3 Things to Know About Walgreens’ New Bank Account


Walgreens announced this week it will launch a new bank account offering. The pharmacy chain, in partnership with InComm, is launching a Mastercard debit card to pair with both a mobile banking app and in-person service.

Here are a few things to know about the new accounts:

Available both on mobile and in-person

Unlike most digital banks that have launched in recent years to challenge incumbent banks, Walgreens’ new account will serve users in person. By the second half of this year, the bank plans to serve its client base at nearly 9,000 stores. As of now, there is no word on what specific services will be available in-store vs. online but it is clear that account onboarding will be available through both channels.

This differentiating factor places the “Bank of Walgreens” at a significant advantage for two major reasons. First, 78% of Americans live within five miles of a Walgreens or Duane Reade store. That makes for easy access, especially in rural communities where banks are closing their doors but cash usage is still prevalent. Second, because of the foot traffic into its stores, Walgreens has a built-in potential client base to whom it can freely advertise.

In addition to in-person services, users will also have the option to manage their account in a mobile app. Walgreens has tapped InComm’s banking-as-a-service platform to create a modern digital experience.

Geared toward an older audience

Because the elderly population tends to need prescription refills on a regular basis, they tend to visit pharmacies more often. Given the demographic of this foot traffic, combined with the fact that 20% of Walgreens’ app users are 55 years of age and older*, Walgreens will likely target a more senior audience as banking clients.

The target market will truly differentiate Walgreens’ bank accounts from the myriad of digital banks that have launched in the past few years, many of which target Generation Z.

Tied into Walgreens’ existing rewards program

Launched last November, the myWalgreens customer loyalty program offers users 1% in-store credit in return for every dollar they spend on typical items and 5% in-store credit for every dollar spent on Walgreens branded products. Walgreens’ new debit card will enable users to more seamlessly earn and spend these rewards.

*according to a 2017 study.


Paysafe’s Public Debut on the NYSE


Global payments platform Paysafe is making the move to the New York Stock Exchange this week. The London-based company is going public via a merger with Foley Trasimene Acquisition Corp. II, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) set up by billionaire business executive Bill Foley.

After the deal, which values Paysafe at around $9 billion, was approved on March 25, Paysafe began trading on the New York Stock Exchange today under the ticker symbols “PSFE” and “PSFE.WS.” The combined company now operates as Paysafe Limited.

“The closing of this transaction and our listing on the New York Stock Exchange is a huge milestone for Paysafe and getting to this point today is testament to the hard work and dedication of our team around the world,” said Paysafe CEO Philip McHugh. “We’re excited to be embarking on the next stage of our growth journey as a public company.”

Founded in 1996, Paysafe enables businesses and consumers to connect and transact using its payment processing, digital wallet, card issuing, and online cash solutions. The company has completed 11 acquisitions, most recently purchasing Openbucks last July.

Paysafe’s suite of brands includes Income Access, Paysafecard, Skrill, and Neteller. In an interview with CNBC, Foley described Paysafe’s solutions as “ubiquitous,” adding, “It’s just everywhere in terms of the gaming world and digital wallets, e-cash solutions.”

With 3,400 employees in more than 12 offices across the globe, Paysafe helps businesses and consumers transact across 70 payment types in 40+ currencies.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash


Mexico Offered Free Financial Data For the First Time by Dapi


The launch of permission-based bank payment initiation and account data aggregation services in Mexico have been announced by San Francisco and Abu Dhabi-based payment infrastructure provider, Dapi.

Dapi becomes one of the first companies to offer integrated bank transfer payments to the fintech community in Mexico, enabling companies to accept money directly from customer bank accounts from within their applications or websites. Dapi offers free account data aggregation services to companies that use the payment API to accept payments. As Dapi’s technology relies on bank transfers, the company offers payments at rates dramatically lower than comparable payment mechanisms, such as cards.

Commenting on the launch, the company’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Agour, noted: “Over the last 6 months, Dapi has focused on making our payment infrastructure available to fintechs and enterprises globally with our expansion in the United States and now Mexico.

“Fintech payment ecosystems are now being built on Dapi infrastructure in multiple regions. We can have the same impact in Mexico by enabling a wide range of in-app payment use-cases, including digital banks, digital wallets, P2P payment applications, crypto exchanges, custodians, and merchants.

“Mexico is a significant market of over 120m people with a vibrant fintech community and an amicable regulatory environment, as seen with the Financial Technology Institutions Act (2018). We are delighted to be one of the first companies to provide permission-based payment initiation services in the country and look forward to being a responsible driver of the fintech ecosystem here.

“At Dapi, our mission is to democratise access to financial services by simplifying payments and putting financial data back in the hands of their owners, everyday consumers. There is no better place to be doing that than in Mexico.”

Commenting further, Hesham Ghandour, co-founder and CTO stated: “Since Dapi’s launch in late 2019, we have developed a robust and secure payment infrastructure that is in demand across multiple emerging and developed markets globally. Since our product does not rely on mass adoption of open API infrastructure by financial institutions, we can expand into many markets that do not have open banking protocols. Our infrastructure is now at a point where it can be rapidly and securely scaled across multiple markets. Mexico marks the first step in our plan to expand to the LatAm market through the rest of the year.”

Dapi will offer payment initiation and account information services to Mexican fintech companies effective immediately – enabling companies to test their services within a sandbox environment before deployment.

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


Spiral Secures $14 Million for its Ethical Banking App


Digital banking services company Spiral picked up a $14 million investment this week. The New York-based company will use the capital to fund its new app that makes it easy for users to donate to the charity of their choice.

“The future belongs to socially-conscious brands that care as much about giving back to society as they do about generating profits and growth,” Spiral CEO and co-founder Shawn Melamed said. He explained that the company’s goal is to create a new solution to serve an ecosystem of millions of charitable givers and more than one million non-profit businesses.

“People are increasingly supporting brands that align with their values,” Spiral President and co-founder Dan Blumenfeld added. “And they expect a simple and effortless user experience. Spiral will offer customers both a personalized banking experience and a deeper connection to the charities they support.”

Currently in beta, Spiral boasts that it offers account holders 15x more than the national average in savings and cash bonuses. No minimum balance is required and no fees are charged for active accounts or for transferring money by ACH. Spiral provides donation matching of up to $150 per year to more than one million charities and nonprofits ranging from the David Ortiz Children’s Foundation to the Cerebral Palsy Research Alliance Foundation. Automatic donation reports for tax returns are provided, and the company’s deposit accounts are issued by nbkc Bank of Overland, Kansas, and are FDIC-insured up to $250,000.

