An Analysis of Mega Funding Rounds in FinTech (2018–2021)

FinTechs have always aimed to improve business models created by incumbents to introduce innovative business models for the financial ecosystem. FinTech startups approved by the market usually seek investments to expand their services or offerings. Successful startups that receive more investments have higher valuations. Many startups have joined the Unicorn club, thanks to their business models and mega funding rounds. In this article, we will focus on the mega funding rounds fueling the FinTech space.

Mega-rounds refer to large-scale funding (over $100 million) received by startups. Since 2018, 450 mega-roun …

Firo Announces New Privacy Protocol Lelantus Spark

Firo has announced its new privacy protocol Lelantus Spark, an evolution of Firo’s work on Lelantus v1/v2 that introduces several new privacy-preserving features that protect data and prevent prying eyes from monitoring spending patterns. 

Lelantus Spark is an evolution of Lelantus v1/v2 and retains many core benefits such as straightforward construction using well-established cryptographic assumptions and no required trusted setup, while presenting users with:

  • Spark addresses, a new, non-interactive addressing system that automatically allows senders to generate one-time addresses that cannot be searched on the blockchain. Third parties are prevented from viewing fund amounts and send times, greatly enhancing the recipient’s privacy. 
  • Efficient multisignature operations permit multiple mutually non-trusting parties to cooperatively generate, receive and authorise transactions associated with a multisig address. This feature protects against attempts to seize control or authorise spends without the others’ approval.
  • Incoming and full view keys provide flexibility in transaction visibility and allow wallet owners to grant third parties opt-in visibility into incoming and outgoing transactions.
  • Computational offloading allows low-powered devices, such as hardware wallets, to support Spark transactions by offloading transaction creation, chain scanning and balance computation to PCs and phones without delegating spend authority.
  • Modular design facilitates straightforward security analysis and allows easier upgrade of components such as more efficient ZKP.

The team behind Firo is exploring other useful functionality related to payment proofs, improved addressing and protocol transitions relevant to Spark, and plans to release a paper overviewing the protocol to the IACR preprint archive in the coming weeks.

Coding will begin in Q4 2021 for an anticipated final release in Q2 2022. 

“There are only a handful of cryptocurrency privacy protocols in meaningful use today, each with different trade-offs,” notes Reuben Yap, Project Steward of Firo. “We believe Lelantus Spark represents a holistic balance of high anonymity, simplicity and flexibility while remaining true to the spirit of trustlessness in cryptocurrencies.”

Since its founding in 2016, Firo has researched and built its own technology, which has resulted in next-level technological innovations that push the frontiers of blockchain privacy. Lelantus Spark is Firo’s latest innovation that furthers its mission of providing clear and consistent transactional privacy.

  • 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.

PayEm Emerges From Stealth With Two Funding Round Announcements as It Demonstrates Hyper-Growth

PayEm, the global spend and procurement platform for high-growth and multinational organisations has announced $27million in funding. The $27million consists of a $7million seed funding round led by Pitango First and NFX with participation by LocalGlobe and Fresh Fund, followed by a $20million Series A led by Glilot+, the early growth fund of Glilot Capital Partners. The company has demonstrated hyper-growth in Q2’21, growing its total portfolio value by 4x, generating millions of dollars in revenue.

PayEm’s platform automates finance processes from request to reconciliation, giving individuals and teams within global organisations the ability to manage non-payroll spend as needed while safeguarding budget, automating manual accounting tasks, and allowing finance teams to remain agile and in control.

Until recently, most major spend decisions were made by the procurement and finance teams. Today, however, decision-making with regards to vendors, SaaS platforms and more are delegated to teams throughout the organisation. This paradigm shift has created additional complexities for finance teams that need to keep track of thousands of small transactions using outdated technology, often handling much of the work manually. At the same time, Nilson Report estimates that annual B2B payment volume presently sits at $127trillion and is expected to reach $200trillion by 2028.

Specifically designed for global SMEs and enterprises, PayEm’s technology offers control and transparency by streamlining reimbursement, procurement, AP automation, and credit card processes into one centralised platform. The platform allows every subsidiary to have financial and accounting autonomy while enabling holistic processes at the global level. By integrating companies’ financial systems and ERP with an advanced end-to-end customised request-to-approval workflow and payment solution at the global level, PayEm puts an end to fragmented workflows and manual tasks. The technology also has cross-border capabilities: finance teams using PayEm can send funds to over 200 territories in 130 different currencies in just one click.

Companies such as Fiverr, Jfrog, Next Insurance, and hundreds more have already adopted PayEm to manage their international and local spend. “We are delighted with the work that we have done so far with PayEm, it has saved days of manual work each month using their platform and automating our reconciliation processes” says Or Hecht, Procurement Manager at Fiverr.

“We’ve built PayEm to meet the needs of SMEs and enterprises. Between the rise of SaaS, the trend of hybrid work, and the acceleration of global expansion by companies as they tap into markets and talent pools, existing technologies simply couldn’t meet changing market needs in a holistic manner. Our platform enables employees and various departments to make their own spending decisions while offering centralised control and visibility for finance teams,”  said Itamar Jobani, CEO and Co-Founder of PayEm. “By using our product, finance teams can manage every aspect of non-payroll expenditures, including credit cards, in a SOX-compliant way, support multi-currencies and different accounting methods across multi-territories, while eliminating manual overhead on reconciliation.”

Yair Cassuto, Partner at Pitango First: ”We’re seeing a substantial struggle for finance and procurement teams. Current systems and processes were not built for this paradigm shift in how budgets are spent and managed. PayEm’s market acceptance was very apparent with every introduction we’ve made during and after our investment process and we were astonished by the pace of adoption of PayEm’s solution.”

Lior Litwak, Managing Partner at Glilot Capital and Head of Glilot+, added: “PayEm’s holistic platform has seen tremendous growth in such short time precisely because it solves a truly fundamental problem for employees, managers, and financial officers alike – the ongoing fragmentation in corporate financial tools. We were impressed by PayEm’s vision and are excited to join their journey to create the ideal end-to-end spend and procurement platform for businesses.”

Speaking to The Fintech Times, Jobani exclusively explained why the company had decided to emerge from stealth at this point in time, “We have been experiencing amazing organic growth both in our customer base and our revenue stream and felt this would be a good time to tell the world about us. In addition, we were planning to communicate our Seed round initially but our Round A came up much faster then we expected so we decided to combine them both.”

Looking to the future, he said, “We are planning to expand our ERP integration coverage to support more ERP integrations and increase global expansion both in terms of Geo’s and product territory coverage.”

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

OPY USA: Buy Now, Pay Later – What’s in Store for the United States?

BNPL is immensely popular globally but has only been introduced to the US market recently, a trend that has amplified due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to C+R Research, 51% of online US consumers have used a BNPL service during the pandemic, a strikingly high increase compared to 2019. The increased popularity of the BNPL model has changed the way people pay for the better, as the 2020 surge has forced industry leaders to rethink their B2C strategies to cater to consumers seeking more flexibility in their payments.

Brian Shniderman, CEO of OPY USA, has decades of experience and possesses a wealth of knowledge within the payments sector. He spoke with The Fintech Times to discuss Buy Now Pay Later 2.0: BNPL that can be used for truly expensive things like dental care and vehicle repairs. He talks about how the service can evolve from a nice feature to a standard expectation:

Brian Shniderman, CEO of OPY USABrian Shniderman, CEO of OPY USA
Brian Shniderman, CEO of OPY USA

Recently, the Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) industry erupted when American fintech company Square acquired Afterpay; one of Australia’s leading BNPL companies, for an astonishing $29billion dollars. Marked as the largest buyout of an Australian organisation to date, Square’s strategic business move emphasises how rapidly the BNPL market has grown, hinting to what’s to come for the United States and the rest of the world.

Globally, BNPL has grown in popularity in recent years, becoming a useful tool for not only consumers but merchants as well, who can seamlessly offer a variety of payment methods for shoppers, allowing for customers to make purchases they may not have been able to afford otherwise, as well as for consumers who are looking to improve their overall spending habits by budgeting more efficiently. If developed and used correctly, BNPL products have the potential to increase sales, average transaction value, wallet share, and become a reliable source for new customer acquisitions for merchants. As consumers continue to spend more, BNPL is estimated to expand, with forecasted sales of $680billion by 2025.

