The Next Boss Fight: Gaming 2021

Predicting the future was once relatively straightforward for technology-based industries. Take a look at the emergent tech, understand user engagements, extrapolate trends, and craft informed expectations. Then 2020 happened and suddenly the only certainty was uncertainty.

Technology became a universal necessity and, as McKinsey pointed out, sped up the adoption of digital technology by years. A whiplash level of speed as companies went into digital transformation to ensure they were capable of remaining relevant in an online world. Gaming was just as fortunate – the World Economic Forum found that this industry saw significant increases in sales and adoption during the pandemic.

As the world continues to wrestle with the complexities introduced by the pandemic, what realistically lies ahead for the gaming sector? What shifts in adoption and what trends are likely to define 2021 and beyond? According to Indranil Chatterjee, Chief Customer Officer at Enea gaming is arguably larger than music and movies with no sign of it dropping off after the pandemic. He believes that the cloud will become the next big gaming frontier as gamers, loyal to the title not the device, will move into the cloud with ever evolving cloud gaming services with heavyweights such as Microsoft and Amazon.

This need to create new and sticky games and experiences is one that will likely drive the industry going forward. As Tom Pigott, CEO of Ludo AI, points out, “In a 159.3-billion-dollar industry, the pressure to release new hit games is relentless. Every developer is under pressure to create a viable pipeline and now with so many ways of testing games quickly the appetite is at an all-time high for new games ideas and concepts.”

Which is where brands will step in. According to Rob Chalmers, Chief Experience Officer at ENGINE Creative brands will be expected to make the leap into the multi-verse, transitioning their marketing strategies from online ad buys to existing in a shared, virtual economy. Brands won’t be advertising, they’ll be participating and looking for creative ways to add value to games such as skins and in-game purchases. This is a view shared by Lana Meisak, VP Business Development at Gismart, who believes that: “New revenue streams through intertwining different industries within the gaming industry such as music and advertising will likely become more prominent, as will a surge in mergers and acquisitions of gaming companies, particularly among smaller studios.”

Interestingly, this is a common prediction with Paul Sheldon, Senior Art Director at Gweirydd, explaining: “A continuing trend in 2021 is game arenas used for social events, concerts, and festivals. For example, Fortnite held a Scott Travis concert which was viewed by 12 million people, proving the audience is out there! Minecraft also persists as a favourite for many music festivals, with sold out tickets to enjoy the show last year.” eSports is also likely to contribute to this growing trend in in-game advertising, branding and engagement, as Chris Kissack, Head of Esports, Digital Isle of Man points out: “While not solely driven by the pandemic, the more eyeballs on creators within the esports and gaming industry has resulted in more revenue generating opportunities in the space, especially with endemic and non-endemic brands looking to capitalise on viewership numbers.”

For Jose Caldera, chief product officer at Acuant, however, blockchain is set to be a foundation shaker in the gaming sector as a way of increasing security and access. Blockchain’s capabilities allow for the democratisation of gaming and the creation of safer open markets for digital gaming assets. Paul Marcantonio, Executive Director – UK & Western Europe at ECOMMPAY predicts that it will become all about innovation and seamless payments as console, desktop and mobile transactions will become increasingly interlinked and more accessible, streamlining user experiences and in-game transactions.

What lies ahead for gamer and industry is a competitive digital playground that will battle for gamer attention while consistently investing into innovation to hold that attention tightly in the future. From the fresh-faced gamer who arrived for entertainment in the pandemic to the eSports veteran, there will be experiences and developments designed to capitalise on their interest. Ben Moxon who is a Research Director at The Nursery concludes: “Both market- and behaviour-related shifts are expected to dictate further development of the industry as a whole especially through re-ignited competition between the biggest players due to tech advancements, as well as emergence of new types of gamers looking for specific forms of entertainment formed during the lockdowns of 2020.”

  • Tamsin Oxford is an experienced generalist who has written for finance and tech for more than 20 years. She’s written for multiple publications and markets and continues to find the topics both fascinating and brilliant.

Primary Launches $150m Seed Fund for New York City Start-ups

Primary Venture Partners (Primary), a VC firm focused exclusively on investing in New York City startups, has announced the launch of a new $150m fund, the largest seed fund dedicated to New York City startups to-date. In addition to this third fund, Primary today announced it has closed $50m for its second Select fund—closing a total of $200m across these two new funds.

Primary will use this third fund to invest in the most talented founders entirely from the New York City tech ecosystem as they work to build the next generation of transformational businesses, further solidifying the firm’s loyalty to local entrepreneurs.

Primary’s current and previous portfolio companies have experienced success, such as  which was acquired by Walmart for $3.3B, Mirror which sold to Lululemon for $500m, K Health which recently achieved Unicorn status with a $1.5B valuation and Latch which is merging to go public via a Tishman Speyer SPAC that values the company at over $1.5B.

Despite COVID’s economic impact, Primary recognizes that New York City is the second biggest tech ecosystem in the world valued at $147B,  and the firm remains devoted to keeping it on top.

“New York City has diversity, grit and passion in a way that no other city has, and we firmly believe that this multi-dimensional magnetism is core to the evolution and ever-growing success of the startups that are created here,” said Brad Svrluga, Co-Founder and General Partner at Primary.

“Our diversity—of people, industries and cultural assets—and the breadth of domain expertise in our workforce—across finance, fashion, advertising, real estate, media, CPG, pharmaceuticals and more—are this market’s and Primary’s greatest assets. It is this diversity that led the city to bounce back from the Global Financial Crisis, which so many thought would be a crippling blow to New York. Instead, the tech community in many ways was fueled by the meltdown on Wall Street and has never looked back.

“Now, as the city begins to rebound from COVID, we are doubling down on our commitment while many others fear for the future of this market, and will continue to play an integral role in shaping the next wave of New York City startups which we believe will be stronger than any other market in the country.”

Ben Sun, Co-Founder and General Partner at Primary, added:  “As a lifelong New Yorker, I’m excited to invest in the next generation of New York City startups and continue to work with the amazing founders that call this city home. We have seen an influx of great entrepreneurial talent in New York over the last decade. When we started Primary, I wanted to build a firm that could provide the support to founders that I never had on my own founder journey as an operator. Six years later, I’m proud to say that we are having that impact, as our founders tell us every day.

At the same time, our bet on my hometown—a bet that was far from obvious to people when we got started in 2014—has proven to be a very wise one. NYC has now emerged as one of the most important startup markets in the world, and the best is yet to come.”

Protokol: How Blockchain Can Help eSports Put Fans First

In just ten years, the esports industry has transformed from a largely underground pastime into a billion-dollar industry. One of the key drivers has been its ability to attract huge viewing numbers. Over 496 million people watch eSports, both online and in-person, across the globe.

Lars Rensing, Protokol

Lars Rensing, Protokol

Lars Rensing, Protokol

However, Lars Rensing, CEO of enterprise blockchain solutions provider Protokol, believes that this enormous growth comes with several challenges, some which teams are being forced to adapt to at lightning pace. From difficulties engaging and forging relationships with an increasingly growing fan base, to limitations with fan traceability, and issues with generating actionable data for sponsors – the esports industry is facing some tough challenges.

Many of the key challenges esports organisations are facing boil down to one common theme: the fans. While the industry as a whole thrives, fragmented systems, disjointed processes and out-of-date fan management systems mean that teams are struggling to get a clear picture of how their fans are behaving, what their needs are and how best to reward them for engagement. In a fast-growing industry, teams who can’t achieve this kind of insight and adapt to changing fan demands risk leaving a significant portion of their fan base behind. And with Covid-19 driving a sharp growth in viewers and engagement with esports online, as well as attracting a mainstream audience due to traditional sports matches being cancelled, they also risk not capitalising on a new generation of esports fans.