The funding round was led by Team8 and featured participation from Communitas Capital, Phoenix, Nidoco AB, and MTVO. Melamed and Blumenfeld founded Spiral after Melamed served as Managing Director of Morgan Stanley’s Technology Business Development and Innovation Offices and Blumenfeld served as Head of Product and Growth at Skype.

Photo by Gerritt Tisdale from Pexels


Massachusetts Is the US’ Most Innovative State According To WalletHub’s Findings


The pandemic caused every industry to suffer and adjust their style of work to make sure their aims could be achieved. The result of the Covid-19 outbreak was many businesses innovating and adapting to the situation so they could succeed and get an edge over their competitors. Innovation is a principal driver of US economic growth. In 2021, the US will spend nearly $600 billion on research and development — more than any other country in the world and more than 25% of the world’s total — helping the nation rank third on the Global Innovation Index.

According to the results of the ranking, knowledge and technology outputs are America’s particular strengths. Some of the most notable innovations the US has produced recently are the covid-19 vaccines, and the government spent $12 billion in 2020 on their development and distribution through Operation Warp Speed. But certain states deserve more credit than others for America’s dominance in the tech era. These states continue to grow innovation through investments in education, research and business creation, especially in highly specialised industries.

To determine the most and least innovative states, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, “Human Capital” and “Innovation Environment.” It evaluated those dimensions using 22 relevant metrics. Its data set ranges from share of STEM professionals to R&D spending per capita to tech-company density. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favourable conditions for innovation with “Human Capital” and “Innovation Environment” being worth 50 points each. WalletHub then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its “State Innovation Index” and used the resulting scores to rank-order its sample.

All categories considered, these states (and District) were found to be the most innovative, with their State Innovation Index in brackets:

  1. Massachusetts (78.58)
  2. District of Columbia (75.16)
  3. Washington (69.83)
  4. Maryland (69.80)
  5. Virginia (68.88)
  6. Colorado (66.43)
  7. California (65.54)
  8. Delaware (58.57)
  9. Utah (56.31)
  10. New Hampshire (56.22)

WalletHub found that:

  • The District of Columbia has the highest share of STEM professionals, 9.80%, which is 2.9% times higher than in Mississippi, the lowest at 3.40%.
  • Virginia has the highest share of technology companies, 7.97%, which is 3.1 times higher than in North Dakota, the lowest at 2.56%.
  • New Mexico has the highest research and development (R&D) intensity, 7.00%, which is 15.9 times higher than in Louisiana, the lowest at 0.44%.
  • Florida has the highest share of public high-school students taking advanced-placement (AP) exams, 51.91%, which is 3.9% times higher than in North Dakota, the lowest at 13.22%.

To view each individual aspect that graded the State Innovation Index and to see the rankings of all 50 states, click here.

When asked about how policymakers encourage and facilitate innovation, Sherif A. Ebrahim, CEO of Strategic Management Group Inc., said, “Policymakers have many levers at their disposal. While regulation seems to be high in conversations lately, the truth is that innovations are borne through market inefficiencies.

“Innovations are developed when there is an unmet need or demand, and smart individuals or companies find a new way to address this gap in the market. The sustainable and successful path to foster innovation is to offer incentives in the form of tax credits, stimulus, training, education and simply having a more business-friendly tax policy.”

Gregory Stoller, a senior lecturer at the Questrom School of Business, Boston University reflected on the effects of the pandemic on investments in innovation saying, “necessity has become the mother of invention. If people have lost their jobs or seen their businesses contract, it has spurred entrepreneurs to think differently and either shake up the status quo or create something new from scratch.”

Stoller went on to list his top five indicators for evaluating the states’ innovation:

  1. Supportive local and state laws especially around entity formation, tax breaks, and hiring.
  2. Subsidies to key industry sectors (or newly emerging ones).
  3. Preferential terms for office space, equipment leasing, or purchasing.
  4. Support for lending practices (although most banks are generally federally regulated).
  5. Housing subsidies to attract and retain employees.
  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.


KeyBank’s Justin Hunsaker speaks on automating the customer experience at Bank Automation Ignite


Justin Hunsaker, head of omnichannel experience at KeyBank, will speak on automating the customer experience during the Bank Automation Ignite virtual conference, which takes place April 13-14. Hunsaker’s on-demand presentation will be broadcast on April 13 at 3:15 p.m. ET.

Justin Hunsaker, head of omnichannel experience at KeyBank

View the BA Ignite agenda.

Hunsaker’s presentation will focus on “CX Automation and the Pursuit of the Phy-gital Experience,” which refers to the combination of an in-person and digital customer experience.

“Today, [customer experience] automation is enabling innovative digital client experiences — taking the client journey to new depths,” Hunsaker said. “Through CX Automation, ‘phy-gital’ — a combination of in-person and digital — experiences are becoming a powerful way to build connections, deepen relationships and provide seamless interactions.”

Hunsaker said KeyBank data shows that younger users prefer such experiences more than four times as much as older users in the U.S.

Hunsaker leads KeyBank’s organization and wellness team in the enterprise digital unit. The team is responsible for digital product management of KeyBank’s originations and wellness squads, partnering with the lines of business to develop client experiences that drive growth. Hunsaker’s team has delivered a modern, omnichannel experience for more than half of the originations at KeyBank, almost doubling the total originations performed digitally, and more than doubling the number of checking accounts opened digitally, Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker joined KeyBank in 2017, focusing on client centricity and digital transformation in business banking. As part of that team, he delivered the small business wellness review in less than nine months, winning a 2019 Monarch Innovation Award from Barlow Research Associates for business banking team.

Previously, Hunsaker worked for 10 years at Capital One Bank, where he led the customer experience strategy and analytics team. Prior to that, he worked as a software engineer for Harris Corporation.

Register for the upcoming BA Ignite conference to learn how financial institutions are investing in automation amid the changing landscape of the banking industry.


Movers and shakers: New heads of digital at Citi, Wells Fargo


Banks continue to invest in digital transformation: Grewal is Wells Fargo’s new head of digital Reetika Grewal will join Wells Fargo & Co. in April as the new head digital for commercial banking and corporate and investment banking. Grewal will be responsible for accelerating development and implementation of commercial and corporate banking digital offerings and […]


Context-Aware Automation: Learning the what before the how


Automation is here to stay

Over the course of the past decade and across industries, the most aggressive adopters of automation have been banking, financial services, insurance and health care. Document processing, specifically, has been an important focus area for most organizations supported by both regulatory tailwinds — most notably the transition away from Libor — and the business-as-usual disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Image by Canstock

IDP solutions that exist today have been able to deliver several tangible benefits primarily across:

  • Efficiency, by replacing thousands of hours of manual effort creating meaningful cost savings;
  • Risk reduction, by eliminating human error to reduce risk in operational processes; and
  • Turnaround, by reducing turnaround times.

