash App since 2018 and, as of 2019, the company’s Square Crypto team has been contributing to bitcoin open-source efforts.

“We believe that bitcoin has the potential to be a more ubiquitous currency in the future,” Square Chief Financial Officer Amrita Ahuja said. “As it grows in adoption, we intend to learn and participate in a disciplined way. For a company that is building products based on a more inclusive future, this investment is a step on that journey.”

https://finovate.com/square-takes-on-taxes-as-justice-oks-intuit-credit-karma-acquisition/

DIFC Fintech Hive Signs Landmark Agreement with Israel’s Fintech-Aviv

https://thefintechtimes.com/difc-fintech-hive-signs-landmark-agreement-with-israels-fintech-aviv/

DIFC FinTech Hive, the largest financial technology hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, part of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), has signed a landmark agreement with Israel’s FinTech-Aviv.

FinTech Aviv was established in 2014 and serves the needs of the Israeli FinTech ecosystem and counts more than 6,000 start-ups and 300 research and development centres as members.

The agreement is the first of its kind for the UAE and Israel, and strengthens DIFC’s position as MEASA’s number one FinTech hub and one of the world’s top 10 FinTech hubs. The agreement announced today will enable DIFC to further support the UAE in facilitating economic growth from the technology and innovation sectors. Both parties will work together on events, knowledge sharing, talent development and facilitating mutual introductions and referrals for firms keen to expand in each respective jurisdictions.

The agreement follows the signing of the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalisation between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel on 15 September 2020.

Raja Al Mazrouei, Executive Vice President of DIFC FinTech Hive said: “Like Dubai, Israel is well regarded for its approach to innovation and embracing FinTech so it is important to collaborate now to share knowledge and develop the sector further. We are pleased to have partnered with FinTech-Aviv as we can achieve great things together. DIFC is now home to more than 240 FinTech related firms and the opportunities for growth are endless.”

Since DIFC’s FinTech Hive launched in January 2017, the hub has grown to become a leading centre of innovation globally. More than 50 per cent of all FinTech businesses in the GCC now operate from DIFC. The first half of 2020 witnessed DIFC FinTech Hive triple in size with the opening of a larger space in Gate Avenue supporting start-ups, scale-ups and entrepreneurs.

Nir Netzer, the Chairman of FinTech-Aviv said: “In this unprecedented time of reaching out to promote peace in the middle east, we’re honoured to initiate this unique collaboration in order to facilitate the export of Israeli technologies to new markets.

“The FinTech-Aviv community and its 30,000+ Israeli and worldwide members, proudly hold the torch of this exciting initiative and are humbled to be leading Israeli FinTech companies towards the exploration of new horizons with our new business partners.”

The DIFC has also recently entered into an agreement with Bank Hapoalim, one of Israel’s largest banks and founded in 1921 and publicly-traded and listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE). Both entities will benefit from a wide range of mutually beneficial opportunities with the agreement enabling DIFC to further support the UAE to facilitate economic growth from the finance and innovation sectors.

Dov Kotler, CEO of Bank Hapoalim, said: “The agreement signed with Dubai International Financial Centre is an important milestone. We hope to serve, extend and strengthen the financial relationship between our two countries. It will enable Israeli FinTech entrepreneurs a gateway to the dynamic and vibrant Dubai ecosystem, and help foster cross border innovation, the cornerstone of the Abraham Accords which were signed only a few months ago. It is an honour to be the first Israeli bank to construct this important bridge for innovation.”

https://thefintechtimes.com/difc-fintech-hive-signs-landmark-agreement-with-israels-fintech-aviv/

Black Friday 2020: “Pay Later” Methods Grow as Volume of Payments Decreases Compared to 2019

https://thefintechtimes.com/black-friday-2020-pay-later-methods-grow-as-volume-of-payments-decreases-compared-to-2019/

Mollie, one of the fastest-growing payment service providers, has revealed insights into the most popular payment methods used this Black Friday. The data, which provides a year-on-year comparison of 2019, shows that payment methods allowing customers to pay flexibly – like ‘pay later’ service Klarna – has more than doubled in 2020. The study spans 101,000 merchants across Europe, primarily from Germany, U.K., France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

This years Black Friday trends include:

  • In 2019, Mollie saw a 36% increase in the overall number of transactions on Black Friday versus the previous year. In 2020, this shot up to a growth of 56% on the 2019 numbers, representing a difference of 20%.
  • And this year, even in the four days leading up to Black Friday, there was a 58% YoY growth in transactions.
  • Use of ‘buy now, pay later’ services on Black Friday (such as Klarna or ClearPay) has more than doubled from 1% of all payments in 2019 to almost 2.5% in 2020.
  • Use of mobile payment methods on Black Friday is consistent on the previous year – 0.20% in 2019 to 0.25% in 2020.

