Greenwood Raises $45 Million to Bring Digital Banking to Black and Latino Communities

https://finovate.com/greenwood-raises-45-million-to-bring-digital-banking-to-black-and-latino-communities/
  • Greenwood, a digital banking platform catering to black and Latino communities, raised $45 million in new funding this week.
  • The funding round was led by Pendulum, an investing and advisory platform for founders of color.
  • Atlanta, Georgia-based Greenwood was named after the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was known as “Black Wall Street” in the early 20th century due to its high concentration of black-owned businesses.

In a round led by Pendulum, a strategic growth investing and advisory platform for founders of color, digital banking platform Greenwood has secured $45 million in new funding. A digital banking platform designed to meet the needs of members of the African-American and Latino/Hispanic communities, Greenwood will use the funding to advance its goal of closing the wealth gap between ethnic minority and majority populations and enable African-Americans and Latinos to more readily build generational wealth.

“Our vision is to make Greenwood the premier destination for black and Latino wealth creation and regeneration while keeping community connection and collective professional advancement at the center,” Greenwood chairman and co-founder Ryan Glover said.

Joining Pendulum in this week’s funding were a host of new investors including Cercano Management, Cohen Circle, The George Kaiser Family Foundation, and NextEra Energy. Existing investors Bank of America, Citi Ventures, PNC, Popular, Truist Ventures, TTV Capital, and Wells Fargo also contributed.

Greenwood also announced the launch of a new offering that takes advantage of its recent acquisitions of The Gathering Spot and Valence, a pair of African-American owned private membership networks for black professionals, entrepreneurs, and corporations. The offering, called Elevate, gives its members access to The Gathering Spot’s private membership network – including the organization’s physical clubhouses in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. – as well as Valence’s professional networking platform and recruiting database. The launch of Elevate is geared toward helping Greenwood fulfill both the community building and career advancement components of its mission.

“Greenwood is poised to create new outcomes and equip our communities with the resources they have been systematically excluded from in the pursuit of economic opportunity,” Pendulum CEO and co-founder Robbie Robinson said.

Founded in 2020 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Greenwood has more than 100,000 customers on its platform, and more than one million individuals in its combined community including The Gathering Spot and Valence. The fintech offers a digital bank account with no hidden or overdraft fees, a Mastercard debit card, support for P2P transfers, two-day early wage access, and a global ATM network. Greenwood also provides opportunities for its customers to help communities in need via programs like Feed a Family (in partnership with Goodr), donations to non-profits such as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and NAACP from customer spare change round-ups, and monthly small business grants of $10,000 to African-American or Latino/Hispanic owned businesses. The platform also offers financial education and information designed for black and Latino audiences via its Greenwood Studios operation. Greenwood’s banking services are provided courtesy of a partnership with Coastal Community Bank.

The name of the digital banking platform was inspired by the Greenwood District, a historic African-American community in Tulsa, Oklahoma that, in the early 20th century, featured one of the greatest concentrations of black businesses in the U.S. Known as “Black Wall Street”, the community was the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 in which a mob of white Tulsans destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the Greenwood District. The attack was described as the “single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” Hundreds were hospitalized and estimates of the number of Oklahomans killed ranged from 75 to 300.


Photo by Dazzle Jam

https://finovate.com/greenwood-raises-45-million-to-bring-digital-banking-to-black-and-latino-communities/

Fintech Apps Need These 5 Mobile Features to Attract Gen Z Users

https://finovate.com/fintech-apps-need-these-5-mobile-features-to-attract-gen-z-users/

The following is a guest post written by Lance Boyer, a recent college graduate and a Gen Z journalist.


Generation Z made up about 40% of active U.S. consumers in 2020, according to Fast Company. It also has more buying power than any of the Generation X, Boomer, or Silent generations. And it’s growing rapidly.

Generation Z is better off than the Millennial generation too. “Core” Millennials graduated high school and college into one of the worst economies in living memory. Despite the pandemic recession, Generation Z’s job and earning prospects have improved.

Financial technology providers can’t ignore Gen Z any longer. If you’re in the business of making budgeting, banking, and investing accessible to mobile users in the United States, you need to tailor your offerings to Gen Z — and now, not in 10 years.

That means designing your mobile app with younger users in mind. Here’s where to start.

5 Key Mobile Features for Gen Z Users

If you plan to market your mobile fintech app to Gen Z users, ensure it includes these five features.

1. A Unified View of User Finances

Most of the best personal finance apps have something in common: they give users a unified view of their finances inside and outside the app.

Your app shouldn’t only show balance and transaction information for accounts accessible directly through the app (if any). It should also display real-time or near real-time data from securely linked external accounts. It’s ultimately the user’s choice to link or not link these accounts, but your app should create as little friction as possible in that decision.

This adds a layer of development complexity for apps with money management functionality, as opposed to “simpler” budgeting apps that should link to external accounts. But it’s well worth the added investment and will increasingly become essential as the lines between banking and budgeting apps blur.

2. Social Sharing Capabilities

And not just standard Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat integrations. That’s old news.

Your app needs to make it easy — and fun and worthwhile — for users to generate their own content within the interface. Venmo does this simply but very well by allowing users to make transaction details public. Find an equal balance between privacy and disclosure in your product.

3. Stringent Privacy Controls (Beyond What’s Required by Law)

Your fintech app should have stringent privacy controls above and beyond what’s required by applicable law.

Your app shouldn’t make “low privacy” the default, and certainly not because you’re banking on monetizing your users’ data. That data is valuable, but you should come by it honestly. Gen Z is much more digital savvy than older generations and knows “if you’re not paying, you’re the product.”

