External Fraud Breaks Into the Top 5 Operational Risk Concerns for Financial Organisations


ORX, an operational risk association with a membership of over 100 banks and insurers globally, has released its findings on the biggest operational risks found in the financial sector. The Top Risk Review November 2021 report shows that information security risk was the biggest concern, followed by technology and third-party risk.

According to the report, information security risk, driven by cyber threats, continues to challenge the industry. With digitalisation continuing at pace and on a global scale, the cyber security risk landscape is evolving rapidly with more frequent and sophisticated attacks, especially phishing and ransomware – all creating a sense of ‘living in constant fear’.

However, the good news is that whilst firms are seeing an increasing number of events across a range of industries, most are avoiding successful attacks.

Interestingly, this year’s report reveals that External Fraud has entered the top five (from 9th place), replacing Business Continuity. The variety, volume, and sophistication of External Fraud attempts present an evolving and ever-present challenge in an economically turbulent environment.

RankingTop Risk Review (Sep 2020)Top Risk Review (May 2021)Top Risk Review (October 2021)
1Information Security (including Cyber)Information Security (including Cyber)Information Security (including Cyber)
2Third PartyThird PartyTechnology


Business ContinuityRegulatory ComplianceThird Party
4TechnologyTechnologyRegulatory Compliance
5Regulatory ComplianceBusiness ContinuityExternal Fraud

Luke Carrivick, Director of Research and Information from ORX explains, “Fierce competition from digital-centric disruptive market entrants, the threat of rapidly evolving cybercrime, the lasting impact of the covid-19 pandemic, and growing stakeholder expectations are all driving firms to adopt new technology at a faster pace than ever before.

“The knock-on effect is a new form of risk management that will mitigate any potential oversight of change and vulnerabilities that may be exposed, discovered and potentially exploited (e.g. by cyber criminals) along the way.

“At the same time, I’m not surprised to see an increase in External Fraud in this latest report. External Fraud has been an ever-present risk and alongside a growing cyber threat there has been an increasing variety of physical external fraud. These, combined with increasing fraudulent activity and customer vulnerability due to covid, has created the perfect storm.

“Now that the impact of the pandemic is beginning to be realised, the business continuity challenge is evolving. Businesses are now focusing to a greater extent on building their operational resilience, with focus on areas such as the impacts of hybrid working, and longer term, how a changing climate will impact operations.”

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


Citigroup alum Matt Zhang launches $1.5B crypto-investing venture


Former Citigroup Inc. executive Matt Zhang is launching a $1.5 billion venture focused on cryptocurrency-related investments and has hired Sam Peurifoy — an ex-Goldman Sachs analyst known for his online gaming persona “Das Kapitalist” — to lead a dedicated “play-to-earn” strategy.

Photo by Bloomberg Mercury

The New York-based investment firm, named Hivemind Capital Partners, has received “a decent amount of interest” from qualified institutional investors including pensions, endowments, sovereign wealth funds and family offices, Zhang, founder and managing partner, said in an interview. Hivemind expects to add another four to five partners in the next six to 12 months.

Hivemind, a name inspired by the 1992 book on collective intelligence by author Kevin Kelly, will pursue investments around four main strategies, Zhang said. They are “staking and yield management,” or ways to earn a return on crypto holdings; venture capital investment; crypto trading; and “play-to-earn,” an emerging type of blockchain games in which players can earn rewards such as crypto tokens based on their progress.

Zhang recently left Citigroup after 14 years working in both the U.S. and Europe; he was most recently co-head of the bank’s structured-products trading and solutions division. With his departure, Zhang joined a growing list of traditional finance executives leaving Wall Street for crypto ventures, even as big banks accelerate their own push into crypto-related services. Citigroup itself is looking to hire 100 people to beef up its digital assets team as it assesses client needs, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News last week.

Crypto fund launches have been surging this year amid the rally in digital-asset prices. Earlier this month, Coinbase Global Inc. co-founder Fred Ehrsam and former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang raised $2.5 billion in a record for a venture capital crypto fund.

Establishing a dedicated play-to-earn arm led by Peurifoy is one way Hivemind can differentiate itself from other crypto ventures, Zhang said. Peurifoy has been a gaming community leader in the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, where he has provided backing for some players in exchange for a share of some of their winnings.

Hivemind’s approach in play-to-earn games will start with building and scaling gaming communities, said Peurifoy. “We can take a lot of care in planning beforehand how we can support individual community members best” to help them potentially migrate into a digital ecosystem where they can live and make money, he said.

Zhang, who plans to run the fund’s crypto trading arm himself before hiring a head of trading, said he expects a “crypto winter” to arrive, during which Bitcoin prices could plunge before recovering, and will focus on hedging risks accordingly. “In the two years, three years horizon, there’s going to be a big trading business opportunity — the market volatility will come up and down,” Zhang said.

— By Yueqi Yang (Bloomberg Mercury)


UAE Millennials Want Better Offerings From Their Primary Banks


Arthur D. Little (ADL), a management consultancy firm with the longest-standing presence in the Middle East region, expounds the viewpoint that existing banking offerings with lifestyle services will enable local institutions to build deeper, wider end-user relationships while consolidating their relevance status in their latest report entitled ‘Beyond Banking: Is there an opportunity for banks to go beyond banking in the UAE?’

Based on a recent survey Arthur D. Little conducted in collaboration with M2P Solutions, an application programming interface (API) infrastructure company, the report explains why the national banking sector is likely to drive newer ways of banking in due course and details the necessity for adopting multiple partnership-based strategies in the evolving ecosystem.

Beyond banking outlook in the UAE

In line with an analysis of 2,000 UAE retail bank customers, the report substantiates the view that the retail banking market is coming under mounting pressure, with 45% of traditional banks’ clients ready to switch to competitors within the next six months. Low rates, regulatory changes, and various new players entering the financial services landscape – including Fintech companies, retailers, and telecommunications providers – are behind this trend. As such, banks have begun taking proactive steps to go beyond traditional banking, expanding into growth territories away from financial services. These efforts have subsequently resonated with customer bases: 61% of clients are now ready to turn to their primary bank for a beyond banking proposition, as are 70% of customers aged 25-44.

Pierre Mariani, Partner, Financial Services Practice, Arthur D. Little Middle East, said, “Evolving customer demand accelerated digital transformation and entry of new players are disrupting the traditional business models of UAE banks. These trends will continue to reshape the financial sector in the years to come, and banks that fail to embrace the change and make the necessary adjustments to serve their clients beyond existing services will inevitably fall behind. Therefore, a holistic approach is required by banks striving to retain customers, capitalise on future opportunities, and truly go beyond banking as they know it.”

As per the report, the appetite for beyond banking propositions is increasing among banks and customers alike, with the share of positive outlook customers set to increase from 61% to as high as 68% because of complementary services opportunities across entertainment, education, retail, and food. However, there are several considerations for the wider UAE banking community before such avenues can be pursued successfully.