“There is a lot of pressure on consumers’ wallets at the moment, which is making people look to payment methods that offer them financial security,” said Ken Serdons, Chief Commercial Officer at Mollie. “It makes sense that fintechs like Klarna, who have performed phenomenally well this year, have been so popular this Black Friday. The increase is in-line with this growing trend towards more flexibility in how consumers pay for goods.”

Despite Mollies increase in the number of transactions this year, Barclaycard Payments, which processes nearly £1 in every £3 spent in the UK, has so far seen a -16.7% decrease in the volume of payments compared to the same period on Black Friday last year.

Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments, said: “We’re now able to look at a full day’s worth of Black Friday sales, and as expected the number of transactions is down compared to last year. It’s important to note that transactions are still up considerably compared to the rest of lockdown, but the real focus now will be on Wednesday 2nd December – the end of the national lockdown in England – when we predict that shoppers heading back to the high street will bring about a ‘Black Wednesday’, with transactions likely surpassing what we’ve seen today.

“In what has been a difficult year for UK Retail, I would like to congratulate businesses for the resilience and determination they have shown. Thanks to the lessons learned in the first lockdown, we have never had more businesses set up to take payments online, offsetting much of the drop in in-store sales over the past month. In fact, if businesses hadn’t taken those lessons on board and embraced e-commerce to the same degree, we believe that the overall drop in transactions could have been up to twice as large.”

https://thefintechtimes.com/black-friday-2020-pay-later-methods-grow-as-volume-of-payments-decreases-compared-to-2019/

Saudi banks downgraded by Fitch

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/saudi-banks-downgraded-by-fitch/

Due to an unstable economy, falling oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus, Saudi banks are struggling in maintaining profitability and credit ratings. Eight Saudi banks had their long-term Issuer Default Ratings revised from stable to a “negative rating by credit rating agency Fitch, according to a report in GulfNews.com.

Despite the change in ratings, Fitch said Saudi can support the banking system, although the banks’ net interest margins will remain under pressure.

Seven out of 10 banks reported a decline in NIM, and interest rates are at a system-wide low.

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/saudi-banks-downgraded-by-fitch/

Ohio credit union using interactive tellers

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/ohio-credit-union-using-interactive-tellers/

Seven Seventeen Credit Union in Ohio has installed nine interactive teller machines in 12 of its branches.The interactive tellers can be used with or without the personal video feature and are open longer than the bank lobby or the drive-thru according to a report on WKBN Ohio.

The interactive teller answers customers questions, can assist with transactions and users can select the denomination they would like when making a withdrawal.

The tellers also have anti-skimming and anti-fraud detection features and the screens of the machines are antimicrobial to ensure customer health and safety.

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/ohio-credit-union-using-interactive-tellers/

FirstBank launches next-generation ATM

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/firstbank-launches-next-generation-atm/

FirstBank has launched the FastTrack ATM in Africa that is completely touchless. The FastTrack ATM, also known as the touchless solution, allows customers to use a mobile phone to conduct transactions using the bank’s quick codes or mobile banking app, in advance of visiting the machine, according to a report in Sun News.

When the customer arrives at the FastTrack ATM they complete the transaction by tapping a contactless near field communication card on the ATM to complete the transaction and withdraw cash.

The FirstBank FastTrack ATM is the first of its kind in Africa.

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/firstbank-launches-next-generation-atm/

Holiday season 2020: Get ready for change

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/blogs/holiday-season-2020-get-ready-for-change/

Steve Villegas, VP of Payment Partnerships, North America at PPRO takes a close look at the upcoming holiday season and ways merchants need to pivot in order to stay competitive.

Many aspects of life have been transformed in 2020, and the upcoming holiday season will be no exception. Shoppers have migrated the bulk of their shopping to online channels, while merchants have been forced to enhance their digital capabilities. In other words, we’re all in store for a very different holiday shopping season. And it could shape the years to come.

Here in the U.S., many big-box retailers like Target and Walmart have already announced Thanksgiving Day retail store closings to guide consumers online, while Amazon Prime Day kicked off earlier in October to accelerate the start of the holiday shopping season.

Customization at the final and arguably most crucial step of the e-commerce experience – the payment page – is essential this holiday season. Especially given the substantial purchasing power outside U.S. borders, and the fact that 3 out of 4 global e-commerce purchases are made with nearly 400 types of local payment methods.

The global opportunity is clearly available for merchants who can create consumer-centric payment experiences: 19% of UK consumers shop cross-border with U.S. merchants. A significant slice of their total cross-border e-commerce volume of $46.4 billion. China’s cross-border e-commerce market is worth an astonishing $217 billion, of which 14% shop with U.S. retailers.