You can undoubtedly incentivize users to share more with a freemium model or rewards for more sharing if you make it clear that you have users’ interests at heart.

4. Flexible Subscription Options

The more control you give your users over how and when they pay for your product, the more trust you’ll earn and the more you’ll make from them in the long run.

Don’t overcomplicate your payment options. Too many choices paralyze the user. Simple, straightforward payment verticals — one for pay as you go, one for pay for what you use, one for annual or quarterly subscriptions, and so on — are the way to go.

5. On-Call Support

The misconception that Gen Z doesn’t like talking to real humans must go away. Sure, the average Gen Z’er isn’t apt to chat on the phone for hours, but if you consider texting a form of talking — and it is — then Gen Z is just as chatty as its predecessors.

Maybe, more importantly, Gen Z is happier to be micromanaged than its predecessors. The average Gen Z’er seeks positive reinforcement and isn’t afraid to ask questions.

Lean into these preferences by investing in on-call support for your fintech app. This is a big ask for smaller enterprises, so it’s OK to charge for this service as long as it’s optional. Albert’s Genius function is a great example. It’s a built-in financial sherpa operating on a pay-what-you-want model, starting at a few dollars per month.

Final Thoughts

Generation Z makes up a larger percentage of active U.S. consumers than the Millennial generation, and it’s about to have more buying power. Its oldest members are already aging into the coveted 25-to-54 age demographic.

If your fintech app isn’t tailored to Gen Z’s preferences, you’re already behind the curve.

Fortunately, your development team doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to appeal to Generation Z. Including five key value propositions does the trick:

  • A single-dashboard view of user finances — both in the app and in external linked accounts
  • Seamless social sharing capabilities and user-generated content tools
  • Stringent privacy controls that keep users in the driver’s seat
  • Flexible payment options rather than one-size-fits-all subscription or flat-fee models
  • On-call human support, whether free or paid

These “big five” are just the start. You’ll likely find your younger users demanding additional features and functions. But the big five are non-negotiable. The sooner you work on them, the better.


Photo by cottonbro studio

https://finovate.com/fintech-apps-need-these-5-mobile-features-to-attract-gen-z-users/

Enhance Your Fintech App for the Gig Economy 

https://finovate.com/enhance-your-fintech-app-for-the-gig-economy/

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft.


Faster, flexible and easy. It would be surprising if those words weren’t the top cited needs for your customers on what they expect when using your fintech app. If you can provide these obvious, yet sometimes elusive characteristics in your next release, you’ve hit the jackpot or, at the very least, met expectations!

Speaking of customer expectations, faster, flexible, and easy ARE the expectations. Any usability friction can at best annoy. At worst, it can cause you to lose customers, particularly when competition is fierce, and especially after the past few years with the rise of the “gig economy.”

What is the Gig Economy?

The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting clients and customers through an online platform. But not only that, the gig economy also connects and attracts those customers who expect speed, flexibility, and ease of use. 

Starting in 2020, the gig economy grew substantially as jobs were eliminated, and previous full-time workers turned to part-time and contract work for income. Many workers took delivery service jobs bringing necessities to home-bound consumers.

Thriving within the gig economy is a big opportunity for fintechs. The gig economy spans generations – from those in their first job who have added a side hustle, to those working multiple temp or freelance positions, to those in retirement who want to earn some extra income. What they all have in common is the need for services that are fast, flexible, and easy to use. They don’t have the time or patience to deal with clunky, slow services that don’t deliver to their expectations.

A recent GWI report on U.S. fintech trends shows that the widespread usage of digital financial tools offers brands a huge upside for fintech applications, particularly with the “gig economy.” 30% of Americans participate as workers in the gig economy in some way, and digital financial tools are by far the most preferred way to manage their multiple streams of income.

If You Integrate (Fast, Flexible, and Easy to Use Document Processing), the “Gig” Will Come

Fintech companies may be on the cutting edge of software innovation, but even their most sophisticated applications need the ability to accommodate a variety of document-heavy processes used in the financial services industry. That’s why 94 percent of them leverage some form of digital document management solution.

Developing or enhancing a fintech app for the gig economy is tricky, as they expect more of their software applications than ever before (faster, more flexible, easier). Piecemeal solutions that offer only a few features are being overtaken by more comprehensive platforms that deliver a fuller end-to-end experience. Developers are adjusting by making essential technology upgrades to their tech stack, incorporating more capabilities, while also building innovative features that set their solutions apart from the competition. Thanks to third-party software integrations, they’re able to do it all.

Third-party software integrations allow developers to build more cohesive software solutions that provide all the essential features a customer may require. Instead of pushing them into a separate application to interact with their documents, provide a signature, or fill out a digital form, they deliver an unbroken experience that’s easier to navigate and manage from start to finish.  

Upgrading Your Fintech Application’s Potential

By turning to a partner with the right software integrations, fintechs can quickly implement powerful features while keeping their own development efforts focused on designing best-in-class capabilities and bringing them to market quickly.

With more than 30 years of experience helping fintechs enhance their integrations, Accusoft’s collection of SDK and API solutions provides a broad range of document and image processing solutions that can help improve efficiency, reduce errors, and deliver a better overall user experience. Whether you need the viewing, editing, and document processing features of PrizmDoc, or the image clean-up, conversion, and OCR capabilities of ImageGear, our family of software integrations can make it easy for fintechs to incorporate the functionality they need without having to rethink their tech stack. And most importantly, fintechs will be well prepared to meet and sustain the growing expectations of the gig economy for speed, flexibility, and ease of use while using their digital finance tools. 