Today in the United States, BNPL is largely popular when purchasing small-ticket retail items or impulse transactions like “t-shirts and tennis shoes”. PayPal’s “Pay in 4” instalment plan is a common BNPL service, allowing for consumers to pay for items purchased online through 4-biweekly instalment payments for low-ticket retail items. However, this antiquated version of BNPL, known as BNPL version 1.0, has resulted in inferior customer experiences and problematic flaws as smaller, impulsive purchases are difficult to manage and are largely unregulated in the US. Typically, “Pay in 4” plans are not reported to National Credit Reporting Agencies and therefore, do not offer consumers a way to build their credit profile and score, a precarious circumstance to have in the United States.

While it may seem convenient to steer away from traditional credit and debit purchases when at the supermarket or shopping on Amazon, what happens when a consumer is faced with a life-changing financial situation, such as when a routine dental cleaning turns into a root canal or a leaky bathroom sink results in a complete bathroom remodel? The version 1.0 BNPL options allow for purchasing a new pair of shoes or an upgrade to the latest iPhone, but as the limitations to how much a consumer spends is generally capped around $600, consumers are left out in the cold when needing to make the purchases that matter most in their lives.

Luckily, with the evolution of BNPL version 1.0 comes the “Buy Now, Pay Smarter” next-generation, highly evolved version 2.0 BNPL solution that is not only designed for merchants, by merchants, but its flexibility makes it ideal for meaningful life events standard BNPL version 1.0 offerings simply do not support. Consumers shouldn’t feel the need to panic when faced with something as dire as emergency surgery for a pet or needing an expensive repair on their car. Version 2.0 “Buy Now, Pay Smarter” options focus on verticals such as Home Improvement and Repair, Education, Healthcare (including Veterinary and Dental), and Auto Repair and Servicing, all of which present potentially life-changing purchases for which next-generation BNPL solutions can provide solutions, all while helping consumers to avoid traditional credit card debt, as well as eliminating potential risks of traditional POS lending.

Although version 1.0 BNPL solutions have some disadvantages, their presence within the payments industry is a valuable one, as the BNPL boom continues to expand in the US, as will the evolution of version 2.0, growing from a “nice to have”, to a standard expectation. With the developing trend on the rise, customers will begin to have more flexibility as more BNPL companies expand those restricting limits and enable longer payment plans with higher limits.

And that’s not all.

Many BNPL version 1.0 services advertise zero interest, but when a customer misses a payment by a day or a dollar, they may find themselves facing balloons of debt that can be unmanageable. With BNPL version 2.0, merchants offering the “Buy Now, Pay Smarter” alternative will aim to work with large companies who enable the sizeable scale that drives costs down, ensuring a missed payment will not result in having to cut college tuition payments, discontinue treatment for important dental work, or impact any other life-changing financial situations that can have long-term effects on a person’s stress and mental wellbeing.

The US payment landscape is going through a tectonic change and the BNPL industry is evolving to provide consumers with the ability to manage their cash flow and budget. The “Buy Now, Pay Smarter” BNPL version 2.0 providers are working to build a payments solution consumers crave by redefining the future of payments and building an entirely new level of transparency and platform for consumers that omits the tricks, gimmicks, and gotchas of first-generation 1.0 BNPL players. As we look to the horizon of fintech as we know it, the future has never looked brighter.

OBE Expands to Brazil and Launches With a Live Campfire Session in September

Open Banking Excellence (OBE), the global centre of community and knowledge driving change in Open Finance, has announced the launching of a local chapter in Brazil to support the development and growth of the country’s open financial system. The launch of OBE Brazil takes place on 1st September at 2 pm Brazil Time (6 pm BST) with a free Campfire, a live session with debates and discussions by experts in the sector.

Open Banking, or open financial system, is the process of banks and other financial institutions sharing consumer banking, transaction and other financial data in a safe, agile and convenient way — with customer consent.

Founded in the United Kingdom, a pioneer country in Open Banking, OBE brings together in its community a variety of financial services companies, including fintechs, big techs, banks and regulators. Its members meet frequently to learn, share stories, stimulate debate and, above all, collaborate with one another. The community has grown rapidly since its creation and has successfully developed initiatives that can be easily replicated in Brazil, taking into account local requirements and regulations.

OBE Brazil lands in the Latin American country at an important moment in which the Central Bank of Brazil and Brazilian financial institutions are preparing for the full implementation of Open Banking.

Helen Child, Co-Founder of OBEHelen Child, Co-Founder of OBE
Helen Child, Co-Founder of OBE

“Open Banking will trigger greater cooperation between the Brazilian banking system and fintech startups, resulting in a better offer of financial services and products. This will attract millions of new users to the country’s financial system and the opportunity for Brazilian fintechs is tremendous,” said Helen Child, Co-Founder of OBE. “We believe that the plan set out by the Central Bank of Brazil will promote even more profound changes than those that took place in the UK, making Brazil a new reference in the sector. We are incredibly excited to be a part of this story.”

Sponsored by Mastercard and Accenture, with support from RAiDiAM and FDATA, OBE Brazil will start operations in the country with a Campfire, a live session that promotes debates among industry experts with the objective of inspiring, educating and catalysing the growth of Open Finance. The theme of this first meeting will be “Open Banking in Brazil — Opportunities, Challenges and Learnings”.

The Campfire will have two panels: “Brazil’s brave new Open Banking landscape: Barriers, opportunities and real-world wins”, a session bringing together those at the forefront to discuss how the country capitalises on opportunities, as well as overcome existing roadblocks — at speed; and “From the UK to Brazil: Lessons learned from the UK Open Banking journey”, where the audience will hear from those who have been paving the way, what they’ve learned and how they’ve overcome challenges.

Confirmed speakers include Aristides Andrade Cavalcante Neto, Deputy Head of IT and Chief of Cybersecurity and Technological Innovation Office at Banco Central Do Brasil (Central Bank of Brazil); Spencer Mahony, Deputy Trade Commissioner for Latin America and Caribbean at the Department of International Trade; Edlayne Altheman Burr, Managing Director of Financial Services at Accenture; Daniel Globerson, Head of Open Banking at Natwest Bank; Imran Gulamhuseinwala, Trustee at Open Banking Implementation Entity; Gavin Littlejohn, Chairman at FDATA; Ralph Bragg, Founder and CTO at RAiDiAM; Mariana Cunha e Melo, Strategy and Regulation Director at Quanto.

Aristides Andrade Cavalcante Neto, Deputy Head of IT and Chief of Cybersecurity and Technological Innovation Office at Banco Central Do Brasil, said, “The implementation of each stage of Open Banking in Brazil is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a deep transformation of how financial services are conceived and delivered to consumers. We’ve learned a lot from other jurisdictions and especially throughout our implementation journey, making adjustments when necessary. In this way, we expect to continue contributing to this theme, together with other institutions such as the OBE.”

Spencer Mahony, Deputy Trade Commissioner for Latin America and Caribbean at the Department of International TradeSpencer Mahony, Deputy Trade Commissioner for Latin America and Caribbean at the Department of International Trade
Spencer Mahony, Deputy Trade Commissioner for Latin America and Caribbean at the Department of International Trade

Spencer Mahony, Deputy Trade Commissioner for Latin America and Caribbean at the Department of International Trade said, “We are delighted to see this initiative that will help deepen Open Banking cooperation between the UK and Brazil. As part of the 4th Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) held in December 2020, the UK and Brazil committed to enhance collaboration on issues related to the development of fintechs and innovative banking solutions in Brazilian and British markets. The UK has reinforced its commitment to this financial ecosystem through regulatory workshops with the Brazilian government, and we look forward to working together as both our countries apply the principles of open banking to other sectors, including insurance.”

Edlayne Altheman Burr, Managing Director of Financial Services at AccentureEdlayne Altheman Burr, Managing Director of Financial Services at Accenture
Edlayne Altheman Burr, Managing Director of Financial Services at Accenture

Edlayne Altheman Burr, Managing Director of Financial Services at Accenture, said, “Open Banking will position Brazil as one of the most innovative financial ecosystems in the world. When comparing to other countries currently engaging in Open Banking, we will have the largest scope of financial data shared in the globe. New business models leveraging data are expected to emerge, enabling better customer understanding and insights, which implicates in more efficiency in product offerings and opportunities for developing new services tailored to customer needs.”