Key considerations for UAE banks 

Having examined the beyond banking landscape, the report provides a comprehensive overview of the most pressing considerations pertaining to banks’ beyond banking efforts. Firstly, banks need quickly redesign their respective diversification strategies. To remain relevant in the future, they must understand and track dynamically changing markets to avoid building on outdated perspectives. Secondly, they should build on a vision, deciding whether to lead their own ecosystems or participate in an existing one. Moreover, the other topmost considerations concern SME banking and customer-centricity. Beyond retail client franchises, SME banking is identified as a new growth territory to explore, while banks can adopt customer-first approaches and ultimately enjoy beyond banking success by closing existing data, digital maturity, and talent capability divides.

“Making full use of beyond banking avenues and presenting customers with newfound value through diverse, attractive offerings hinges on a forward-facing approach from the outset of such projects,” added Vaanathi Mohanakrishnan, Business Head, M2P Solutions. “If banks do heed this recommendation and pursue such an approach, their efforts to elevate the appeal of current offerings while pairing them with various lifestyle services will certainly accelerate progression on the beyond banking route.”

‘Beyond Banking: Is there an opportunity for banks to go beyond banking in the UAE?’ also provides insights and information regarding the drivers of changing banking customer demands, the importance of data sharing and customer trust, and why UAE banks require bold investments and partnerships.

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


Clearpay Launches New Report Calling For More Transparency About Credit Cards


Following last month’s publication of the government’s consultation to regulate “Buy Now, Pay Later”, Clearpay, a provider of “BNPL” payments known as Afterpay outside the UK and Europe, has launched a new report to uncover consumer concerns around credit products in the financial sector.

The ‘Consumer Voices’ report, commissioned to get insight into Brits’ understanding of how credit products work, revealed that there is a lack of clarity around credit cards, and associated fees and debt – echoing many of the themes outlined in the consultation.

Clearpay believes that although regulation is required, a line needs to be drawn between BNPL and credit cards to ensure there is a clear distinction for consumers. BNPL does not operate in the same way as traditional credit, so it should not be regulated using rules created specifically for credit cards in the 1970s.

Credit cards are confusing

With two in five (40%) Brits admitting they are confused about credit scores, the research reveals that this stems from how credit cards work:

  • Nearly half (47%) worry about how credit card debt or credit checks will impact them in the future;
  • 36% worry about forgetting credit card payments;
  • Nearly two thirds (62%) are anxious about credit card interest or fees;
  • 50% believe that credit card payments come with unexpected charges.

In relation to financial protections, consumers value transparency on the total cost of the purchase including interest rates at different repayment rates (87%), fee-free early repayments (85%) and spending caps (81%) rather than credit scores and upfront payments.

BNPL emerges as a budgeting tool

In contrast to traditional credit cards, the research reveals that BNPL providers like Clearpay are offering a product that suits consumers’ spending needs. Consumers feel that BNPL services help them budget their monthly outgoings (47%), with over three-quarters (77%) of 18-34-year-olds saying they would be more willing to sign up for a BNPL service that doesn’t charge interest.

Unlike credit cards, Clearpay displays a late fees disclaimer at checkout before a transaction is completed and does not report to credit agencies or impact credit ratings. In addition, spending limits only increase as positive repayment behaviour is demonstrated.

BNPL provides an opportunity for small, local businesses

The research also highlights the potential growth opportunity for small businesses if the appropriate payment methods are in place. More than three in five (61%) consumers say they would shop more frequently at local businesses if those businesses offered flexible payment options, such as BNPL.

Damian Kassabgi, executive vice president for public policy at Clearpay said, “As more and more payment providers offer ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ services, it’s clear that the industry needs fit-for-purpose regulation that will offer consumers protection without stifling innovation. This is increasingly important given BNPL spending has grown by 300%, compared to stagnation for credit cards.

“Clearpay’s view has always been that consumers will be best served by transparent products designed with strong safeguards and oversight from the FCA. Since our entry to the UK two years ago, we have made sure our consumer protections are at the core of our product offering, going above and beyond many of the measures announced by the Government.”

  • 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.


Credit Kudos Find People in Debt in the UK Has Risen to 74%


New research has found that the number of people with debt in the UK has increased by ten percentage points in just six months (64% to 74%), with variable workers, which includes gig workers and freelancers likely to be acutely impacted, alongside young people aged between 18 and 34, according to the latest findings from Credit Kudos’ Borrowing Index..

The research found that the finances of variable workers and young people have been unduly impacted by the pandemic, with four in ten (40%) 18-34 year-olds and almost half (47%) of variable workers saying they have had to borrow more than usual since the start of the pandemic. This compares to the national average of 21%.

The landscape is particularly concerning for variable workers, especially when it comes to levels of debt. In the first iteration of the Borrowing Index in early 2020, only one in ten (10%) variable workers had debts of between £5,000 and £10,000. This figure has now more than doubled to around one in four (23%).

While these groups of society are clearly more in need of financial support to help them get by, they are also most likely to have to turn to higher-cost borrowing options, for example, unarranged overdrafts. On average 24% of the UK population have used some form of higher-cost, short term credit, but variable workers are more than twice as likely to do so than the rest of the population, at 51%. The figure is also significantly higher among younger generations, at 35% for 18-24-year-olds and 30% among 25-34-year-olds.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given that 3.6 million, or 40% of 25-34-year-olds and around 850,000 variable workers have previously struggled to access mainstream credit. This is an issue that has been exacerbated by COVID, with 78% of lenders saying they implemented a change in their lending policies during the pandemic, in part due to difficulty verifying borrowers’ income and a decision to avoid ‘higher risk’ customers during an uncertain period. When considering that over half (51%) of variable workers and 44% of 25-34-year-olds said that COVID had a significant negative impact on their income, it’s clear to see why many struggled to access affordable credit during this time.

It’s crucial that financial service providers are lending responsibly. Having access to the right credit options is a key enabler of financial flexibility, but if people are unable to access mainstream credit – despite being able to afford it – it can leave them with no other option but to turn to higher-cost sources of credit. Traditional credit data is based on a narrow view of someone’s financial situation, making it difficult to accurately assess an individual’s ability and willingness to repay. If a person hasn’t taken out credit before, for example, or rents rather than makes regular mortgage repayments, lenders may consider them high risk – even if they have never missed a payment. When you add in the disruptive effects of the pandemic on people’s finances and the growth in non-traditional income patterns as the future of work shifts to more freelancers and flexible roles, the ability to determine someone’s true affordability and creditworthiness becomes even more complex.

Transforming this, Open Banking allows individuals to securely share their financial transaction data, giving their chosen lender a full picture of their affordability and creditworthiness – which enables the lender to make more accurate, informed and responsible decisions.

Freddy Kelly, CEO and co-founder at Credit Kudos, said: “The financial shockwaves of the pandemic will continue to reverberate for years to come, especially for those who were already financially underserved, such as young people and variable workers. For these groups, access to affordable credit is essential, and lenders should be looking for ways to serve these people in a responsible, sustainable way. The implementation of innovations such as Open Banking are helping to tackle these issues and paving the way for a brighter financial future. This use of data is enabling the creation of tools that open up access to affordable credit for more people, allowing lenders to expand their customer base while continuing to put customers first.”

