South Korea-based Shinhan Bank recently wrapped up testing the use of stablecoins for cross-border transactions. The bank completed a proof-of-concept issuing and distributing stablecoins with an unnamed “megabank” outside of Korea. The two are leveraging the Hedera Network’s Hedera Token Service (HTS) and Hedera Consensus Service (HCS) to make the transfers.
Shinhan Bank will mint stablecoins backed by the South Korean Won (KRW), while the unnamed bank will mint stablecoins backed by its local currency. Under their partnership, customers can buy Shinhan’s KRW-based stablecoin and send them to an account at the other, unnamed bank. The recipient of the funds can then exchange the stablecoins for local currency.
Shinhan Bank opted to target international remittences because it is one of the sub-sectors with the most room for disruption. Cross-border transactions generally cost customers high intermediary bank costs, take three-to-seven days to complete, and don’t allow customers to track the funds while they are in progress.
“International remittances were a massive market of $702 billion in 2020, with $539 billion going to low- and middle-income countries,” said Hedera CEO and Co-founder Mance Harmon. “There is a massive opportunity to cut out the middleman and make this process dramatically more efficient and cost-effective, getting the most money possible to people who often need it urgently. We commend Shinhan and their partner for developing this solution, and are proud that it takes advantage of the economic and speed benefits that only the Hedera network can provide.”
This isn’t Shinhan Bank’s first time leveraging decentralized finance. In March, the bank partnered with LG CNS to create a platform for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). The banks has also invested in Korea Digital Asset Custody (KDAC), a group of businesses that provide digital-asset custody services, and joined the Hedera Governing Council in April 2021.
TD Bank, along with robotic process automation (RPA) company Automation Anywhere and cryptocurrency lending platform Celsius, announced promotions this month:
TD Bank names Dinn CIO
Judy Dinn was promoted Nov. 1 to chief information officer at TD Bank, where she is responsible for strategic technology planning and delivery for the $1.3 billion bank. She succeeds Janice Withers, who has retired.
“Judy is an exceptional technology leader with deep expertise in retail banking and wealth management and a proven track record of leading technology integrations and transformations,” Greg Braca, president and CEO of TD Bank, said in the announcement.
Dinn previously served as chief architect and CIO of the Toronto-based bank’s U.S. credit cards division. Prior to joining TD Bank in 2020, Dinn was CIO of credit cards at JPMorgan Chase. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a financial services technology leader for several Canadian-based global banks, including Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), CIBC and Bank of Montreal (BMO), as well as with core provider Finastra.
Dinn will report to Braca and current CIO Greg Keeley, who will become senior executive vice president effective in January 2022.
Automation Anywhere appoints its first social impact officer
Neeti Mehta Shukla, co-founder of RPA giant Automation Anywhere, has been appointed its first social impact officer.
In her new role, Mehta Shukla will supervise the company’s social impact office and will direct social responsibility efforts, including increasing societal access to automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, according to the Nov. 22 announcement.
“The launch of this new role and our social impact office will enable us to drive increased focus on our corporate giveback and sustainability efforts,” Mihir Shukla, CEO and co-founder of Automation Anywhere, said in a statement.
Mehta Shukla was the company’s first head of marketing before transitioning to senior vice president of brand strategy and culture architect. She has more than 20 years of experience in business management and marketing.
Smith joins fintech Glia as chief operating officer
Jeremy Smith on Nov. 9 became the new chief operating officer at digital customer service (DCS) solution provider Glia. He oversees marketing, sales and client relationships.
Smith will work alongside Dan Michaeli, CEO and co-founder, Justin DiPietro, chief strategy officer and co-founder, and Carlos Paniagua, chief technology officer and co-founder.
“Jeremy comes to our team with a strong track record of success in the customer and employee experience realm. As our new COO, I’m confident his support and leadership will be extremely valuable as we continue to scale, helping meet the tremendous demand for leading DCS technology,” Michaeli said in the announcement.
Smith spent the past seven years with Qualtrics as the experience management leader after serving as an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company.
Nadkarni promoted to chief growth and product officer at Celsius
Tushar Nadkarni was promoted to chief growth and product officer Nov. 2 at Celsius Network, a cryptocurrency lending platform. He heads the company’s global product, growth, design and marketing teams, and reports to CEO Alex Mashinsky.
“As we prepare for the next chapter of our growth, I am excited to bring on a world-class leader like Tushar to scale Celsius from our first one million customers to our vision of 100 million customers,” Mashinsky said in the announcement.
Nadkarni previously led consumer and financial technology at Celsius. He has held comparable roles at Uber and Facebook. Nadkarni joined Celsius from Slingshot Growth Lab, where he served as a founder and managing partner. Prior to that, he was an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, where he consulted with financial services and technology firms on operational strategy.
This November, The Fintech Times is looking to broaden the understanding of digital currencies, ranging from blockchain’s use outside of crypto to CBDCs, in an attempt to replace the notion that digital currencies are a synonym for crypto.
The final article in our digital currency focus is on a very prevalent and important topic: sustainability, namely in cryptocurrencies.
Read on to hear views from the industry, like RafikSignatulin, the CEO of DeNet‘s view, who claims, “the electricity spent on one transaction in the Bitcoin network is enough for a family of three to comfortably exist for a whole week.”
And KaranKapoor, Head of Regulatory Solutions and RegTech at DeltaCapita, who suggests that, “Given the amount of energy required to mine and exchange cryptocurrencies, they have been largely portraited as unsustainable and non-eco-friendly by the international press. This argument might have been true in and around 2009 when they first started circulating, however nowadays this is far from the truth.”
Change is Necessary
Blockchain technology has the possibility to be used in countless ways that will benefit society. However, the way it has been utilised by Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency it was originally created for, is not good for the environment. Bitcoin and many other cryptos have used proof-of-work (PoW) to mine coins, which involves computers solving complicated mathematical questions in order to create a coin. Each transaction takes an extremely high amount of energy, with Forex Suggest claiming each transaction uses 707kWh, whilst United Nations News suggests this figure is just under 1000kWh. Either way, compared to the 0.0006kWh used in a Mastercard transaction, an extortionate amount of energy is used in PoW mining.
So as crypto grows in popularity, what is being done to ensure eco-friendliness? AatashAmir, CEO of StarLaunch says, “Not enough is the simplest answer. PoW is still a major issue in blockchain technology, and many projects have demonstrated that it is not a viable or necessary step. The real solutions lie with the source of electric consumption as a whole. Financial technologies will move forward regardless of the source of electricity. Ideally, the most energy-efficient chains will rise, but even then we will need to invest in nuclear power and other non-CO2 emitting sources of energy.”