To learn more about how Accusoft integrations can help your fintech app stay relevant in the gig economy, talk to one of our solutions experts today.

https://finovate.com/enhance-your-fintech-app-for-the-gig-economy/

Small Business Banking Provider Tide Acquires Funding Options

https://finovate.com/small-business-banking-provider-tide-acquires-funding-options/
  • Small business banking platform Tide has agreed to acquire lending marketplace Funding Options.
  • Tide will integrate Funding Options’ loan matching technology into its own business loan comparison site.
  • Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

A rising tide lifts all boats. Or in today’s case, a rising Tide lifts Funding Options. That’s because small business banking provider Tide has agreed to acquire lending marketplace Funding Options. Financial terms of the deal, which was first reported by AltFi News, were not disclosed.

U.K.-based Tide was founded in 2015 to help small businesses save time and money on banking and administrative tasks. The business bank accounts offer accounting tools, expense cards, invoicing, payment collection capabilities, business loan comparisons, and cashflow insights. Tide currently counts more than 450,000 sole traders, freelancers, and limited companies as clients.

By integrating Funding Options’ business lending comparison technology into its own, Tide will be able to offer small businesses a broader set of options when applying for a loan. That said, Tide plans to maintain the Funding Options brand as it exists today. Funding Options CEO Simon Cureton will continue to lead Funding Options and will also be charged with leading Tide’s business loan comparisons.

“With this deal, Tide is aiming to create one of the UK’s biggest digital marketplaces for SME credit, and to make it easier for small business owners to access this vital resource,” Tide CEO Oliver Prill told AltFi. “We know that getting credit is even more important to our members in these challenging times: not just in terms of the rising cost of doing business, but also when high street banks are typically slower to offer smaller businesses loans.”

Funding Options was founded in 2011 and now maintains a network more than 120 lending partners. Since launch, the company has matched small businesses with more than $812 million in working capital in increments ranging from $1200 to $5 million.

Once finalized, the deal will mark Tide’s first acquisition.


Photo by Nuno Obey

https://finovate.com/small-business-banking-provider-tide-acquires-funding-options/

FinovateEurope’s Alumni Alley: Pioneering PFM, French Fintech, and an Investor Social Network

https://finovate.com/finovateeuropes-alumni-alley-pioneering-pfm-french-fintech-and-an-investor-social-network/

FinovateEurope’s Alumni Alley is a great way for our pioneering alums to show that, more than a decade later, they are still driving fintech innovation. Check out our Finovate Alumni Alley hub for more information on how to get involved.

To celebrate the launch of this new opportunity, we’re going to highlight alums that demoed their technologies at some of the earliest FinovateEurope events. From Best of Show winners to late blooming breakouts, FinovateEurope has spent the past dozen years showcasing the companies that have become many of fintech’s favorites. Over the next few weeks heading into the winter holidays, we will share their stories here.


One of four companies to win Best of Show in our inaugural FinovateEurope in 2011, Meniga introduced itself as a mobile PFM solution provider for retail banks in Europe. Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, and founded in 2009, the company partnered with Íslandsbanki to help its technology reach 5% of households within the first year of launch.

Today the company has grown into a digital innovation partner for more than 165 banks around the world and grown its workforce ten-fold. From its start as a white-label PFM innovator, Meniga has added to its finance management offering with Cashflow Assistant and Smart Money Rules solutions, and added a suite of data management solutions for consolidation, enrichment, and discovery to its product mix. The company also now offers Beyond Banking solutions for banks, as well. These products include customer engagement/empowerment solutions like Carbon Insight and solutions for SME customers such as Cashback Rewards and Market Intelligence.

Meniga co-founder Georg Ludviksson introducing Meniga to the FinovateEurope audience in 2011.

Long-time Meniga CEO and co-founder Georg Ludviksson stepped down in August. The company’s new CEO, Simon Shorthose, said in a statement that the company was in a “prime position for growth” due to the “rapid modernization of banking technology and the move to real-time cloud infrastructures.” He added “Meniga’s solutions are at the forefront of helping banks take their digital banking experience to the next level of hyper-personalization.”


One of the benefits of FinovateEurope is not just the ability to showcase for companies in Europe in general, but also for the opportunity of countries not always associated with fintech innovation to show what entrepreneurs in their nations are up to.

France is one example of such a country and Linxo – which made its Finovate debut in 2011 and, nine years later, was acquired by Credit Agricole for an undisclosed sum – is one example of just such a company. Co-founded in 2010 by CEO Bruno Van Haetsdaaele and headquartered in France, Linxo demoed its platform that represented the first bank account aggregation service for French financial institutions.

Linxo co-founder and CEO Bruno Van Haetsdaele on stage at FinovateEurope 2011.

“This transaction enables us to accelerate and strengthen our services for the Crédit Agricole Group, while giving us the opportunity to develop our offering in France and internationally for our clients and prospects with Oxlin, our ACPR-authorized payment institution, and to continue the development of Linxo, one of France’s most popular personal financial management apps,” Van Haetsdaele said when the acquisition was announced.

More than three million users in France leverage Linxo’s mobile app to manage their budgets and simplify their finances. Linxo had raised more than $26 million in funding prior to its acquisition.


Helping investors navigate the financial markets was the goal of many fintechs that demoed their technologies on the Finovate stage in the early years. But one of the innovators in this space to make a big first impression that only has grown bigger over time is eToro.

Another company to win Best of Show in the first FinovateEurope, eToro was an established investing network with more than 1.5 million registered users from 120+ countries in 2011. The company is among the pioneers in social investing, with innovative solutions that helped novice traders and investors learn from successful, veteran traders and investors, and improve their own outcomes in the market.

eToro CEO Yoni Assia demonstrating the eToro network at FinovateEurope in 2011.