  • 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.


Podcast: The Importance of Partnerships in the Payments Ecosystem with Nuvei


In this podcast from The Fintech Times, Editorial Director Mark Walker speaks to Motie Bring, Chief Commercial Officer at Nuvei and Jacqueline Ulrich, Senior Vice President Partnerships and Digital Payments at Nuvei.

The conversation focused on the importance of partnerships in the payments ecosystem, where collaboration extends beyond typical boundaries, giving way to bigger and better opportunities. While Nuvei is a technology partner that aims to make the world a local place, Motie made it clear that in order to succeed Nuvei and others need to be agnostic, even working together with competitors. He added that there was a “Culture of collaboration fuelling the payments industry” and in such, companies need to excel in building partnerships to enable the largest variety of opportunities.

For Jacqueline, she believes that potential partners are looking for transparency and similarity. It’s a reason why companies such as Nuvei have been key to add verticals, which should enable any B2B business to accept payments.The three also discuss the various problems faced in different markets, from onboarding the smallest of online and mobile retailers, to the nuances of a core transaction that may need to be facilitated differently depending on the region. There’s also a conversation around the death of monoliths in the payments industry, and the question – what comes next?

To find out more listen to the podcast in full.

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


UK Startup NUM Launches a DNS-based Alternative to the Semantic Web


NUM, a London-based startup that makes useful data machine-readable so it can be built into devices, apps and services, is offering developers free, unrestricted access to more than 23 million data points.

Described an alternative to the Web, and built on top of the Domain Name System (DNS), NUM provides open public data on companies in the UK. Domain owners can override their pre-populated data by adding NUM records to their own DNS. Or they can also claim and update their pre-populated records using a simple user interface.

As part of its official launch, NUM has published free, unrestricted access to 23 million data points about 4.8 million UK companies – available to anyone building apps, services and assistants.

According to NUM, its launch is in response to the ‘limitations imposed by the gatekeepers of the web’ and because it ‘is time to level the playing field’.

Providing useful information 

Elliott Brown, inventor of NUM, says: “The ever-increasing need for machine-readable data has resulted in the rise of centralised APIs offered by the giants of the web. Companies like Alphabet have built an empire by crawling the web, indexing its content and storing it. They’ve built devices, apps, services, operating systems and entire ecosystems on top of this data.

“Developers looking to build apps that use machine-readable data face two options: Crawl the web as Alphabet have done, store that data and try to keep it up to date; or use a paid, restricted, rate limited API. This has stifled the creativity of millions of developers and users are left with little choice but to use privacy-compromising apps offered by the giants of the web.

“But there is an alternative: a way for companies to provide machine-readable data direct to devices, apps and services used by customers. This is NUM – an open standard to publish machine-readable data associated with domain names.”

NUM – funded by Innovate UK and UK angel investment – has also unveiled CompanyDirectory.UK, a directory of some of the UK’s largest companies. Contact information, including social media profiles, telephone numbers and opening hours, is provided in a searchable list.

While the directory is currently UK-focused, NUM has plans for international roll out in 2022.

  • Claire works across print and online as Editor for The Fintech Times.


Nuvei: How Collaboration Culture is Fuelling the Payments Industry 


Jacqueline Ulrich, SVP of Partnerships at Nuvei, shares her thoughts on how collaboration culture is fuelling the payments industry.

During in my career, I’ve noticed an acceleration in collaboration and creating synergies in payments. Responding to the prevalence of agnostic, open technologies and in a backlash to giant monolithic providers, merchants and their customers are finally reaping the reward of choice and transparency in the payments industry.

We know that our partners, customers and their end-clients value transparency — and quite rightly. Nowadays, merchants want to collaborate with partners that share their values and ideals. That means working together to improve the sustainability and performance of our industries, not just to make money. 

At Nuvei, we’ve always taken a consultancy-first approach, and now we are stressing that even more by putting more energy and resources in doing the same with our valuable partnerships. Not just so that we can offer the widest range and greatest choice to our customers, but to create high-value collaborations that drive mutual business growth and extend shared capabilities. Our unrelenting focus and passion for helping our partners connect with their customers is key to our mutual success.

It’s about the sum being even greater than our parts. The end experience for users is far better when high-performing businesses work together. In turn, this could spell the end of the exclusive, insular ecosystems the monolithic providers have created. 

Global expansion through collaboration

Firstly, partnerships make the payments world more accessible, vastly increasing the total addressable market. Payment preferences are incredibly local — consumers will expect to see their preferred methods when they reach the checkout, Pix in Brazil for example, and iDEAL in the Netherlands. Without offering them, you risk losing customers and leaving money on the table. It’s clear that, to nurture a global customer base, merchants need to work with local partners.

Our experience shows that as we add and deliver more solutions to our partners, that enables us to create relationships and grow with them. That’s what our business is all about, helping our partners and customers connect with theirs. It’s a foundation of our land and expand strategy.

Partnerships to expand capabilities and expertise 

Creating successful partnerships is also a great way to expand your offering and capabilities.  Working with Judopay, for example, allowed us to help a well-known food and drink brand build a successful mobile-first digital payments strategy. Judopay wanted to process mobile payments for just under 40 restaurants, but they had very specific requirements like pricing, settlement cycles, speed of onboarding, and translations. We brought all those capabilities to the table. 

 This was a complex case, working with franchisees meant very specific onboarding and regulatory requirements. Judopay, therefore, wanted to work with a payment partner that could meet those needs and collectively deliver a seamless experience for every franchisee. And for us, it meant we can keep up with popular trends, working with the right partners to deliver the most current, relevant results. 

 Human-centric not just business-centric

Finally, I am a firm believer in taking a genuinely human approach to partnerships and customer relationships. We collaborate closely with our partners to understand their goals and objects, and to get to know the audiences they are attracting, wherever in the world they operate. 

Of course, it’s an ongoing process, we continually assess, optimise and improve the way we work together. We bring together the most relevant experts from different parts of the business to build the perfect partnership that delivers the best results for the customer and end-users.

We’re proud to be genuinely agnostic; we facilitate choice, and we collaborate with leading companies and brands to extend our services and abilities, to grow our customers’ and partners’ global reach. That’s why our platform can integrate with almost any other system, including our competitors’, because we believe in collaboration, transparency and growing the world of payments together, across the globe. 

  • 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.


Will crypto destabilize countries undermine the role of the US dollar?


Recently in the news, Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, warned that cryptocurrencies could destabilize countries and undermine the role of the US dollar as a reserve currency. Clinton said Russia and China are manipulating cryptos and the Biden Administration needs to regulate the cryptocurrency market. As bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have now gone mainstream, financial regulators in Washington have started to express increasing concerns about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Institutional investment managers like JPMorgan and Blackrock, which initially opposed bitcoin, are now helping their clients invest in cryptocurrencies. El Salvador in early September declared the cryptocurrency to be legal tender, allowing it to be used for payments. Last month the first bitcoin ETF was introduced on the New York Stock Exchange, allowing U.S. investors to speculate on Bitcoin prices without actually owning it. But so far US regulators have been more focused on regulating cryptocurrencies in the context of capital controls, securities fraud, and tax evasion. The US knows how privileged it is to have its currency function as a global reserve. As more powerful institutions and other countries adopt in cryptocurrencies, the US government will increasingly be pressured to take a stance on the new asset class. If bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are here to stay, what will the future look like? The answer is complicated.