Amir suggests one solution could be introducing regulation. “While regulation is a controversial word in blockchain, positive feedback via offering tax incentives to chains and companies that utilise zero-carbon emission sources of energy would be the simplest way.”
Alternatives to Proof-of-Work
The outcry about PoW’s lack of sustainability has not gone unheard. The second-largest crypto, Ethereum, has announced that it will be using a new way to mine coins: proof-of-stake. According to Investopedia, the proof-of-stake (PoS) concept states that a person can mine or validate block transactions according to how many coins they hold. This means that the more coins owned by a miner, the more mining power they have. PoS blockchains don’t require miners to spend electricity on duplicative processes (competingto solve the same puzzle), which allows PoS networks to operate with substantially lower resource consumption.
RobbieHeeger, CEO and president of Endaoment has praised Ethereum’s announcement saying, “Moving from Proof of Work (like the Bitcoin Blockchain) to PoS represents a paradigm shift in terms of the amount of power the Ethereum blockchain will consume, reducing the environmental impact by over 99%. In addition, this shift towards a more eco-friendly approach is likely to increase the decentralised nature of the Ethereum blockchain as barriers to entry are reduced.”
While PoS is the recognised alternative to PoW, there are other blockchains experimenting with innovative ways to create coins. Forex Suggest found that Stellar utilises a method of transaction verification outside of the usual PoW/PoS routes called Consensus Protocol, which allows Stellar servers to sync with each other to validate transactions and add them to the global ledger. The Stellar Consensus Protocol is so much more efficient than PoW or PoS that Stellar produced by far the least CO2 in 2020 and 2021, despite having the highest number of transactions. Stellar only uses 0.00003kWh per transaction, even less than a Mastercard transaction.
Another innovative crypto provided by Forex Suggest is Nano, as it does not use mining nor a traditional blockchain, which results in it only using 0.000112kWH per transaction. Instead it uses block-lattice technology, which allows asynchronous updates that are more energy and time-efficient. This makes Nano able to process up to 125 transactions per second, without creating vast quantities of waste CO2.
Eco-friendliness will drive crypto adoption
The positive outcome from this change in mining could have knock-on effects in the fintech industry. MichaelOurabah, CEO of BSO told The Fintech Times:
“In the case of crypto mining, miners will always seek to use renewable energy to power their operations because it is inherently the cheapest form of energy. This will help encourage crypto companies to sustain heavy investment in new renewable production sources and drive up the sustainability of crypto in the long run.
“For investors, however, at the regulatory level mandates such as the European Union’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), which comes into force in January 2022, is adding to the sense of urgency for investors to build better portfolios now – ones that not only deliver great returns but are also more socially responsible.
“Digital currencies is an exciting area of growth for institutional investors, but so far investors have hesitated due to the criticism of digital currencies’ energy consumption and because there wasn’t any way to ensure the sustainability of their digital currency portfolios. But that’s becoming less of a problem because exchanges, wallet operators and connectivity providers are starting to build solutions that help digital currency stakeholders monitor and reduce their carbon footprint and meet their regulatory obligations.”
This is further supported by QuickSwap‘s Roc Zacharias who said “Sustainable crypto is appealing to investors. Blockchains like Cosmos and Persistence, some shining examples of entirely-PoS blockchains, already have major institutional backing, and current studies have demonstrated that ordinary, retail investors are driving crypto’s recent price appreciation.”
As cryptocurrencies start being mined in different ways, the fintech industry will start to invest in eco-friendly solutions. Instead of using enough energy to power a house to mine a single coin, cryptocurrencies using less energy than what we currently use to pay for things (like Mastercard) will be adopted as they will not only benefit the environment but be cheaper for companies too. The association many make is that all cryptocurrencies are the same as Bitcoin and are mined in the same way. This is an outdated school of thought and as more begin to realise the technology is eco-friendly and isn’t damaging the planet, the more likely it is that these cryptocurrencies will be adopted.
An investment of $35 million will enable Solutions by Text (SBT), a compliant text messaging platform for consumer finance companies, to power broader adoption of its solution across the consumer finance lifecycle. The growth financing round was led by Edison Partners, and featured the participation of Stifel Venture Bank, a division of Stifel Bank.
In addition to the funding news, Solutions by Text also announced the appointment of former ACI Worldwide executive David Baxter as its new Chief Executive Officer
“Now more than ever, consumer finance organizations are taking a hard look at how to strengthen digital consumer relationships while maintaining compliance with national standards,” Baxter said. “Our opportunity to capture market share through existing and expanded platform capabilities is immense and we’ve assembled an exceptional team and board to turbo-charge this next chapter of growth.”
As part of the investment, co-founder Mike Cantrell and Edison Director Network members Ron Hynes and Nick Manolis will join the Solutions by Text board of directors.
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and maintaining remote teams and offices throughout the U.S. as well as in Bangalore, India, Solutions by Text was founded in 2008. The company’s technology is used by more than 1,400 consumer finance companies – ranging from auto finance and lending to banking – who use SBT’s compliant texting solutions to support origination, servicing, and collection operations. Solutions by Text helps ensure that communication policies and practices are compliant with key regulations such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), including a new Regulation F which went into effect today. The revision clarifies the ability of consumers to stop collection calls and/or text messages and is intended to respond to the rise of new communications methods.
Solutions by Text offers two-way texting to ensure seamless communication with customers, as well as a pay-by-text product, Text Pay, and a customizable URL shortening tool called SmartURL. SBT’s technology can be integrated via the company’s API, which enables access to the full range of the company’s text messaging tools including budgeting, reporting, file imports, message templates, and distribution lists.
“(SBT) is uniquely positioned to scale growth in the fintech market with a team of deep regulatory compliance, messaging, and payments expertise, not to mention a sizable loyal customer and partner base with significant embedded opportunity,” Edison Partners General Partner Kelly Ford said. “Eight in ten U.S. adults use text messaging on a regular basis,” Ford noted. “With Solutions by Text, financial institutions are meeting these consumers where and how they want to be met, and doing so with peace of mind.”
Swiss Post Solutions (SPS), an outsourcing provider for business process solutions and innovative services in document management, has released new research that shows the transition from physical communications and processes to digital is the number one priority for financial services leaders in the next year.
This may be driven by the fact that over half reported their ability to deliver a superior customer experience was hampered by issues integrating digital, online with physical, offline communications.