Gavin Littlejohn, Executive Chairman at FDATAGavin Littlejohn, Executive Chairman at FDATA
Gavin Littlejohn, Executive Chairman at FDATA

Gavin Littlejohn, Executive Chairman at FDATA said, “Open Banking Excellence is a community platform which has usefully connected stakeholders, distributed ideas and generated interesting conversations. As an open banking and open finance-focused global trade association, FDATA looks forward to again working with OBE as it commences operations in Brazil, which is at an exciting stage in its evolution.”

Ralph Bragg, Founder and CTO of RAiDiAMRalph Bragg, Founder and CTO of RAiDiAM
Ralph Bragg, Founder and CTO of RAiDiAM

Ralph Bragg, Founder and CTO of RAiDiAM, said, “We are proud to have worked alongside the Banco Central do Brasil in providing the technology and standards that have enabled Open Banking in the country. We’ve learned and shared many lessons from the UK; helping accelerate the implementation process. This means it has been possible to deliver an interoperable, distributed data sharing ecosystem that supports safe and secure customer data sharing and payment initiation, in less than 9 months. The next step will be for participants to develop new propositions and capabilities to drive widespread adoption. The community collaboration and visibility provided by OBE, plus the access it gives to world-class experts, will enable the other important parts of Brazil’s Open Banking ecosystem to develop rapidly.”

OBE Brazil will have an independent advisory board, formed by key stakeholders within Open Banking, coming from banks, regulatory bodies, fintechs, consulting and technology companies. This council will work to engage the community for the adoption of open systems, in addition to defining general objectives, operational structures and seeking funding sources for the development of the sector in Brazil.

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

Egypt Becomes the Second Country to Launch Arab Bank’s “AB Accelerator” Programme

Arab Bank has recently launched its FinTech-focused corporate accelerator program “AB Accelerator” in Egypt, following its successful launch in Jordan back in 2018. The launch of this program in Egypt comes as part of the bank’s strategic efforts to foster and support innovation in the FinTech sector towards offering responsive and agile banking solutions in line with the evolving needs and expectations of clients across different segments.

The “AB Accelerator” program aims to accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies and solutions within Arab Bank, and support entrepreneurs with the opportunity to scale their market-ready FinTech startups across the MENA region. Driven by this objective, the “AB Accelerator” program works to integrate into Egypt’s startup scene through investing in early-stage startups specialised in FinTech as well as other related technology verticals, such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI), with a focus on startups that demonstrate strategic alignment with Arab Bank.

Commenting on the launch of the program in Egypt, Hala Zahran, Lead of AB Accelerator commented: “AB Accelerator is unique in a way that applies a venture client as well as a venture capital model. “AB Accelerator” provides early-stage startups with a banking and commercial collaboration that not only helps them gain credibility and validate their product, but also allows them to instantaneously tap into multiple geographies. As such, “AB Accelerator” program encompasses the essence of what a strategic investor is.” Zahran also added: “Over the past two years, we have invested in a global portfolio of startups from the US, Europe and in the MENA region, including startups like Seclytics (Cybersecurity), Tabby (Buy Now Pay Later) Hala Insurance (Digital Insurance).”

From her side, Habiba Helmy, Innovation Lead at Arab Bank – Egypt remarked: “We are very excited about this new opportunity to connect with promising FinTech startups in Egypt, which has one of the region’s most thriving ecosystems for innovation.” She added: “Egypt is home for talented and passionate entrepreneurs who we are eager to collaborate with and, eventually, help in expanding their footprint both locally and regionally.”

Commenting on the benefits that startups receive upon joining AB Accelerator program, Helmy pointed: “Not only will startups be able to receive funding of up to $500,000, but they will also be entitled to a host of unique benefits as part of their collaboration with Arab Bank. These benefits include: creating a customised Proof of Concept to test solutions which could potentially lead to a pilot agreement with the bank, as well as instantly accessing customers and markets across Arab Bank’s regional and global network.”

Arab Bank is one of the leading financial institutions in the region to deploy state-of-the-art technological solutions for financial and banking services. The bank’s strategic approach on this front dovetails with its constant endeavour to support entrepreneurs and startups that contribute to youth capacity building, innovation and employment, as critical elements towards achieving sustainable economic development.
It is also worth noting that Arab Bank’s presence in Egypt started in 1944. Currently, the bank has 44 branches located in main cities and governorates across Egypt. Arab Bank has one of the largest global Arab banking networks with over 600 branches spanning five continents.

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

House of Gold? Prospective Buyers Could Save Deposit 4 Years Faster With Gold Investment

First-time homebuyers in the UK could save a deposit four years faster if they were to place their money in gold rather than cash; the gold-based savings and payments provider Glint has revealed. 

Glint’s research indicates that the average first-time buyer saves for 12 years in order to afford the average UK house deposit of £59,000. Analysis of historic gold prices shows that this deposit could be reached in just 8 years (33% sooner), if prospective buyers saved in gold instead of cash savings such as ISAs.

According to the ONS, the average UK house price is £266,000 and recent research from Halifax indicates that the average city home now costs over eight times the average salary, up from almost six times the average salary in 2011.

Glint explains that Generation Rent can take more control over how they save for a deposit for their first home ensuring they can purchase their first home much sooner, which is vital as property prices continue to rise. According to ONS figures, house prices have risen by 13.2% over the last year.

Value of Gold Has Risen Much More Quickly Than House Prices and FTSE 100 Investments

UK house prices have increased by 175% from an average of £96,500 in 2001 to £266,000 today. Over the same period gold prices are up 556% from $275 to $1,803, indicating that savers could have secured a house deposit much sooner by investing and saving in gold.

Gold has also outperformed other investments such as the FTSE 100 which has increased by 28% from 5,537 to 7,078.

Glint adds that alternative currencies are increasingly popular as inflation rises rapidly – already exceeding the Bank of England’s initial 2% target with the Bank expecting to hit 4% this year. In addition, minuscule interest rates and record levels of government borrowing and debt combine to erode the value of sterling and other fiat currencies. UK national debt recently hit £2.2tn – over 99% of GDP.

Jason Cozens, Founder and CEO, GlintJason Cozens, Founder and CEO, Glint
Jason Cozens, Founder and CEO, Glint

“There is a huge untapped opportunity for first-time buyers to finally get onto the property ladder by turning towards alternative currencies,” explains Jason Cozens, Founder and CEO of Glint. “Generation Rent finally has an alternative to the seemingly hopeless task of stockpiling a deposit from cash savings such as ISAs as house prices continue to soar to record highs, leaving them at risk of getting left further behind with every month that passes.

“With inflation rising more quickly than expected and minuscule interest rates, the value of sterling is declining, meaning that prospective buyers are forced to save even more than previously to reach the holy grail of a deposit for their first home. By continuing to persevere with cash savings, they are at real risk of pricing themselves out of a home.

“In addition to out-of-control inflation and historically low-interest rates, our cash savings are impacted by the staggering levels of public borrowing and debt. As our cash and savings further decline in value, how are Generation Rent meant to take the vital step of getting onto the first rung of the housing ladder when the value of their dream home becomes further out of reach every day?

“Many first-time buyers feel like they’re swimming against the tide – once they’ve saved enough for their deposit, they find out that it’s no longer enough to secure the home they were saving for. Over the last 20 years, the growth in the value of gold has far outstripped the rise in house prices – saving in gold is a clear alternative for those searching for value and can unlock the possibility of homeownership. Although house prices have increased by 58% since the financial crisis, gold prices have soared 146% over the same period. Gold has also dramatically outperformed many other investments over the long-term, such as the FTSE 100, cementing its position as the asset of choice.

“More recently, the allure of cryptocurrencies captured the hearts and minds of investors and savers but the extreme volatility of these assets – Bitcoin’s value is under half of its April peak – ensures that these assets aren’t a viable option when saving for a home. There are also reports of reluctance amongst some lenders to approve mortgage applications to prospective buyers based on the deposit or income originating from crypto returns, with some applications rejected outright.