Holiday 2020 and beyond

For merchants, this holiday season is vital for a few reasons. Not only are many retailers relying on Q4 to recoup losses and maintain 2020 sales targets, but their holiday performance will also serve as a litmus test for digital experiences moving forward. A poor shopping experience could lead to losing a customer permanently, while a seamless one can ensure lasting loyalty.

Getting ahead of the curve now is crucial; 47% of global shoppers are more interested in shopping online for the holidays this year compared to last year, and this trend is expected to accelerate even further in 2021.

The next few months will accelerate a digital arms race for merchants looking to develop the best possible e-commerce experiences for shoppers.

A holly, jolly digital-first season

As many physical retail locations will either be closed or at limited capacity this holiday season, the next few months could be the biggest event in e-commerce history. Besides, why would consumers want to wait in line at a department store in the middle of the night on Black Friday when they could receive the same deal from the comfort of their couch at any time? Especially in 2020, when crowded brick-and-mortar locations come with enhanced COVID-19 risks and expected product shortages.

This trend of a digital-first holiday season may be new to the U.S., but around the world, the pandemic has only further fueled existing behaviors. Take China’s Singles’ Day or 11.11, for example. The shopping holiday, which takes place each year on November 11th, was created by Alibaba and quickly became the world’s largest online shopping event – often bigger than Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Each year, the event has toppled sales forecasts. 2020 was no different, as sales were estimated to be around $40 billion mark.

A key element of Singles’ Day success is its ability to expand globally. With origins in China, Singles’ Day is now a global phenomenon with shoppers from many regions partaking in the shopping event and Olympic-sized celebrations. This year’s event will serve as a great benchmark for the rest of the holiday season and offer guidance for merchants looking to replicate similar growth via global e-commerce sales.

Merchants must take a page from the Singles’ Day playbook and prioritize their digital channels more than ever over the next few months to capitalize on an industry-bending moment for retail.

Merchants need to broaden payment options

As e-commerce demand and merchant competition continue to rise, local payment methods will be vital for merchants to tap into global markets and offer seamless experiences. Bank transfers, e-wallets, cash-based digital payments and local cards are the dominant payment methods globally, used in more than 70% of all consumer transactions.

U.S. merchants will need to broaden their payment options beyond the typical MasterCard and Visa, or risk missing out on shoppers outside U.S. borders. This could mean offering cash-enabled e-commerce methods like Oxxo or Rapipago to attract LATAM shoppers, where 17% of all online transactions are made via cash, or leveraging e-wallets like Alipay or WeChat pay for APAC consumers, which make up 46% of the region’s online payments.

Across the globe, we are seeing a surge in demand for mobile, Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL) methods like Afterpay or Klarna to help offset some of the economic impacts of the pandemic. This demand for mobile payments will be crucial as up to 1 billion hours will be spent on mobile shopping apps in Q4 2020, up 50% from Q4 2019.

This holiday season will serve as an e-commerce strategy template for years to follow. Retail is at a crossroads, and the impacts of the next few months will help chart the path for 2021 and beyond. Merchants that enable payment flexibility by catering to global shoppers will prepare themselves for lasting success, ensuring they are on the right side of this industry transformation.

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/blogs/holiday-season-2020-get-ready-for-change/

Central Bank of the UAE Launches Dedicated Fintech Office

https://thefintechtimes.com/central-bank-of-the-uae-launches-dedicated-fintech-office/

The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) has announced the launch of the CBUAE Fintech Office during Fintech Abu Dhabi 2020, MENA’s largest Fintech Festival which is co-hosted by CBUAE and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). The CBUAE Fintech Office aims to develop a mature Fintech ecosystem within the UAE and position the nation as a foremost Fintech hub regionally and globally.

H.E. Abdulhamid M. Saeed Alahmadi, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, said: “The UAE is no longer on the fringes of the global Fintech revolution but moving toward the centre of it. At the CBUAE, we have played a proactive role to build a mature Fintech ecosystem in the country.

“We are proud to contribute to several of the UAE’s national objectives through the establishment of our Fintech Office as it is a pivotal element of the strategy for advanced innovation. This Office will allow us to accelerate the transformation of digital payments and support financial inclusion. In addition, the CBUAE Fintech Office is mandated to execute the UAE’s Fintech Strategy which is centred on innovation and collaboration.”

The CBUAE Fintech Office will be working hand in hand with the industry and regulatory authorities to embrace innovation and digital transformation whilst promoting a culture of robust risk management. Furthermore, the Office will be supporting in attracting international and regional Fintech companies and providing a platform for all market participants to collaborate and innovate.