When asked what the top three priorities were for the next 12 months, cutting costs and supporting the transition to new working models took second and third position. The survey of over 200 leaders in the UK financial services sector suggests that the challenges they face are being driven by shifts in customer and employee behaviours and expectations, accelerating the shift in adopting digital channels.
However, it also points to the huge variety of concerns on leaders’ minds – from compliance and regulation to customer service, building operational resilience while also reducing property space. With three-quarters currently overseeing digital transformation programmes, 84% are investing in transformation of back-office operations to support these priorities.
Ranking of priorities for IT leaders in financial services
Transitioning physical communications and processes from physical to digital (49%)
Reducing costs (46%)
Supporting changing working models e.g. hybrid, remote (41%)
Meeting all compliance and regulatory requirements (39%)
Improving customer service (37%)
Building business and operational resilience (35%)
Streamlining processes (34%)
Reducing property space (19%)
Back-office transformation a priority for financial service providers
As ever, leaders continue to face budgetary constraints. Cost-cutting ranked second in their list of priorities for the next year. While four in five are including back-office transformation within the scope of their digital transformation programmes, 46% said that the biggest challenge to reducing costs is the concentration on front-end customer communications and not back-office operations.
Reflecting this, a third said their organisations are suffering from siloed IT systems and manual processing, with a lack of automation further compounding speed and service issues. For example, a quarter said that continued inefficient paper processing meant they were unable to meet cost-cutting priorities.
Gary Harrold, CEO of Swiss Post Solutions, UK & Ireland commented, “To deliver digital transformation priorities within tight budgets, transformation of back-office operations is key. Many are doing so but are struggling to juggle competing priorities. It has never been harder to answer the competing needs of the organisation while trying to cut costs. As such, it’s perhaps unsurprising that three-quarters are seeking to outsource digital transformation initiatives in the next year, bringing in expert partners who can help manage these competing priorities strategically and cost-effectively, with specialist insight and holistic understanding.”
Disconnected communications and poor use of data impacts customer service
Across the industry, financial service providers are keenly aware of threats to customer loyalty.
According to this latest research, the greatest threat comes from customers’ perception of poor service. As a result, over a third of respondents reported that they were focused on improving the customer experience in the next year.
When asked what the biggest challenge is to delivering a superior customer experience, the majority pointed to the integration of digital online with physical offline communications and processes. This aligns with their overall priority; connecting and transitioning physical communications and processes from the ‘physical to digital’.
The challenge of online/offline communication was followed closely by inter-related issues of collation, processing and effective analysis of customer data; over a third admit that they are delivering inferior services due to an inability to effectively analyse and use customer data. The same number report struggling to automate data collection and analysis, leaving much valuable unstructured data languishing as a result.
In addition, nearly 50% said that legacy systems impact the time it takes to process data. In fact, over a third said that slow manual processes are damaging customer relationships.
Ranking of challenges to delivering a superior customer experience
Integrating digital online with physical offline communications (50%)
Legacy systems increasing times for processing data (49%)
Processing increasing volumes of unstructured data (45%)
Utilising customer data effectively (37%)
Manual processes (requiring staff) increasing times for processing data (37%)
Harrold commented, “It’s clear that there is focus on integrating online and offline communications, and that leaders in this sector are prioritising digital processes to support this. Customer expectations in the wake of Covid have changed, and the drive to digital has accelerated as branch and in-person interactions diminish and digital communications increase.”
“However, it is important that in addressing communications issues, resulting data is not left languishing. Delivering superior customer experiences hinges on digital transformation solutions that allow providers to harness data effectively – no matter its type or origin. Essentially this all comes down to how providers transform core processes, which cannot be done piecemeal. It requires an encompassing strategy that joins the dots between data, back-office processes, customer service and employee expectations too. They are all intertwined.”
New working models demand employee expectations are met
The shift to remote and hybrid working models as a result of the pandemic is set to leave a lasting legacy. Support for remote and hybrid working models will remain a priority for leaders over the next 12 months. Four in ten report this sits within their top three priorities, including answering a need for remote access to data (49%), with a third saying this shift is hindered by a lack of processes for remote service delivery.
While remote working during the pandemic hindered digital transformation initiatives for nearly 40% in the sector, a quarter reported that it had no effect on their ability to deliver their digital transformation priorities.
Harrold reflected, “It’s fair to say that the pandemic has resulted in a marked shift in priorities. Ensuring employees can work remotely is as much about delivering great customer service as it is meeting employee expectations at a time when many are reassessing how, and who they work for. Successful transformation relies on digitising back-office processes and implementing systems that deliver information quickly, securely, in digital formats that are easily accessible and easily analysed. Holistic transformation of the back-office delivers on all fronts, to customers and employees alike.”
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.
Pakistan’s first and largest fintech focused event, the HBL Pakistan Fintech Summit 2021 (HBLPFS) will be held on 1 December 2021. This virtual conference will bring together industry experts who are the key players in the transformation of Pakistan’s fintech landscape.
Dr. Reza Baqir, Governor – State Bank of Pakistan will be attending as the Chief Guest while Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development will be delivering a special pre-recorded message at the Summit. AnnCairns, Global Vice Chair – Mastercard, will also be delivering a virtual keynote to the participants of the HBLPFS 2021.
The Summit, organised by T1 Events, will be the first of its kind in Pakistan with some of the biggest names from global fintech giants, regulatory authorities as well as local champions attending. HBL, the country’s largest financial institution, recent recipient of the Best Bank Award 2021, is the Title Partner of the Summit.
Commenting on the HBLPFS21, MuhammadAurangzeb, President and CEO – HBL said, “Pakistan’s Fintech landscape has tremendous potential to accelerate financial inclusion. Fintechs have been at the forefront of serving clients through disruptive methods, leading to increasing ease and convenience in accessing financial services for individuals and businesses alike. Banks and Fintechs together will create the financial world of the future. HBL’s sponsorship of the Pakistan Fintech Summit is a testament to our belief in fostering an ecosystem that will enable Pakistan to serve as a catalyst for innovation in the Fintech space globally.”
The event will conclude with HBL Pakistan Fintech Awards ceremony, announcing the winners virtually. Other prominent partners of the summit are Checkout.com, SalaamTakaful, Rapid, QisstPay and a large number of international and local community partners and ecosystem enablers.
NameerKhan, Co-Founder – Pakistan Fintech Summit added; “Pakistan is amongst one of the fastest developing economies in the South Asian region. Our fintech landscape has seen significant transformations over the last few years however, there is a resounding need for all players to come together and work towards picking up the pace. There is an underlying requirement for creating and implementing digital financial solutions that can touch the lives of the masses effectively. We want to truly expose the Pakistani startups to the world and to that effect, we partnered with Rapid to launch the Rapid Pavilion, a virtual exhibition area, free for startups. This is just the beginning and this industry will reap great rewards for Pakistan ahead.”