Gaps in today’s solutions

Several practical challenges stand in the way of automation’s ability to deliver on its promise. These are:

  • Inconsistency: The processing of documents that do not adhere to a standardized format, such as contracts or reports, cannot be easily automated. This also extends to documents created by third parties, where document form or structure can change with no prior notice.
  • Complexity: Automation also fails to work on complex documents. These include documents with a combination of text, tables and diagrams; documents with a blend of landscape and portrait pages; and documents with multiple languages.
  • Extensibility: Traditional approaches to automation focus on the “how” by recording mouse clicks or keystrokes. This results in the automation process relying primarily on formatting cues to achieve its objectives, without real understanding of the underlying context, limiting the possibilities of extending the automation beyond the original use case. 

Learning the what before the how

Human subject matter experts learn to solve processing problems by taking a “what” approach. They do not start with the task at hand but instead spend time learning the underlying context. Once sufficiently aware of the context, they use format or structure in a document, only insomuch as it allows them to abstract away key information relevant to the completion of the task.

Automation processes can emulate this approach by abstracting and persisting meta-data around previously completed tasks & documents. Knowledge Graphs are one possible means of achieving context abstraction and retention. 

The promise of context-aware intelligent automation

Financial services firms receive tens of thousands of documents every day from vendors, customers and counterparties from diverse data sources across email (inline and attachment content), fax, snail mail, APIs, web and mobile applications.

In many of these instances the format, structure and complexity of the documents vary significantly over time and across sending parties, even though the context remains exactly the same. This is especially true when it comes to free-text-heavy documents, such as contracts or annual reports. It is these documents that test the limit of traditional automation today and which context-aware automation promises to automate. Examples, to name a few, include:

  • Scoring a listed company on the basis of annual reports, sustainability reports, press releases and other documents on ESG metrics;
  • Account openings, loan approvals and claims processing, in situations where information that is present in a form needs to be validated against documentary evidence that has been submitted; and
  • Due diligence of third parties across vendors, acquisition targets, counterparties and customers. 

The path forward

As automation becomes mainstream and business leaders start to focus on automation as a key lever to enhance the top line, rather than a means of cost or risk reduction. The resulting focus from short-term problem solving to long-term value creation will see the development and deployment of context-aware intelligence platforms. Developing these platforms will require patience and capital, and it is quite likely that in the near term they will fail to do substantially better than traditional solutions.

However, in the longer term, these platforms will become integral to the future of work, forming the base for the next generation of knowledge workers to develop, deploy and derive value from versatile and extensible automation solutions.

Prashant Vijay, CEO of Romulus, a document intelligence software provider

A veteran of the financial services industry, Prashant Vijay is currently chief executive at Romulus, which specializes in building software products that automate document-heavy operations in the financial services industry. He has spent more than two decades working at the intersection of technology and data across multiple roles and geographies. His views are informed by his experience in tech and business roles at Goldman Sachs, and his sales and product and business management roles at IHS Markit. 


Israel Supports the Creation of New Banks and the Movement Towards Digital Banking


The Bank of Israel are actively taking steps to improve not only the efficiency and adoption of digital banking but to increase competition within the region’s financial landscape. The implementation of new measures will put the country and its economy far ahead in the race to become digital. 

The Israeli Government’s Banking Supervision Department has become increasingly aware of the difficulty occurred in establishing a new bank. The Bank of Israel has, in recent years, worked to advance competition in the financial system. So to encourage the establishment and growth of new competitors, it recently chose to standardise and simplify the process, removing entry barriers to the banking system; creating regulatory certainty at an early stage of the process for any entrepreneur interested in establishing a bank.

Removing entry barriers for new banks is expected to increase and diversify the number of competitors in the market, upping the competitive threat to existing participants.

In regards to the removal of red tape within the financial sector, the Supervisor of Banks Yair Avidan commented: “This recent launch of the digital banking pilot stage is a significant step towards establishing a new bank in Israel.  It’s a further element that’s part of the measures being promoted by the Bank of Israel to increase competition in the financial system. We have guided the bank through its establishment, we will continue to do so, and we will help any other initiative that wishes to establish a bank in Israel.”

In addition, the Banking Supervision Department wants to leverage the far-reaching technological developments and changes in consumer behaviour of recent years, to establish new digital banks with a narrow expense structure that will contribute to increased competition, and has initiated a series of leniencies in the supervision directives to enable full digital banking activity without needing to go to a bank branch.

In an additional step towards digital banking and the adoption of smart payment systems, the implementation of the first milestone in the Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) framework, which was set out by the Governor of the Bank of Israel, has recently been concluded. Based on data from Shva (Automated Banking Services Ltd.), as of the end of January 2021, smart terminals make up 54% of all terminals in Israel, and the number of smart transactions is about 23% of all transactions. About 67% of the smart transactions are contactless, whether by credit card or by smartphone.

The number of smart terminals and the number of smart transactions is expected to continue to increase in the coming period as well, with the end of the lockdown and the renewal of commercial activity, and in accordance with the next stages of the framework for adopting the standard in 2021.

The Bank of Israel urges merchants that have not yet completed the switch to EMV to contact their merchant acquirer or hardware supplier, in order to complete the switch before the determining date and thus join the payment revolution in Israel, benefitting from secure and more advanced transactions.

By July 2021, many additional businesses will have joined the advanced payment method, ahead of the next significant milestone on July 31, 2021, when the acquiring of transactions at all businesses, other than exceptional cases, will only be possible via the EMV standard.

“The framework that the Bank of Israel is leading to shift payment card activity in Israel to EMV, is in line with advanced economies worldwide and makes new and innovative value proposals in Israel possible” comments the Bank of Israel’s Payment and Settlement Systems Department Director Mr. Oded Salomy.

The progress in integrating the terminals allows an advanced and innovative customer experience, such as contactless payment via the payment card and via digital wallets that make it possible to pay via a payment application by bringing the device close to the terminal in the store. We already see several digital wallets that have begun to operate in Israel in recent months, and a number of additional entities, domestic and international, are expected to enter this field in Israel this year. The Bank of Israel will continue to promote the use of advanced means of payment in Israel for the benefit of businesses and customers” he continues.

Contactless Technology

Among the payment possibilities offered by the EMV standard, interest in contactless capabilities remains high. Benefits will include contactless payment for transactions up to NIS 300, use of secret codes for approval of payments above this figure, payment via digital wallets and wearable accessories (such as watches), and payment via an application from domestic and international entities.

Customers who do not remember the secret code for their card will also be able to recover it or switch it rapidly and easily through various means.