As a result, esports teams are looking for innovative ways to effectively engage and monetise fans in order to bring teams, supporters and sponsors closer together, and better understand what keeps fans engaged. This is where blockchain comes in.

Building a fan-centric ecosystem

One of the main problems at the moment is visibility. Esports teams have a huge social following and constantly growing viewing numbers, but they don’t have a fool-proof way of understanding how these followers are engaging with their teams. By using blockchain, teams can create a fan-centric ecosystem which puts the needs of fans at the centre of their business and makes it easier to collect, interpret and convert data insights to drive fan relationships and loyalty.

On these platforms, fans can be rewarded for certain things, such as creating and sharing content, or through loyalty programmes that allow them to accumulate points or rewards to spend on merchandise, tickets, and digital collectibles. These platforms not only help to foster a sense of community for fans but can also enhance a team’s relationship with sponsors.

Blockchain technology is transparent in nature, as everyone on the blockchain can be allowed to have access to the information stored in it. This means that teams can share fan interaction data seamlessly with sponsors, giving them verified and immutable engagement metrics, leading to a better ROI and creating stronger more profitable business relationships for the teams. For fans, it means visibility over the transactions when it comes to being awarded or spending loyalty points. What’s more, because this information is decentralized (i.e. stored on a secure blockchain network, rather than one centralized server), there is also no single point of failure, making the data incredibly secure and almost impossible to corrupt. Blockchain, then, can provide reassurance of the validity of the metrics and insights gathered from fan interactions, helping sponsors generate a better ROI.

Creating fan tokens

Teams can go one step further by incorporating blockchain-based fan tokens into their fan ecosystems. These digital tokens act as a team’s own virtual currency, which fans can purchase for fiat currencies, like dollars, euros and pounds, making them a viable revenue stream for teams. Fans exchange the fan tokens for merchandise, collectables, in-game assets or exclusive experiences. Fan tokens are a finite, digital asset backed by secure blockchain technology. Data related to ownership and transactions of fan tokens is automatically stored on a secure, decentralised digital ledger, allowing teams to access in-depth fan interaction data that can seamlessly and securely be shared across the ecosystem, giving valuable insight to both sponsors to business partners.

For fans, ownership of fan tokens offers them the ability to use their tokens to unlock discounts on merchandise, access unique experiences, or participate in fan-led decisions through a mobile voting platform; as well as serving as a ticket into a secure, exclusive inner circle of fans with shared passions and beliefs.

Digital asset and collectibles

In-game purchases made to buy special objects like guns or swords are generally one-time, non-transferable investments. This has been a bugbear for fans for years, who have been calling for more easily transferable assets. With blockchain, this no longer needs to be the case. The technology can be used to give players full ownership of these items, allowing them to take the items out of their original games, sell them on for profit, or even use them in other games.

Blockchain can also allow teams to create either unique or limited-edition collectibles which fans can purchase and which can’t be can’t be destroyed, replicated or forged. This has already proved highly profitable for digitally native fans, as we saw with the wild popularity of the CryptoKitties game in 2017. Esports teams can take advantage of this by creating collectibles like digital trading cards of their players for their fans to collect, opening up a completely new revenue stream.

Particularly during the pandemic, the eSports industry is in a unique position to appeal to an enormous network of global fans. In order to capitalise on this growth, teams need to explore innovative new ways to ensure fan experience stays at the centre of everything they do. Teams that do this will be well placed to continue the astronomic growth of the industry, while keeping fans engaged, sponsors happy, and opening up new revenue streams.

  • 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.

The Fintech Nations Summit – Live from Tel Aviv on March 1st-14th

The FinTech Nations virtual summit is coming up on March 1st-14th. It will bring thought leaders from across the world to talk about fintech. 

Join FinTech Nations Summit & Hackathon 2021, a 14 days open platform virtual summit for gaining access to fintech business & investment opportunities into the global top fintech markets and leading financial banks, neobanks, payments companies.

100+ speakers, over $ 100K Prizes for the Hackathon winners, leading countries – all in one summit.

To find out more about the event The FinTech Times spoke with Nir Kouris, the founder of the summit:

Within the Middle East region, the tiny nation of Israel has built one of the world’s most advanced tech ecosystems. This has caused it to earn its reputation as a “Startup Nation” , which is also reflected in its fintech ecosystem. To read more about The Startup Nation read A 101 of The Startup Nation: Israel’s Startup and Fintech Landscape.

MonetaGo on Invoice Fraud: Why Digitalisation is Our Best Defense
Jesse Chenard, CEO at fintech MonetaGo, looks at why the risk of invoice fraud is higher than ever and analyzes how the landscape is changing. He outlines the reasons why invoice fraud still thrives today and discusses how technology could provide the solution.

Jesse Chenard, CEO MonetaGo

Invoice fraud is as ancient as trade itself – yet businesses across the globe are still falling victim to it. The NMC Health scandal was just one of the many cases last year where invoice fraud could have been mitigated if governments and financial institutions worked together to implement better invoice fraud prevention practices.

As economies across the world begin to recover from the pandemic, we will see a flurry of activity in trade across the globe. While the economic benefits of this are inarguable, another direct consequence of an uptick in activity is an increase in trade fraud and invoice fraud is no exception.

Fraud flourishes where confusion reigns

Fraud flourishes amid uncertainty, chaos and outdated processes, which tend to be those that are paper-based. Over 80% of global trade relies on trade finance, yet many financial institutions still rely on paper-intensive documentation and clunky legacy systems, leaving invoice finance susceptible to fraud.

In 2018 the global invoice factoring and finance market was worth $2.9 trillion. It’s time for government and financial institutions to come together and provide innovative solutions for fraud prevention.

The key to preventing the confusion which allows fraud to flourish, is to streamline trade finance processes and make it simple for financial institutions to detect and prevent fraud. Digitising paper-based workflows enables better recording of transactions and permits mistakes and fraud to be more easily spotted. Building an inclusive trade fraud prevention solution that operates at the industry level brings clarity and pro-actively prevents fraud. The more financial institutions that use the solution, the more the risk of double financing is mitigated.

To truly mitigate invoice fraud, financial institutions and governments need to co-operate at the industry level to build a holistic solution that works for all parties – individual company policies can only go so far. In order to eradicate invoice fraud, all parties need to be on the same page and able to securely share information to detect and prevent invoice fraud.

Looking to a digital solution

Many of the challenges outlined above could be solved through industry-wide co-operation and digitisation of trade finance. For this to work, legacy systems and paper-based workflows need to be overhauled.

Distributed ledger technology is one of the most powerful solutions which would enable financial institutions and governments to mitigate invoice fraud. With blockchain, huge amounts of paperwork could be verified and processed automatically. An immutable blockchain ledger could provide transparency over the transportation and processing of physical and online goods.

By taking select information from invoices, hashing them so they can’t be used to obtain primary customer information, and then uploading them onto a distributed, decentralised ledger, it is possible to prevent duplicate financings in real-time, while simultaneously protecting sensitive information related to clients and market share.