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the founder and CEO at Kryptonio wallet. Please participate in our Crypto Wallet Survey, we could use your help. It’s seven simple multiple-choice questions about crypto wallets and you should be done in 60 seconds. The survey is completely anonymous.

Kublai Khan created the first fiat money in the 13th century, money whose value is determined by the state declaring that it has value. It was the first money that was not backed by any commodity, such as gold, but just by the state’s authority. It was the beginning of money as we know it today.

But the problem with many new forms of money is that people are reluctant to adopt them.

Genghis Khan’s grandson took steps to ensure the currency’s validity, and if someone refused to use it or chose to pay with gold, silver, copper, iron bars, pearls, salt, coins, or any of China’s older forms of payment, they would be executed. Problem solved.

When you try to explain bitcoin to anyone, it’s immediately clear that cryptocurrencies are not money in the way most people think about money. The US dollar is a debt obligation of the US government. The value of the US dollar for the holder of that dollar is the real goods the dollar buys.

Today, the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, which means it is widely used in international trade and is the preferred currency for central banks to hold as part of their foreign-exchange reserves. A lot of the world’s trade is invoiced in dollars, which means the contract is written in dollars and the payment is made in dollars. The US dollar makes up over 60% of the foreign currency reserves. When a bank wants to exchange Indian rupees to South African rand, it usually first converts rupees to dollars, then dollars to rand.

The dollar’s dominance and the US’s control of the world’s financial system is real. If cryptocurrencies were to replace the dollar, that power would be taken away.

If you’re a citizen of a country other than the United States, your main motivation is to locate the most flexible, dependable, and free currency. China would prefer not to be sanctioned in any way. India would prefer to freely trade oil with Iran. The European Union would prefer to instill trust in its financial system, and not be reliant on its connection with the US.

The Fed has begun to investigate a digital dollar to be used alongside regular paper money, as a result of the phenomenal growth of cryptocurrencies. The biggest push in this direction was Facebook’s effort to build a global payments network using crypto technology because it clearly demonstrated how the private sector could create a massive currency system outside government control.

While everyone is talking about bitcoin as a store of value, cryptocurrency was supposed to replace government-issued fiat currency in our daily lives. Plain and simple, the most important criterion for success is that cryptocurrencies end up being used in commercial transactions.

Can I buy my new car using Bitcoin? Not yet. Can I buy a new smartphone with it? Not yet. How about pizza on Friday night? Not yet. You will still have to use fiat currency for that.

If cryptocurrencies cannot be directly exchanged for real goods, they will not be very successful. Will we ever be able to? Will bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies replace dollars and other fiat currencies?

Although the idea of Bitcoin replacing the US dollar may sound far-fetched, some experts have begun to consider it more seriously. Both Ray Dalio and Peter Thiel have said that bitcoin has the potential to weaken the dollar’s dominance. Thiel also said that China may use it as a weapon to weaken America’s economic clout.

China is making an incredible effort to displace the dollar and has already launched a beta of the yuan’s digital version. As it preps to push the world to adopt the digital yuan as a reserve currency, it has banned all activity related to private cryptocurrencies. If it does manage to pull it off, China would get the control and power the US currently enjoys. But if China can’t attain that power, it could reverse the crypto bans it has imposed and consider the second-best case scenario, in which no one has that power.

So is the dollar’s status important? Yes, but the adoption of cryptocurrencies will eventually lead to the fall of the dollar. The question is how it falls.

Hillary Clinton’s call to regulate cryptocurrencies will likely not lead to any major change in the US government stance. It has already tried to move in this arena, but so far nothing major has happened. The fall of the dollar won’t necessarily be as terrible as it sounds and incredible things can happen when “you control the fire” and have a controlled fall.

Power comes in many forms. If history teaches us anything, fostering and supporting innovation can only unleash economic development, which in turn leads to more control and power. Three decades ago, the US supported the development of the Internet and it changed everything, fueling phenomenal economic growth. The companies that came out of that decision are valued in the billions and have disrupted every industry. Bitcoin is America’s next Internet, an open, transparent and decentralized, financial future.

Adopting crypto and decentralized finance the US would double down on democratic principles and reap the benefits of increased efficiencies in the process. A decentralized financial world is the antithesis of China’s centralized model. Being the leader of the decentralized revolution, the US would implicitly promote democracy, showcase the viability of a decentralized system, retain its leadership and maintain its control in the new and emerging financial world.

The coming years will be incredibly disruptive and the monetary balance of power will depend on who is willing to accept the challenge. It’s time to embrace the change and welcome the next revolution.

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Shiba Inu Saw a 2,399,900% Price Increase From Sep 2020


The Fintech Times has analysed the top 10 biggest cryptocurrencies of 2021 and looked at their years in review, looking at both the positive and n but which cryptos have seen the biggest growth since 2020?

BrokerChooser analysed the search volume and value increases of top cryptocurrencies to reveal the best performing coins and tokens in 2021, revealing which $10 investment a year ago would be worth over $200,000 today.

Greatest increase in popularity 

Starting by looking at Google search data, here are the cryptocurrencies that saw their number of searches surge the most between September 2020 and 2021.

1. Shiba Inu

Sept 2020 searches: 70
Sept 2021 searches: 1.5 million
Increase: 2.1 million%

Shiba Inu coin (named after the breed of dog that inspired Dogecoin), only debuted in August 2020 and by the following month, hadn’t gained much traction, with just 70 Google searches in September 2020. But, much like Dogecoin, its popularity has exploded in the last year, with 1.5 million people searching for ‘Shiba Inu coin’ in September 2021, an incredible increase of 2.1 million%.

2. Polygon

Sept 2020 searches: 90
Sept 2021 searches: 90,500
Increase: 100,456%

Polygon (formerly known as Matic Network) is an Ethereum token that powers the Polygon Network and has experienced a growth in interest of over 100,000% in the last year for the term ‘Polygon crypto’. Polygon and other similar tokens have experienced a huge upswing as the Ethereum blockchain sees record usage.

3. Terra

Sept 2020 searches: 320
Sept 2021 searches: 18,100
Increase: 5,556%

While its overall interest might not be as high as either Shiba Inu or Polygon yet, the cryptocurrency with the third-highest increase in popularity is Terra, with searches for ‘Terra crypto’ going up by over 5,000% in the course of a year. Terra is a so-called ‘stablecoin’ which means that it is intended to offer more predictable prices than the likes of Bitcoin, which are notoriously volatile.