Within the framework of the economic plan to deal with the coronavirus crisis, a plan was launched by the Small and Medium Business Administration at the Ministry of the Economy and Industry and by the Ministry of Finance, to help in integration of acquiring via the EMV standard. The plan makes it possible to get back up to 80% of the cost of implementation.

“In recent years, the Bank of Israel has been leading many steps to promote innovation and competition in the financial market, including in the payments market” the Supervisor of Banks Mr. Yair Avidan added. “The market’s switch to the EMV standard is an additional infrastructure step, which will enable the various payment service providers in the economy to develop advanced and innovative payment services for the Israeli consumer. In parallel, we are leading additional processes that will soon be completed, to upgrade the use of digital means of payment to improve the welfare of the customer, chief among them the open banking project and the project to switch banks easily. This range will bring the financial system in Israel, and at the centre the Israeli customer, to a new era of opportunities.”

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


Detect and Stop New Fraud Vector With Trust Score™


Cybercriminals are becoming more brazen and sophisticated by the day. The latest cybercrime, described by Joseph Cox in his article A Hacker Got All My Texts for $16, is particularly disturbing because it requires almost no technical knowledge and targets a victim’s phone number without them even knowing. 

Recognizing this, organizations such as Prove have architected the trust and identity platform to stay ahead of attackers that exploit vulnerabilities in our telecommunication systems. 

This latest SMS theft hack used Sakari, an SMS marketing platform, to exploit a service known as OSR (Override Services Registry). The OSR serves a critical function in our communications infrastructure because it allows VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) landlines and certain MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) to receive SMSes. In this case, the attackers fraudulently added entries to the OSR to send copies of SMSes to themselves. This allowed the attackers to retrieve SMS one-time passcodes.

Consumers’ digital life experiences are increasingly mobile, and their daily touchpoints with a variety of service providers are rapidly exploding. Whether logging into a dating app, verifying an e-commerce payment, or proving eligibility for vaccination, the need for frictionless safeguards to protect individuals and online communities is higher than ever. But, the right technology that works behind the scenes will help safeguard people from fake account openings, authorizing high-value financial transactions, and everything in between.

For instance, when a Prove client asks if a phone number is safe to send a text message to or engage with, Prove will check the OSR, among many real-time checks, including SIM swap, to calculate a real-time Trust Score™. A low Trust Score™ will tell Prove clients to apply the appropriate policy, such as not sending a given SMS.

With phone numbers and mobile phones becoming the master keys to our digital lives, it’s important to protect consumers from fraud by bolstering SMS with modern, real-time fraud protection. 

This article is a synopsis of a full-length article originally published by Prove.


First mover advantage: How Customers Bank partnered with a fintech to gain a competitive edge over larger lenders


Most banks operate in the stone age, hindered by legacy technology and processes. At Customers Bank, we have been able to compete with some of the largest and most established lenders, growing assets from $250 million to $18 billion over the last decade, by taking a “high tech, high touch” approach.

Partnerships with leading fintechs and confidence to be a first mover have been keys to this growth. Our partnership with OakNorth especially highlights this technology-driven first mover advantage. I was first introduced to OakNorth in late 2019 and it proved fortuitous timing given the pandemic struck a few months later.

OakNorth’s software, the ON Credit Intelligence Suite, is made up of three components: credit analysis, portfolio monitoring and portfolio insights. However, it is set apart by the fact that it also runs its own bank in the UK, OakNorth Bank. The bank secured its Charter in 2015 and since then, its performance has been impressive.

Often, platforms and fintech products are developed by teams who have a general knowledge of banking but have never actually done banking themselves. With banking in its DNA, OakNorth and its bank partners have strong cultural alignment from the outset – a congruence that proved to be important as we began to assess how best to manage the portfolio risk resulting from COVID-19.

As a lender, we have always strived for operational excellence, continuously assessing how to be better in terms of managing our portfolio risk, and how to use data to be proactive, rather than reactive. When COVID-19 hit, our immediate concerns were business continuity and portfolio risk management.

There were two ways OakNorth ultimately helped: standing up Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and portfolio management. On PPP, OakNorth extended its product to develop an end-to-end solution to support lenders such as ourselves with PPP. The process design ensured we retain complete control of key decision-making and risk-management processes. We were able to get the solution up and running within 72 hours, which enabled us to become one of the first community banks offering PPP loans. Through embracing partnership with fintechs and willingness to be a first mover, we were able to provide over 100,000 loans and became the sixth most active PPP lender in the US.

The other way was with portfolio monitoring – OakNorth enabled us to take a granular, bottoms-up approach, with a companywide view of credit quality and industry exposure. As a result, we identified the most vulnerable businesses and took proactive measures to support them. We encouraged them to top off their interest reserves, fund additional escrow accounts to cover interest shortfalls, offer niche stimulus or government assistance programs such as PPP. This automated loan-by-loan review has not only enabled us to be nimbler and manage risk better, but has also meant we can have more consultative discussions with our borrowers.

Many banks are reluctant to be first movers, but in Customers Bank’s case, it’s provided us with a competitive advantage and the ability to compete with larger institutions. By combining this agility with best-in-class technology products such as OakNorth’s software, we are meeting the aspiration of our name and supporting our customers through good times and bad. 

– Sam Sidhu, Vice Chairman & Chief Operating Officer of Customers Bancorp


Bots can make mortgages more efficient but complex tasks need a hybrid model


The mortgage application process is a bit like assembling a pie: Both require several ingredients and steps, and take longer to prepare than anyone cares to think about. Mortgages come with reams of paperwork, and strict industry standards determine how chunks of information are to be treated. Sleep on the rules for either, and that […]


Neat: How Covid-19 Has Shaped Small Businesses


Covid-19 has had a major impact on businesses all over the world, accelerating a move away from cash and an increase in online spending. It has also changed the way companies operate, with many opting for global and remote workforces.

Pedro Pinto joined Neat as Head of Growth in July 2020 and is also the General Manager and Executive Director of Neat’s UK business. Pedro is responsible for Neat’s global growth strategies, including marketing and partnerships. Prior to Neat, Pedro was Head of Business Growth at Revolut. He has also held roles at Huddle, Box and Sophos, driving growth and product development. 

Here he shares his thoughts on how Covid-19 has shaped small businesses. 

Pedro Pinto, Head of Growth, Neat

When the pandemic first began, many small businesses were not set up to cope with the sudden lockdowns. Businesses had to quickly pivot to set up online shops if they were going to stay afloat during the pandemic or change their product offering completely.

According to Growth Intelligence, in the UK during the first four-month period after lockdown in 2020, there were 85,000 businesses that launched online stores or joined a marketplace which is no surprise given it has become easier than ever to start an online business with the likes of Shopify. And it is safe to say that e-commerce businesses are only set to grow. Looking at Hong Kong, according to Societe Generale the e-commerce penetration rate is set to hit 72.6% in 2022 in comparison to 59.8% in 2018.