Since the data can be securely shared between all network participants, the distributed repository prevents duplicate factoring by the financier prior to trade confirmation. Blockchain makes it simple for financiers to check whether an invoice has already been financed by another party. Once a financier has chosen to finance an invoice, it is then clearly marked on the distributed ledger. It is also possible to automatically validate the authenticity of invoices by checking the information against available tax information associated with each invoice. In other words, this type of system can eliminate the risk of fraud in invoice finance entirely.

Co-operation at the industry-level and digitisation of fragmented legacy systems through new technologies is the key to mitigating fraud in invoice finance. Cross-border flows could be tracked from start to finish, and the need for paper could be eliminated entirely. With the right technology, we can learn and evolve from the lessons of invoice fraud, mitigate future occurrences, and allow all countries to prosper through safe and secure trade.

Crypto Parrot Finds Demand for Crypto Debit Cards Surges 194% in 12 Months

Data presented by Crypto Parrot indicates that global interest in the keyword ‘crypto debit card’ has surged by 194.1% over the last 12 months on the Google Search platform. The interest attained peak popularity score of 100 in February 2021 while a year ago it was at 34.

Among countries, Nigeria leads with a peak popularity score of 100 followed by Australia at 45. Netherlands ranks third with a score of 44 followed by Canada at 40 while the United States comes in fifth at 39.

Interest from the United Kingdom ranks sixth with a score of 36 followed by India at 15 while Germany is eighth with a score of 12.

Several factors have led to a strong interest in crypto debit cards mainly due to the increased adoption of digital assets. The report highlights other drivers for the interest.

According to the research report: “Furthermore, there has been an explosion of companies like Visa and Mastercard getting involved in crypto payment systems through debit cards. At the same time, more merchants are increasingly adding digital currencies to payment methods. It is, therefore, logical that people would be interested in acquiring crypto debit cards.”

Being a new financial phenomenon, crypto debit cards might face regulatory hurdles from non-crypto friendly jurisdictions.

In general, the crypto debit cards are helping holders get involved in the digital assets’ space while bridging the gap between the digital asset world and traditional finance space.

Digital Wallets More Popular Than Debit Cards For Online Payments In UK

Digital wallets have overtaken debit cards as the most popular form of online payment, research has revealed, as the UK e-commerce market sets new records for online spending, 

The UK e-commerce market reached £192billion in 2020 in a 13 per cent rise from 2019, according to Worldpay from FIS. It also predicts that by 2024 more than 20 per cent of all purchases in the UK will be made online, with spending reaching £264billion.

In the 2021 edition of its The Global Payments Report, Worldpay from FIS also reveals that digital wallets have leapfrogged debit cards to become the most popular online payment method in the UK.

Digital wallets now account for 32 per cent of all online payments, followed by debit cards (29 per cent) and credit cards (21 per cent). By 2024, digital wallets are predicted to make up 40 per cent of online transactions.

Analysis also suggests that by 2024 40 per cent of all online shopping in the UK will be done via mobile.

Pete Wickes, general manager EMEA at Worldpay from FIS, said: “E-commerce is booming and now, more than ever, retailers need a strong online presence to capture consumer spend. The shop floor is now in the palm of our hands and consumers expect the same hassle free and convenient retail experience – whether it’s on the go, in store or from the comfort of their living room.”

The report also found that buy now, pay later (BNPL) services are the fastest-growing online payment method in the UK, a trend that is expected to continue for the next four years. BNPL transactions in the UK will grow 29 per cent year-on-year, doubling market share to 10 per cent by 2024. Overall BNPL spending in the UK will rise from £9.6billion in 2020 to £26.4billion in 2024.

It follows a report back in December by budgeting-app HyperJar, which revealed one in four consumers in the UK used a buy now, pay later credit scheme to pay for their Christmas shopping in 2020, totalling to £2.3 billion.

BNPL under scrutiny

Earlier this month, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority outlined plans to regulate buy-now-pay-later agreements used by companies, such as Klarna, after a government review found potential for consumer harm.

Under these plans, providers will be subject to FCA rules so will need to undertake affordability checks before lending and ensure customers are treated fairly, particularly those who are vulnerable or struggling with repayments.

Signicat Finds European Financial Institutions Lose Over €5bn Yearly to Poor Customer Onboarding

Signicat, a digital identity company, has revealed new analysis by P.A.ID Strategies that shows financial institutions are wasting at least €5.7 billion every year due to poor customer onboarding and abandonment.

The analysis follows the release of Signicat’s regular report into the state of financial services onboarding, The Battle to Onboard 2020. This year’s report was the worst for the industry since it debuted in 2016, with 63% of consumers in Europe abandoning financial applications in the past year. This is a sharp increase of 23 percentage points from the abandonment rate in 2019.

To understand the financial implications of such a high abandonment rate on institutions’ cost of acquisition, Signicat commissioned specialist research firm P.A.ID Strategies to build a model using primary data from European banks and the abandonment rate uncovered by the Battle to Onboard survey.

According to the model, around 120 million new accounts will be opened across Europe this year. Signicat’s Battle to Onboard research shows that 63% of people abandon an application. By making conservative estimates of the cost of customer acquisition including advertising, sponsorship and promotion, personnel wages, and customer support—and allowing for multiple applications by the same person, P.A.ID Strategies conservatively estimates that at least €5.7 billion is wasted each year.

“Customer acquisition is a hot button issue right now—some new banks are especially keen to reference their figures to prove to the market how well they are doing,” said John Devlin, founder, P.A.ID Strategies. “But much of that spend is wasted. Consumers will simply abandon processes that they see as too challenging, problematic or intrusive. Without dealing with this last hurdle in customer acquisition, the financial services market is squandering billions every year.”

“As a result of the pandemic, onboarding customers digitally, securely and seamlessly is vital for organisations to continue doing business,” said Asger Hattel, CEO, Signicat. “Billions are spent on clever marketing and compelling products every year by the smartest people in the business—and it works, with millions of potential customers starting applications for financial products. Yet it is vital that the industry takes note of where they can improve the onboarding experience, in order to turn these applicants into actual customers.”

For fully digital customer onboarding in the financial services industry, the following steps are usually required: identity verification, validation of identity information (such as screening against sanctions lists to comply with KYC and AML regulations) and electronic signing for terms and agreements or contracts.

Logica Reseach Finds Historic Shifts in Payments With Huge Decease in Cash Usage

The latest release of the Logica Future of Money Study has uncovered historic and notable shifts in payments, with a significant decrease in the use of cash. Also seen was a notable rise in the use of debit and credit cards, payment apps, peer-to-peer payments, instalment payment options, and PayPal usage. 

Some of the key findings of the report were:

  • One quarter (25%) of Americans reported that they used cash for their most recent in-person payment in Fall of 2019, but one year later in Fall of 2020, only 17% used cash for their most recent payment.
  • 27% of Americans are using peer-to-peer (P2P) payments more, with Gen Z and Millennials leading the way.
  • Buy Now / Pay Later (BNPL) is on the increase, with 14% of Americans reporting that they are using BNPL or instalment plans more often now, since March 2020.

As payment options proliferate, the study concludes that consumers will be looking for easy, fraud-proof ways to pay that help them manage their cash flow—including card, payment apps, P2P and BNPL programs.

At the same time, merchants will need to navigate the payment options for their customers to optimise the check-out experience, particularly online. For payment platforms, they need to understand the end-to-end experience for both consumers and businesses, and how to evolve them.

The newest insights in the ongoing study are based on data collected from a nationally representative group of 1,000 American adults balanced on gender, income and generation. An additional 200 older Gen Zers (age 16-23) were also included for generational comparisons. The results illustrate how people have continued to change their approach to making, spending, saving and investing money.