This commitment is backed by two-pillars: first being effective and balanced regulations, and second, being robust digital infrastructures. These two pillars form a solid foundation for five core building blocks to allow continued development and innovation of Fintech in the UAE, which comprise of: research and application; regulatory interface; coordination and liaison between relative stakeholders; talent development in UAE; and cross-border collaboration.

https://thefintechtimes.com/central-bank-of-the-uae-launches-dedicated-fintech-office/

Wealth in Your Pocket: The Rise of Microinvesting

https://thefintechtimes.com/wealth-in-your-pocket-the-rise-of-microinvesting/

There was a time when investing was the preserve of those with wads of cash to set aside. And there was a time when anyone with a stable job would save their hard-earned cash for a rainy day. But now that people are saving less than ever before, microinvestments are becoming the perfect answer for those with less disposable income. 

In the UK, microinvesting in funds has been around for more than four years, but in individual shares, it’s only been around the UK for two or three years.

However, says Jon Steinberg, co-founder Mountside Ventures, “It’s a prominent segment of the wealth and investment market as it’s a mass-market, catering to those who are time-poor, with fewer savings.” Microinvesting enables consumers to diversify more easily, therefore spreading any risk involved.

Steinberg says he’s seen consumer interest in the microinvesting sector rise in the last few years. “Microinvestment apps are at the heart of this trend – according to a recent Adjust report, investing app installs were up over 60% in the UK compared to the previous year, a significant rise.”

You might think you’d need to have serious dollar bills at the ready to get gold bars delivered to your front door but that’s not the case. Minted, an investment platform which allows individuals to buy and sell gold bullion, was created just last year when Hamzah Almasyabi and his co-founders noticed a sharp increase in demand for safe investments. The gold itself comes straight from the Nadir Metal Refinery, one of the largest refineries in Europe, and offers customers to both invest from just £30 a month or buy gold in lump sums with free storage and insurance. 

Previously, only the extremely wealthy could afford the costs involved with buying and selling gold bullion. But Almasyabi believes that is no longer the case. He said, “Affordable microinvesting and, especially in something like gold, is especially relevant right now.

“Uncertainty is the buzzword of the hour. We’re living in extremely uncertain times and global economies are reeling at the moment due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. People are looking to minimise the risk to their savings or to losses in the stock markets and are looking for more stable ways of investing that can provide a safe haven.”

Gold seems to be the ultimate safe haven. While gold prices can fluctuate, the general medium-to-longer-term trend with gold prices is an upwards trajectory, says Almasyabi, “Physical gold has intrinsic value in its own right. No matter how the markets fare and how much prices fluctuate, an ounce of gold will always remain an ounce of gold that you own. People like that security and peace of mind.”

Additionally, gold usually does well in times of uncertainty, which naturally attracts investors. “Unlike assets such as property, gold can be liquidated quickly for cash if needed,” says Almasyabi.

As more fintech companies and digital platforms offer gold as a product that customers can manage digitally from their smartphones, market reporters and commodities analysts are all expecting gold to hit new heights in 2021.

Sustainability and tech are also popular among microinvesters. “We’ve seen from Wombat analytics that top-trending funds are the ‘The Techie’ and ‘The Green Machine’. This means that firstly, their millennial user base is investing in tech, mostly because they are familiar with the brands and are consumers themselves. Secondly, Wombat is seeing people move towards impact investing and investing in what matters to them.”

Fractional shares have made investing more accessible and enabled even more customers to share the success of some of the winning 2020 brands. We’re foreseeing that micro-investing has a very promising future,” Steinberg says, “as it helps break down previous barriers of investing and appeals to the next generation of investors.”

Covid-19 has disrupted every industry and the consumer investing scene is no different. Says Steinberg, “From speaking to our fintech clients, Wombat included, we know that because of the pandemic more people understand they need savings and a rainy-day fund. A segment of the population who are now working from home, and therefore not spending money on their commute, their lunch, and after-work drinks, are able to put these funds elsewhere. With the realisation that savings interest rates are fairly non-existent, this generation is wanting to make their money work harder for them.”

With the extra time some people have gained during coronavirus, they’re wanting to build better habits whether that’s eating, sleeping, fitness – building better financial habits comes into it too. “The search term ‘how to invest’ is twice as popular compared to this time last year, based on Google web searches,” says Steinberg. Microinvestments seem to pose the perfect solution. 

  • Hazel Davis is a freelance writer based in West Yorkshire. She writes on a wide range of subjects, from music to fintech, for the Guardian, Telegraph, Financial Times, Times, Currency.com, Capital.com and Euromoney.

https://thefintechtimes.com/wealth-in-your-pocket-the-rise-of-microinvesting/

Financial Infrastructure API Companies Garnering Attention

https://gomedici.com/financial-infrastructure-api-companies-garnering-attention

The financial infrastructure space has always been interesting, right from when MEDICI started following it 6–7 years ago. During that time, very few people seemed to be interested in it. However, we saw its potential in terms of what it could do and become. Since 2015, we have been seeing an increasing interest in this space. With the rise of open banking over the past 3–4 years, APIs (in general) and financial infrastructure APIs have garnered much interest. APIs have saved FinTech companies and even larger companies from the trouble of building entire stacks by themselves. With the help of APIs, smaller companies can compete with larger establishments by resolving the challenges that were ignored or put off due to incapacity.