If we look at consumers, the trend of shopping online will only continue to accelerate with many changing their habits and how they shop. According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion in the UK that was spent online soared to 35.2% in January 2021, the highest on record.

With the move to online, small businesses have also had to make sure they are set up to take digital payments. The pandemic has been the driving force behind accelerating that digital transformation some businesses were not ready to make. Covid-19 has affected businesses around the world differently, but it has also led to an increased move away from cash. In Hong Kong, where pre-pandemic cash the main payment method, debit and credit cards took over as the most used payment method in 2020 according to a report by Visa.

The increase in the contactless payment limits along with Google, Apple, WeChat Pay and AliPay has also encouraged a move away from cash and has meant that many customers are choosing these payment methods out of convenience and ease over using cash.

Many businesses have also taken advantage of the pivot towards a work from home environment with many workforces going completely remote. For example, Hopin, an online events company is a completely remote-first company with their teams located around the world. There is no prerequisite for their employees to be located in a certain part of the world or to come into an office.

With this shift towards a global workforce, there are advantages of having more access to talent and much lower barriers to starting an international business. If we look specifically at Neat, Neat offers an incorporation service for businesses, which means SMEs can register their business in Hong Kong entirely online and remote. This has really helped small businesses that want to use Hong Kong as their base to access the Asia market but can’t actually get there at the moment.

With this shift, it also means that SMEs can manage their cashflow in a more efficient way with some small businesses saving on the typical company expenses such as rent for an office space. It has been even more crucial in this current situation for small businesses to be effectively managing their cashflow and balancing their books. However, there has also been the opportunity with selling online to reach a new audience and to market to the world as opposed to locally, creating a customer base that is global.

Small businesses are increasingly also not restrained by where they can produce their products. For example, many businesses are based in Hong Kong because of the easy access to mainland China which is where their supply chain could be located. This helps to diversify their product offerings and broaden their range of suppliers.

With habits increasingly changing and the world becoming more global it will be interesting to see where we are in 5 years time once the dust has settled and what impact Covid-19 has had on small businesses.

I will leave you with some questions that have played on my mind – Will we be living in a predominately cashless society? Will we only pay for items using our Apple or WeChat Pay? Will physical shops still be around or will all businesses move online?

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


Commerzbank Partners with Google Cloud to Utilise Cloud Technologies for Digital Transformation


Google Cloud and Commerzbank, a German commercial bank with a strong international focus, has announced that they are expanding their collaboration by entering into a five-year, strategic partnership. With the help of Google Cloud, Commerzbank will move a significant number of its banking applications to the cloud, a continuation of a comprehensive digital transformation strategy underway since 2017. Google Cloud will support Commerzbank on its journey to build a cloud transformation organisation and to innovate new solutions for the bank’s customers.

Commerzbank is increasingly using cloud technology to bring new products and customer experiences to market faster, improve the performance of its systems and reduce operating costs. This is intended to accelerate the bank’s overall digital transformation, which includes a goal of running 85 per cent of its decentralised applications in the cloud by 2024.

“In our new ‘Strategy 2024’, a multi-cloud approach continues to play a major role. We will benefit from Google Cloud’s extensive capabilities in infrastructure modernisation, as well as from its know-how in data analytics and machine learning, as one of the pioneers of this technology. As we move to the cloud, Google Cloud is an important strategic partner,” said Jörg Hessenmüller, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and member of the Board of Managing Directors of Commerzbank.

Google Cloud has been providing Commerzbank with cloud technologies and expertise since 2017. With this new, expanded agreement, Google will now offer the bank a deeper set of platform services to enable its digital transformation. Using Google Cloud will allow Commerzbank developers to follow a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) approach, enabling them to make updates to code more seamlessly. This means that building and maintaining applications will be faster and easier, ensuring that end users have access to cutting-edge financial apps.

Commerzbank customers are already using the first application developed on Google Cloud Platform—the “Digitale Kontoanalyse,” i.e. the “digital account analysis”. This application provides multiple benefits for banking customers and Commerzbank employees, including:

  • Digital account analysis, which enables the bank and customers to work together to process loan applications more quickly.
  • Creation of accurate balance sheets of income and expenses for each customer account.
  • Better tracking of historical financial data, so that customers can optimise their income and expenditures behaviour over time.

“We are excited to work with Commerzbank to help the bank digitally transform. This partnership means that Google Cloud not only satisfies the high regulatory requirements of the financial sector but we also cooperate on industry-wide initiatives such as the Collaborative Cloud Audit Group to provide verifiable transparency against important compliance standards in the financial services industry,” said Daniel Holz, vice president, EMEA North Region at Google Cloud.

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


UK Fintech News: The Latest Stories 31/03


Each week, The Fintech Times takes a look at the top stories in British fintech. As another month comes to a close in today’s roundup we look at how brits are average in cybersecurity, the contactless technology helping churchgoers and the financial terms brits find most confusing. 

Brits are only average when it comes to cybersecurity

The new research by NordVPN revealed that British cybersecurity skills and knowledge are not much better than the global average. Brits scored 65.9 points out of 100, while the world got 65.2.

The findings are based on 48,063 respondents around the world who took NordVPN’s National Privacy Test to learn their personal performance in cybersecurity. The Germans made it to the first position with 71.2 points out of 100, while the Dutch came second with 69.5, and Switzerland third with 68.9 points.

 “9 out of the 10 best-performing countries in the list of the ranked 21 are European. However, Britain is right outside the top ten,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

The test thousands of Brits took was designed to evaluate three aspects of our digital lives, including how much people know in theory about staying private (Brits got 74 points out of 100), how they would behave if faced with an online threat in practice (84.6/100), and what habits they keep to stay private and safe (47.1/100).

Despite getting less than half of the points for their digital habits, Brits are no different from the rest of the world: the global score in that regard is exactly the same. 

New Work and Pensions Committee Report on pension savers and scams

The Work and Pensions committee has recently released a new report on pensions savers and scams. Titled ‘Protecting pension savers – five years on from the pension freedoms: Pension scams’ report, the inquiry aimed to look at how savers are prepared and protected to move from saving for retirement to using their pension savings. It calls for the government to act “quickly and decisively,” and “rethink its decision to exclude financial harms from the forthcoming Online Safety Bill.”

PIMFA, the trade association for wealth management, investment services and the investment and financial advice industry, welcomes the enhancements to consumer protections laid out in the new report.

Liz Field, PIMFA’s CEO commented: “‘In order to ensure that savers can transact safely and with confidence with their hard-earned pension savings, we are pleased that the Committee have supported our recommendation that the government should include financial harm within the Online Safety Bill.