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

Basiq Launches External Liabilities to Surface Loan Data For Australian BNPL and Alternative Lenders

As credit card usage declines and consumers turn to alternative lending, access to data outside of credit accounts is necessary for any company looking to improve the way customers borrow and repay money. To help fintechs and lenders gain insights into all their customer’s liabilities, open banking platform Basiq has launched External Liabilities to surface loan data across Australia’s most popular buy now pay later and alternative lenders.

Fintechs have done a great job of fostering financial inclusion for underbanked consumers. Whether it’s zero per cent interest, faster approvals or flexible finance at point of checkout, borrowing money is more customer-centric and convenient than ever. The average consumer only needs to visit the app store for a growing number of options that give them access to credit in minutes.

For Basiq CEO and founder, Damir Cuca, as innovation makes borrowing easier, it’s just as important to help consumers manage and make repayments.

He said: “Today, most fintechs and lenders only have limited visibility into a customer’s liabilities. This makes it difficult to help customers track, manage and consolidate debt. Our goal is to accelerate market innovation to guide customer’s into affordability and financial wellness.”

Basiq’s data network allows customers to link liabilities data from over 100 financial institutions for a complete picture of their loan obligations. Recently, the platform added support for External liabilities, a feature that surfaces data from Australia’s most popular BNPLs and alternative lenders.

Access to data is real-time, meaning fintechs and lenders can gain actionable insights on a customer’s financial position for faster, better lending or to personalise the way customers make repayments.

Innovators can also differentiate further by taking advantage of the ongoing access to data to retain and nurture customers out of financial hardship and into financial wellness. This is especially powerful when combined with Basiq’s ability to aggregate data across liabilities, assets, income and expenses for the full financial picture of a customer.

Mastercard and ACI Worldwide Announce Real-Time Digital Payments Infrastructure Collaboration

Mastercard and ACI Worldwide, a global provider of real-time digital payment software and solutions has announced that Cámara de Compensación Electrónica (CCE) will utilise the ACI Enterprise Payments Platform to accelerate financial institutions’ access to Mastercard’s Instant Payment Service, the new real-time payments managed service that will enter Industry Testing in Peru later this year.

CCE is the first customer Mastercard and ACI will collaborate on following the announcement of their alliance in September 2020. Mastercard and ACI are working together to offer best-in-class central infrastructure, payments localisation and access solutions to central banks, scheme operators, financial institutions, payment service providers, and other organisations launching real-time payments initiatives.

CCE is a private institution that manages the clearing of financial institutions’ transfers, direct debits, credit instalments, checks and bills of exchange. It initially launched its real-time payments scheme—Immediate Interbank Transfers (IIT)—in 2016 and is working with Mastercard to fully modernise Peru’s digital payments infrastructure. This announcement means that ACI will combine its payments access and real-time message transformation technology with Mastercard’s Immediate Payments Service, the central infrastructure being deployed as a managed service using the ISO 20022 message standard to deliver an unmatched end-to-end offering for CCE. CCE’s IIT service operates 24/7; its transfers can be performed using the internet or mobile banking and are processed in real-time.

The ACI Enterprise Payments Platform will operate alongside Mastercard’s Immediate Payments Service to simplify and speed up connectivity for participants to Peru’s new real-time ISO 20022 scheme, ahead of Industry Testing, which will begin later this year. Financial institutions will be able to connect to the new scheme via new, modern APIs.

“The volume of immediate transfers that we process each month has more than quadrupled. In January 2020, we processed 580,000, a number that increased to more than 2.8 million per month by January 2021,” said Martín Santa María, CEO, Cámara de Compensación Electrónica (CCE). “Thanks to the Mastercard and ACI Worldwide partnership, we can exceed this growth, as both consumer and business demand for real-time payments rapidly increases across the country.”

Carlos Pontes, executive vice president, New Payment Platforms, LAC, Mastercard, said: “Modernising a country’s payments infrastructure is a major undertaking and we have a long, global track record of successfully deploying real-time payment systems. We are excited to continue our work with CCE together with ACI to develop a powerful and flexible real-time payments solution. This infrastructure will provide a platform for innovation to support the country’s economy, transforming the payments landscape for both financial institutions and their customers.”

“Latin America is at the forefront of payments modernisation, with Peru among several countries in the region planning to adopt real-time payments based on ISO 20022, with its potential high-value-add use cases. As these countries look to launch their own real-time payments schemes, they are turning to ACI and Mastercard, and we are excited to deliver Peru’s new real-time central infrastructure,” said Jeremy Wilmot, chief product officer, ACI Worldwide. “The combination of ACI and Mastercard technologies working together will accelerate adoption of real-time payments in Peru by supporting an easy onboarding path for the participants of the scheme.”

How Can Gamification in the Office Environment Actually Work?

Gamification of the workplace has been an area of serious consideration for the last decade. As technology has evolved, the potential of applying game design, technology and techniques to non-game environments, including business settings, has grown. Not just as a means of incentivising teams, but of simplifying and streamlining processes, aiding workers and enhancing productivity. 

Nigel Cannings, Founder and CEO of Intelligent Voice

Here, Nigel Cannings, CTO at Intelligent Voice, explains how gamification in the office environment could work.

In some verticals, we have already seen a strong move towards the use of augmented reality (AR). In warehouses, AR allows for faster stock location. And throughout the pandemic, Amazon has used AR to help its employees maintain social distancing. It also allows for simpler repairs and maintenance across sectors, as AR can provide detailed step-by-step instructions, as well as warnings of unusual failure states that the person doing the repair might be unfamiliar with.

But to date, there has been little movement to take AR/VR (virtual reality) out of industry and into the office. The new working practices necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, have presented a number of opportunities. Not just for the management of a remote workforce, but with the potential to change working practices for good.

What shape could the gamification of the office environment take?

Some applications of AR and VR are reasonably obvious:  But it has potential to stretch across a wide range of functions.


At a time when remote working has become common practice, there has been significant focus on the enhancement of the digital meeting experience. Virtual reality and augmented reality hold the potential to completely change the game.

In a VR world, people can be placed into a completely virtual space, and interact with colleagues in a completely artificial arena. It’s a way to remove the distractions of the everyday home environment and focus the attention on the issues at hand. However, with some questions being raised about the long-term detrimental effects of prolonged exposure to VR environments, it might not be the best route to take for all communications. Instead, AR meetings provide the more accessible middle ground, allowing users to interact with colleagues in a familiar space, while reducing the long-term effects of dislocation. This allows VR to be reserved for team-building, and other occasions where a virtual world can be used to enable role play and help with the engagement of team activities.

The virtual office

Of course, there is more to work than simply time spent at workstations. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of a physical workplace and the effects of proper employee dynamics and interaction, and the impact this has in terms of both productivity and employee wellbeing. With many people describing how they miss the casual interaction that they get in a physical office, businesses are looking for ways to return that sense of place and the experience of having a colleague sitting in close proximity, both at a time of social distancing, and as a means of extending the potential scope of remote working in the post-pandemic environment.

With AR and VR there is the opportunity for the creation of a virtual drop-in space. While this can’t replace the experience of working in a busy office, it can provide that virtual watercooler experience.