“Whilst the value of gold can decline, meaning that its purchasing power can in turn decline, it has proven its reliability as a long-term store of value and prices are steadily climbing back to the highs of last year. Previously, access to gold was extremely limited but the digitalisation of gold with Glint has unlocked the asset to all consumers offering a viable means of saving for the future and even spending gold on an everyday basis.”

Glint has enjoyed rapid growth during 2021, with a 34% increase in new clients looking to spend and save gold – hitting 84,350 clients in August, up from 62,900 at the start of the year. Glint also recently passed a major milestone, processing over $250m transactions since their inception.

  • 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.

UTP Releases an eBook To Help SMEs Prepare for Post Pandemic Life and Any Future Problems

UTP, a credit and debit card payment solutions provider, is launching a new eBook for SMEs, offering advice in how to future-proof their businesses.

The eBook, entitled ‘Never Going Back: How SMEs can future-proof for post-pandemic success’ explains how a secure, fast, and smart payments infrastructure can help SMEs become more resilient and adaptable to events such as natural disasters and trade restrictions.

Speaking of the last 18 months, Michael Ault, CEO at UTP, said, “We may not live in a cashless society just yet, but it’s clear that cash is diminishing in usage, and the sooner any business can start taking digital payments, the better prepared for the future they’ll be.

“And with digital payment acceptance in place, small businesses can drill into a goldmine of data analytics that can tell them who their customers are, how they pay and how best to reach them with targeted offers generated by their preferences. That’s yet another way businesses can ensure they get future-proofed with ease.”

It is fundamental changes to how we shop that inspired UTP to create their eBook. In it, the business shares how SMEs can use available payments and commerce options to protect their revenues in any eventuality – even those that cannot be predicted.

Advice is imparted on how to mitigate against fraud and costly interchange and processing fees, as well as how businesses should choose the best POS terminal for their requirements.

Jaime Lowe, Sales Director at UTP, added, “We know that small businesses – from cash-based sole traders to hospitality and events businesses – suffered a huge loss of footfall during the pandemic.

“Pre-Covid, it was unthinkable that an event could occur that would see the UK locked down and consumer footfall vanish overnight. But what small businesses lack in scale, they make up for in sheer tenacity, and pivoting to new business models at short notice.

“However, lockdowns changed purchasing behaviours in a way that is likely to be permanent. Indeed, as the use of cash declines and both consumers and businesses have become more digitally capable, it’s predicted that by 2024, 95% of all UK retail sales will be conducted through an eCommerce platform.”

Worldwide eCommerce sales increased by 57% in 2020, and though the easing of restrictions has attracted more people back to the high street, online shopping is only going to become more normalised.

Should the future bring more disruptive events such as further lockdowns or extreme weather small businesses now have the technology and the tools to keep serving customers and stay flexible, multi-channel, and available.

A key theme throughout the document is the need for businesses to choose their POS terminals carefully to maximise the potential they can deliver.

Michael Ault said, “Modern terminals are highly innovative and confer all kinds of benefits to the businesses that use them. However, they are not a one-size-fits all technology. Factors such as how a business operates, their volume of sales, what they sell, and who they sell to will all influence what type of terminal is best for their needs.

“The eBook covers the various types of businesses that are either using – or should be using – POS terminals and provides advice on the best devices to help them achieve their goals. It’s free to download and we encourage all SMEs to access it. For some, it could be one of the most important documents they read this year.”

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

FintechOS Uncovers Challenges SMEs Face in Going Digital

FintechOS, the global technology provider for banks, insurers and other financial services companies, has launched a report, in association with Efma, a non-profit organisation created by leading banks and insurance companies. The report reveals that 40% of SME bankers say the average time spent on approving an SME loan takes more than one week. The finding is part of FintechOS’s latest report, Digital-first SME Banking, which explores the SME banking landscape and the challenges of becoming digital-first.

To understand the current SME banking landscape, FintechOS commissioned an independent survey of 40 SME banking executives from around the globe to gain a better understanding of the challenges they are facing and what is working best. The study features contributions from leading banks including Nordea, ABN AMRO, OTP Bank and HSBC.

Key findings include:

  • Payments pose the greatest competition in the SME market.

According to 60% of SME bankers, payments is the area in which they see the most competition from fintechs. Other areas of competition from fintechs include loan products and overdrafts (13%).

  • Loans hold the biggest opportunity for growth for SME banks

Despite competition from fintechs, there is still opportunity for growth with 63% of respondents stating loans as the biggest growth area for SME banks. Deposits and cash management products (17%) was another area identified.

  • Lack of appropriate IT tools are a huge barrier

Whilst loans represent a major growth opportunity, 41% of SME bankers reported they lack the relevant IT tools, such as credit scoring models, to service customers in a personalised way. 75% said the reason behind this lack of tools is down to the high cost of technology implementation. Bank’s hierarchical organisational structure (18%) was reportedly the next biggest obstacle.

  • The standardisation of SME products

Due to these barriers, most SMEs are offered standardised products with 51% of SME bankers stating this is the case. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the two biggest areas in which bankers said they could use support from technology companies were in providing end-to-end digital customer journeys (25%) and facilitating access to third-party data from the SME ecosystem (21%).

“Specialists are targeting specific segments like the SME market and financial services are becoming increasingly embedded into other products through partnerships and APIs. This results in banks becoming one step further removed from their customer base,” says Teodor Blidarus, CEO and Co-Founder, at FintechOS.

“To compete on the same level as fintechs, they need to leverage a partner that can support them to deliver personalised products, fully digital customer journeys and platforms that can support their ideas around innovation. Only then can SME banks confidently walk a clear and controlled path to a digital future, where they can bring new products and services to market that are more customer-centric, data-driven and faster to deploy.”

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

PDG Announces Plans To Develop New JC2 Data Centre in Jakarta, Indonesia

As part of their intention to expand their footprint in the promising landscape of Indonesia’s digital economy, the Singapore-based data centre provider Princeton Digital Group (PDG) has announced their plans for a greenfield development in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The new 22MW data centre, to be named Jakarta Cibitung 2 (JC2), is being built within the same 19,550m2 campus that houses PDG’s existing data centre – JC1. This expanded campus of 35MW is well-poised to serve global cloud companies, domestic internet companies, and enterprises with scalability, connectivity, and reliability.

According to Structure Research, the Jakarta data centre colocation market is still developing, and the sector is expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 23.7% through 2025.

With 19 data centres split across 5 countries, PDG has developed a considerable footprint in less than 4 years since its inception. In addition to this, the company has recently announced an investment of $1 billion to open an additional 100 MW flagship data centre campus in Japan.

The greater Jakarta area is experiencing increasing adoption of cloud-based services, among consumers, businesses and the government. Indonesia is also home to some of the fastest-growing start-up companies of SE Asia.

Rangu Salgame, Chairman and CEO, Princeton Digital GroupRangu Salgame, Chairman and CEO, Princeton Digital Group
Rangu Salgame, Chairman and CEO, Princeton Digital Group

“The Asia Pacific region is set to be the largest data centre market in the world, and this announcement underscores our vision to be the market leader in this region,” said Rangu Salgame, Chairman and CEO of Princeton Digital Group. “Over the last four years, through our unique three-pronged strategy of acquisitions, carve-outs and greenfield development, we’ve built a strong portfolio of data centres across key Asian markets such as China, Singapore, Indonesia, India, and Japan. PDG has become a partner of choice for hyperscalers across multiple countries. PDG’s growth in Indonesia demonstrates our continued ability to expand rapidly in markets that matter to our customers.”

“Jakarta is an exciting market, Cibitung being the pre-eminent cloud cluster in the region. With the expanded campus, PDG has become a significant player in the Indonesian market. With the explosive economic growth and rapid digitalization by both government and private sectors in Indonesia, the market is core to PDG’s strategy.”, added Stephanus Tumbelaka, PDG’s Managing Director of Indonesia.

  • 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.