“Savers cannot continue to be liable to lose their life savings because of what amounts to regulatory shades of grey and the government must act to both empower the Regulator, as well as place a duty of care on tech providers to undertake proper due diligence on adverts and remove harmful ads where appropriate.

“This, in partnership with the government’s forthcoming policy on financial promotions will be a welcome step in enhancing consumer protections, increasing confidence as well as reducing individual claims on the Financial Ombudsman Service and Compensation Scheme.”

Finance terms confusing brits the most

Interested in just how confident Brits are in their understanding of essential finance terminology, Uswitch.com conducted a Likert-scale survey among 3,972 Britons, asking them to what extent they understood some of the most essential financial terms. Only 4% of Britons were confident in their understandings of ‘Blended Finance’ and ‘Cornerstone investment’, making them the most confusing financial terms for Brits.

The next most confusing terms are ‘Social enterprise’ and ‘Fintech’ at 13%. ‘Bridging loan’ is in third from the bottom with only 14% of Brits confident in their understanding of the term.

However, Uswitch.com found that 78% of Britons were confident in their understanding of the term ‘Pension’, making it the least confusing financial term.

The second least confusing term is ‘Interest rates’. With 76% of Britons confident of what exactly it means, it is a reassurance that Brits understand this considering how important interest rates are for credit scores and mortgage applications.

In third place is ‘Crowdfunding’ at 73%, an innovative way to raise money for personal projects and new businesses that relies on the good natures of others.

Uswitch.com further analysed average monthly search volumes within the UK for questions relating to the definition of each financial term. The most searched for term is ‘stamp duty’, with 37,540 average monthly searches for questions relating to its meaning. Other commonly searched-for phrases include ‘what is a recession’ (6,800) ‘what is APR’ (5,700), and ‘what is cryptocurrency’ (2,400).

Churchgoers Using Contactless Technology to Support Local Churches

Data from GoodBox, a charity-focused digital giving provider showed a staggering 98% drop in income via contactless giving across the religious sector as a direct result of the first lockdown. However, as restrictions lifted, and limited numbers of the public were allowed back into services the average donation size across the religious sector more than doubled from £5.71 pre-lockdown to £13.75 as small congregations rallied to support their local churches as much as possible under tight restrictions.

The Church of England recently released figures showing a drop of £40m in donations in 2020* due to church closures, reduced congregations and loss of fees for services such as weddings. Historically many churches across the UK have relied on cash in the collection plate as a primary source for donations, but many have adapted due to COVID and now offer contactless solutions such as the GoodPlate, a religious offering plate that accepts both cash and contactless donations.

GoodBox Co-Founder & Managing Director Francesca Hodgson said: “The huge increase in donations after the first lockdown really illustrates the incredible resilience of the UK public and I am sure this will be reflected again during the Easter weekend. It is clear that congregations have a renewed desire to support their communities and offer a hand when needed. While these may be just numbers, they tell the underlying story of the generous British public and a willingness to help out those who need it.

As an increasing number of donors don’t carry cash, a contactless donation point is fast becoming an essential part of religious donations which is why we have tailored our solutions and developed the GoodPlate, a religious offering plate that accepts both cash and contactless donations.”

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


Elephants Don’t Forget: Mind the Knowledge Gap in Training and Competence


Covid-19 has turned the FinServ world upside down and – as a result – governance is almost certainly weaker in many firms than pre-Covid. With most employees working from home (WFH), the traditional office-based controls have evaporated.  You would expect firms to be paying closer attention to Training & Competence (T&C) to strengthen compliance. However, it would appear the reality may well be rather different. 

In a recent Training & Competence webinar, artificial intelligence provider, Elephants Don’t Forget – in conjunction with ClearStep Consulting – polled a cross-section of representatives from financial services firms and found that, despite the employee migration to WFH, 40% had not changed their approach to T&C throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a secondary poll, responses from the participants established that a significant 66% of firms were ‘not confident at all’, ‘slightly confident’ or only ‘somewhat confident’ that their Senior Managers could demonstrate a consistent approach and application to T&C.

Assessing the impact of the responses, Adrian Harvey, CEO of Elephants Don’t Forget, said: We are a year into Covid-19 and it was surprising to still see firms openly stating that nothing had changed in terms of their approach to T&C over the last year. The really concerning thing is that, for those that said nothing has changed in terms of their governance monitoring and T&C application, the regulator has issued enough recent warnings to signal that these firms are miles off from meeting regulatory and consumer expectations.”

In the webinar, available here, participants were also invited to provide feedback regarding the primary areas that their respective firms found most challenging in relation to T&C.

Ranging from recruitment to record-keeping, the top three primary issues for compliance and risk practitioners were collectively recorded as:

  1. ‘Attaining Competence’ (Induction, training timelines, how will employees attain competence and what happens if they do not).
  2. ‘Maintaining Competence’ (CPD, ongoing assessment, absence, and failure to maintain wider market, policy, process, and consumer considerations).
  3. ‘Supervision’ (Evidence-based assessment of competence and compliance adherence).

Harvey noted: “Most pro-active professionals operating in risk and compliance would assert that improving their monitoring capabilities to ensure better decision-making and risk evaluation is a priority.

“If you were to look at the 40% figure as indicative of the changes not made and apply it to the 60,000 or so firms that are operating right now, that could effectively mean that around 24,000 firms have not made any substantial changes to their governance or competence assessment processes in a year, which is extremely concerning considering the situation we have found ourselves in with many (traditional office-based) employee monitoring and development mechanisms disappearing almost overnight last March.

“From recent guidance issued on the treatment of vulnerable consumers, I think it is also undisputedly apparent that the regulator is now actively reiterating the importance of objectively monitoring employee competency and in-role application more often and more robustly too.”

Harvey refers to the recent publishing of the regulator’s FG21/1 Guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, which underlines the importance for firms to ‘carry out proactive data analysis to identify where vulnerable customers are more likely to suffer harm when things have gone wrong or where there are patches of poor staff knowledge and performance’.

Harvey concluded: “Most firms’ traditional compliance and governance structures – whilst better than in a WFH situation – still struggle to meaningfully quantify relevant employee knowledge, so banking on a return to the office to solve the problem might be a flawed strategy.

“In the FCA’s latest vulnerable customer guidance, the regulator is highlighting that all staff require more effective support in terms of T&C programs to deliver the positive outcomes necessary for every employee – within their induvial roles – to successfully adhere to the myriad of developing policies, processes, and governance at all times.