We track over 200+ financial infrastructure API companies. In the last article, we had mentioned few of the companies. Taking a step further, we want to showcase more companies and the funding received (by region). The financial infrastructure space is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Here are some c …

https://gomedici.com/financial-infrastructure-api-companies-garnering-attention

Equity Crowdfunding Part 2: Innovation from two world’s colliding

https://dailyfintech.com/2020/11/30/equity-crowdfunding-part-2-innovation-from-two-worlds-colliding/

The equity crowdfunding market is consolidating (see Part 1). That does not signal the end of disruptive innovation. The wild unregulated Crypto ICO world is colliding with the now more established equity crowdfunding market.

The Crypto ICO (Initial Coin Offering) world is bleeding edge and unregulated. ICOs were like the Napster phase of digital music – free and illegal replacing expensive and legal. The next phase will be like Spotify or iTunes – cheap and legal. The reason Crypto ICO is disruptive is because, like digital music, it is at least 10x more efficient due to “Concurrent Delivery Versus Payment ” which was first defined by BIS as long ago as 1992 and which which we described in this post as having two key points:

  • Both assets and funds need concurrent settlement. Transfer has to be final & unconditional, without any time lag between the two (any time lag is ripe for fraud). This concurrency requirement is absolute. Just faster (e.g. Getting from T+3 to a few hours or even minutes) does not meet the concurrency requirement, because hours or minutes are eons to a fraudster.
  • Must be on a gross (trade for trade) basis. Any attempt at netting creates delay and creates a multi-tier market infrastructure that will impede innovation. We have Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) today – between Central Banks. The disruptive change is RTGS between individuals and companies in a permissionless network (i.e the way that the Internet works).

What was a gleam in the futurist’s eye in 1992 is a bit of smart contract coding today.This is what makes the recent news of

Publicly Traded INX Crypto Exchange to Acquire Broker-Dealer Openfinance so interesting. This is these two worlds colliding.

Notice the words being used. INX is “publicly traded”. It is also regulated by the SEC. Yet it is traded on Ethereum like a token. INX is buying OpenFinance which is described as a “broker dealer” which is a term that  anybody living in the regulated finance world is familiar with.

Tokens are interested because they can represent ”rewards” or “securities” or both and they are 10x more efficient due to Concurrent DVP.

Scale starts with consolidation and disciplined execution. Myth makes it a trade off of disciplined execution or innovation. The equity crowdfunding market is showing us that it is scaling through disciplined execution and innovation. Watch this space!

Bernard Lunn is Editor and CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy

Daily Fintech’s original insight is made available to you for US$143 a year (which equates to $2.75 per week). $2.75 buys you a coffee (maybe), or the cost of a week’s subscription to the global Fintech blog – caffeine for the mind that could be worth $ millions.

https://dailyfintech.com/2020/11/30/equity-crowdfunding-part-2-innovation-from-two-worlds-colliding/

Lunu: The Benefits of Crypto and Why PayPals Bitcoin News Received Mixed Responses

https://thefintechtimes.com/lunu-the-benefits-of-crypto-and-why-paypals-bitcoin-news-received-mixed-responses/

PayPal has recently announced that it would start accepting bitcoin payments, sending the value of the cryptocurrency soaring. However, not everyone is happy at the news, and PayPal’s announcement drew mixed responses from the fintech community.

Vadim Grigoryan is a partner and co-founder at Lunu, a provider of payment systems and solutions that allow stablecoins to be used in everyday life. The company has introduced a mobile terminal and processing service that allows customers to spend cryptocurrency as local currency at the point of sale in retail transactions without expensive exchange commissions.

Here Vadim discusses the benefits of digital cryptocurrencies to the economy, and why PayPal’s news isn’t so great after all. 

The recent news surrounding PayPal entering the crypto ecosystem spread great enthusiasm across blockchain communities. The payments giant announced its plan to acquire crypto companies to expand its services, opening the door to central bank digital currencies (CBDC). While this is good news for the crypto-community, as it raises awareness around crypto-related topics, customers should be aware of PayPal’s terms and conditions.

The company will not allow users to import cryptos already held and will disable interactions with third-party wallets already owned by customers. Cryptos can neither be imported nor exported. Also, users can only buy from and sell to PayPal, each time following PayPal’s Ts&Cs and potentially leading to exchange rate losses. Last but not least, in the absence of private keys, users won’t even be able to access their cryptos.