Among the more popular companies to demo at FinovateEurope, with six Best of Show trophies won from 2011 through 2017, eToro today is still one of the biggest social investing communities in the world with more than 30 million registered users currently sharing their investment strategies on the platform. The company launched its mobile app in 2012, offered trading in cryptocurrencies in 2017 and, this year, unveiled both fractional share investing with zero commissions and eToro Options for options traders in the U.S.

This month, eToro teamed up with Broadridge Financial Solutions to enable proxy voting for investors on its platform. The ability to cast proxy votes will extend to investors holding fractional shares, as well. The partnership is a victory for advocates of corporate accountability by enabling eToro investors to weigh in on issues ranging from mergers and executive pay to ESG initiatives and goals.


Photo by Peter Spencer

https://finovate.com/finovateeuropes-alumni-alley-pioneering-pfm-french-fintech-and-an-investor-social-network/

U.S.-based Neobank Novo Secures $125 Million in Series B Funding

https://finovate.com/u-s-based-neobank-novo-secures-125-million-in-series-b-funding/
  • Miami, Florida-based neobank Novo raised $35 million in funding, taking its Series B funding round to $125 million.
  • The Series B raises Novo’s total equity funding to more than $170 million.
  • The latest capital infusion comes from GGV Capital, which manages more than $9 billion in investments across North America, China, Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and Israel.

An additional $35 million investment brings the total raised by Miami, Florida-based fintech Novo to $125 million. The latest infusion comes courtesy of strategic investor GGV Capital, and brings Novo’s total equity funding to more than $170 million.

In a statement, Novo CEO and co-founder Michael Rangel highlighted the new functionality of the Novo Platform and the “tens of thousand” of small business customers the company has onboarded. Rangel also praised GGV as “instrumental” in helping other technology companies (“from Airbnb to Square”) scale their businesses, and said he believed the support of the firm would help Novo reach “millions more small businesses in the coming years.” Note that GGV Capital Principal Robin Li will join Novo’s board of directors as an observer.

With more than 175,000 small business customers, Novo offers a free business checking account with free ACHs and incoming wires; a Novo Virtual card; no hidden fees; and an application process that can be completed in less than 10 minutes. Novo also provides online small business banking services including the ability to send and track invoices; as set aside funds for taxes, payroll, and more via its Novo Reserves feature. Novo is partnered with Middlesex Federal Savings, which provides FDIC coverage of Novo deposits up to $250,000.

Additionally, as of 2021, the company has offered Novo Apps, a comprehensive apps marketplace to enable SMEs to customize their banking experience; Novo Boost, which gives small businesses same day access to payments received through Stripe; as well as Express ACH that enables same day processing of ACH payments.

GGV Capital Managing Partner Hans Tung underscored Novo’s “ecosystem approach” to providing banking services to small businesses, freelancers, and gig economy workers. “They’ve built a robust, intuitive platform that allows SMBs to connect all of their business and financial applications to their Novo account,” Tung said.

Novo’s latest investment comes as the company announces surpassing $12 billion in lifetime small business transactions. Founded in 2016, Novo was named one of the “Next Billion-Dollar Startups” of 2022 by Forbes earlier this year.


Photo by cottonbro studio

https://finovate.com/u-s-based-neobank-novo-secures-125-million-in-series-b-funding/

Featurespace Secures Funding to Develop AI-Powered AML Prototype

https://finovate.com/featurespace-secures-funding-to-develop-ai-powered-aml-prototype/
  • U.K.-based fraud and financial crime prevention company Featurespace secured funding to help build an AI-powered prototype to fight money laundering and other financial crimes.
  • The funding comes from both the U.S. and U.K. governments, and is part of an initiative supported by Innovate UK, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and messaging network SWIFT.
  • Featurespace made its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope in 2016.

Fraud and financial crime prevention specialist Featurespace has secured funding from both the U.S. and U.K. governments to build an AI-powered technology to help financial services institutions – including banks and payment service providers (PSPs) – to detect and stop financial crime. The goal specifically is to enhance the ability of financial institutions to combat cross-border money laundering, application fraud, and APP fraud, in particular. The U.K.-based company, headquartered in Cambridge, will build a prototype, leveraging AI, that will be trained on “sensitive private payments data.” Featurespace will apply federated deep learning to the data, using privacy-enhancing techniques such as k-anonymity and local differential privacy. Organizations will not have to reveal, share, or combine their raw data in the process.

“U.K. and U.S. governments want banks to work together to stop fraud and money laundering,” Featurespace Director of Innovation David Sutton said. “This type of privacy-preserving collaboration AI is a hard problem that no one has yet solved. We are confident we can meet this challenge. We’re the only company in this project that has deployed innovative tech to fight worldwide financial crime – and we have the banking customers to prove it.”

The funding comes courtesy of the privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) Challenge Prize, an effort begun in July by Innovate UK and the U.S. National Science Foundation. The initiative also is supported by bank-owned messaging network SWIFT. Featurespace has been given a deadline of January 24 to build the prototype. Upon completion, if the project is successful, it will be showcased at the second Summit for Democracy to be convened in the U.S. in the first half of 2023.

“A successful outcome of this project is to make money laundering across borders and between banks much more difficult,” Sutton said. “If you make it harder to launder money, you make criminal activities less profitable. This will benefit businesses, society, and consumers.”

Founded in 2008, Featurespace made its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope in 2016. More than 70 direct customers and more than 200,000 institutions ranging from HSBC and Worldpay to fellow Finovate alums like TSYS and Marqeta, rely on Featurespace’s technology to protect themselves against fraud and financial crime. An innovator in the field of fraud prevention, Featurespace has developed technologies like Adaptive Behavioral Analytics and Automated Deep Behavioral Networks to profile both authentic and fraudulent behavior to combat financial crime in real-time. Both technologies are components of Featurespace’s ARIC Risk Hub.