TechRobot has carried out research on real-world crime and cybercrime rates of the 36 OECD countries, as well as sharing how well informed citizens are about crime. They have also revealed whether Europeans feel concerned about experiencing certain crimes and how regularly each European country changed their email password in the last 12 months, in response to cybercrime.
Europe is considered one of the safest continents in the world and is the only continent to have not seen a decline in safety since 2009, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace. In addition, technical innovation has been a fundamental source for good, allowing convenience, access to information and increased communication. However, this also means that there is a new type of crime citizens need to be aware of – cybercrime.
The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) has stated that cybercrime is becoming more aggressive and confrontational. Phishing, pharming and fraudulent credit/debit card misuse are just some of the types of cybercrimes users need to be aware of.
The worst country for cybercrime
The analysis reveals that the most dangerous country for cybercrime is also the United Kingdom. According to a study carried out by Detica for the Cabinet Office, the UK suffers losses of £27 billion per annum due to Cyber Crime, with the predominant victims being UK businesses. 13.64 for every 100,000 citizens in the UK experience financial losses due to cybercrime, which is the highest rate in Europe.
In addition, with the UK having the highest rate of online ID theft (20.5 in every 100,000 people) and credit/debit card fraud (47.7 for every 100,000 citizens), it’s not surprising that people living in the UK have changed their email password the most out of all the countries researched in the last 12 months. These were changed at a rate of 354.68 per every 100,000 people.
Just behind the UK is France, which has the second-highest rate of cybercrime in Europe at 497.2 per 100,000 citizens. French people experience social media account hacking at a rate of 19.63 in every 100,000 people, which is also the second-highest amongst the countries researched.
Lots of people tend to use very simple, easy-to-guess passwords and reuse these for many different accounts. This allows hackers to easily get into more than one account. This may also suggest why French people believe the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime is increasing; the rate of this concern is at 529.95 per 100,000.
What are Europe’s safest countries?
From phishing and social media account hacking to fraudulent credit/debit card use and online identity theft, the Balkan country, Montenegro has extremely low rates of cybercrime. The total amount of cybercrime per 100,000 citizens is 0.5, making it the safest country. The country experiences the lowest rates of phishing throughout Europe at a rate of 0.19 per 100,000 citizens as well as the overall misuse of personal information on the internet which is 0. Moreover, the total real-world crime rates are 274.20 per 100,000 inhabitants, making Montenegro the second safest country in Europe when it comes to these types of crime.
Analysis shows that 320.98 Albanians will experience real-world crime in every 100,000, making it the third safest country in Europe. They have the lowest rate of burglary at 5.23, compared to that of the UK which has the highest rate of 1,311.13 per 100,000 British people. Albania is also the safest country for fraudulent credit/debit card use and experiencing a financial loss due to cybercrime, as 0 people per every 100,000 are affected by these crimes.
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.
Zero Hash is a B2B embedded infrastructure platform that allows any platform to seamlessly integrate digital assets and crypto products natively into their own customer experience quickly and easily. Their CEO and Co-founder, Edward Woodford, sat down with The Fintech Times to discuss what sets them apart in the industry and shares his insights into the crypto market.
Edward began by explaining what sets the company apart from the rest of the industry
“We’ve really been able to prove ourselves over the last 18 months by working with some of the largest fintechs and financial services firms out there. Neobanks such as MoneyLion or broker-dealers such as TastyTrade for example, The reason these groups are leveraging Zero Hash is because of the strength of our technology. We are a purely API-driven business, you can get up and running very easily and seamlessly and own that entire UX.
“Our innovation and the ability to integrate that technology easily and seamlessly has really set us apart. We are currently able to support 40 different assets, that is close to 10x the number of assets our competitors support, and that really shows our innovation as crypto constantly changes.”
The conversation moved on to discuss the current cryptocurrency market and the digital assets space, offering his thoughts on the future.
“We’re very bullish on this space,” he advised. “Our thesis is very simple: every financial services firm will offer digital assets in the next 18 months, and they will do so through platforms like Zero Hash.”
“I also think that as embedded finance increasingly takes effect, crypto assets are now seen as one and the same as, for example, launching a current account. So our business of crypto as a service is dovetailing very nicely on the coattails of Banking-as a service.”
Finally, Edward spoke of the company’s partnerships, saying that they have recently announced partnerships with Transack, one of the most exciting on-ramp and off-ramp players in the digital asset ecosystem, and Deserve, the credit-card-as-services provider. Deserve is leveraging Zero Hash’s crypto rewards infrastructure to natively enable Deserve’s partners to offer crypto rewards on any credit card purchase.
“We’re very excited about that, it’s a big business for us,” he said. “We now do about 5% of the world’s global Ethereum volume. That’s because of these on/off ramps interacting with the broader digital ecosystem.”
When it comes to partnerships, Zero Hash always takes a very collaborative approach.
Edward said: “We’re always interested in feedback, we actually think that we build better products based on those clients’ feedback. That may sound obvious but it’s really about listening.
“The innovation around the assets that clients want us to support is really important to us, and we’ll have a bunch more exciting partnerships to announce over the coming weeks and months ahead.”
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.
Following the announcement that the Omicron strain of Covid-19 has been detected beyond the borders of South Africa, new evidence from HargreavesLansdown suggests that the momentary economic shake has begun to steady itself.
Speaking on the optimism represented in their latest figures, Hargreaves Lansdown’s Senior Investment and Markets Analyst SusannahStreeter explains: ‘’The anxiety attack on the financial markets shows signs of alleviating, as investors pause for breath and spot signs of optimism while scientists race to establish the severity of the new variant.”
Susannah describes how some doctors’ reports in South Africa show how Omicron infections appear less severe, and although increasing rates of hospitalisation have been observed, this may be due to higher numbers being infected rather than due to its specific strain.
The World Health Organisation’s appeal for caution also appears to have calmed some nerves. The FTSE 100 opened up 1% in early trading, recovering some of Friday’s dramatic losses and the FTSE 250 was 1.5% higher.
“This has helped ease concerns that global trade will be severely dented if the new variant takes hold, which saw the steepest falls in the oil price in 18 months on Friday,” continues Susannah.
A barrel of Brent crude has rebounded a little, rising by 4.5% initially but then falling back, hovering around $75 a barrel. The slight recovery in the oil price has helped BP and Shell which opened higher.