Greatest increase in price

1. Shiba Inu

Sept 2020 price: $0.0000000003
Sept 2021 price: $0.0000072
Increase: 2.4 million %

As was the case when it came to search interest, Shiba Inu coin had by far the greatest increase when it came to its actual price, despite the fact that the actual price of an individual coin is incredibly low. One Shiba Inu coin was worth a minuscule $0.0000000003 in September 2020 but had increased to $0.0000072 a year later. It may seem like that isn’t such a great increase but it actually equates to 2.4 million%, meaning that if you had invested just $10 in the currency in September 2020 you’d have over $200,000 just 12 months down the line.

However, despite seeing both its popularity and price skyrocket, the value of Shiba Inu has started to decline in recent days, sparking fears that an anonymous billionaire could be set to sell trillions of Shiba Inu coins, making it a considerably more risky proposition than it was a couple of weeks ago.

2. Dogecoin

Sept 2020 price: $0.003
Sept 2021 price: $0.29
Increase: 9,567%

In second place behind its fellow ‘memecoin’ is Dogecoin, and was envisaged as being a light-hearted and fun cryptocurrency to poke fun at the emerging world of crypto, that ended up building its own community and taking off in a huge way, particularly after being frequently mentioned by Elon Musk on social media. Since September 2020, Dogecoin saw its price increase by around 9,500% in 12 months.

3. Terra

Sept 2020 price: $0.48
Sept 2021 price: $31.66
Increase: 6,496%

As with search increase, Terra was also the cryptocurrency with the third-highest increase when it came to its price, rising from $0.48 to $31.66 between September of 2020 and 2021. Terra’s price exploded in January when it raised $25 million in a funding round from Galaxy Digital, Coinbase Ventures, Pantera Capital, and others.

Biggest growing tokens

BrokerChooser Top 20 Biggest Crypto Growers from Sep 2020 - Sep 2021BrokerChooser Top 20 Biggest Crypto Growers from Sep 2020 - Sep 2021
BrokerChooser Top 20 Biggest Crypto Growers from Sep 2020 – Sep 2021
  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.


DIFC Fintech Hive’s Accelerator Programs Benefited Over 30 Institutions in MEASA


DIFC FinTech Hive, the first and largest financial technology accelerator in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, has announced the growing popularity of both the DIFC FinTech Accelerator programme and the AccelerateHer programme, which contribute significantly to leading the future of the financial sector and developing female talent with the finest international skills.

The FinTech Accelerator’s programme has successfully supported more FinTechs than ever before this year with over 40 accelerated start-ups, serving the priorities of more than 10 top-tier institutions.

Bringing together an unrivalled community of the region’s leading financial services companies such as banks, investment and insurance firms, the FinTech Accelerator 2021 programme pairs participating FinTechs with industry partners, enabling them to work flexibly to unlock new growth opportunities. Participants will also be able to pitch their businesses to key stakeholders and investors including the DIFC’s own $100illion FinTech Fund.

The AccelerateHer programme succeeded in increasing the number of participants from within financial institutions, selecting another 21 candidates for its second cohort, and taking the total to over 40 women this year.

The second cohort of AccelerateHer continues through a hybrid programme structure combining both virtual and in-person elements, enabling global participation for those who wish to access the wealth of expertise and experience within DIFC. The DIFC FinTech Hive first launched AccelerateHer in 2019 to develop female talent in financial technology and innovation sectors. To date, the programme has successfully supported over 70 participants with one-to-one mentorship, workshops and networking opportunities.

Raja Al Mazrouei, Executive Vice President of DIFC FinTech Hive, commented: “The accelerator programmes that we offer at FinTech Hive contribute directly to shaping the future of the financial services sector in the UAE. The high demand for participation in these programmes reflects the confidence in our distinguished programmes, which enables participants to take advantage of the new opportunities available in the sector in the best possible way. We are keen to introduce more initiatives that will enhance the position of the Emirate of Dubai as a leading global financial hub.”

The programmes will conclude with the FinTech Hive’s annual flagship event ‘Investor Day’ which will take place on December 6, 2021. Investor Day serves as the graduation platform for the programmes as an opportunity for the wider investor community to meet the start-up finalists as they enter the next round of funding.

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


Episode 57: Payments Evolution, Expo 2020 Dubai & BNPL


On this weeks episode of News & Views, The Fintech Times Podcast team speak about a range of popular topic from this week, from Pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai, to banks and the evolution of payments & BNPL.


Teaching Kids About Finance Makes Them Richer and Boosts the Economy


Providing children with access to financial education could reduce UK unemployment, drive business innovation and help people retire with more in their pockets, a new study from GoHenry reveals.

Kids who were taught money lessons are earning more as adults, according to new analysis commissioned by GoHenry, the prepaid Visa debit card and financial learning app for kids aged six to 18.

Conducted in partnership with Censuswide and Development Economics, the study also identified that if adults had the opportunity to receive financial education when they were school age, the boost to annual business formation in the UK could amount to an additional 76,400 businesses each year. This would result in an annual increase of 123,000 direct jobs which could reduce unemployment in the UK by more than eight per cent.

In addition, prioritising financial education will inject an extra £6.98billion into the UK economy each year. That amounts to £200billion by 2050.

Other findings from GoHenry’s research includes:

  • Of those currently unemployed and actively seeking work, 41 per cent didn’t receive any financial education
  • Forty-six per cent of those who didn’t receive any financial education as a child are earning £15,000 or less annually
  • Of those earning between £55,001-£65,000, 77 per cent received some level of financial education
  • Kids who receive financial education will be £70,000 richer in retirement
Money lessons

GoHenry‘s research coincides with the launch of its new in-app, gamified financial education lessons ‘Money Missions’. Designed to make learning about money a fun and interactive experience for kids and teens, the lessons have been developed with both teachers and financial education experts, including UK charity MyBnk. Each lesson links to national financial education guidelines.

Louise Hill, co-founder and COO of GoHenry said: “These findings clearly demonstrate the positive impact that financial education has on individuals, businesses and the wider UK economy. The Autumn Budget neglected to recognise the importance of financial education for young people, despite the fact that poor numeracy can cost individuals up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings as an adult.

“It is vital that we teach these essential life skills much earlier to bridge the financial capability gap that is costing the UK billions every year.”

While, Stephen Lucas, economist at Development Economics, added: “The opportunity to receive financial education clearly has powerful benefits for children later on in life. To me, the most important impact on the economy is the link between financial education and future attitudes towards starting a business.

“Around half of all job creation in the UK is driven by startup and early growth stage businesses, so anything that has the potential to boost start-up rates has the potential to generate powerful effects on future levels of employment and wealth creation.”


El Salvador’s Bitcoin Legislation – Innovation or Regression?


In early June, El Salvador announced that it was going to be the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender. The cryptocurrency would no longer serve solely as an investment, but rather work alongside the US dollar, as the country moved forward with its aims of digitising finances for a largely unbanked population and making them more accessible.

Money being sent back from abroad currently makes up 20% of the country’s GDP. Its implementation in September has been a turbulent process though, as many Salvadorans do not agree with the change, voicing their opinions through protest on the streets in San Salvador, burning tires and setting off fireworks in front of the Supreme Court. Despite this, others believe that this is a crucial step in digitising finance and moving towards a cashless economy and therefore will be a great change.