Last week, Featurespace announced a partnership with Railsr to help customers of the embedded finance platform better defend themselves from fraud and financial crime. Per the agreement, Railsr’s fraud teams will be able to leverage card and payment fraud prevention and AML solutions via Featurespace’s ARIC Risk Hub.

“As embedded finance increasingly becomes expected by consumers, making sure they are protected from fraud and financial crime must be expected in equal measure,” Featurespace Chief Commercial Officer Matt Mills said. “Railsr (has) recognized this early and added a critical layer of self-learning technology to ensure their customers get only the best experience.”


Photo by Markus Spiske

https://finovate.com/featurespace-secures-funding-to-develop-ai-powered-aml-prototype/

Quadient Teams Up with Esker to Help French Businesses Manage New Tax Landscape

https://finovate.com/quadient-teams-up-with-esker-to-help-french-businesses-manage-new-tax-landscape/
  • Business software company Quadient and process automation solutions company Esker have partnered with the French government via a joint subsidiary NCS.
  • The partnership is designed to help businesses comply with new regulations governing the issuance and receipt of invoices between VAT taxpayers.
  • Quadient most recently demoed its technology at FinovateEurope 2018 in London.

Business software company Quadient and process automation solutions company Esker have announced a new partnership with the French government. Via their joint subsidiary NCS, Quadient and Esker will help ensure that businesses are able to comply with upcoming French tax regulations, specifically with regard to electronic invoice receipt and transmission.

The new legislation applies to invoices exchanged between VAT taxpayers, mandating that these invoices must be transmitted in either a structured data format (UBL, UNCEFACT CII) or hybrid format (Factur-X). Rollout of the new regulations begins in the summer of 2024 and continues through January 1, 2026. At that point all micro, small, and medium-sized businesses will be expected to comply.

“The widespread implementation of electronic invoicing over the next three years is a major challenge for the four million companies in France,” Quadient Chief Strategy and Product Officer for Intelligent Document Automation Nicolas de Beco said. “As a major player in the electronic document management market for small and medium-sized businesses, we look forward to our continued partnership with Esker, in which we join forces and expertise to offer businesses straightforward and efficient invoicing process automation.”

Beyond ensuring compliance with impending regulatory changes, the partnership between Quadient and Esker will bring a variety of benefits to French businesses. The list of complimentary services ranges from centralized workflow management and business process automation to invoice archiving, payment reconciliation, and reporting. The interoperability of these services with other business platforms and solutions will give French companies greater capacity to improve operations, pursue digital transformation, and enhance their cash management.

“As long-standing partners, our two companies have demonstrated their ability to work together to deliver innovative solutions that benefit thousands of businesses in France today,” Esker COO Emmanuel Olivier said.

Headquartered in Switzerland and founded in 1994, Quadient most recently demoed its technology on the Finovate stage at FinovateEurope 2018. The company’s partnership news with Esker and the French government comes just weeks after Quadient launched its Parcel Pending smart parcel lockers in Ireland to help modernize the residential property market in the country.


Photo by Martijn Adegeest

https://finovate.com/quadient-teams-up-with-esker-to-help-french-businesses-manage-new-tax-landscape/

The State of Play in the Fraudtech Industry

https://finovate.com/the-state-of-play-in-the-fraudtech-industry/

According to LexisNexis’ recent True Cost of Fraud Study, which looks at fraud trends in the financial services and lending sectors of the U.S. and Canada, the cost of fraud has grown significantly as the global pandemic has ebbed. The report noted that every dollar of fraud currently costs financial services companies in the U.S. $4.00, up from $3.25 in 2019 and $3.64 in 2020. The picture for lenders is even worse. In fact, the report notes that fraudsters have been especially aggressive in the mortgage lending business, sending mortgage lending fraud costs up by more than 23% since 2020.

The report also highlights the problem of identity: the challenge financial institutions have when it comes to identity verification and the rise of identity fraud as “a significant percent of fraud losses at the point of funds distribution.” Both banks and mortgage lenders surveyed also noted the difficult tasks of enhancing fraud detection while simultaneously keeping the customer experience as friction-free as possible.

Lastly, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Director of Fraud and Identity Christopher Schnieper pointed to the elephant in the room when it comes to fraud-fighting in general: the opposition is tough.

“It is difficult for even the best trained professional to detect the increasingly sophisticated crime occurring in the remote digital channels without the aid of solutions that detect digital behaviors, anomalies, device risk, and synthetic identities,” Schnieper said.

What can we learn from the findings of the LexisNexis team, as well as from other analysts and researchers who have pointed to the growing challenges we face when it comes to fraud and cybercrime in financial services?

Three Key Takeaways from the Current State of Fraudtech

Evolving threats demand continuous innovation

Innovation in fraud fighting is driven significantly by antagonistic competition, a “disloyal opposition” to borrow from the language of political science. The competition in fraudtech is not just between businesses and individuals all working to build better mousetraps. This competitive arena also includes actors whose goal, to extend the metaphor, is to help mice avoid being entrapped in the first place. This makes fraudtech an especially “rubber meets the road” part of fintech in which innovation is more than a way to gain market share, it is an existential requirement.

In a recent Experian webinar sponsored by Finovate, Experian’s Kathleen Peters and Prism Data’s Brian Duke underscored the importance of thinking of fraud “as a business.” And as a business, fraudsters will aggressively seek out new markets of opportunity, focusing particularly on areas where there are new, sizable streams of capital flowing. Think about the amount of fraud that accompanied both the housing boom in the late aughts. Think about the fraud uncovered as part of the unprecedented financial response to an unprecedented global health crisis. Think of what is currently taking place with the various meltdowns in the crypto space. Understanding fraud as a business not only helps fraud fighters better combat criminal activity, it also helps fraud fighters get a sense of where fraudsters might strike next.