Employee engagement

A major concern with remote working has always been employee engagement across the working day. However, Covid-19 has compelled cross-sector homeworking, revealing many corporate financial benefits. But sustaining that financial benefit, as well as employee engagement for the longer term, could be trying. So far, we’ve seen some of the slightly more sinister surveillance techniques adopted – the use of facial recognition for employee concentration monitoring in Zoom calls, and keylogging software. But VR and AR present more positive, proactive solutions to keeping teams engaged.

Consumer engagement

Equally, gamification holds potential in the field of customer engagement. So far, we’ve been looking at how to recreate what we had before. But AR/VR allows us to expand how we interact with our customers. Imagine if a customer service rep could actually diagnose a problem remotely, just by having a customer point their camera at a faulty appliance. Or a bank manager could sit virtually with a client and help them with financial advice. With AR we can stretch the interaction that we have between company and consumer.

But we can also go further. Because with AR/VR we only ever see a representation of the person on the other end (an avatar), there’s often no need for a person to be present in the first instance. Chatbots have become commonplace, but their capabilities are expanding. With VR, we can easily start an interaction with a chatbot that represents itself as human like, and when the going gets tough, or when we have initially triaged the problem, slot in a human to replace the chatbot.

What are the potential concerns around VR/AR?

The greatest tech concern right now is privacy, and it is as pertinent in gamification as it is in the adoption of online meetings and video calls. As we move our interactions online, there is a real opportunity to use the recorded data to help us make better decisions and spot problems.  Automatic meeting notes seem an obvious first step, and then you can dig deeper, by looking at people’s behaviour. Tracking an employee over time might uncover patterns of behaviour that show they are under stress and need help.  All of these are great positives that can be gained from this data. But there is also the dark side of this, where we start to track and monitor what employees say and do, and use this to evaluate performance, or use a declining mental health record as a reason to look to terminate contracts. And that’s before we’ve even got to the unauthorised access and dissemination of information. This places privacy and ethics at the forefront of any conversation linked to gamification.

Gamification is an area of an enormous potential in the office environment. It not only solves some issues thrown up by the pandemic, but begins the journey towards the blended workforce, allowing the onboarding of flexible working, homeworking, the seamless integration of freelance talent, and optimising employee experience and wellbeing. The issue is not whether gamification can support business, but how we can use it to best advantage and without ethical infringement. And that’s going to be the interesting area to watch as we move forward.

  • 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.

Prism AG and Royal Strategic Partners set to Acquire Finablr Assets

The Consortium behind the acquisition of UAE Exchange is in advanced discussions with BFC Group Holdings over a potential merger that would create a regional financial services powerhouse in the Middle East with licences to operate in over 30 countries.

Prism Group AG and Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners formed a Consortium in December 2020. The Consortium has agreed to buy the assets of Finablr Ltd, which has a presence in 170 countries and includes the UAE Exchange, Unimoni and Xpress Money brands, from Finablr Plc. BFC Group’s products include BFC Forex and BFC Payments.

Negotiations with BFC are at an advanced stage and the transaction should be finalised by the second quarter of 2021. The deal would create the largest remittance services and currency exchange group in the MENA region, to become the only operator with a direct presence in all six GCC countries.

Prism Group CEO Amir Nagammy said: “We are confident of the deal concluding and excited about taking a major step towards creating a market-leading, pan-global financial services company in the region. We are at the start of a new era in the financial services industry in the Middle East and the combined group will be well-placed to play a leading role in the transformation of the sector. We plan to leverage new technology to become the first truly omnichannel financial services company in the region, offering fast and efficient payment systems for over 24 million clients.”

The proposed deal underlines the Consortium’s ambition to become the progressive regional player within the payments and currency exchange space. It would combine two of the largest and most well-established remittance-service companies in the region and create a market-leading financial services group with huge growth potential in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world. It will invest in a digital transformation plan that will revolutionise the way payments are made by making it easier and faster to make payments.

Dr. Hamad Al-Ali, CEO of Royal Strategic Partners, said: “This proposed merger illustrates the rapid progress the Consortium has made towards realising its goal of creating a regional fintech company that can compete on the global stage. We have a unique opportunity to build a financial services group of significant size and scale, which has the potential to transform the way transactions are conducted around the region and the wider world.”

BFC Chairman, Ziad El Chaar, said: “BFC has been operating in the region for over a century. During that time, it has established a hard-won reputation for integrity and innovation. The proposed merger represents a new chapter in the company’s history and would secure its future under new ownership.”

The deal will be subject to regulatory approval in India, Bahrain and Kuwait.

An Overview of Ghana and An Emerging Market to Watch in Africa with Fintech

Across Africa’s over 1.3 billion people likes an emerging economy in the west of Africa that not only as a whole has shown potential but also in its fintech space.

Ghana in recent memory has been a market to watch in terms of its economic development in the African continent as a whole. Beyond just recent memory, it has an interesting history. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana was the first place where Europeans arrived to trade – which initially included gold and then later in slaves. According to the United Nations Development Programme, it was also the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from a colonial power (the United Kingdom) by declaring independence in 1957; later in 1960 it became an independent commonwealth with Kwame Nkrumah as the first President of the country.

Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana. Pictured is Independence Arch, which commemorates the freedom of Ghanaians from the British Empire IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

Its journey towards being a middle-income economy is remarkable, as much of Africa as a whole lies below that. Some of its key exports includes cocoa (world’s second largest producer after the Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)) and gold (second largest gold mine in Africa after South Africa). Its current gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, according to the World Bank, is at over $2,000. Its aspirations to grow have been noted, being one of the the fastest growing economies in the African continent and trying to alleviate poverty –  being the first Sub-Saharan African nation to achieve the Millenium Development Goal 1, which is the target to halve extreme poverty.

The country, according to the same UNDP source, discovered a large oil reserve in 2007. Despite its opportunities the country has had wider aspirations to continue to grow. In terms of a wider economic development strategy, it underwent its own national strategy titled Ghana Vision 2020, which in its scale was extraordinary for the continent, where “by the year 2020, Ghana would have achieved a balanced economy and middle-income country status and standard of living, with a level of development close to the present level of development in Singapore.” It was a 25-year development plan that aimed to transform the country.

Despite potentially not achieving all of its aspirations at the time, the country has developed from an economic development perspective and has become a hub in particular in West Africa. It is usually regarded as a fast and stable economy in the continent and this is reflective in its growing financial and fintech sector. Much of its financial services activity and wider tech as a whole lies in its capital and largest city of Accra.

Ghana’s financial services industry can be categorised into three main sectors: Banking and Finance (including Non-Bank Financial Services and Forex Bureaux); Insurance; and Financial market/capital markets. According to Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, the Government of Ghana has shown strong commitment to financial sector development. For instance, in 2002 the Cabinet approved the Financial Sector Strategic Plan (FINSSP) in 2003, which aims at broadening and deepening the financial sector. Improved governance in the financial markets remains an important focus for the continued reform agenda.

Ghana is a middle-income economy and the first Sub-Saharan African nation to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 1, which is the target to halve extreme poverty IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

Some of the largest banks that operate in Ghana are a mixture of international global banks, some of the top ten largest banks in the African continent, and native-born Ghanaian banks. They include Ghana Commercial Bank Limited, Ecobank Ghana, Zenith Bank Ghana, Barclays Bank of Ghana, Agricultural Development Bank and UniBank Ghana.

In terms of fintech, according to Modern Ghana, payment solution companies such as mobile money services operated by telcos, smartphone applications such as zeepay and expresspay, crowdfunding apps like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, Insuretech, distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies are key components of the country’s fintech ecoystem. The same source says that telcos are leading the pack in terms of payment solution fintechs. Wider ecosystem support such as the Africa FinTech Network are helping to promote not only Ghana’s fintech space but the continent as a whole. Research from The FinTech Times estimates that there are around at least 70 fintech solutions in the country and from a wider startup as a whole as high as around 500 startups.