So, although this news does have the benefit of pushing Bitcoin into the public light and raising awareness around crypto, PayPal is certainly not democratising cryptocurrencies (as the public tends to think). In this case, we would say bitcoins are being offered to PayPal users as an asset, rather than a currency.

The key benefits of digital and cryptocurrencies for the economy

The main benefit deriving from the decentralised nature of blockchain is the security surrounding data. This means that instead of storing data in a single location, the technology distributes small chunks of data to a network of computers, minimising the risk of data loss. Moreover, cryptocurrencies are not subject to political risks such as inflation. This is why they are gaining momentum in countries like Argentina, where they offer real protection against high inflation rates. Cryptocurrencies are also borderless – the users are not bound by national frontiers.

There are many benefits to cryptos and we could continue the list for quite a while, as different user groups generally have their own motivations. While some users want protection against high inflation, others strive to identify themselves as part of a new generation, with new values focused on transparency, openness, and fairness.

For companies, there is also a technological advantage. Crypto payments are not just faster and more secure, they are also cheaper as third-party providers are not involved, asking for potentially high fees and/or commissions. By cutting out sometimes expensive middlemen and receiving payments faster, companies will be able to boost their growth and perform better in the long run.

How the retail industry can benefit from these new currencies

We’ve already highlighted the technological benefits of cryptos for companies, but there is numerous additional benefit for retailers – especially in these times of lockdowns and looming economic recession. With the number of crypto users reaching the symbolic threshold of 101 million worldwide in 2020, a relatively big customer segment has been created. It opens retailers up to new, younger, more affluent audiences that are constantly growing in numbers. Companies who can bridge the gap between cryptos and their products and services will therefore be able to access a whole new customer base. But despite this, too few businesses accept crypto as a means of payment.

Expanding the variety of payment methods can also have a positive impact on retailers’ customer service. This consequently adds more value to the brand, positioning it as innovative and making it more attractive to a wide range of stakeholders.

Why luxury brands will be early adopters

Luxury brands in Europe will be the first ones to be drawn to cryptos as they will recognise that it is more than a currency – it also reflects the values of a new generation. Cryptocurrencies in Europe are associated with fairness, transparency, and openness, which are values luxury brands seek to be associated with as they reach out to international and younger generations.

As luxury brands often rely on their heritage, introducing cryptocurrencies can help them get a competitive edge. The luxury sector is also already heavily focused on endorsing high-profile influencers to make the products more desired by their audiences. As a consequence, even the hardware assisting digital payments should meet the highest standards of quality mixed with a sleek design as adopting the most innovative payment methods can help retailers simply reach more affluent audiences, at no additional cost.

Also, as an example, Courbet recently became the first jewellers brand in Europe to offer its customers the opportunity to pay for their purchases using cryptocurrencies. As an advocate for the use of laboratory conceived diamonds and recycled gold, Courbet saw a reflection of its values in this innovative method of payment.

https://thefintechtimes.com/lunu-the-benefits-of-crypto-and-why-paypals-bitcoin-news-received-mixed-responses/

250% Increase in Fraud Attempts Since the Start of Covid-19 Reveals IDnow

https://thefintechtimes.com/250-increase-in-fraud-attempts-since-the-start-of-covid-19-reveals-idnow/

IDnow, a provider for Identity Verification-as-a-Service solutions, has published the latest figures on changes in fraud methods within the digital environment in its “Cyber Security Report 2020”. The company sees a strong increase of 250% in fraud attempts.

Since the beginning of the year, IDnow has seen a general increase in the demand for digital services and processes. With this development, however, digital fraud methods have also changed and, in addition to new scams, show a dramatic increase over the year.

Between March and June, when many countries ordered a lockdown and processes had to move to the digital environment, IDnow saw new developments in identity fraud. Cases of Similarity Fraud increased by 231% during this period, Fake-ID fraud rose by 180% and Social Engineering attacks by 75%.

The fraud methods themselves also show new tricks that are adapted to the current pandemic situation. IDnow saw new cases, especially in social engineering: fraudsters use, for example, applications for government aid programs or, in the context of increased unemployment, false job advertisements as a lure.

“In the past few months, our security system has seen a sharp increase in fraud attempts and numerous new methods against which we protect our customers. We have invested in a comprehensive concept and early indicator detection to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters,” says Armin Bauer, co-founder and Managing Director Technology at IDnow. “In addition to technical warning systems, we have set up an anti-fraud team here to do research in Darknet, test fake ads ourselves and exchange information with victims to study the exact approach of the fraudsters. In this way we can detect and avoid attempts of attacks at an early stage.”

https://thefintechtimes.com/250-increase-in-fraud-attempts-since-the-start-of-covid-19-reveals-idnow/

Capgemini Finds 2021 Will See Executives Focus on Cashless Payment Security [Report]

https://thefintechtimes.com/capgemini-finds-2021-will-see-executives-focus-on-cashless-payment-security-report/

2020 has been one of the most transformational years for the payments industry, significantly altering the way we pay for goods and services across all generations and globally. Though even before the pandemic happened, payments have been gearing up to the change, with Covid-19 accelerating the shift towards digital.