Tech-enabled human talent to the forefront

In fraud-fighting, there is no debate on the importance of using technology to enhance and support human talent and insight. While there are some instances in which actual human activity is replaced by technology, much of this replacement is of manual, mundane, or routine tasks that are undesirable as work, and often error-prone compared to automated interventions. On the other side, AI and machine learning give human agents fast, rich data they can leverage alongside their own intellect and experience in the field to make superior judgements compared to technological or human actors alone.

Jody Bhagat, President of Americas at Personetics, used the term “Digital Plus Human” in a Mastermind Keynote at FinovateFall earlier this year. “Digital Plus Human” describes what Bhagat called a “sweet spot” between an all-tech versus all-human approach for midsized banks. This is a worthwhile concept that fraud fighters have embraced. The blending of human intelligence with AI, for example, to suss out bias inadvertently created by allegedly color- or gender-blind algorithms, is one instance of the digital plus human concept at work. Relying on human instinct to ferret out more complex identity challenges highlighted by technical tools is another key component of contemporary fraud fighting strategies.

Innovation in identity is key to better security

Lastly, it is increasingly clear that identity is the key to better security. In some ways, the more we can solve the identity issue, the easier it will be for us to solve and resolve security issues. Part of this lies in understanding identity as an access or action-specific factor, rather than a static representation of an individual in the physical, non-digital world. In other words, the interaction between a user and the user’s mobile device may tell more about the authenticity of the individual than a street address or even a social security number. This helps us understand the specific – and more precise – data requirements needed when it comes to establishing identity in digital contexts.

Here, companies like Trulioo are doing important work in helping financial institutions leverage digital identity to make the onboarding process a better and safer experience for the customer and business alike. Other firms, such as Instnt, are introducing innovations such as continuous identity assurance and portable KYC.


Photo by Sora Shimazak

https://finovate.com/the-state-of-play-in-the-fraudtech-industry/

Finovate Global VC Edition: Quona Capital Backs Financial Inclusion in Emerging Markets with New Fund

https://finovate.com/finovate-global-vc-edition-quona-capital-backs-financial-inclusion-in-emerging-markets-with-new-fund/

Good news for fintech startups in developing markets! Quona Capital recently announced that it has closed its latest fintech fund, its third, at $332 million. The venture capital firm, which specializes in emerging markets, noted that the amount raised topped its target of $250 million. The new fund, Fund III, will be focused on companies that are developing technologies that expand access to financial services for consumers and businesses in regions ranging from Latin America and India to Southeast Asia, MENA, and Africa.

“Since our earliest days, Quona has been dedicated to expanding the frontiers of financial inclusion – investing with conviction in markets and technology-enabled models improving access and quality of financial services for the masses,” Quona co-founding managing partner Monica Brand Engel said in a statement. “Our prior fund performance, robust pipeline of inclusive fintechs, and growing LP interest in our offerings are ringing endorsements of our view on the prospects of impact-oriented venture investing in emerging markets.”

With aggregate capital of more than $745 million, Fund II is the firm’s third fund since Quona Capital was launched in 2015. Those contributing to the fund as investors include global asset managers, insurance companies, both investment and commercial banks, endowments, foundations, family offices, and more. And while many of the investors in Fund III have invested in Quona Capital funds previously, the new fund did receive capital from 20 new investors, as well.

According to Quona Capital, the startups in its portfolio have served nearly nine million small and medium-sized businesses and over 30 million retail customers. Quona Capital startups have raised nearly $4 billion in capital and generated more than $800 million in revenues. Among these firms are India-based consumer lending company ZestMoney, Southeast Asia-based fintech marketplace ula, and long-time international remittance firm and long-time Finovate alum Azimo – which was acquired by Papaya Global earlier this year.


Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Indian neobank ZikZuk acquired tax e-filing platform TaxSpanner.
  • National Bank of Pakistan turned to Finastra to enhance its trade finance operations.
  • Lentra, a fintech based in India, secured $60 million in Series B funding for its loans-as-a-service business for banks.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • AstroPay introduced its Mastercard prepaid card in Brazil.
  • Mexico-based B2B payments company Mendel raised $60 million in new funding.
  • Brazil’s Agrolend, which provides credit to the country’s farmers, secured $27 million in Series B funding.

Asia-Pacific

  • Ant Group introduced its Buy Now, Pay later offering in Hong Kong.
  • Vietnam-based Sacombank partnered with Temenos to enhance digital banking.
  • Philippines-based neobank Tonik unveiled its all-digital lending products, Flex Loan and Big Loan.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Nigerian fintech Paga unveiled its Visa-branded card this week.
  • Pan-African paytech Cellulant secured a Payment Systems Operator license from the National Bank of Uganda
  • Samsung South Africa launched its digital wallet, Samsung Wallet.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Polish fintech Ramp locked in $70 million in Series B funding to build payment rails for cryptocurrency investors.
  • Co-investment platform for European startups SeedBlink secured licensing from the Romanian Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF).
  • Genome, an Electronic Money Institution based in Lithuania, partnered with Entrust to simplify digital payments.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • UAE-based Wio Bank went live with Mambu’s cloud-native banking platform.
  • Pyppl, a financial services platform based in the UAE, raised $20 million in Series B funding.
  • Saudi Arabia’s central bank presented its open banking framework.