After British Airways owner IAG’s Friday tumble, it appears to have recuperated, up by more than 3% in early trading, amid hopes that, until more is known about the virus, travel restrictions will be limited to those rolled out over the weekend. Likewise, competitors EasyJet and Ryanair have also caught a ride upwards, rising by around 2%.
As Susannah points out, the companies showing the steepest recovery on the FTSE 250 are those re-opening stocks that saw some of the sharpest declines as fears took hold on Friday.
“WH Smith which has become hugely reliant on sales across its outlets across the travel network jumped by 5.7% while the Restaurant Group was up by 4.7% in early trade, closely followed by Carnival, up by 4.6%,” explains Susannah.
According to Hargreaves Lansdown’s insight, BT has topped the FTSE 100 leaderboard, amid reports that India’s Reliance Industries is considering a bid for the company.
“Talks are believed to be in their early stages,” Susannah explains, “but Reliance is considered to be keen to get at least a foothold in the telecoms company. It’s clearly interested in BT’s future growth plans with its focus on profiting from the rollout of fibre broadband and 5G.”
Reports that the Indian conglomerate Tata Chemicals is in talks to buy the battery materials business put up for sale by JohnsonMatthey has also sent shares in the FTSE 100 listed company higher. The price tag rumoured to be attached to the potential bid of between $500 and $700 million is clearly seen as attractive as it would give the company more financial firepower to expand its presence in hydrogen technologies.
The news of queues at vaccination sites bolsters the fact that the demand for booster jabs remains high amid hopes that the fully vaccinated will have more freedom in regard to travel.
In light of this however, general worries persist that demand will remain more subdued than expected until more is known about the trajectory of this strain.
“It’s a wait and see mood on the markets today, as speculation swirls about possible takeovers and investors stay on high alert for any fresh detail about Omicron and its potential impact for the direction of the pandemic,” concluded Susannah.
In today’s The Fintech Times Bi-Weekly News Roundup, we bring you the latest partnerships, investment rounds and job appointments from around the world.
Fintech Ebury has promoted Victor Tuson Palau to the chief technology officer role. He was previously SVP of engineering within the company. Palau will ontinue to focus on scaling Ebury’s platform, both in terms of the volume of payments and transactions and internationally as Ebury’s reach expands.
Thunes, the cross-border payments company, has unveiled four new senior executives to lead its business in Asia Pacific, the Americas, Middle East and North Africa and Greater China. Jenna Wyer is SVP for the Americas, while Simon Nelson is named SVP for MENA. Also joining Thunes is Biren Zandani as SVP for APAC and Daphne Huang as SVP for Greater China.
Fintech SaaS platform Toqio has appointed Dafna Martin Beltran as head of sales for new markets. Her appointment follows that of Alessandro Palma, Toqio’s new CFO. Both will play a key part in the future growth of Toqio as it ramps up expansion plans across Europe.
Meanwhile, KPMG in the UK has named Bharat Bhushan as a partner in its financial services technology practice. Bharat will act as chief technology officer for consulting and will strengthen the firm’s offering to clients in areas such as innovation and business platforms, digital transformation and cloud migration.
Unicorn insurtech bolttech hires Romaney O’Malley as group chief financial officer. Based in the UK, Romaney will be responsible for driving the financial strategy and management of the group’s businesses and operations in its 26 markets across three continents.
Research and insight
New research conducted by Cynergy Bank reveals that 18–34-year-olds are the most disappointed with digitalisation. Sixty-four per cent of this age group believe that customer relationships with banks have become worse due to less human interaction in comparison to 58 per cent of 35–54-year-olds and 61 per cent of over 55-year-olds. Those aged 18 to 34 also believe that digital transformation in banking has led to a reduction in products tailored to suit customers.
Funding and investments
Aikido Finance, the cloud-based investment platform, is launching a fundraising round to raise €5million. The investment will support its plan to further scale the growth of the business and explore new markets. Aikido also aims to grow its team from six to 10 employees in early 2022.
Accel Club, a company which buys and scales businesses selling on Amazon, comples $170million of equity and venture debt funding round. The equity round was led by Redseed, with additional participation from Flyer One Ventures. While the debt financing round was led by European special situations investor North Wall Capital. Accel Club also plans to expand to European and Asian platforms in the future.
Lenderwize, a fintech platform for digital commodities, has received €100million in funding from alternative lender Fasanara Capital. Lenderwize will use the funding to accelerate its international expansion plans, including launches in France, Germany, Spain and the US during 2022.
Thought Machine raises $200million in Series C funding. New investors JPMorgan Chase Strategic Investments, Standard Chartered Ventures and ING Ventures join cap table and client list. This new round sees Thought Machine achieve unicorn status. Thought Machine will use the funding to continue developing and expanding Vault. It will aldo expand its international reach and targeting new key markets.
Groundswell, the philanthropy-as-a-service platform that’s empowering employees with their own personal donor-advised funds (DAFs), has raised $15million in seed investment funding. The round was led by GV, with participation also from Human Ventures, Moonshots Capital, Felicis Ventures and Core Innovation Capital.
TISAtech partners with NextWave to accelerate and de-risk the adoption of innovation across financial services. Together, they offer fintech solutions for banks, asset and wealth managers and building societies. As TISAtech’s principal consulting partner, member financial institutions can now draw on NextWave’s expert consultants.
TotallyMoney, the credit app, has announced an API integration with car credit broker Zuto. In doing so, it’ll be able to provide customers with a broader range of more personalised car financing options. Customers can also use the TotallyMoney car insurance service to search for their best offers, without impacting their credit score.
Landsbankinn, the Icelandic bank, has joined forces with open banking firm Salt Edge to comply with Icelandic law on the PSD2 legislation. Leveraging Salt Edge’s PSD2 Compliance Solution, Landsbankinn will offer its customers the possibility to view their bank accounts in apps and websites external to the bank
Paymentology joins Mastercard as a network enabling partner in the MENA region. The partnership will offer new customers live issuance in accelerated time. The Network Enablement Partner programme is a Mastercard initiative to enrich the fintech and digital payment ecosystem in the region.
While, Virgin Money adds Accelerated Payments to its fintech partnerships. The fintech, which has offices in London, Dublin and Toronto, offers working capital solutions to help businesses manage their immediate cash flow. The Accelerated Payments partnership forms part of Virgin Money’s working capital health proposition.
Emirates NBD has announced its association with ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN). It is now a member and industry partner to support the global fintech registry, ChekFIN. Created in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group FinTech Control Tower and Temasek-founded Affinidi, ChekFIN was officially launched at the Singapore FinTech Festival 2021.