Why Bitcoin?

The aim of the announcement was to help stabilise El Salvador’s economy. With over $4billion being sent back to the country through remittances each year, the government wanted to find a way in which those abroad would not be charged a portion of their earnings to send money back. Using Bitcoin would be a viable option as it could be transferred fee free from country to country as it has the same value everywhere across the globe – though this value is constantly changing.

When proposed by President Nayib Bukele, the Salvadoran parliament supposedly only discussed the idea for five hours before passing the law, according to Bukele’s political opponent, Johnny Wright Sol. Following a vote that saw 62 out of a possible 84 votes favour the proposal, it was agreed that 90 days would pass before accepting Bitcoin as legal tender was made law.

On the 7th of September, this came to pass, but it was not met with open arms as was expected. This was in large parts to the government backed app, Chivo, failing to support the number of user registrations it faced. Apple and Huawei did not have the app in their stores at the start of the day leaving many frustrated. This came as the president promised $30 of Bitcoin for each user that downloaded the app, as a way of encouraging Bitcoin adoption.

Ahead of the launch, El Salvador bought 400 Bitcoins worth around $20million, helping drive its price above $52,000 for the first time since May. Hours later, Bitcoin had weakened and last traded down 0.51% at $46,561.74. There was a further dip when the law launched in El Salvador with Bitcoin’s price dropping to below $43,000. As this happened, the government bought a further 150 Bitcoin, worth $7million, with president Bukele offering advice to the public, “they can never beat you if you buy the dips.”

Is Bitcoin the Solution?

As the world looks to become cashless, it seems only inevitable before transacting with digital currencies becomes the norm. When looking internally, 70% of Salvadorans are unbanked with no access to financial services. This change of tender towards Bitcoin would provide them a route to these services they would not have previously had access to before. One must also look at the current situation in the world and how the pandemic has affected cash first countries. By introducing Bitcoin, not only will people have access to financial services, but it will also decrease the spread of the virus as the transfer of cash was a very potent way of spreading it.      

Bitcoin being recognised and traded globally means visitors in the country can come prepared having bought Bitcoin in their own countries. This means they do not have to worry about currency exchange rates. Should this idea be adopted in other countries going forward, El Salvador will be recognised as the initiative leader that took the first step. Matt Blom, Head of Sales Trading at EQONEX said, “The people of El Salvador are now carrying the flag for crypto. Utilising a digital currency as a means to transact outside the banking system for daily activities is a watershed moment.”

Could Bitcoin be a problem?

Despite the positive possibilities that could come of the new legislation, there are some reasons this passing of law is not necessarily a step in the right direction. In the leadup to the implementation, the El Salvador government reached out to The World Bank for help to prepare the country for Bitcoin. The World Bank rejected this request for fear of climate concerns. Bitcoin like all crypto requires the blockchain to work – but running blockchain on such a large scale involves a lot of electricity. Bill Gates told journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin that Bitcoin “uses more energy per transaction than any other method known to mankind.”   

Other concerns are that many Salvadorans do not own a smartphone, and are therefore unable to access the new app. Without making the service more accessible, the poor remain poor and are not able to benefit from these changes.

Those in favour of the crypto law would argue that 200 Bitcoin ATMs have been installed throughout the country to make it more accessible, however, once the gratis $30 worth of Bitcoin has been spent, without a mobile to use the app, nothing will have changed. This is especially true as Trading Economics statistics suggest only 33.8% of the Salvadoran population have access to the internet, and even then it may not be a solid connection. Therefore, it seems like El Salvador has skipped a step in its digitisation path: making the proposed idea accessible.

Nolvia Serrano, Head of Operations, El Salvador and CMO, BlockBank Nolvia Serrano, Head of Operations, El Salvador and CMO, BlockBank
Nolvia Serrano, Head of Operations, El Salvador and CMO, BlockBank

Case study: Nolvia Serrano

The Fintech Times sat down with Salvadoran born, Nolvia Serrano (CMO at BlockBank) to hear what she thought of the announcement, having been in the capital on the 7th of September. She said, “It’s not just about accepting Bitcoin, it’s that people can have the right tools to convert it instantly if they want.”

Serrano continued by explaining the two main priorities for Bitcoin success and to overcome its challenges were transparency from the government and education. “There are many concerns surrounding the Chivo app as people are worried they will be monitored by the government. Businesses do not want to disclose their expenses to the government. Additionally, users want clarity on how the app works – is each transaction recorded on the blockchain or does it work individually? But most importantly, they want reassurance that the app will work.

“Education is one of the most important things. Salvadorans can’t see and use Bitcoin as a casino. The initial dip in Bitcoin on the release date acts as a good lesson on how the asset’s value fluctuates. Banks must help the adoption in order to help teach the public, the vast majority of which don’t know much about Bitcoin, how to use it properly.

“People don’t need to understand the ins and outs of Bitcoin as a technology. They don’t need to understand how blockchain works. They just want a way to transfer money for low fees. Communities are teaching kids on how to use a computer, teaching them a new NET language, and this has been so impactful, there has been a major decrease in young people joining gangs because they now have hope. They may not understand all the technology behind what they’re doing, but they know how to use it.”

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


Social Media Shopping on the Rise as Christmas Shoppers Stay Online


British consumers plan to shop online for Christmas presents this year, despite less coronavirus restrictions on the high-street, with social media shopping growing in popularity. 

That’s according to the latest Generation Pay Research from Worldpay, the payments processing business from FIS. Its report reveals that sixty per cent of UK consumers plan to do all their Christmas shopping online this year.

However, while Gen Z (18 to 24 year-olds) remain most attracted to the convenience of shopping online and via mobile (68 per cent), 48 per cent of Boomers (those aged 57+) say they are more likely to return to shopping in-store.

One reason shoppers say they prefer to shop online is the variety of payment methods available at online checkouts. Seventy per cent of millennials (25 to 40 year-olds) cited this as a key preference when shopping in comparison to 46 per cent of boomers.

Nearly a third (28 per cent) of those surveyed stated that they are planning to use buy now, pay later (BNPL) to make their festive purchases this year, with this rising to 43 per cent of millennials.

Social media growth

Worldpay’s Generation Pay Research also reveals that shopping via social media is becoming more popular with over a quarter (26 per cent) preferring to do their Christmas shop this way. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said that they made a purchase over social media in the last 12 months.

The Boomers+ age group lagged significantly behind others in terms of shopping on social media, while
Millennials were the most likely to do so. Surprisingly, Gen Z had the largest number of respondents who
hadn’t yet, but were open to the possibility.

Older generations who did make purchases favoured Facebook, while Gen Z were the biggest purchasers through TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. Sixty-two per cent of Gen Z respondents who had bought something through social media did so through Instagram, compared to just 17 per cent of Boomers+.
The gap was even clearer with TikTok – 28 per cent of Gen Z versus just six per cent of Boomers+.


In addition, Worldpay‘s research suggests alternative payment methods could help to reduce returns. Almost one in four (24 per cent) of every purchase during the festive season in the UK is returned. But returns have dropped by almost 15 per cent when bought through BNPL, with responding Gen Z and millennials saying they return one in every five purchases bought through BNPL.