“The call from the regulator for firms to proactively identify knowledge gaps or poor performance illustrates that there is a genuine concern that a lack of objective and evidenced-based competency and conduct monitoring, combined with a deficiency of continual stress-testing for gaps, is only manifesting more potential instances of causing unnecessary harm to consumers and the market in general.

“For me, it is the moment of truth between when one employee – most probably working from home – and one customer interacts, and it is the extent to which that employer has supported and appropriately skilled that individual which will ultimately determine the positive or negative outcome.

“The need for exacting, consistent and evidence-based T&C is required, with a strict mantra: train, retain, fix, and follow.

“If your firm has not made any changes to your governance or T&C application, and you cannot evidence or monitor that your employees are successfully applying what you need them to, then you are at risk – it is that simple.”


British Bank Awards, ‘the Oscars of the Banking World’, Finalists Announced by Smart Money People


After 10 weeks of voting by consumers for their favourite banking providers, Smart Money People announced the finalists of their British Bank Awards 2021.

Run by Smart Money People, but 100% voted for by customers, the British Bank Awards have been described as ‘the Oscars of the banking world.’  The awards are given to companies that make the best products or have the hottest innovations. So far over 55,000 Smart Money People votes have been cast in this year’s round and voting continues up to 19th April.

Jacqueline Dewey, Chief Executive of Smart Money People, said, “The British Bank Awards are in their seventh year, and 2021 is shaping up to be our best yet, with record voting numbers and a great variety of firms participating.

“The financial services market remains incredibly competitive and is at the forefront of technological innovation. So, with fintech newcomers, established Bank and Building societies taking part, as well as the partners who support these companies, we can’t wait to see who emerges as winners are in 2021.

“Our voters are particularly pleased with the two new categories – best children’s financial provider and best ethical financial provider, which have attracted much interest.

“With three more weeks of voting remaining, there’s still all to play for with our finalists.”

Smart Money People Announce British Bank Awards, the Oscars of the Banking Worlds, Finalists

Smart Money People Announce British Bank Awards, the Oscars of the Banking Worlds, Finalists

The Finalists

Product Specific Awards

Best Business Banking Provider – Starling Bank, Revolut, Metro Bank, Cashplus Bank, Counting Up

Best Business Finance Provider – Fleximize, Satago, Crowd2fund, CapitalRise

Best Credit Card Provider – Virgin Money, Metro Bank, Zopa, Cashplus Bank

Best Current Account Provider – Starling Bank, Triodos Bank, Monzo, Metro Bank, Cashplus Bank

Best Investments Provider – Wealthify, WiseAlpha, Primary Bid, Evestor, True Potential Investor, Nutmeg, Wombat

Best Specialist Mortgage Provider – Darlington Building Society, Ecology Building Society, Newbury Building Society, Melton Building Society, Vernon Building Society

Best Mortgage Broker – Habito, Trussle, Mojo, Loans Warehouse, Vincent Burch Mortgage Services

Best Online Trading Platform – Freetrade, Trading212, Wombat, Ziglu

Best Personal Finance App – Money Dashboard, Chip, Plum, Yolt, Snoop, OpenMoney, Moneyhub, Emma

Best Personal Loan Provider – Zopa, Metro Bank, East Sussex Credit Union

Best Savings Provider – Close Brothers Savings, Vernon Building Society, Triodos Bank, Raisin, Zopa, Ecology Building Society

Best Children’s Financial Provider – goHenry, RoosterMoney, Nimbl, Metro Bank

Best Ethical Financial Provider – Triodos Bank, Ecology Building Society, Cumberland Building Society

Category Awards

Best British Bank – Starling Bank, Monzo, NatWest, Triodos Bank, Metro Bank

Innovation of the Year – Ziglu, Currensea, Cora by NatWest, Wombat, Snoop

Best Banking App – Snoop, Starling Bank, Plum, Zopa, Emma, CountingUp

Best Newcomer – Rasin, Dozen, Wombat, Kroo

Customer Service Champion – Saffron Building Society, WiseAlpha, Vernon Building Society, Ecology Building Society

Treating Customers Fairly Champion – Saffron Building Society, Vernon Building Society, Ecology Building Society, Wombat

Best Building Society – Darlington Building Society, Dudley Building Society, Ecology Building Society, Hinckley & Rugby Building Society, Newbury Building Society, Saffron Building Society, Melton Building Society, Vernon Building Society

As voting continues, two finalists in our ‘Customer Service Champion’ and ‘Treating Customers Fairly Champion’ awards will only be announced at the awards celebration in July.

Partner Specific Awards

The Pioneer Award – Clearbank, 11:FS, Bitsul, IFX Payments, Capco, Primary Bid

RegTech Partner of the Year – DueDil, Encompass, Qomply, Know Your Customer

Technology Partner of the Year – DPR, Primary Bid, SurePay, Artesian Solutions, IBM Watson, Yobota, Truelayer

Consultancy of the Year – Capco, Synechron, 11:FS, the Savings Guru, Bitsul

Marketing Partner of the Year – Announced at Smart Money People’s awards celebration on 8th July

Consumers can also continue to vote for their favourite online financial influencer and their top personal finance journalist right up until 19th April.

What happens next

Consumers continue to vote for their favourite finalist up until 19th April, when all voting will close. Smart Money People will then announce the winners in a celebration evening on 8th July in a central London venue.

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


Stablecoin News for the week ending Wednesday 31st March.


What type of Digital currency is best?

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

I like this quote from Agustín Carstens at BIS for the sheer chutzpah.  “The answer is that if digital currencies are needed, central banks should be the issuers and they should grant access based on identification”.  And, there is the big catch, if you tie identity to ownership of currency, which we do not do today with physical cash, then the only one that can be trusted is a Central Bank with a Government and State behind them, either in a direct sense or indirect in terms of via regulation or licence over commercial Banks.  In other words Agustin wants to keep the status quo.

However, Agustin along with other senior officials from central banks and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) have warned against trying to move too fast to issue central bank digital currency (CBDC). In remarks on March 22, BIS general manager Agustín Carstens, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and Deutsche Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann all said central banks could get into trouble if they tried to move too quickly.

This article in Forbes expands on the position being increasingly adopted by Western Central Banks that they should preserve the status quo and take small cautious steps with any Digital currency.

Central banks are not trying to muscle out cryptocurrencies, the private sector, or stifle innovation.

Ultimately, digital currencies must be scalable to serve nations, modes of settlement must be safe, technological infrastructure must be reliable and secure, and regulation must be strong to protect the high degree of trust that citizens have placed in central banks.”


In the meantime, Jamaica’s Central Bank revealed that it’s CBDC pilot will commence in May under the aegis of their Fintech Regulatory Sandbox. ECurrency Mint, an Irish technology company will support the central bank in testing protocols during the pilot stage scheduled to be completed by December.