Redwood Bank has become one of the fastest challenger banks to reach profitability. The Bank, headquartered in Hertfordshire and with a regional office in Warrington, has now achieved monthly profitability after attracting more than 5,000 customers. It has lent more than £400million supporting British SMEs and attracted deposits of over £400million.
Weavr, the embedded finance firm, is named in the TechRound 100 – an annual competition that celebrates innovative startups in the UK. Weavr also recently confirmed a strategic partnership with Finway to issue physical and virtual cards for SMEs. It currently powers platforms including Thanks Ben and Myskillcamp.
GIANT Protocol is developing a web3 protocol to decentralise and democratise access to the internet and financial services. The tokenized bandwidth platform will allow anyone with a mobile phone to access the internet and earn rewards based on their connectivity. GIANT Protocol is in an advanced stage of development.
Activist investment platform Tulipshare launches campaign to hold JP Morgan accountable for misleading climate change commitments. Tulipshare is also calling on JP Morgan to strengthen its commitment to ending all investments in fossil fuels to significantly reduce their impact on the environment and the impacts of climate change.
GBG has integrated mobile network operator data into its identity verification and anti-fraud solutions. This external source of data can help businesses further strengthen their multi-level identity and fraud prevention strategies and drive confident decisions on customers.
Ingenico, a Worldline brand, has announced a full commercial launch of PPaaS, its payments platform as a service solution to its clients and partners. PPaaS is a suite of payment and commerce services that combines proprietary solutions for managing terminals with third-party applications and alternative payment methods such as Alipay.
Edenred’s PPS is set to partner with the UK-based eco-friendly debit card and open banking provider ekko.
As a result of its recent partnership with PPS, ekko will provide its customers with both virtual and physical cards – soon to be equipped with Faster Payments – API technology, and the ability to make payments via BACS.
In keeping with ekko’s commitment to sustainability, their cards are to be made using a post-industrial recycled PVC with degradable overlay produced by Thames Card Technologies, bringing the total percentage of eco-friendly material used in the card construction to 76%.
The solution brings ESG capability to customers concerned about plastic reduction and wishing to track their own carbon footprint, all through their daily purchasing. The partnership demonstrates PPS’ commitment to the green finance movement currently developing around the world.
Ray Brash, Chief Executive Officer at PPS, said: “As a driver of innovation in fintech and paytech across Europe we are increasingly committed to helping the industry become a leader in sustainability. Utilising our platform, access to networks and expert knowledge within the PPS team, together we’ve built a payments infrastructure which will help people to do something for the environment.”
Ekko is enabling its customers to deliver a positive impact on the planet while engaging in routine actions like shopping, banking, and paying bills. With every five transactions, an ekko user makes, one ocean-bound plastic bottle is diverted to a recycling plant.
And, in partnership with Mastercard’s Priceless Planet Coalition, with every 50 transactions, a tree is planted and maintained for the first five years of its life. Users can track their green activity and monitor their carbon footprint via a carbonmeter on the ekko app.
OliCook, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder at ekko added: “We knew that PPS offered industry-leading technology, have enormous credibility in the space, and could deliver at pace in line with our goals. As part of a truly collaborative project, we were able to transfer from our originally appointed issuer processing partner and completed all technical and regulatory tasks in less than 12 weeks. With the product now live, we look forward to building on our partnership with PPS and helping to support the growing trend of green finance, more informed purchasing decisions, and towards a more sustainable future.”
Neobanks (regulated digital only) are hot right now with 5 already in the Fintech 50 Index, many more lining up to IPO and top tier investors (including Warren Buffet in Nubank) going all in on private equities. However with the public equity market demanding profits again and with many Neobanks getting revenue without lending, the question we address today is whether Neobanks can persuade investors that they can generate enough profits without lending.
The companies in this space include Starling Bank, Monzo Bank, N26, WorldRemit, Wise, WeSwap, Nubank, Chime, Revolut, Swissquote, Green Dot ($GDOT), Robinhood ($Hood), Paypal ($PYPL), Visa ($v), MasterCard ($MC), Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm
5 are already in the Fintech 50 Index – Green Dot ($GDOT), Robinhood ($Hood), Paypal ($PYPL), Visa ($v), MasterCard ($MC).
The non-lending revenue models include payments, brokerage, foreign exchange & fee-based accounts. The freemium model (free accounts monetized via lending) has been the default banking business model for a long time and so this innovation is not obvious. Many Neobanks offer cash accounts without any credit checks and some charge fees and/or monetise via payments, brokerage and foreign exchange.
Legacy banks have been profitable despite the drag from their physical branch networks because their monetisation models include payments, brokerage, foreign exchange AND lending. In this game, size and finances do matter, but so does agility & focus. It is easy for a big bank to launch a digital bank with a separate brand and many have done so, but few have got to scale.
One thing is for sure, the economics of high street branch banking are awful. The winner will be a digital bank; the only question is whether that digital bank will be funded by VC or a bank or a tech firm.
When (not if) interest rates rise, lending will do well again. However we may never return to ye olde 363 bankers rule – borrow at 3%, lend at 6% and tee off (golf) at 3pm – due to competitionwith prices already falling in payments, brokerage and foreign exchange. Competition in lending has historically been restricted to legacy banks, but the emergence of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) ventures such as Klarna, Afterpay & Affirm brings real competition to at least consumer lending.
Some Neobanks go after relatively untapped geographic markets, such as Nubank in Brazil.
Some Neobanks such as Revolut are ambitious globally and compete in manynon-lending revenue models such as payments, brokerage, foreign exchange.
The key is an old fashioned idea – great customer service – with a modern twist – 24/7. WordPress manage to do this for a low cost digital service, so it is possible. The first digital bank to do this well may become a big market winner. Disclosure: I use both Revolut and WordPress but am not invested in either.
On this week’s Searching for Mana Lloyd Wahed, CEO of Mana Search met with Arthur and Kathleen Breitman of the Tezos Foundationto discuss the development of the Tezos ecosystem and how it uses creativity, collaboration and a degree of democratisation to evolve this open-source platform.
They see themselves very much as matchmakers and facilitators, bringing together developers with problems who will contribute to the ecosystem and profit from it. There are a couple of hundred developers in the ecosystem all over the world who know that they can make proposals with a high chance of making a difference for the good of all participants. Along the way, they can take advantage of low fees and high capacity on the chain and know that the Tezos Proof-of-Stake methodology is eco-friendly compared to Proof-of-Work models.