Photo by Ricky Gálvez

https://finovate.com/finovate-global-vc-edition-quona-capital-backs-financial-inclusion-in-emerging-markets-with-new-fund/

Elevating the Banking Experience for All: Our Conversation with Sarah Murray of Compliance Systems

https://finovate.com/elevating-the-banking-experience-for-all-our-conversation-with-sarah-murray-of-compliance-systems/

One of the areas of fintech that has benefitted significantly from the rise of enabling technologies like AI and machine learning is compliance. From reducing the role of manual labor via automation to streamlining complex processes to make rules easier for companies to follow, both regtech firms and compliance teams alike play a major role in ensuring the fintech innovations we enjoy are safe, do what they say they’ll do, and are as available to as many eligible consumers as possible.

We caught up with Sarah Murray, who leads the Deposit Product Team at Compliance Systems. She talked about the impact technology is having on the field of compliance, and discussed the key challenges that Compliance Systems is helping its 1,800 financial institution clients overcome.


How did you get started in fintech? What has led you to where you are today in your career?

Sarah Murray: Before fintech, I was practicing law in private practice, and I just knew I was ready to be out of the courtroom and do something different with my legal career. I started at Compliance Systems eight years ago as a product specialist and counsel; now I am happy to have led the product team for the last five years. I love my job because no two days are the same. I never thought I would spend some days researching legal topics and reviewing regulations, and other days reviewing code and testing software, but I love the challenge each day brings.

Tell us about the work you do for Compliance Systems.

Murray: I lead our deposit product team at Compliance Systems, which consists of attorneys, business analysts, software developers, and quality control specialists who all work toward the common goal of delivering compliant and innovative products to our 1,800 financial institution clients. I love the mixture of technology with the law and getting to keep my legal hat that I went to school for by delivering compliance solutions through technology to our clients.

What are your thoughts on the way technology is helping companies keep up with the changing regulatory environment?

Murray: Overall, I think it’s the job of technology to streamline and simplify, regardless of which industry we’re talking about. In the case of fintech and regulatory compliance, that means automating repetitive and high-risk compliance processes. It also means demystifying regulations where we can for the benefit of the consumers that those regulations are intended to protect.

Our proprietary research engine tool enables us to provide proactive and update-to-date compliance, and our team is constantly monitoring and tracking what is happening in the legal and regulatory spaces in real-time to ensure we can deliver timely compliance solutions to our clients. Our software provides updates through our cloud-hosted solutions, and our compliance safety net tool also provides interactive features that help our clients complete compliant transactions and provide a better level of customer service.

How has this evolved and how do you see it continuing to evolve leading into 2023?

Murray: The market has evolved through financial institutions rethinking compliance and needing to deliver a solution that meets their customers [and] members where they are: on their phones. We deliver compliance in a way that makes sense in a mobile-first environment and develop content with that in mind. This model isn’t necessarily what financial institutions are used to, but it is what customers [and] members strongly prefer: easily navigable, mobile-friendly content.

Financial institutions are telling us they want a single, streamlined approach for a customer, regardless of the channel (e.g. whether it be in branch or online). So, we’ve created a solution that satisfies the requests of both parties. You can open accounts through the same process as you would in a branch location, but on a mobile device with ease.

What challenges are you hearing in conversations with clients? What technologies are resonating most

Murray: Our Simplicity Mobile, a mobile-first account opening solution, has been highly successful because it has helped address some of the main pain points for our clients. They communicated that they are looking to have a more streamlined, efficient, and consumer-friendly workflow to open accounts and to reduce friction in that process to avoid abandonment. This solution completed that challenge by offering native HTML content that a financial institution can include within their account opening workflow, and by supporting “click to sign” functionality.

Another challenge we are hearing from clients involves their treasury management solutions. Treasury management operations are a vital component of a bank or credit union’s commercial services, but the content needed to properly document this business can require costly outside counsel or consume internal resources that put a strain on operations. Also, financial institutions are looking for a better, more streamlined way to sign up their customers for their treasury services. They don’t want to have to create and maintain separate contracts for each treasury service and are looking to avoid inundating customers with multiple contracts and documents.

Our delivery model ensures that our clients will always be in compliance and our technology delivers the configurability needed for a treasury management solution, as many aren’t looking for a “one size fits all” fix. Our solution helps minimize operational and compliance risks for our clients while also providing a central hub for all compliance-related updates and content within our solution. Furthermore, our solution offers one master services agreement for treasury services to help improve a customer’s enrollment experience.

Are there any tips you would like to share on providing strong leadership in a male-dominated industry?

Murray: A few tips I have are to be passionate about what you do and work with integrity; work hard to deliver what you say you will do when you say you will do it; don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and be an advocate for yourself and others. A big thing at Compliance Systems is that we believe in reinvesting in our products based on what we have learned from our clients and the industry. I would say it is important to have that mentality yourself as you grow. Learn from mistakes. Learn from what works. Learn from your colleagues and clients. Together as an industry, we can elevate the banking experience for all.

https://finovate.com/elevating-the-banking-experience-for-all-our-conversation-with-sarah-murray-of-compliance-systems/

Finance in the Metaverse Era Should be Green and Sustainable by Default

https://finovate.com/finance-in-the-metaverse-era-should-be-green-and-sustainable-by-default/

The following is a sponsored blog post from Finastra.

Post-pandemic recoveries stalled by rocketing energy prices are leading to calls for stalling a green transition that has already begun. But the costs to businesses due to climate-related weather events within the next four years will be over $1 trillion.

Investors and financial institutions are increasingly applying non-financial factors (Environmental, Social, and Governance) as part of their analysis process to identify material risks and growth opportunities. Also, there is a high interest coming from consumers in the sustainability of businesses and how they impact the environment.