Last year, Ghana also launched a digital financial services (DFS) policy as well, which has been years in the planning but also given the current coronavirus pandemic can help aid in wider digital transformation across DFS.

The country is clearly trying to foster and promote its fintech and wider tech and digital ecosystem. For instance, last year the Bank of Ghana announced the establishment of a new fintech and innovation office and this will help the Bank’s cash-lite, e-payments, and digitisation agenda. The emergence of fintech solutions has introduced significant complexities that require the sector supervisor’s focus, to understand and supervise effectively and the justification behind the new office.

In addition, Ghana is currently (and expected) to pass a new Startup Bill which is currently under consultation by Ghanaian startups.  It is expected to pass early this year and be a Startup Act, and Ghana will join the other ranks of countries such as Rwanda and Tunisia, the ladder being the first in Africa to pass such a law. Recent announcement by the Bank of Ghana also will see its regulatory sandbox being pilot in collaboration with EMTECH.

In terms of the African continent, besides the big four countries of Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt, Ghana is often a country categorised as a strong hub in the continent as well, including research done as well with The FinTech Times. Through time its efforts and economic development can ensure it becomes an established emerging fintech hub.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which as in the rest of the world also has had an effect in various ways in Ghana, there remains optimism and tech, financial services and fintech can bring that. It will help put the country and economy to help bring more highly skilled work and innovation and hopefully bring the economy above its middle-income achievement. With an Overview of Fintech in Africa in 2020 and Predictions For 2021, Ghana will most likely see further digital transformation as a whole and other accelerations in its fintech ecosystem – from a growth in contactless payments to other initiatives that will help grow its fintech and wider tech ecosystem.

In wider economic development, particularly in international trade and investment, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) can bring further benefits to the country, especially as the country has become a strong regional hub not just for West Africa but is becoming across the African continent as a whole and the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. Therefore, Ghana is a market to watch not just in 2021 but beyond.

Fintechs Say COVID Recovery Must Be Put on a Sustainable Footing in UK Spring Budget Predictions

Ahead of the Spring Budget, GovGrant, the R&D and IP specialists, calls on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to realise the opportunity place Britain’s economic recovery from COVID-19 onto a more sustainable footing.

According to GovGrant, if the Budget is to provide a sustainable foundation for the long term prosperity of the UK, it must be:

Geographically and demographically even

The Spring Budget marks the first opportunity for the Government to put some real fiscal meat onto the bones of their levelling up agenda. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered people’s working lives, which includes lessening their reliance on physical office spaces, which in turn has lessened the focus on cities and, in particular, London. Government spending needs to reflect this, ensuring support for businesses right across the country.

HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Patent Box data shows disproportionate spending in London and the South compared northern regions. Roughly £50M in funding was claimed by SMEs in the North East, compared to roughly £190M in the South East and £500M in London. Funding will be recorded where the company is headquartered, accounting for some of the additional funding being allocated to the Capital, but the disparity is still clear and must be addressed to ensure an equal economic recovery and maintenance of support in the red wall.

Supportive of a more collaborative relationship between the public and private sectors

The Government’s pandemic response to date has provided two compelling examples of how a nimbler approach to regulation and a re-framing of how the public and private sectors engage to support the economy: the deployment of supporting funds through the British Business Bank; and the rapid approval of the COVID vaccine. GovGrant is urging the Government to learn from these experiences and allocate sufficient funding for the public sector to play an active role in the COVID response, supporting rather than blocking British businesses.


Government funding baked into the Budget must also be structured to encourage businesses to invest in their own innovation within the UK rather than granting more government-funded cash injections that are too focussed on short-term survival. Doing so would have invaluable advantages for businesses including opening up additional revenue streams and attracting further investment from more sustainable sources. It’s also better for the UK economy – investing 2.4% of GDP into R&D would create an additional £180bn of GDP by 2040.

Luke Hamm, CEO at GovGrant, said“We need to hear an optimistic, future-focused Budget, not one concentrating solely on short-term recovery. The pandemic has highlighted the agility of the British Business Bank, used by the Chancellor to deploy billions of funding to desperate businesses, but it has also shown the need to reform the bureaucracy inhibiting government bodies such as Innovate UK. The positive news is that the Budget presents an opportunity for the Chancellor to do just that.

“Brexit and Covid-19 have drastically affected our economy, but implementing measures that drive a sustainable long-term recovery is the only way forward. As it stands only 15% of UK SMEs think the government encourages innovation, so all eyes will be on March 3rd to see if this is prioritised.”

Kevin Sefton from untied, the UK’s personal tax app, has also set out what he thinks will be tackled in this year’s Budget.

He said: “The Chancellor Rishi Sunak faces a difficult dilemma at the beginning of March for his Budget. On the one hand he has a bill of at least £300bn from Coronavirus support measures to pay for, on the other he doesn’t want to break the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto promise not to increase income tax, national insurance or VAT rates.

“Despite the fragile state of our economy and the fact that we are unlikely to see significant tax increases, we do believe there are key focus areas where there may well be movement. These will be centred around the COVID-19 response, general rate-driven decisions (main areas of change are likely to be around corporation and capital gains tax), tax system changes and ‘hidden’ taxes.

“One thing that non-PAYE workers need to watch out for is a potential increase on national insurance contributions for the self-employed and possible new measures aimed at company directors. When he introduced the self-employed income support scheme, back in March 2020, the Chancellor said: “It is now much harder to justify the inconsistent contributions between people of different employment statuses. If we all want to benefit equally from state support, we must all pay in equally in future.” This potentially signals a desire to do something about the perceived disparity between national insurance rates, or dividend tax rates, between the self-employed, company directors and those who are employed under PAYE. The Chancellor might use this budget as an opportunity to attempt to address this, perhaps at the same time as extending SEISS support to some of those groups who have previously been excluded.”

Mitek: Cheating in Gaming and Esports and the Need for Stronger Identity Verification

With the gaming industry being one of the fastest-growing and highest valued industries currently, its no surprise that the boom in gamers has also lead to a boom in cheaters. To help with this, the industries are crying out for stronger identification in order to curb the problem 

Someone with thoughts on this is Stephen Ritter, the Chief Technology Officer at MitekIn addition to driving the technical development of Mitek’s mobile deposit, mobile image capture technology and ID card verification solutions, Stephen oversees the company’s computer vision and scientific team at Mitek Labs. He has more than 25 years of experience in machine learning, security, cloud and biometrics technologies, and brings to the team an innovative source of technical leadership and expertise.

Here he shares his thoughts on the need for stronger identity verification in gaming and esports.

Stephen Ritter

Video gaming and esports are among the fastest-growing industries on the planet, estimated to reach $159 billion in 2020 and surpass $200 billion by 2023. Unfortunately, that growth has also led to a substantial surge in cheating; according to a study by cybersecurity firm Iredeto, 37% of gamers have confessed to cheating.

The esports and video-gaming industries are in desperate need of stronger identity verification to help curb this cheating, which can create a toxic environment and ultimately cause players to leave the game. Esports and gaming in general have a common need for identity, but for different purposes. On the esports side, it’s all about money. The esports industry is massive; many people would be surprised at how even single games like League of Legends (LoL) from Riot Games compare to the movie industry, the NBA and even MLB. In 2020, for instance Riot Games generated an estimated $1.7 billion League of Legends alone. Professional LoL teams are sponsored by major corporations, top players can make seven-figure salaries and their tournaments can sell out venues like Madison Square Garden in minutes.