Capgemini has released a new report, “Payments Top Trends 2021” to show the drivers, opportunities and risks shaping financial services in the coming year. The report has revealed that 2021 will bring a greater focus on investment on innovative technology, while the ongoing rise of cashless payments mean executives shall begin to take a greater focus on security.

Capgemini’s Payments Trends 2021 report explores the industry-shaping trends set to define the next year in the sector, including:

  • Customer is (still) king – the customer experience will continue to dominate the executive priorities and will remain a focal point in 2021. Banks shall continually adopt a curate-and-collaborate approach to develop in-house capabilities by collaborating with agile players.
  • Continued rise of non-cash transactions – Covid-19 has fast tracked alternative payment adoption. We are seeing this growth being driven by smartphone penetration, booming e-commerce, and adoption of digital wallets – while mobile and QR-code payment innovations are also helping drive the shift.
  • Non-cash payments do not come without risk – While investments in emerging technologies upsurge, payments firms augment their focus to combat fraud and fortify data security. This will be cemented through creating a unified industry framework to combat fraud becomes the priority, especially given the rise of open networks.
  • A looming BigTech presence– Tech giants are steadily expanding their presence, fortifying market share in payments as a gateway into expanding into broader financial services. By focussing on one-stop-shop super/lifestyle apps, they have strengthened their ecosystems allowing them to extend into areas including wealth management, insurance, lending, SME services, checking accounts.

To find out more or view the report in full click here.

https://thefintechtimes.com/capgemini-finds-2021-will-see-executives-focus-on-cashless-payment-security-report/

Delaying the inevitable by regulating self-custody wallets

https://dailyfintech.com/2020/11/30/can-non-custodial-crypto-wallets-replace-banks%E2%80%A8/

In a tweet on Thanksgiving day, Tim Armstrong, CEO at Coinbase, posted that US Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, is rumored to be working on a law to regulate self-hosted crypto wallets. Supposedly he’s rushing to wrap and deliver this law before the end of Donald Trump’s term of office on January 20, 2021. The proposed regulation will require exchanges to verify the identity of users who use self-hosted wallets, before a withdrawal could be sent to their self-hosted wallet. According, to John Bolton’s book, the former National Security Advisor claims that Trump told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in May 2018, to “go after Bitcoin”. Well, as expected the news triggered a lot of concern, and the price of bitcoin dropped by $3,000, before it rebounded above $18k. While the announcement of such regulation may have a short-term negative impact on prices, the long-term outcome doesn’t change, because bitcoin is linked to a new frontier, the digitization of money and value. In response the Blockchain Association released “Self-Hosted Wallets and the Future of Free Societies – A Guide for Policymakers”, a new report presenting policy options for self-hosted wallets to regulators. Coin Center published “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Unhosted Wallets”, an expert opinion by Jai Ramaswamy (formerly the head of the Department of Justice’s Anti-Money Laundering division), also defending non-custodial crypto wallets. Both the Blockchain Association and Ramaswamy agree that AML is needed but for on/off ramps for fiat to crypto and vice versa. The essence of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is that they allow anyone to have custody privacy and control over their digital assets. If US regulators did go down this path, they would be fighting against open source wallets and open source currencies, a difficult thing to do on many different levels.

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the founder and CEO at Kryptonio, a “keyless” non-custodial bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallet, that lets users manage bitcoin and crypto, without private keys or passwords.

Self-hosted crypto wallets or non-custodial crypto wallets are cryptocurrency wallets that let individuals and organizations store and use their digital assets, instead of having to depend on a third-party financial institution to store their coins. Users can create a wallet by downloading third-party software on their computers and mobile phones or through hardware devices that store digital assets.

There are many types of wallets that range from full-custody to self-custody wallets. Most cryptocurrency users, store their bitcoin on exchanges or hot wallets because of the ease they offer, but also have a history of being hacked. Smarter and more experienced users, use self-custody or hardware wallets that let them manage the private keys of their bitcoin.

In the past, when bitcoin faced regulatory uncertainty, its price skyrocketed. Last time it happened was in 2017 when China announced it would ban bitcoin. This time around it’s the US beating the drum.

If the rumor Armstrong tweeted about becomes a reality, there could be several cases that are affected:

  1. Sending crypto to smart contracts to use DeFi apps. Smart contracts are not necessarily owned by any individual or business that could be identified.
  2. Paying online merchants using crypto, and require customers to verify the identity of businesses before they can buy a product.
  3. Sending crypto to people in emerging markets, where it may be difficult to collect information about the recipient, since people may not have a permanent address or identity documents.
  4. Sending crypto to people in developed markets who value their financial privacy and may not want to upload  identifying documents to receive the cryptocurrency.