“The pandemic is having a lasting impact on UK consumer shopping preferences,” says Maria Prados, head of merchant retail growth at FIS. “Shoppers have come to expect the convenience and flexibility of shopping online and are now, more than ever, choosing to do their seasonal shopping online.”

According to Prados, retailers must respond to customers’ changing demands by ensuring they are adopting the necessary technology which will give consumers more choice at the checkout.


Festive Shopping Period Is When Shoppers Are Most Vulnerable to Cybercrime


Consumers and businesses are being warned to expect a surge in fraudulent activity and cybercrime ahead of Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season.

Experian analysis of data from the National Hunter Fraud Prevention Service reveals credit card application fraud is set to peak over the period, with criminals looking to take advantage of an increase in genuine applications to attempt to access credit, with stolen or illegally obtained personal details.

The fraud rate for credit card applications increased by 43% in the last three months, a trend predicted to peak in November and December.

The rate rose by 107% between December 2016 and December 2020, representative of the increasing severity of the problem.

The significant increase in ecommerce in recent years – a trend fast-tracked by the Covid-19 pandemic – means the need for businesses to be able to quickly confirm that a customer’s identity and details are genuine has never been greater.

Using a sophisticated combination of new technologies and solutions, fraud teams are becoming more successful at identifying actual fraud attempts which, in part, explains the rise in rates seen in the analysis.

Meanwhile, consumers should be aware of how they can best protect their personal details and information when shopping online. Checking their credit report can help identify if someone has had their details used to apply for a financial product fraudulently.

Eduardo Castro, Head of Identity and Fraud, Experian UK&IEduardo Castro, Head of Identity and Fraud, Experian UK&I
Eduardo Castro, Head of Identity and Fraud, Experian UK&I

Eduardo Castro, Head of Identity and Fraud Experian UK&I, said: “The UK is experiencing a severe wave of fraud which shows no signs of abating and it is highly likely, as many of us head online to do Christmas shopping, that the trend will be even more pronounced over the next month.

“The risk is to both businesses and consumers. With such a volume of digital transactions being carried out, it’s critical organisations can confirm their customers’ information is legitimate as frictionlessly as possible, while consumers should do all they can to protect their information online.”

  • 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.


Lithuanian EMIs Saw a Net Profit of €6.4million Between 2018 and 2020


Fintech companies in Lithuania are among the best and fastest adapters to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fintech Hub LT statistics show that Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) have made the most progress. The latter have demonstrated excellent turnover and profitability figures, which reflect very well the increasing competition for traditional financial service providers.

In 2020, fintech companies operating in Lithuania generated a turnover of €399million. This is a fifth more than in the pre-pandemic year 2019, when fintech companies generated a turnover of €325million. This year’s figures are forecast to be much higher. The data sample included eMoney institutions (excluding Lithuanian Post and those with limited licences, such as Telia Lietuva, Bitė Lietuva, Tele2 Lietuva, as this is not their core business), payment institutions (excluding those with limited licences), specialised banks, blockchain companies, financial software providers, credit providers, insurtech companies, and crowdfunding operators, totalling 305 firms. The data was collected from official financial statements and the Centre of Registers, using the services of Okredo.

Fintech Hub LT estimates that the Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) segment officially became the largest fintech sector in Lithuania in terms of turnover in 2020. If in 2018 the weight of the EMI segment in the total turnover of fintech companies was only 11.7%, in 2020 EMI companies already generated 26.8% of total turnover, i.e. more than a quarter of the total turnover of fintech companies. Last year, the turnover of EMI companies was €106million. Compared to 2018, it grew by 3.7 times.

Financial software providers (€102million turnover in 2020, a 25% share of total fintech turnover) and lending companies (€92.8million turnover, a 23% share of total fintech turnover) were also among the top three fintech segments in Lithuania.

According to Vaiva Amulė, CEO of Fintech Hub LT association, which unites licenced fintech companies in Lithuania, the leadership of these three segments perfectly reflects the fact that the covid-19 pandemic has led to a surge in demand for fast, convenient and flexible financial services.

“During the pandemic, the importance of borrowing, finance and money transfer transactions increased, and businesses started to use online trading and alternative financing products more actively. This has been one of the key aspects that has allowed the fintech sector as a whole to grow.

“In 2020, the Lithuanian fintech sector generated a net profit of €25.7million. This is around 8% more than in 2019, i.e. before the covid-19 pandemic. This year’s figures should be even higher.

“Fintech Hub LT’s experts calculate that the biggest increase in net profit between 2018 and 2020 was in the EMI segment, which amounted to €6.4million.

“This means that Lithuanian fintech companies have sufficient financial reserves and capital to invest in the quality and development of their products and services. They also have sufficient capital to invest in increasing the number of employees, risk management, and technology development,” says V. Amulė.

It is clear that some of the accumulated revenue has been and is being successfully invested in the quality and development of the products or services and in the recruitment of new employees. This is shown by concrete figures.

At the end of 2018, the Lithuanian fintech sector employed 2,812 people, and by 2021, the number of employees increased to almost 5,400. In three years, the number of employees has increased by more than 2,500. The leading areas in terms of recruiting new professionals in the fintech sector were the EMI (800 employees) and software (905 persons) segments.

It is worth mentioning that Fintech companies pay their employees very competitive and high salaries. In 2021, the average salary in the Lithuanian fintech sector was €2,867, 83% higher than the average salary in Lithuania (€1,566). In all fintech segments, average salaries are above the Lithuanian average. EMIs pay the highest average salaries (€4,738).

Some of the dominant investments by fintech companies are related to anti-money laundering (AML) and the development of AML specialists. It is estimated that most fintech companies spend up to a third of their budgets on this area, or up to several million euros per year.

The fintech sector is growing very successfully and showing positive trends not only in Lithuania. International experts expect the overall size of the global fintech market to grow to €191.8billion by 2025. The annual growth rate (CAGR) will reach 10.2%. The main factors driving the growth of this market are the increasing demand for smartphones and banking apps, rising investment in fintech companies by private investors, faster internet penetration, and the wider use of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies.

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


Saudi Companies Must Enforce Digital Resilience Strategy To Protect Consumers


Companies in Saudi Arabia need to execute a digital resilience strategy to identify disruptive technologies and provide protection from cyber threats once those technologies are implemented; according to KPMG.

Mazhar Hussain, Digital Lighthouse Lead, KPMGMazhar Hussain, Digital Lighthouse Lead, KPMG
Mazhar Hussain, Digital Lighthouse Lead, KPMG

“For CEOs in Saudi Arabia, strengthening governance and bolstering their ability to recover from a major incident are the most important strategies for establishing digital resilience,” said Mazhar Hussain, Digital Lighthouse Lead for KPMG in Saudi Arabia.

“CEOs need to be quicker to shift investments to digital opportunities and divest businesses that face digital obsolescence,” Hussain said.