Jamaica’s central bank taps Irish tech outfit for CBDC project

Then in the brave new world of Decentralized Finance (or DeFi) idealists want to create perfectly free financial ecosystems that can’t be subverted by governments, corporations or regulators. They also want their decentralized nirvana to be equipped with stablecoins so users can be protected from price craziness.

Therein lies the contradiction.  Are decentralized anarchic systems, those that have no link to existing centralized institutions, capable of creating stability? Or are they too unanchored to generate the traction necessary for a stablecoin to be, well, stable?  

JP Koning: Can Decentralized Stablecoins Stabilize?

In summary, we have on one side the established Fiat industry fighting to remain at the centre of any new system, while cautiously moving forward, and on the other side a group in the DeFi world working to completely supplant them at breakneck speed!  It seems to me we have three choices, actively support one side or the other or get some popcorn and sit back to watch the spectacle.


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

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

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


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


Apiax: Banks Need to Work With Digital-First Solutions to Ensure Cross-Border Regulatory Compliance


With regulations appearing different across countries and ecosystems, doing business across borders can be a challenge for financial organisations.

Alan Blanchard is Apiax’s UK Country Head. Apiax makes it radically simple to comply with regulations. Companies of all sizes and across industries can use its software to bridge the gap between compliance, business, and technology. 

Here Alan shares his view on why banks need to work with digital-first solutions to ensure cross-border regulatory compliance.

Alan Blanchard, UK Country Head, Apiax

Doing business across borders can be complicated, especially in highly regulated sectors like banking and finance. The challenges associated with providing compliant, cross-border financial advice and services have risen sharply in recent years. The pandemic and national lockdowns have only added to the complexities facing the sector.

With most staff now working from home, but still legally obliged to comply with the regulations of the host country or new meeting formats, ensuring compliance with the latest regulations has become a full-time job for many banks and businesses. Financial institutions need to keep up to ensure they continue to comply and retain their reputations, both nationally and internationally.

Sadly, to minimise risk, it is an all-too-common response for financial institutions and their teams to choose not to take that meeting, or to not expand into new business areas, with many retreating into only a few core markets. In other words, those financial institutions that have found an efficient way to manage financial regulation have a clear competitive advantage over their competitors.

Indeed, according to a recent study conducted by Apiax only 55% of financial services companies are currently actively marketing their services to clients abroad. So, let’s look at two, previously uncommon, scenarios which demonstrate how the pandemic and current regulations are hampering cross border financial services:

Digital banking – Restrictions around in-person meetings and travel restrictions have meant marketing banking services and products has shifted online. Financial institutions not only need to master the complexity of a slew of new regulations, but also find a way to ensure their teams stay compliant in the digital space. Finding ways to support modern banking applications, such as client advisory tools, online advisers, trading systems or mobile applications.

In many jurisdictions, such as in the UK and Singapore, there are specific rules governing online financial services and products, so organisations need to be aware of those regulations and ensure their advisory, sales and marketing teams are too. Regulatory knowledge needs to be up to date and, most importantly, accessible to anyone who needs it across an organisation.

Virtual and video meetings – The inability to hold face to face meetings with clients has caused a lot of confusion, with many organisations still not aware that most cross-border regulations are equally applicable to virtual meetings. According to Apiax’s survey, 49% of organisations in the sector admit to having difficulty understanding the legal rules around virtual meetings and only 32% have taken steps to cover current requirements.

Rules around communication channels are different for video, verbal, or written content. With some countries placing additional regulatory restrictions on what type of information or documentation can be shared with a prospect or client in a virtual setting. On top of that, the rules get more complicated if any activity is initiated by the bank, rather than the client.

Even if we take virtual scenarios out of the picture, traditional forms of compliance guidance, such as manuals, can quickly become out of date and provide ambiguous input. So, either a compliance team has the capacity to inform their advisory teams at short notice, or those teams must use their own judgment to interpret the restrictions. That is a huge risk, but the alternative could mean delaying or cancelling a meeting and losing the business.

How technology can help

Working with a digital compliance tool, for example a digital country manual, completely changes this dynamic. Planning even the most complex client interactions takes less than two minutes. It only takes a few seconds to cope with unplanned changes to the interaction, which can be as simple as the last-minute change to the meeting location.

A digital country manual can provide a client-facing advisor with a clear yes-or-no answer to whether an interaction is still compliant, at the touch of a button, instead of providing ambiguous, general information, without the need for the adviser to consult with his or her organisation’s in-house compliance experts.

Digital solutions to such complex problems empower financial institutions to easily serve clients in different jurisdictions, amidst changing circumstances. Financial institutions can not only work with the exact cross-border regulations they need to comply with, but also take advantage of new regulatory rule sets at the touch of a button. Enabling organisations to effortlessly expand their activities into new business areas, with the choice to expand coming down to subscribing to a new set of market-specific regulation, rather than risk hefty fines.

With the right set of digital tools, financial service providers can work with a single repository of digital regulatory rules. This enables them to achieve unsurpassed consistency, their distributed teams to work together seamlessly, and their client needs to be addressed efficiently.

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


Research Finds New Sensitive Banking Apps Have Top Vulnerabilities Across Android Categories


Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center (CyRC) released its State of Mobile Application Security report, which found that finance/banking apps, containing some of the consumer’s most personally sensitive data, are in the top 3 most vulnerable app categories across Android devices.

The Research focused on 18 different app categories, studying the 3,335 most popular Android mobile apps on the Google Play store. Within the banking category, Synopsys’ research team analysed 107 Android applications on the Google Play Store as of Q1, 2021.

“Like any other software, mobile apps are not immune to security weaknesses and vulnerabilities that can put consumers and businesses at risk,” said Jason Schmitt, general manager of the Synopsys Software Integrity Group. “Today, mobile app security is especially important when you consider how the pandemic has forced many of us—including children, students, and large portions of the workforce—to adapt to increasingly mobile-dependent, remote lifestyles. Against the backdrop of these changes, this report underscores the critical need for the mobile app ecosystem to collectively raise the bar for developing and maintaining secure software.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • Top other category vulnerabilities: Banking applications were within the top 3 categories with the highest percentage of scanned apps that contained vulnerable components.
  • Have above average exploitations: Financial and banking applications had the most dramatic findings for “Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures,” with 94 of the 107 (88%) of the applications scanned. Banking apps also have the third-highest percentage of exploitable Black Duck Security Advisories (BDSAs).
  • House higher than average permissions: Financial applications (budgeting, payment, banking) had a higher-than-average number of permissions, opening the door to potential hackers.
  • Have the potential to overcome: Developers could easily knock out almost 40% of banking app vulnerabilities with security solution implementation.

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

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