The platform is built on mechanisms that ensure active community governance and participation. There is no CEO or hierarchy and making a proposal that turns into action requires an 80% majority, a level they feel is a clear mandate but with a healthy respect for the minority.
This is a platform to facilitate transactions, they are not obsessed by being an alternative to banking, but they are obsessed with solving problems and empowering creators and connecting them up with others who also want to solve a problem. Tezos facilitates the facilitators, providing the infrastructure to help problem solvers be successful. Tezos suits the smart and the curious, those who work off first principles and take nothing for granted, to some degree it’s a social technology driving a blockchain.
Tenpay, a TencentHoldings company, has received a fine from China’s foreign exchange regulator for violation of foreign exchange rules.
The Shenzhen branch of SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange) has fined Tenpay 2.78 million yuan ($436,000) for misconduct, including conducting foreign exchange business beyond the scope of its registration.
The FX regulator also gave the company a number of warnings, ordered it to rectify the violations and confiscate illegal gains,
The official statement reads: “In response to the problems found in the routine inspection in 2019-2020, Tenpay has immediately formulated an improvement plan and implemented it item by item, and has now completed the rectification of all of them.”
It added that the company will further strengthen compliance management under the guidance of SAFE’s Shenzhen branch.
China launched a widespread clampdown on its technology sector this year, with the competition regulator, in particular, dishing out fines and warnings and conducting investigations into the biggest names in the “platform economy”.
At the beginning of this year, China’s central bank has ordered Jack Ma, one of the countries richest people and co-founder of Alibaba, a multinational technology company, to reign in his fintech empire with a major shake-up and scale back of the Ant Group‘s operations.
With an even higher hand, the country’s central bank announced that all transactions of cryptocurrencies are now illegal, as of 24th September, banning digital tokens such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. This move has been viewed by many as a strategy to accelerate China’s fast-developing CBDC.
Open finance network Plaid commissioned a survey from Harris Poll earlier this year to provide insights and analysis on fintech’s consumer impact in the U.S. and U.K. This fall, Plaid published a report based on the survey that detailed three overarching conclusions about the state of fintech.
Here’s a look at each of the findings below, along with what they mean for banks and fintechs in 2022.
Users’ switch to digital is permanent
Plaid’s survey found that for about half of the respondents using technology to manage finances is a habit. In fact, 58% said that they, “can’t live without using technology to manage their finances.”
Additionally, almost 70% of survey respondents said they use technology “as much as possible” to manage their money due to the pandemic. And it appears that this trend isn’t isolated to pandemic times. The study found that between 80% and 90% of respondents who used fintech in the past year plan to use it the same amount or more in the future.
Fintech spans demographics
According to the answers from respondents in Plaid’s survey, fintech is helping to level the playing field of financial management. Respondents across racial lines and generational divides are turning to technology to help them not only manage their finances, but also get further ahead.
For example, 37% of Black respondents and 31% of Hispanic respondents use online-only banking services to minimize fees they may incur with accounts. Additionally, 32% of Hispanic respondents use earned wage access tools to receive their pay early and avoid payday loans. In addition to offering access to tools, fintech also enhances financial education. Plaid’s study found that 28% of Black respondents and 24% of Hispanic respondents didn’t track their credit scores at all before they started using fintech.
The survey indicated that the youngest generation surveyed (Gen Z) and the oldest generation surveyed (Baby Boomers) have been the most impacted by fintech. More than 70% of Gen Z respondents said that fintech helps them build better financial habits. When it comes to Baby Boomers, almost 70% of them reported that they feel confident using technology to manage their finances. This figure is up 16% from the year prior.
Fintech is becoming part of every day life
Perhaps the most noteworthy statistic in Plaid’s survey is that almost half (48%) of Americans use fintech on a daily basis. This figure is up 30% from the year prior, when 37% of respondents said they use it daily.
Interestingly, the survey indicates that this usage is more heavily weighted toward positive aspects of financial management, such as budgeting and investing, versus negative ones, such as billpay. In its analysis, Plaid suggests this is because the negative aspects are often automated.
In its conclusion, Plaid indicates that fintech is no longer separate from traditional financial institutions. Rather, because of embedded finance, fintech is simply the new way of conducting finances digitally.
What do these shifts mean for banks and fintechs in 2022? In short, they indicate that there’s no going back on the road to digital. Even some of the most reluctant user groups have switched to digital and their usage is only increasing. The findings also indicate that the sector is poised for even more growth. The increase in demand, combined with new capabilities brought forth by enabling technologies, ultimately means that there will be new opportunities to serve users in new ways in the years to come.
As interest and investment in cryptocurrency spikes this year, banks and financial institutions (FIs) must decide whether and how to become involved, or potentially lose revenue and customers if they opt out. This is the message from Lawrence Pruss, senior vice president at Memphis, Tenn.-based Strategic Resource Management (SRM) in this episode of “The Buzz” […]
The Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) recently made available the demos of its first FDITECH Sprint, a contest held in September that focused on reaching unbanked customers via fintech solutions. The winning ideas included those that leverage technology to provide loans to small businesses in underserved communities; offer savings accounts and financial education for minority […]
This November, The Fintech Times is looking to broaden the understanding of digital currencies, ranging from blockchain’s use outside of crypto to CBDCs, in an attempt to replace the notion that digital currencies are a synonym for crypto.
Rounding out our digital currencies focus, The Fintech Times gathered views and opinions from the fintech industry on both the positives and negatives of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and how they compare to cryptocurrencies.
CBDCs are being adopted across the globe, with the UK developing its Britcoin, China: its digital yuan, and the US in talks about a digital dollar. The president of Peru’s central bank has also indicated that the country will be joining forces with India, Singapore, and Hong Kong (all of which have their own digital currency in place) to develop a CBDC native to Peru.
But is this digitising for the sake of it, or are there worthwhile benefits to a digital currency?
BhairavTrivedi, CEO of Crown Agents Bank:
“With digital currency, central banks don’t need to print cash or hold physical money. Currently, countries can print as much money as they like, resulting in problems like hyperinflation. Using a controlled digital currency could eliminate this problem. Additionally, governments would be able to track exactly who has what. Unseen wads of cash stashed under mattresses or coins lost behind the couch would be a thing of the past.
“This also leads to the second main advantage: fraud detection and prevention. When currency can be tracked to this level, crimes such as money laundering would be virtually impossible.
“Furthermore, digital currencies make transactions faster and easier for consumers, increasing convenience. There could also be a certain level of anonymity; an individual wouldn’t need to apply their name and address for example, but could instead use an ID number so that their identity wouldn’t be revealed to the other party in the transaction.”