FiVerity’s Cyber Fraud Network Enables Information Sharing to Combat Synthetic Identity Fraud

FiVerity, a provider of cyber fraud defense, has announced the launch of the Cyber Fraud Network, the industry’s first collaborative system built to combat the convergence of cyber tactics with fraudulent theft. FiVerity’s Cyber Fraud Network improves the collective cyber fraud knowledge of financial institutions, regulators and law enforcement by facilitating the secure exchange of intelligence on suspected fraudsters without disclosing personally identifiable information (PII).

This revolutionary information sharing network gives financial institutions the industry’s first secure method of sharing the critical details that make it easier to effectively combat synthetic identity fraud (SIF). In this growing financial crime, criminals combine information taken from social media and compromised identities available on the dark web to create entirely new, fraudulent identities. These identities are then used to infiltrate consumer lending institutions and steal billions of dollars. SIF is one of the fastest-growing financial crimes and is responsible for a growing number of credit losses. In 2020 alone, FiVerity estimates SIF cost US financial institutions $20billion.

Using AI and machine learning solutions, the network detects sophisticated forms of cyber fraud and delivers actionable, proactive threat intelligence to banks and law enforcement agencies. For years, fraudsters using a single synthetic identity have been able to create accounts at multiple institutions, with little fear of being caught. Now, the Network can help prevent this through information sharing, while keeping PII safe.

As noted by The Federal Reserve in it’s July 2020 Payment Fraud Insight paper, “No single organisation can stop synthetic identity fraud on its own. Fraudster tactics continually evolve to stay a step ahead of detection – and the most sophisticated fraudsters can operate at scale in organised crime rings, generating significant losses for the payments industry. It is imperative that payments industry stakeholders work together, share information and keep up with the threat.”

The Cyber Fraud Network, which can be accessed through a simple and secure API integration, strengthens each user’s defense by alerting them to fraudulent activity detected throughout the network. This multiplies each user’s ability to identify – and learn from – new fraud patterns. In addition to providing ongoing defense, FiVerity offers a fast and lightweight portfolio analysis to identify SIF accounts within existing portfolios.

“Financial institutions – from the smallest community bank to the largest global lender – all understand the severity of the cyber fraud problem,” said Greg Woolf, CEO of FiVerity. “Until now, they’ve been uncertain about what information they can share without violating privacy regulations or other security rules. Many also worry about giving up a competitive advantage when sharing customer data. FiVerity’s Cyber Fraud Network was created to solve these problems and give financial institutions the tools they need to share information without violating their customers’ privacy.”

The Network’s “double-blind” approach splits the encryption key across members so that no single institution holds the complete key to decrypt PII data. This allows financial institutions to maintain complete confidence in the security of their customer data, as the only companies that can validate a shared profile are the ones that already possess the corresponding PII.

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

Do Crypto-Based Remittances Really Work?

There’s been a lot of talk on the fintech scene recently around the capabilities of crypto, and especially in regards to remittances. Do they work? Are they worth your time? What are the benefits? Are they even to be trusted?

These are all very important and very intriguing questions in the modern age of financial services, and through this report originally obtained from, we’ll attempt to answer them.

El Salvador doesn’t make international news very often.

Yet the small central-American nation demanded the world’s attention in June 2021, when its government announced an ambitious plan to make Bitcoin legal tender, meaning the cryptocurrency will have to be accepted as payment for goods and services (unless a business is unable to obtain the technology needed for the transaction.) Bitcoin now looks set to become the country’s national currency.

El Salvador is making the move for a variety of reasons – not least the ambition of president Nayib Bukele to turn the country into a crypto investment hub.

But a primary consideration in popularising digital currencies was the amount of money El Salvador receives in remittances each year: an estimated $5.9 billion in 2020, almost a quarter of its GDP.

Bukele argues that Bitcoin will provide a new and more attractive avenue to send this money into El Salvador, which adopted the dollar after its currency collapsed in 2001, and open up financial services to the 70% of El Salvadoreans without bank accounts.

Money Transfers Cost 7% On Average

Although fees can be reduced by going through a money transfer company, sending money abroad can be a complicated, slow, and costly process. The UN reported in 2019 that currency conversions and fees eat up 7% of the amount sent through remittances each year.

And remittance corridors aren’t created equally. In El Salvador, the average cost is 3%. The world’s largest remittance flow is between the US and Mexico, where the average cost is 4.22% of the transaction. And senders paid an average 8.9% to send money into sub-Saharan Africa in the last quarter of 2019.

Do cryptocurrencies, which can be sent through the blockchain rather than any third party, offer a way to lower these costs?

How To Send Money Abroad in Cryptocurrency

Sending remittance payments in crypto, in simple terms, goes something like this:

The process of sending cryptocurrencies internationallyThe process of sending cryptocurrencies internationally
The process of sending cryptocurrencies internationally

If you’re not already familiar with buying and selling crypto, those steps may raise a few questions, so let’s talk through them.

Step 1: Buying the Coins 

You can do this in a variety of ways, such as through a centralised cryptocurrency exchange – these are private companies that allow you to trade coins and require registration and identification.

There are many options out there with various pros and cons, so this will require some research if you’re not already trading.

For example, Coinbase allows you to buy and sell a variety of currencies and has strong security and transparent pricing, but has higher transaction fees than other services unless you pay for the premium version, according to Investopedia.

Meanwhile, Cash App is an option with a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to buy and sell Bitcoin – but no other cryptocurrencies.

Some sites, like Wirex and Paxful, are specifically geared towards people who want to transfer money in crypto.

Pay particular attention to transaction fees and withdrawal fees when you choose an option.

Step 2: Sending the Coins

In order for this method to work, the recipient will also need their own cryptocurrency exchange/digital wallet.

Your ability to transfer crypto won’t be impeded if the recipient uses a different exchange to you, as you’ll only require the address of their digital wallet. You can scan the QR code associated with the address, or paste their public address. But be careful in this regard, it’s crucial you don’t make a mistake here, as crypto exchanges are irreversible.

The specifics may vary depending on your method of exchange, but you should then follow its instructions for sending.

The speed of transaction can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days – this may depend on how high a transaction fee you pay.

Step 3: the Recipient Sells the Coins

The value of various cryptocurrencies in fiat money is notoriously volatile.

If the recipient waits too long to exchange their coins, it’s possible they could lose out considerably if the price drops. Conversely, if the price rises, they could end up with more than you intended to send.

You should also consider exchange rates at the time of making the transfer, since the money will be exchanged twice – into the cryptocurrency when you buy it, and back out of it when they sell it.

The recipient could, of course, also keep the cryptocurrency and spend it directly (in the limited places it’s possible to do so) or hold it as an investment.

Is Sending Remittances Through Cryptocurrencies Safe? 

There are risks around every corner of the process, though these shouldn’t necessarily scare you off.

As step 3 shows, the biggest risk is the element of uncertainty over how much the coins will be worth when the recipient sells them. Then there’s the risk of you making a mistake when making the transaction, as trades cannot be reversed and you are unlikely to find a recourse to get it back.

However, if you use a major crypto exchange, the transaction and your money will be secure.

The pros and cons of Crypto-based remittancesThe pros and cons of Crypto-based remittances
The pros and cons of Crypto-based remittances

What Are the Benefits of Using Cryptocurrency To Make International Money Transfers? 

With so many pros and cons associated with the already complex process of crypto-based remittances, it wouldn’t be irrational to ask the question “what’s the point?”

To gain a better understanding of this, the team at the aforementioned crypto exchange Paxful explains.

Artur Schaback, COO and co-founder, PaxfulArtur Schaback, COO and co-founder, Paxful
Artur Schaback, COO and co-founder, Paxful

Artur Schaback, Paxful COO and co-founder, said the main benefits are usually cost, with crypto exchanges avoiding the high transaction fees and unfavourable exchange rates of some traditional providers; speed, because transactions can be done at any time on any day, and can take as little as a few minutes; and the access provided for people who may not have a bank account or may live in areas where payments are censored by governments or corporations.

“Sending a cross-border payment is not always easy, especially for people living in countries where there is low access to financial services or the government places restrictions on its citizens sending and receiving money,” Schaback explains.

Sending through crypto to markets such as Ethiopia, Schaback adds, can “heavily undercut what traditional services charge, as the seller can typically earn money by trading Bitcoin.”