Why is this a big deal?

Governments want to be in full control of monetary policies, because this gives them power to govern. In times of crisis, like we are facing now with the coronavirus pandemic, being in control allows them to print money and hand out stimulus to people and businesses. But this is a losing and near-sighted strategy.

If this regulation comes to pass, it would instantly increase the demand for DEXs and create two markets. On one side you will have users that relinquish all their privacy to centralized services and on the other you will have “orthodox” believers of the original principles of crypto.

Bitcoin’s growing popularity poses a risk to the traditional banking system. Mnuchin is only trying to delay the inevitable and give banks more time, to figure out their next step. The U.S. must recognize that strong financial technology companies are a matter of national security. But technology alone is not enough. Supportive regulations for bitcoin and cryptocurrencies is essential.

The existing financial and banking system is based on antiquated models and technologies and faces dramatic change from digital wallets, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies that are coming from everywhere around the world. Regulation needs to get in tune with the times.

The rumor about this regulation, only puts the US at risk, as a financial and innovation hub. Unfortunately, this opens the door for other countries to become “friendlier” and dominate future innovation. Instead of embracing openness and the values that allowed the U.S. to dominate the global market in the Internet era, the US. is taking a tough stance. The reality is that the USA is not nearly as relevant in the crypto markets as most people think. The EU and Asia are already the main drivers for crypto adoption. Binance has over $13 billion in spot volume, while rejecting customers from the US.

The US needs to change its strategy, understand that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are the new frontier and play the long game to maintain its lead.

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https://dailyfintech.com/2020/11/30/can-non-custodial-crypto-wallets-replace-banks%E2%80%A8/

When it Comes to Training and the Financial Sector – Is Work From Home Actually Working?

https://thefintechtimes.com/when-it-comes-to-training-and-the-financial-sector-is-work-from-home-actually-working/

Many, perhaps most people, love the idea of a future of working from home (WFH), especially if they have space and facilities. But amid all the euphoria and social media hype, some are asking the question, at what costs to the employer, the customer, and the integrity of the sector? 

Despite being a big personal fan of WFH, Adrian Harvey CEO, Elephants Don’t Forget, states that: “Regulated firms run a considerable risk that their governance and control procedures will fail regulatory audit(s) because their employees are working from home and not working from the office.”

Harvey believes that this is all to do with how most employees learn and critically, retain in-role knowledge and develop and maintain capabilities and competencies. And suggests that most firms have entirely disregarded the role peer-to-peer learning plays in an employee’s performance and conduct, and the fact that this critical learning medium has evaporated in a work from home environment.

He said, “Peer-to-peer learning accounts for between 50-80% of an employee’s in-role competency.  So, if you are recruiting a new employee virtually, how long – if ever, will it take for them to achieve competency in the role? Tenured employees are not immune either, change is constant, and, in the past, peer-to-peer learning played a massive role in the up-skilling of the workforce with new practices, processes and knowledge.”

Research conducted by Elephants Don’t Forget pre-Covid-19 (based on over 74 million individual interventions including employees within the Financial Services sector) states that the average level of employer-required knowledge amongst tenured employees was just 54%.

Now, as many firms in the sector are running almost 100% WFH, the reality is knowledge could not only fade faster, but new recruits are simply not achieving the standards required. Some firms are demanding their BPO’s only assign agents with at least 12 months of brand experience to their accounts because they know agents will not be competent if recruited and trained entirely virtually.

The FCA has already fired a warning shot across the bow of firms. Speaking at a City Financial Global event in October Julia Hoggett, Director of Market Oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority, said security arrangements for staff privy to insider information should be the same when working remotely as when in the office.

She added, “Our expectation is that going forward, office and working from home arrangements should be equivalent – this is not a market for information that we wish to see be arbitraged.”

If knowledge and capability fade, in the absence of a dynamic office environment and peer-to-peer learning, there is a risk for firms claiming that their governance is as robust working from home as it was working from the office. But this is one place where artificial intelligence could help.

“The reality is that firms must face facts and recognise that WFH isn’t just an IT challenge, it is a very real human challenge”, said Harvey. “We use award-winning AI to augment and support employees, both newly hired and tenured to arrest knowledge fade and develop and maintain in-role capability. And it only takes 1 minute 30 seconds of an employees’ day and usually costs less than £10 per employee, per month

“Given that WFH will likely be here well beyond Covid-19, shouldn’t your firm be looking at technology like artificial intelligence which is designed for this ‘new normal’ and not relying on controls designed for a secure and dynamic office environment?”

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

https://thefintechtimes.com/when-it-comes-to-training-and-the-financial-sector-is-work-from-home-actually-working/