According to KPMG’s CEO Outlook Saudi Arabia 2021, 66% of CEOs say they are actively disrupting the sector in which they operate, down from 86% in a pre-pandemic survey. Moreover, CEOs seeing technological disruption as more opportunity than a threat dropped from 88% to 72%.

Cybersecurity is among the top business priorities for CEOs in the Kingdom, who realise the need to build up their defense systems.

Purpose-led, sustainable cybersecurity practices help digital ecosystems thrive, bounce back from attacks and instill confidence that a business is well-governed.

Companies in Saudi Arabia are ramping up their digital investment strategies, with 68% of Saudi-based CEOs saying they have an aggressive digital investment strategy intended to secure first-mover or fast-follower status.

KPMG says many organisations have coped exceptionally well with the Covid-19 pandemic, showing resilience as they dealt with notable change, uncertainty and disruption, noting that CEOs need to surround themselves with resilient people.

A number of other insights were also uncovered by the survey. CEOs see a need to build a connection between environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs and financial growth by identifying opportunities and establishing metrics and standards for reporting on ESG performance.

Looking at the future of work, CEOs are remaining flexible. Some CEOs are looking to hire a remote or hybrid workforce, though only eight percent of them are downsizing their office spaces.

CEOs should invest in digital skills as well as technology modernisation. They should ensure the decisions about the future of work deepen the extent to which employees are engaged and committed to the company, KPMG concluded.

  • 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.


Cynergy Bank Finds Young Millennials Believe Digitisation Means Less Tailored Products


Having grown up with technology, it would be understandable to presume that young people would have liked the extreme digitisation the world has witnessed due to COVID-19, however, research from Cynergy Bank suggests that 18–34-year-olds were the most disappointed with digitalisation and 64% of this age group believe that customer relationships with banks have become worse due to less human interaction.

Prior to the pandemic, internet banking was already an integral part of banking for many, but during the pandemic, customers moved online in considerably larger numbers. The move was not appreciated by all though, as 58% of 35–54-year-olds and 61% of over 55-year-olds were also disappointed with digitisation due to less human interaction.

Not only did the 18–34-year-olds feel that bank and customer relationships have suffered due to the digital revolution, but 64% believe that it has resulted in a reduced understanding of customer needs compared with 48% of 35–54-year-olds and 52% of over 55-year-olds.

Unsurprisingly,18–34-year-olds also believe that the digital transformation in banking has led to a reduction in products tailored to suit customers; with 64% of this group agreeing with this statement compared with 48% of 35–54-year-olds and 52% of over 55-year-olds.

The most valued service for 18-34-year-olds was 24/7 access to a relationship manager for assistance; with 31% highlighting this as most valuable. This was followed by demand for an Issues response manager to help solve any pressing requirements for 23% of the group.

Nick Fahy, CEO of Cynergy Bank commented, “The recent surge in online banking has meant that there are fewer opportunities for bank managers to build those much-needed relationships with customers. Digital banking is here to stay, but the pandemic has accelerated the need for banks to ensure they are providing an optimal mix of best-in-class technology coupled with a personalised experience. The recent research is clear, customers still value human interaction and need to know that there is a person on the other end of the phone, or via video call, should they need support or advice.

“Although a generation used to technology to obtain services, this is especially true for the 18-34 age group. At Cynergy Bank, we understand the importance of human interaction in banking as a means to provide the best product and services for our customers. We are building the human digital bank of the future leveraging our deep customer relationships to create digital products that best serve their needs”.

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


NovaFori: The Convergence of Digital and Physical Art – Auction Platforms in the Art Market


Although it’s true that the rise of NFTs has caused major disruption to the worldwide art market, how this form of digital token is being bought, sold and distributed has come as equally as agitating to the art world.

Garry Jones, CEO, NovaForiGarry Jones, CEO, NovaFori
Garry Jones, CEO, NovaFori

To convey this process, NovaFori‘s CEO Garry Jones discusses the trails and trends of NFTs in this guest post for The Fintech Times.

The art market, sometimes thought of as insular and reluctant to innovate, has nevertheless seen a rapid migration into the digital world driven by online auction platforms and the explosive rise of NFTs. Yet the direction of travel isn’t one way. Online auctions are boosting the distribution of physical art as the technology drives a new era of fine art and collectibles by uniting physical and digital elements in a symbiotic ecosystem that benefits both collectors and those who facilitate their sale.

Online art auctions rise in prominence

A trend accelerated by the pandemic, leading auction houses such as Christie’s are fully embracing online auctions. Out of necessity, auction houses were able to retain some form of business normality amid the disruption, and the sector is now in rude health. A report by Hiscox found that online art sales reached a record $6.8 billion in the first six months of 2021 (72% up on the first half of 2020) and could hit a record-breaking $13.5 billion by the year-end.

A clear outcome in 2021 is that the online art market is here to stay. Not only has the transition opened up a broader range of geographical markets to auction houses and art sellers, but it has expanded the demographic of its customer base. Online auctions also hold far more appeal among younger people, for instance, who may be more inclined to use smartphones and tablets to attend. An estimated $3.125 billion, or 46% of online art sales in the first half of 2021 were sold through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets according to Hiscox.

Aside from wider geographical reach and new customer demographics, the most innovative auction platforms can secure incredibly useful data-driven insights which help them to make the most of the changing customer base. In particular, those with machine learning functions can help auctioneers become attuned to the appetites of registered consumers based on their bidding history, allowing them to set pricing estimates more effectively.

The rise of NFTs in the art world

Online auctions have given auctioneers the opportunity to explore a new, non-traditional aspect of the business which is entirely online: Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). NFTs are traded via online marketplaces and their expanding popularity has brought them into the spotlight of investors and auctioneers alike.

Indeed, institutional auction houses have now begun to take stock of consumer confidence in this new breed of collectible. Following its landmark sale of digital artist Beeple’s “The First 5,000 Days” in March 2021 for more than $69m, Christie’s has now sold more than $100m worth of NFTs, not including the recent $29.8 million sale of Beeple’s “HUMAN ONE” artwork.

Although some critics think that NFTs are a flavour of the month status symbol and a passing trend, the sales figures are hard to ignore. DappRadar estimates that NFTs generated $1.2 billion in sales in July 2021 alone; more than half of the cumulative $2.5 billion sales volume in the first two quarters of the year. Therefore, the outlook for NFT sales remains optimistic and so does the outlook for the online auction infrastructure it sits upon.

Online auctions here to stay

As a result, online auction platforms stand to benefit from this developing trend, and a recent study into online art sales suggests that the shift to online is likely to outlast the pandemic. More than half (56%) of art buyers and 65% of online art platforms said they believed the switch to digital sales will be permanent. The platforms that facilitate online sales will retain their importance because of the variety of auctions they can accommodate, marking the continued convergence of the physical and digital worlds.

As in-person auctions return in some form, combining the physical and the digital art world will only grow in importance. This will most likely consist of hybrid events, where participants can attend online or in-person depending on their circumstances. Being able to leverage technology capable of offering enriched buyer and auctioneer experiences will increase in importance in the art world. Clearly, those auctioneers that look to capitalise on the digital transition and the rise of NFTs stand to benefit the most in the new age.