Schaback believes economies are currently only scratching the surface when it comes to use of crypto. In higher-income economies, crypto is primarily seen as an investment asset.

Yet with financial education and more widespread adoption, he believes crypto exchanges will provide a way to complement the gaps in the current financial system.

In the case of El Salvador, recipients of remittances in Bitcoin should soon be able to hold onto those coins and spend them directly, without the need to exchange them back into fiat money.

A Verdict From

As this report was originally obtained from, their opinion on the state of crypto-based remittances comes as highly valued.

Jonathan Merry, Founder and CEO, MoneyTransfers.comJonathan Merry, Founder and CEO,
Jonathan Merry, Founder and CEO,

“Cryptocurrency exchanges are certainly an interesting new way of transferring money abroad, and can be useful for sending money to countries that are difficult to transfer money to due to sanctions or their financial system, like Iran,” says Jonathan Merry, founder and CEO of

“If the recipient has a specific reason for wanting the money they are owed in cryptocurrency then it’s clearly also a good option. Perhaps they want to invest in a currency anyway, or believe they can make a profit on the exchange.

“If both the parties in the exchange want to experiment with transferring money through crypto, and can afford to potentially take a loss on the transaction, there are secure ways to do so.

“But for the majority of transactions between easy-to-access markets, customers may wish to stick with traditional money transfer providers – at least until cryptocurrencies are more widely accepted as payment.”

The quality and costs of popular digital banks varies based on many factors, like location, laws and of course on what’s happening on the outside world – crypto having no small role on the banking evolution over the last years.

  • 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.

Empowering Young Arabs to Work in Tech Across The Middle East & North Africa

The generational shift of getting the young generation to work in wider tech can be felt across the world, increasingly so in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. How can current and future generations be inspired to do so in the ecosystem that encompasses tech?

Historically, the MENA region (and the wider Middle East and Africa (MEA) region) is a diverse landscape. It is home to some of the world’s richest as well as world’s poorest countries. For the former, in particular in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region that consists of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Kuwait, the region has one of the world’s highest standards of livings and overall high gross domestic products (GDPs).

Notably, in particular the affluent GCC countries but also other countries in the wider MENA and MEA region are undergoing massive national economic development and diversification strategies (for example Saudi Vision 2030) whereby their economies will aim to be not only less oil reliant but one that fosters innovation, talent and diversity amongst its economic development.

Combat youth unemployment

The region overall has a young population with the largest youth population in the world (more than half the population are under 25 years old). As a whole, youth unemployment generally in MENA is pretty high. Even before covid-19 made a dent in the overall global economy, this was still a challenge for much of MENA for its youth. As what the chart from a report by The Fintech Times (Fintech: Middle East & Africa 2021) shows generally the less affluent countries compared to say the GCC ones or Israel showed really high youth employment.

Youth Unemployment in the Middle East &ampYouth Unemployment in the Middle East &amp
Youth Unemployment in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Region – the following is a chart summarised in the recent Fintech: Middle East & Africa 2021 Report by The Fintech Times

Due to the lack of job opportunities, often those from relatively less affluent countries will migrate to more affluent parts in the wider MEA region and beyond. For example, Egypt is one of the world’s top five largest senders of remittances behind India, China, Mexico and the Philippines; much of that is their youth going abroad for greener pastures. This is also evident across other nations such as Lebanon who are also undergoing their own political and economic challenges – even before with the coronavirus.

Incentivising the youth to work in the private sector

Traditionally, especially in the GCC, Arabs historically in recent memory have worked in the public sector. A report from 2018 by Oliver Wyman highlighted that around two-thirds of GCC nationals were working in the public sector, which countries such as the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar each at least at 80% of its local population in the public sector. A general notion has been that the sector is more stable and with more benefits – amongst its various reasons. The same report also highlights that The World Bank estimates that between 40-60% of some of the public budgets of the GCC are spent on wages and compensation, which includes social security.

However, as mentioned with wider economic development strategies across the GCC, that appears to be changing in terms of mindset and implementation from the top. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, as part of its National Transformation Plan (NTP) targets the past few years includes the likes of a creation of almost half a million private sector jobs by 2020 and a reduction of its wage bill to 40% (from 45%) of GDP between 2016 and 2020.

Promoting the private sector with job skills for highly-skilled sectors and incentives

Linked again to wider economic development strategies, there has been noticeable growth in the number of incentives that are helping target and prepare young Arabs for futures in the private sector – in particular with highly-skilled sectors such as tech as a whole, financial services, and fintech – to name a few.

Empowering Young Arabs to Work in Tech Across The Middle East and North Africa by Richie Santosdiaz for The Fintech TimesEmpowering Young Arabs to Work in Tech Across The Middle East and North Africa by Richie Santosdiaz for The Fintech Times
Growing opportunities across the wider tech ecosystem will help a future generation of young Arabs not only work in them but potentially start their own businesses as well IMAGE SOURCE GETTY

Examples abound and growing but include recent ones:

  • UAE and Banking – The Human Resources Authority (HRA) last year signed a cooperation agreement with the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Academy, and First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), to establish an educational platform for banking services within ADGM Academy through ‘The Bankers Programme’. The initiative’s key objective is to enhance the skills and capabilities of UAE nationals, and support their integration within the banking sector.
  • Saudi Arabia and fintech art – Fintech Saudi, the fintech catalyst established by the Saudi Central Bank and the Capital Markets Authority in Saudi Arabia, recently launched the Fintech Saudi Youth Art Competition. Anyone living in Saudi Arabia who is under the age of 16 years old was encouraged to submit their artwork to The Fintech Saudi Youth Art Competition; their creativity needed to relate to the theme of “Living in the Future”, which seeks to identify what the future of fintech will look like for Saudi Arabia.
  • Bahrain and Fintech – Recently the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) launched the Digital Banking Challenge in strategic partnership with Bahrain FinTech Bay; one of MENA’s largest FinTech Hubs open for all Bahraini youth to develop new and creative solutions focused on NBB’s new digital banking app.
  • UAE and women empowerment in fintech – Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) FinTech Hive says the third edition of its FinTech Hive AccelerateHer programme will double in size this year, supporting up to 40 female participants, compared with 14 last year. AccelerateHer first launched in 2019 to develop female talent in financial technology and innovation sectors.
  • Saudi Arabia and startup ecosystem – Saudi Arabia is boosting its startup ecosystem with supportive regulatory frameworks and local venture funds which a growing number of institutions and initiatives such as: the Mohammed Bin Salman College, the Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center (Wa’ed), the Public Investment Fund (PIF) Academy, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Innovation and Economic Development department and the Misk Foundation – to name a few.
  • Egypt and fintech with university students – Fintech Egypt –an affiliate of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) last year launched the FinYology – Fintech for Youth initiative, with the objective of fostering young talents and inspire university students of different related majors to conduct fintech Projects and innovative solutions.
  • Mastercard and STEM for young women – Mastercard’s signature science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programme, Girls4Tech, reached its initial goal of educating one million girls. They have an ambition to reach five million girls by 2025 (many of which are young future women in the region). It is not only just encouraging the future generation to get into tech but to give the youth access to an education and the digital tools such as edtech to learn.

On a final note, the skills gap to help empower the youth to one day not only work in the private sector but also set up their own businesses, particularly in the wider tech ecosystem can be felt. A spotlight of course is the wider MEA fintech ecosystem, specifically in many parts of MENA where countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Qatar – to name a few – have seen growth and support from the topic and also increasing organic growth of its solutions.

Despite the challenges in the global economy as a whole with youth employment, there has been growing signs and aspirations with the MENA region as a whole. Time will tell but the future can provide a region an innovative future that can help foster significant talent across highly skilled sectors across the wider tech ecosystem.

Social Inclusion Becomes Key Focus of Ma’an’s Fifth Social Incubator Programme

The Authority of Social Contribution – Ma’an is providing aspiring social entrepreneurs with a unique opportunity to join its latest Ma’an Social Incubator (MSI).

The fifth cycle of the MSI programme is dedicated to supporting social businesses that directly benefit and enhance the lives of senior citizens and residents.