The incentive to cheat is significant, and most gaming accounts are tied to free email accounts that can easily be recycled if and when a player is caught cheating. Esports companies should require users to verify their accounts by uploading images of their government-issued identity documents along with a corroborating selfie, which would both create a critical barrier to cheating and increase the consequences of being caught cheating. Doing so would allow esports companies to minimise the cheating problem and achieve significant upside by expanding professional online competition.

It’s not just esports, but video gaming in general. Cheating removes the fun from the game and creates a toxic environment that prevents new players from continuing to play the game. Using LoL as another example: the game is free to play, but Riot Games makes a substantial amount of money by selling cosmetic upgrades (skins) for in-game characters as well as access to play premium “champions” in the game. If new players have a bad experience due to toxic players or cheaters, then they are likely to quit the game before spending money on skins or paying for access to the non-default champions – costing the game provider significant revenue.

There is also a middle ground between casual and pro gamers – let’s call them content creators. There are a lot of personalities on streaming services such as Twitch and YouTube that make tremendous amounts of money through subscriptions and tips. It is not uncommon for a streamer to gain an audience because he or she is good at a game – the temptation to use cheats to build an audience is large. Because of this, gaming companies need to deploy advanced biometric-powered identity verification solutions to reduce the risk of gamers conducting fraud in the pursuit of developing large fanbases and making money.

Fintech Report: Asia Bounces Back From Pandemic Through Digitisation of Trade Finance

Efforts to digitise trade transactions have accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic with a rising appetite for innovative technology ecosystems and platforms that improve collaboration and operational effectiveness. In the first of a two-part series, The Fintech Times learns about the digitisation of trade finance in APAC and hears from keys leaders on the need to bring speed and accessibility to supply chain financing.

Asia trade has adapted well to Covid-19 pandemic conditions and, while the global trading system has been rocked, it may be able to emerge from the crisis stronger than it was before the pandemic.

That’s the viewpoint of Steven Beck, head of trade and supply chain finance at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), who says fast-tracked efforts to digitise trade transactions should be continued to make trade systems more efficient.

Steven Beck

Steven Beck

Steven Beck, Asian Development Bank

Beck has managed exponential growth of the ADB’s trade finance business and implemented its first supply-chain finance business. He also initiated a tool that maps the entire supply chain for Covid-related goods to address shortages and is on the advisory board of the ICC Banking Commission and the World Trade Board and the governing board of the Digital Standards Initiative.

He says: “Aside from the obvious effects of shuttered factories and borders that were all but closed, trade was very vulnerable to this crisis since the pandemic limited human interactions. A typical trade transaction can be accompanied by a small forest worth of paper forms that crisscross between buyers, sellers, ports, customs officials and banks, each one physically delivered and signed before moving on to the next signatory. That’s hard to accomplish when contact is being avoided.

“The fragility of such a system was already apparent before Covid-19 and efforts to modernise trade finance were well underway, but the pandemic has helped push efforts toward digitising trade transactions to a tipping point. Those efforts have been speeded up and now they need to spread throughout the global trading system, with the somewhat scattershot range of approaches being tried narrowed to the point that we have digital tools that everyone can use.”

Open trade standards

In line with this effort, the trade finance team at the ADB has worked with the Government of Singapore and the International Chamber of Commerce to create digital standards and protocols for trade by launching the Digital Standards Initiative. This aims to develop open trade standards to facilitate interoperability among the various blockchain-based networks and technology platforms that have surfaced in the trade space over the past few years.

Beck comments: “We’ve held webinars and training sessions to ensure our partners in banks across developing Asia can quickly get up to speed on the latest efforts in digitisation. In August, we became the first multi-lateral development institution to complete a pilot trade finance transaction using blockchain distributed ledger technology.”

According to Beck, moving the digitisation agenda forward is critical for more robust and resilient trade and supply chains. It will also help drive efficiency and productivity gains that will be important component parts to re-build the global economy and to bring developing countries in Asia into the global trade system.

Spotlight on problems

“Of course, digitisation wasn’t the only need exposed by Covid-19. Early in the pandemic, we tried to use our deep contacts in the banking world to find out how we could shine a spotlight on problems in the supply chains of key medical goods, which at the time were under extreme pressure. But as it turned out, that information was not available. Even the banks didn’t have a clear picture of whether the companies they worked with were involved in the supply lines.

“In response, we created a free interactive mapping tool for the supply chains of products vital to those on the frontlines of the battle to allow governments, banks, investors, and healthcare professionals to trace the companies that make every component in products such as masks, portable ventilators, and protective equipment, down to the metal and rubber that goes into each part. The mapping tool now searches the supply chains for 33 products, including vaccines and products needed to support delivery, including cold chains.

“Since April last year when we shifted our efforts to target Covid-19-fighting goods, we have supported around 1,300 transactions involving medical supplies worth about $240million and more than 1,000 deals involving food security and agriculture valued at about $1billion. Rather than Covid-19 setting back our efforts to support trade, we actually increased our business substantially in 2020, with the number of deals we worked on up more than 50 per cent to over 7,000 for about $5.8 billion in value.”

For Beck, while the global pandemic has been a challenge to trade, the doomsday scenario of trade grinding to a halt hasn’t happened. He believes that when the pandemic is over, global trade should be even stronger.

Learnings to transform the wider global trade ecosystem

Desmond Tay, CEO of GUUD (which aims to simplify trade and shipping processes by connecting the entire value chain in one platform), agrees that the impact of Covid-19 has led countries to realise the importance of improving the resilience of the supply chain networks.

Desmond Tay, CEO of GUUD

Desmond Tay, CEO of GUUD

Desmond Tay, CEO of GUUD

He said: “In order to move towards a truly digitalised and connected ecosystem for trade and trade finance, mass adoption on a global scale is essential. This can only be achieved if technology players prioritise forward-thinking and inclusive integration solutions that lower the barriers to entry for all types of companies involved in the trading process.

“Fortunately, with the impact of Covid-19, more countries realised the importance of improving the resilience of the supply chain networks. Japan, India and Australia recently agreed on 1 September 2020 to launch an initiative to achieve supply chain resilience in the Indo-Pacific region to reduce their trade dependence on a single nation. This would mean a pressing need for regional cooperation within the region and an enhancement of technological initiatives to create an inclusive, transparent, predictable, and stable trade and investment environment within the region.”

Looking forward

According to Tay, for a global trade ecosystem to fully benefit from digitalisation, the industry has to look beyond just the digitalisation of documents. Current trade, shipping and financing processes including proof of delivery of cargo, title ownership and even regulatory compliances, involve paper documents are produced and exchanged between stakeholders. By simply converting these paper documents to digital, then the point on digitalisation would be missed.

“For example, with the advent of sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) devices that could be attached to cargo, data collected from these devices are far more accurate, secure and trustworthy then the cargo information being described in documents such as waybills, invoices, certificates and customs declarations,” says Tay. “With these data, perhaps it could make the need to produce supporting documents, regardless paper or digital, irrelevant for different cross border applications such as trade finance.

“By connecting all participants in global trade transactions online in an ecosystem, we can create an environment that allows people to connect with their vendors easily and quickly to confirm shipments and documents, ensuring full accountability and traceability in every transaction. Companies of all sizes will benefit from better visibility into trading relationships and easier access to financing options through secure access to a global network of trading partners.