Karan Kapoor, Head of Regulatory Solutions and RegTech at Delta Capita:
“CBDC will be able to scale globally relatively easily. This will allow more and more unbanked people in a certain location to open a bank account directly with the central bank on their smartphones. This is set to increase financial inclusion worldwide. Moreover, CBDC will most likely cause large denomination notes to be removed from the market. Less large notes in circulation will be a hit on tax evasion or more serious crimes.”
DuJun, co founder of HuobiGroup:
“An ideal CBDC should be safe and accessible, should maintain a balance between privacy and preventing from illicit activities, and strengthen the impact of monetary policies. A CBDC that provides the above benefits is difficult to design for most countries. Long-term active management of CBDC is even more challenging than issuing, and is necessary for CBDC to realise its benefits as well as the ultimate goal of promoting economic growth.”
Peter WoesteChristensen, Director at LPA:
“There are serious risks inherited in most CBDC implementations. The most important is the balance between protection of privacy and the ability for the state to create the transparent citizen. Combine the ability to track individual spending, with a social credit system and this has the potential to eventually become the ultimate oppression system.
“Models where the government takes over the role as the payment service provider always raises concerns, and could eventually lead to a lack of confidence in the overall system due to the lack of competition and alternatives. CBDCs done the right way will unlock value across both the local and global economy.”
AnthonyOduwole, Co-Founder of Verto:
“It gives the government more control over personal data, which some individuals may not want, as well as the risk of cybersecurity breaches. CBDCs also significantly impact the traditional banking system, with the worst-case scenario being causing a bank to run solely on deposits. CBDCs also exclude those that don’t have access to a digital device.”
Cryptocurrency or CBDC?
Victor Hogrefe, CBO and co-founder of EonLabs:
“The rise of cryptocurrency and blockchain is the one counter-trend. It promotes decentralisation, which stops these trends around companies and governments from getting too dangerous.
“I think smaller countries would be more inclined towards adopting crypto since they are the ones that tend to gain more from adopting it since in less-stable countries, blockchain-based alternatives can be a lifesaver. They can transfer internationally without going through the banking system, which is slow and terrible.”
“Some think that CBDCs will eliminate fiat currencies. This is unlikely – currency is never going to go away, what’s more likely is that big players like Visa, Mastercard, and big banks will start building out their own stablecoins and their own blockchains.
“As to whether they’ll eliminate crypto – it’s difficult to see this happening as the technology has such a wide range of use cases. There’s so much more to crypto than just being currency and a value exchange. Just look at NFTs for example – we can tokenise anything, which has huge applications across a number of industries – from Disney creating NFTs of its most beloved characters to gamers being able to tokenise in game video items and take them out of games for the first time.
“What’s more likely is that CBDCs and ‘traditional’ cryptocurrencies will coexist, and meet in the middle with a central secured blockchain that all parties can trust – this could, for example, look like an Ethereum chain which has Visa and Mastercard side chains that can operate with it.”
JulieCopeland, Partner at StoneTurn:
“For smaller or developing countries with larger populations of “unbanked” citizens, CBDCs can promote financial inclusion and reduce costs. These countries, however, will need to weigh those benefits with the potentially high cost of implementation, as well as the ability to safeguard the assets given ever-increasing cybersecurity risks, both of which are high barriers to entry for many smaller countries. The utility of CBDCs heavily relies on the willingness and rate of adoption by a country’s population, which could be hampered in countries with greater distrust or tensions between the government and its citizens.”
In a round led by Nyca Partners, cloud native core banking technology platform Thought Machine has secured $200 million in new funding. The Series C investment gives the London-based fintech a valuation of more than $1 billion, giving the company so-called “unicorn status.”
Thought Machine will use the new capital to continue development and evolution of its flagship solution, Vault, and its Universal Product Engine. Vault leverages APIs and a microservice architecture to provide institutions with all of the functionality necessary to offer both retail and small business banking services. A system of smart contracts enables companies to configure Vault to support a variety of retail bank products including current and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and mortgages. And as a cloud-based solution, Vault offers institutions security, flexibility, scalability, high availability, and an absence of friction.
Vault also enables institutions to better manage run and change costs so that banks only pay for the hardware they actually use and benefit from the ability to launch new products quickly and deploy upgrades to existing solutions with zero downtime.
“We set out to eradicate legacy technology from the industry and ensure that banks deployed on Vault can succeed and deliver on their ambitions,” Thought Machine founder and CEO Paul Taylor said. “These new funds will accelerate the delivery of Vault into banks around the world who wish to implement their future vision of financial services.”
Also participating in the Series C were new investors ING Ventures, JPMorgan Chase Strategic Investments, and Standard Chartered Ventures. Existing investors Lloyds Banking Group, British Patient Capital, Eurazeo, SEB, Molten Ventures, Backed, and IQ Capital also contributed. Thought Machine has raised more than $348 million in equity funding to date.
Payment card startup Slice received a $220 million Series B investment today, bringing its total funding to $291 million and boosting its valuation to over $1 billion, unicorn status. This is an impressive jump in valuation. According to TechCrunch, the India-based company was valued at under $200 million less than six months ago when it raised $20 million in funding in June of this year.
Today’s round was led by Tiger Global and Insight Partners and saw contributions from Sunley House Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures, Anfa, Gunosy, Blume Ventures, and 8i. Slice plans to use the funds to expand its product line by launching a payment card for teens. The company is also working on adding support for the country’s real-time payment rails, unified payments interface (UPI), and a digital ID product.
Slice is aiming to disrupt India’s credit card industry by relying on its own underwriting system. The company, which targets millennials, has five million registered users and is currently issuing more than 200,000 cards every month, making it the third largest card issuer in India.
Because of its in-house underwriting, Slice doesn’t require a credit score; anyone over the age of 18 can apply. Credit limits are relatively low, starting at $26 (₹2k). Additionally, the fintech doesn’t charge a joining fee, or an annual fee. Cardholders can get up to 2% cashback on purchases and receive weekly deals from brands such as Amazon and Netflix.
Slice’s name comes from one of its most differentiating features. The company allows cardholders to “slice” all of their bills over the course of three months into multiple installments.
“Slice targets an underpenetrated market in India and seamlessly allows users to make online payments, pay bills and more,” said Insight Partners Managing Director Deven Parekh. “There is a large opportunity in the credit and payment space in India, and Slice is well-positioned to become the leader in the industry. We look forward to this partnership with slice as they continue to scale up and grow.”