The programme was launched to coincide with World Senior Citizens Day, which was annually celebrated on 21 August in a worldwide bid to increase awareness of the factors and issues that affect older adults, such as health deterioration and social exclusion, among others.

The Ma’an Social Incubator is one of Ma’an’s five key pillars and is part of its on-going efforts to grow Abu Dhabi’s third sector by supporting not-for-profits and social enterprises and contribute to the development of strong, active and connected communities.

The Social Incubator supports Abu Dhabi’s vision to drive innovation in the social sector by fostering creative and sustainable solutions to address existing social challenges. By supporting and investing in social enterprises, the programme also creates job and volunteering opportunities, which aim to drive social inclusion while contributing to the expansion of Abu Dhabi’s social services ecosystem.

The fifth cohort theme of the MSI programme is focused on seniors with participants working on developing existing services or products that will enhance their quality of life across the Emirate.

Senior citizens and residents have been identified as a key demographic by the Department of Community Development (DCD) – Abu Dhabi and their crucial input throughout different stages of the programme will be vital in addressing some of the biggest challenges the senior generation currently face.

The MSI aims to address these challenges, providing an opportunity for seniors and social entrepreneurs to share their knowledge and come up with solutions that will help improve the existing services that are currently available to senior citizens and residents.

The solutions selected for the programme will support seniors to play a more active role in society by taking part in different activities and building relationships with different members of the wider community. By ensuring their increased integration into society, seniors will have an improved chance of feeling valued and appreciated by the community they live in, and ultimately improving their mental and financial wellbeing.

Ten teams, whose initial solutions meet the selected criteria, will be shortlisted by Ma’an and will undergo a 90-day training programme to build these existing services into sustainable business ventures. Ma’an will support the ten successful teams with access to mentorship, office space, business expertise, funding and investors.

Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri, Undersecretary of the Department of Community DevelopmentHamad Ali Al Dhaheri, Undersecretary of the Department of Community Development
Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri, Undersecretary, Department of Community Development

“The Department of Community Development continues to work with Ma’an on its series of cohorts within the Ma’an Social Incubator framework. This latest cohort represents an opportunity to create social impact and support senior citizens and residents, by finding innovative social solutions that enhance their quality of life, as well as providing a decent life for all members of society,” His Excellency, Engineer Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri, Undersecretary of the Department of Community Development, comments.

“Since the first cohort launched in 2019, the MSI programme has achieved great results, and has been successful in finding solutions to various pressing social challenges in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. These innovative solutions have, to date, empowered people of determination, improved the mental health of many members of our community, and enhanced family cohesion in Abu Dhabi. Our previous cycle focused on environmental protection. In this cohort, we look forward to finding sustainable and innovative solutions that benefit senior citizens and residents, and society as a whole”.

His Excellency stressed that the development of society is a shared responsibility, and the Department of Community Development’s primary role is to facilitate, organise and coordinate the contribution of individuals, government institutions, NGOs and private companies to achieve their goals. These actions help to create a happy and active life for senior citizens and residents.

Salama Al Ameemi, Director General, Ma’anSalama Al Ameemi, Director General, Ma’an
Salama Al Ameemi, Director General, Ma’an

Her Excellency Salama Al Ameemi, Director General of Ma’an, added: “As our first-ever programme, the Ma’an Social Incubator has gone from strength to strength in every cycle with this journey benefitting more than 15,000 beneficiaries since 2019. The creative solutions have all made a big difference for People of Determination, mental wellbeing, family cohesion and the environment and it will be no different for this latest cohort which is focused on senior citizens and residents.

“It’s imperative we support seniors – they are the generation who helped build and contribute to the development of this wonderful city and we truly appreciate how hard they have worked throughout their lives to create a better future for all. It is the responsibility of the younger generation to give them the valued support that they need and through the MSI, the solutions will help them feel more active, empowered and appreciated – all of which helps contribute to an inclusive and connected society.

“Both seniors and young social entrepreneurs have an integral role to play in this important cohort. They both have the knowledge and different experiences and by working hand-in-hand and exchanging valuable advice and tips, together they can help drive change and shape the future of Abu Dhabi.

“We are looking for talented, creative and enthusiastic social entrepreneurs from different walks of life to make a meaningful difference to seniors for years to come. We look forward to receiving as many applications as possible.”

  • 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.

InComm Teams Up with Doxo to Help Users Pay Bills in Cash

Payments technology company InComm and online billpay platform doxo are partnering this week to enable doxo users to pay bills using cash.

doxo is leveraging InComm’s VanillaDirect retailer network that contains more than 60,000 brick-and-mortar locations including chains such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, and participating 7-Eleven stores.

“Our cash payment network is perfectly aligned with doxo’s vision of empowering consumers to improve their financial lives,” said InComm Payments SVP of Business Development Tim Richardson, adding, “and in this instance providing their users with a simple and convenient experience for making cash payments to household billers in an extensive network of retail locations across the United States.”

To pay their household bills using cash, doxo users select the pay with cash button in the app. Cash-paying users will receive a barcode on their mobile app that they scan at the participating retailer’s point of sale, which will charge them the correct amount for their selected bill. Once the customer pays their bill, the biller receives the payment instantly, just as they would with a credit card, debit card, or checking account payment.

The new billpay method not only helps underbanked consumers, it also benefits the billers. Just over 13% of utility bills in the U.S. are paid using cash, which incur more processing costs than digital payments. The added capability will also give doxo a boost by offering utility companies a greater incentive to join doxo’s network of more than 100,000 billers.

Founded in 2008, doxo offers a mobile app that enables its five million users to manage and pay all of their bills from a single place. The company’s doxoPLUS offering provides credit protection and identity theft protection. doxo also offers late fee protection, a feature made possible thanks to a 2019 partnership with Plaid.

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, doxo has raised $18.8 million in funding from investors including Sigma Partners, Bezos Expeditions, and Mohr Davidow Ventures. Steve Shivers is CEO.

Rewire: Can Private Sector Companies such as Rewire Change the World?

Technology is constantly changing our lives, simplifying over-complicated processes, and making services accessible to all. Private sector companies have a crucial role in shaping our lives both individually and as a society.    

Guy Kashtan is Co-Founder and CEO at Rewire, an online financial services platform tailored to the unique cross-border needs of migrant workers worldwide. Kashtan has extensive experience leading technological products that shape the way we conduct day-to-day activities. In this piece, Kashtan shares his vision on financial inclusion and the role private sector companies have in making the world a better, more inclusive place.  

Guy Kashtan, Co-Founder and CEO at RewireGuy Kashtan, Co-Founder and CEO at Rewire
Guy Kashtan, Co-Founder and CEO at Rewire

According to the World Bank Organisation, more than 60 countries have started developing a financial inclusion national strategy since 2010. But as the path towards financial stability starts with domestic policies, the important question of global financial inclusion remains. Naturally, the economic strength of a western country such as Germany cannot be compared to that of Nigeria, for example. Meaning that even if each country masters the issue of domestic financial inclusion and manages to care for its own population’s commonwealth, it still needs to be in line with the global inclusion efforts to prevent the preservation of global economic gaps between countries.

But perhaps there’s more than one way to globalise financial inclusion. While these efforts are indeed under the responsibility of policymakers and intergovernmental organisations, technological measures can definitely ease this struggle. In recent years, we see private sector companies that are marking positive social impact their main goal, which is equally important as financial growth. These companies comply with the idea of a “double bottom line” in which the conventional, fiscal performance, bottom line is extended by a second bottom line that measures a for-profit business’ performance in terms of positive social impact.

Ideas, projects, and companies that are built on values of social entrepreneurship are sometimes the real game-changer. The secret? Focusing on the individual all while having the bigger picture in mind.

The next question is, of course, which individual? Let’s take a look at one of the most overlooked populations in the world – migrants.

Migrant Workers Face Unique Financial Challenges

Today, there are approximately 270 million people across the world who migrate for work purposes. While some migrants come from strong economic backgrounds, most migrant workers originate in developing countries and are now working towards a better, more financially secure future for themselves and their families.