“By digitalising trade processes and replacing legacy systems, we can also reduce the risks and delays to stakeholders involved in trade finance. In trade finance, banks have taken a cautious approach to digitalisation due to issues such as data security and fraud.

“However, through the adoption of technologies such as blockchain for secure data exchange, costs, risks and delays to participants involved in trade finance are now greatly reduced. This technology, as described by the Asian Development Bank, has the potential to unlock a $1.5trillion opportunity in global trade finance.

We look forward to an eventual state where digitalisation becomes a norm and digital platforms such as the ones created by GUUD to digitalise trade processes across Asia and Africa become widely adopted in order to benefit economies, the livelihoods of people and the world-at-large.”

Next week, Part Two will share insight from Farah Miller, CEO of helixtap technologies, an independent digital platform for collaboration and market development across pre trade, trade and post trade environments, on the potential of decentralisation and digitisation of supply chains. In addition, Carl Wegner, CEO at blockchain-based trade finance platform Contour, will discuss the challenges of decentralising supply chains for the future of trade.

Sumo Logic: How Gaming Has Benefited From the Evolution of Fintech in 2020

According to IDC, the video game market is up by 20 percent to $179.7 billion in revenues during 2020, which means it has revenues higher than the music and film industries. Some of that revenue will be on new consoles and hardware, but a lot will be on in-game purchases and as-a-service payments. Iain Chidgey, VP EMEA of Sumo Logic, takes a look at how the past 12-months in Fintech have had a big impact on gaming.

Supporting the increase in the video game market requires payment processing and other financial services. Games developers don’t want to build that themselves. They can partner and bring in third-party processors to handle that service in their own apps where they can, but most likely they will rely on the big game stores like XBox Live, Google Play or the Apple Store to do it for them. This approach makes it easier to buy additional downloads or cosmetic items in games, and it should make it safer for players to make purchases.

Was this an expected relationship or has this always been a partnership that would benefit both sectors?

There is a battle taking place between game publishers and app stores. The revenue share for these companies is 70 percent for the publisher and 30 percent for the app store. For the game producers, they see this as them taking too much of the overall spend compared to the value they receive. This will be a big issue for the foreseeable future, and it could open up the market for fintech companies if the games publishers get their way.

How are gaming companies really leveraging Fintech to transform in-game purchases and customer experiences?

On the customer experience side, live in-game advertising is one area that is interesting. Providing gamers with the chance to purchase things from adverts in games is something that has been discussed for a while, but it looks like the whole approach is getting more seamless over time.

Companies in both sectors work in real-time industries, and they can learn a lot from each other in terms of operations and security best practices. Applying continuous intelligence to your operations can help reduce security risks and spot areas where changes have improved business results too.

What are some of the upcoming trends in this space, what do you predict lies in the future?

Streaming and games is a combination that is growing. Amazon bought the game streaming service Twitch in 2014 for $950million, and that looks like an incredibly prescient buy today.

Watching someone else play games and provide commentary is popular, whether it is someone on YouTube going through a game that is newly out on the market or covering more team sports and competition. Games can be expensive, so watching someone else play can be a way to sample the experience without paying out for something that you don’t like. This can then provide opportunities for monetisation around the videos over time.

The eSports market is developing as people have been at home and they want entertainment too. Watching teams take part in competitions has grown as a pastime, and there are betting and payments companies that are either directly involved in those competitions or sponsor them. According to Perforce’s research report The State of Game Development Report 2020 & Beyond, the eSports market is growing to be a multi-million dollar industry, so payments and fintech companies can definitely grow there.

How can Fintech and gaming deepen their collaboration to create even more synergy?

Making experiences seamless can help both gaming companies and fintech providers. Once you are on a platform and committed to it, anything that can remove friction from the payment process can help both companies to serve customers better and improve their own profitability. At the same time, adding more simple parental controls over spending levels can help encourage more people to support their Children in using these services and avoid expensive mistakes or overspending.

Companies in both sectors can definitely learn from each other around areas like security. Running a Security Operations Centre and applying analytics to keep cloud infrastructure secure is something that large games companies have had to adopt as their games have moved to cloud, and fintech companies are following the same routes to keep their IT and cloud services secure, too.

  • 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.

Review: Banking Circle Webinar – Working Together for Better Banking

This webinar was hosted by Banking Circle, in the last week of February 2021. Under the tagline of “Working Together for Better Banking: Using the lessons of 2020 to future-proof banking for 2021 and beyond”, the discussion was aimed at exploring how banks can make payments more efficient, how this can be achieved by working with external providers, and how, ultimately, this can lead to a better overall customer experience.

David Birch, Author, Advisor & Commentator on Digital Financial Services at 15Mb Ltd and Consult Hyperion, took on the hosting duties at this event. He was joined by:

  • Mark Mcnulty, Head of Payments and Receivables EMEA, Citi
  • Jon Levine, Co-Head of Institutional Banking, Banking Circle
  • Juan Jiménez Zaballos, Head of Financial Industry Transformation, Santander Group
  • Becky Clements, Director, Payments, UK Finance

The motivation for exploring this topic in further depth came from a recent survey conducted by Banking Circle, where they interviewed 300+ C-suite executives across the UK and parts of Europe such as Benelux, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, to get an idea of the challenges Banks face, how they feel about the current situation, and the steps they are taking to break down the barriers, such as exploring new partnerships.

At the start of the webinar, David Birch pointed out that some parts of the survey were fairly obvious and unsurprising – banks’ frustrations with legacy IT infrastructure, and the amount of effort that’s going on compliance, for example. The interesting results that they received were when it came to the importance of payments, both inside and outside the retail sector, and the willingness to work with external partners, moving forward.

First up was Mark Mcnulty. He introduced himself whilst striking a positive tone, that businesses and banks alike can now see out the other side of the tunnel when it comes to COVID, and now the question is “what do we take in terms of lessons… the lessons that are going to transform our business going forward? And how do we go about executing those?” One of these lessons, Mark agrees, will be about partnerships, ”With the light at the end of the tunnel […] given the focus on partnership where we need to be much more agile than we’ve been in the past.”

During this webinar, Banking Circle hosted a couple of polls, to gauge the audience’s views, and to use as a starting point for further discussion. This led to an interesting finding that, within the banking industry, opinions seemed to be split on whether the prime focus should be on working with retail institutions or SMEs.

Juan Jiménez was able to shed more light on why this might be the case, pointing out that Santander has a strong focus on SMEs because “they represent, in the typical markets, more than 80% of GDP, and they are the first employment creator in every single country we operate in, and they do not have when you look at the products and services that they enjoy from banking.” He explained that the banking products and services that the SMEs utilise are not totally digital, especially when it comes to those who are working on a cross-border basis – and also that this focus from Santander is validated “when we compare notes with other banks and neobanks  who are [making the] jumping from B2C to B2B as well.”

Discussion also turned to the issue of payments, with both the results of Banking Circle’s survey, and the webinar audience poll agreeing that collaboration is going to be more of a central focus in the next stage of the banking evolutionary process. David & Jon Levine, in discussing this point, teased out the fact that the consensus seems to be that, whilst payments is an obvious place for partnerships to happen, banks are still figuring out how to effectively use this data, whilst maintaining full control over it. Jon explains that, for some banks, this is a problem worth solving, as “you can use certain payments data to offer other services to your clients, it’s very innovative.”

You can catch up on the webinar here.