If you think about it, 270 million people is the population size of France, Italy, Germany, and the UK altogether. Still, this diverse population is often unseen, even though it plays a critical role in driving the economies of developing countries such as the Philippines, Nigeria, India, Thailand, and China with 10% to 30% of their GDP being attributed to citizens who live and work abroad. At the same time, migrant workers fill critical needs in their host countries as they assume roles in agriculture, hospitality, healthcare, and IT.

While relocating to a new country is now easier than ever before, the bureaucracy, especially the financial one, is as daunting as can be. Migrant workers are likely to have financial obligations in more than one country such as paying taxes in their new home, social security payments in the country they came from, and bill payments in both countries. Furthermore, migrant workers often face day-to-day challenges that range from language barriers and cultural integration to something as basic as opening a bank account.

In western countries, we can see that while most financial institutions will accept their business, there are no dedicated cross-border solutions for the unique needs of migrants. As a result, the average migrant must face 3-4 financial institutions in both countries – the one in which they currently reside and the one they originally come from – just to answer their basic financial needs. This arrangement not only costs the individual unnecessary funds but also, preserves the migrant’s financial status, thus, perpetuating the basic inequality that the idea of financial inclusion aims to resolve.

The Goal is to Reduce Inequalities Worldwide  

The way to address the specific economic challenges of migrant workers is three-fold and must include [i] accessible cross-border financial services, [ii] financial literacy, and [iii] a safe space where they can consult with one another. This is exactly what Rewire does. By harnessing the power of innovative technology and providing educational tools accessible in the migrant’s native language, Rewire is turning the aspiration towards financial inclusion into reality.

This is exactly how the principle of a “double bottom line” works. At first glance, the idea of global financial inclusion seems too large to grasp. I mean, we are addressing an issue that crosses all borders and essentially, relates to each and every person on the planet. But if we look into migrant workers specifically, we can see that by including them in the financial systems we are already making a substantial move towards global financial inclusion all while building a sustainable business.

Essentially, the task of reducing inequalities worldwide is undoubtedly under the responsibility of the political system. But as we can clearly see, private sector companies can do more than provide fuel for global efforts, they can actually change the world.

Confirmed Fraudulent Savings Accounts Rise by 170% Finds Experian

New research from Experian has revealed that bank account fraud is now tracking at its highest level for more than three years. Drawing on the latest data from the National Hunter Fraud Prevention Service, the analysis uncovered an alarming surge in fraudulent activity targeting British businesses and consumers.

  • The fraud rate for current accounts rose by 13% in Q2 compared to the previous quarter and was up 24% when compared to the same period in 2020.
  • Confirmed fraudulent openings for savings accounts rose by 170% – the fraud rate now being three times the rate in the previous quarter and five times when compared to the same quarter last year.
  • Loan fraud rates rose also by 40% in Q2, its highest reported level in the last three years, and up 63% on the same period last year. – First-party fraud related to loans – where an individual gives false information or misrepresents their identity to access a product on more favourable terms – also rose by 18%.

Eduardo Castro, Head of Identity and Fraud Experian UK&I, said: “Fraudsters assume opening a savings or current account is a relatively straight-forward process and then use them to receive and quickly distribute illegally-obtained funds, as well as giving them access to other financial services offered by the bank or building society they’ve selected.

“Both consumers and businesses need to be made aware of the threat that scams pose. Our analysis serves as a warning that fraud prevention should be a priority for all organisations.”

The rise in rates can also be attributed to financial services’ fraud teams using a sophisticated combination of new technologies such as Machine Learning to successfully identify and prevent fraud.

Lenders, for example, can also better accurately assess a person’s suitability for a loan at the point of application, thanks to improved affordability capabilities, rather than relying on what is claimed by the individual on the application form.

Castro adds: “New technologies are helping firms to flag potentially fraudulent activity right at the beginning of the application and account opening process. Meanwhile, customers are becoming increasingly comfortable using sophisticated security methods such as physical biometrics and facial recognition, and pin codes sent to mobile devices to verify their identity.

“Businesses which can deploy these means of verification will feel the benefit of both assuring their customers they take security seriously and knowing that who they are dealing with are who they say they are.”

Jim Lewis, Managing Director of National Hunter Ltd, said: “It is encouraging that users of the National Hunter service are continuing to detect and prevent fraud, in the face of more fraudulent activity. Even more so when you consider that many organisations have had to completely change their working practices during the pandemic. We are continuing to onboard new members into our data sharing community and it’s more important than ever that we work together to fight fraud.”

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

Memorandum of Understanding on Cybersecurity Cooperation Signed by the Treasury and MAS

The United States Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) announced the finalisation of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) on Cybersecurity Cooperation. This announcement was made during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Singapore, where both the US and Singapore recognised the importance of deepening cooperation in new domains to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

The Treasury and MAS have had ongoing exchange of cyber threat information since 2018. The MoU formalises and strengthens what has already been a strong cybersecurity partnership between both agencies.

Specifically, the MoU enhances cooperation between Treasury and MAS in the following areas:

  • Information sharing relating to the financial sector including cybersecurity regulations and guidance, cybersecurity incidents, and cybersecurity threat intelligence;
  • Staff training and study visits to promote cooperation in the area of cybersecurity; and
  • Competency-building activities such as the conduct of cross-border cybersecurity exercises.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen said, “The United States and Singapore have a longstanding bilateral partnership. In our interconnected world, Treasury and MAS share common goals of maintaining strength and stability, as well as operational and cyber resilience in each country’s economy and financial system. The cybersecurity cooperation agreement will serve to improve the cyber resilience of both countries’ financial systems.”

Managing Director of MAS Ravi Menon said, “Given the growing complexity of cyber attacks and how interconnected the global financial system is, close cooperation is essential to ensure the cyber resilience of our financial systems. This MoU between the US Treasury and MAS will be particularly useful in the areas of cyber threat information sharing and cross-border cybersecurity exercises. It will also help cement what is already a strong and fruitful partnership between our two institutions.”

At the beginning of August, Ms Loo Siew Yee, Assistant Managing Director (Policy, Payments and Financial Crime), Monetary Authority of Singapore, gave a keynote speech at the Wealth Management Institute Industry Forum on the Future of Anti-Money Laundering with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Elements from the speech tie in with the MoU as she addressed key issues being faced in the 21st century.

“We are keen to have FIs adopt data analytics in a manner that is commensurate with the risk profile of the business. Let me talk through briefly three key elements this morning.

  • At the customer level – to know your customer better, proactively detect and assess changes in customers’ risk profile in a dynamic fashion;
  • At the network level – to identify and disrupt illicit fund flows between customers in a network, so taking a more holistic rather than a silo view of the customer’s behaviours and activities; and
  • At the system level – to amplify the effectiveness of data analytics through close collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as within the industry.

“We need to build defences at all levels and mobilising these three data analytics elements together will engender a paradigm shift in the disruption of financial crime.”

Suspicious customers are not exclusive to Singapore or Asia – they are found everywhere. Siew Yee pointed out that criminals are now cooperating, meaning that those protecting data must share expertise or fear being overrun.

“Dynamic customer risk assessment is a significant improvement but more still needs to be done. As criminals collude via sophisticated illicit financial networks, focusing on an entity-level assessment may ‘miss the forest for the trees’ and fail to detect those seemingly innocuous transactions are actually part of a larger and nefarious web of activity.

“Several FIs have successfully applied network link analysis to detect and visualise connections among customers and their transaction flows with greater ease. This has proven particularly useful in the detection of networks of shell and front companies or nominees used to facilitate illicit activities. In the wealth management industry, such techniques have uncovered unusual links and transaction flows and concealment of true beneficial owners.”

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

Africa-focused fintechs raise nearly $700 million this week

African-focused fintechs raised nearly $700 million this week in funding rounds for cross-border payments company Zepz and Nigerian mobile-payments startup Opay. Governments and central banks in those regions are investing in enhancements to the payment network infrastructure to enable higher degrees of financial inclusion, Ronak Doshi, vice president at research and consulting firm Everest Group, […]

Listen: Startup seeks to leverage AI, automation to reach unbanked population

In this episode of “The Buzz,” Bank Automation News speaks to Alok Prasad, CEO of startup CashRepublic, about using automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to help communities of color take advantage of banking services. CashRepublic serves the unbanked currently with check cashing, wire transfers and other services at two Florida locations. It plans to launch […]