But because of the broad range of indicators coupled with the lack of standards, transparency, and unified reporting makes it a challenge to assess and measure true, impactful ESG credentials and the sustainability of a business.

At the same time, many banks have started to embrace/experiment in the Metaverse including DBS Bank in partnership with The Sandbox with a focus on driving sustainability. Will this be an opportunity or a challenge for financial institutions keen to demonstrate their commitment to a more sustainable future?

To help navigate these challenges Finastra invited three experts in ESG and Sustainable Finance alongside Christophe Langlois, their Global Marketing Lead, Fintech & Developer Ecosystem at Finastra, who hosted this insightful conversation:

  • Marcus Cree, MD Financial Technology and Services, GreenPoint Global
  • Tanuj Pasupuleti, CEO, Bankify
  • Jay Mukhey, Global Director of ESG, Purpose & Impact, Finastra

They discussed the following topics:

  • The case of ‘greenwashing’ in 2022 and how to identify it.
  • The main differences in terms of sustainable finance adoption and challenges between the key regions of the world?
  • The opportunities that come with sustainable finance.
  • The essential role open/API banking plays in fostering sustainable finance.
  • Metaverse from a sustainable finance standpoint.

To learn about the successful adoption of ESG and sustainable finance and what solutions are available right now on the market, watch the video by visiting this page.


Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

https://finovate.com/finance-in-the-metaverse-era-should-be-green-and-sustainable-by-default/

Varo Bank Adds Zelle, Bringing Safe and Secure Money Transfers to its Mobile Banking App

https://finovate.com/varo-bank-adds-zelle-bringing-safe-and-secure-money-transfers-to-its-mobile-banking-app/
  • San Francisco, California-based digital bank Varo has added popular money transfer solution Zelle to its mobile banking app.
  • The integration will bring safe and secure money transfer capabilities to Varo’s more than six million accountholders.
  • Founded in 2015, Varo Bank is the first neobank to offer Zelle to its customers.

All-digital Varo Bank announced this week that it will offer money transfer solution Zelle in its mobile banking app. Varo is the first financial institution of its kind to offer Zelle in its app without having to partner with a bank. A safe way to send and receive money from friends, family, and trusted small businesses, Zelle has more than 150 million current users who access the technology via their banking apps.

“Adding Zelle to our product lineup is our bank charter in action,” Varo Bank founder and CEO Colin Walsh said. “We are excited to welcome millions of Americans to access Varo’s full range of benefits on our modern, secure, digital banking platform that now includes the ability to quickly send and receive money.”

Customers who have made a qualifying direct deposit in the last 31 days are eligible to enroll in Zelle at Varo. Additionally, those customers that have made any Zelle transaction in their Varo Bank account before November 3, 2022 are grandfathered into the program and will also be eligible to enroll in Zelle at Varo.

“Varo Bank customers will now have a way to send money to friends, family, and others they trust, whether they need to pay back a friend for dinner, split the cost of rent with a roommate, or pitch in for a group gift,” Early Warning Services Chief Product Officer Kash Baghaei said. Early Warning Services is the network operator of Zelle.

The addition of Zelle is part of Varo Bank’s effort to reimagine banking by giving customers the tools they need to become financially resilient and enhance their financial well-being. Other examples of these solutions include the company’s Varo Believe, a secured card to help consumers build credit, and Varo Advance, which enables users to borrow up to $100 with no interest and a simple fee based on the amount of the advance that tops out at $5.

“Varo Advance was created to meet the short term credit needs of millions of Americans, and it continues our commitment to provide customers the strongest possible foundation for their financial success, with instant availability and low, transparent pricing,” Walsh said.

Launched in 2015 and headquartered in San Francisco, California ,Varo Bank offers an all-digital alternative for financial services consumers. The institution provides a bank account with no credit check, no minimum balance required, no monthly fees, and no overdraft fees. Accountholders have access to more than 55,000 fee-free, Allpoint ATMs in locations like Target, CVS, and Safeway. Varo Bank cardholders can get up to 6% cashback when they use their Varo Bank debit or Varo Believe card at select brands.


Photo by Pixabay

https://finovate.com/varo-bank-adds-zelle-bringing-safe-and-secure-money-transfers-to-its-mobile-banking-app/

Square to Offer American Express Credit Card for Sellers

https://finovate.com/square-to-offer-american-express-credit-card-for-sellers/
  • Square is launching a credit card for its small business clients.
  • The American Express card will be powered by i2c and issued by Celtic Bank.
  • There is no word yet on a launch date, but Square said that more details will be released next year.

Move over, Brex, Divvy, and Ramp. Square is getting in on the business credit card game. The mobile payments company announced today it is expanding on its existing partnership with American Express to launch a new credit card that will be tailored for Square’s merchant clients.

Square already offers a small suite of banking tools, including checking, savings, and loans, but this is the company’s first ever credit card offering. Adding a credit card to the mix will not only round out Square’s in-house banking options, it will also help it compete in the increasingly profitable business banking arena.

“Small businesses can struggle to find fair and simple solutions for their credit needs. Square has spent years building a successful lending program to eliminate this barrier for sellers, and we’re uniquely positioned to innovate even further in this space to expand access to new types of credit products,” said Square Banking General Manager Luke Voiles. “We wanted to create a product on a payment network that has a strong track record of supporting small merchants, making this card a natural progression of our existing relationship with American Express.”

As with most fintechs that offer a credit card, Square is tapping a third party, i2c, to power the credit card offering, which will be issued by Celtic Bank.

According to Square, the credit card will integrate directly into the company’s banking suite to help businesses manage their cashflow and offer them visibility into their business’ finances. At the moment, there are not many details about the new American Express credit card, including the launch date, rewards benefits, or cost. However, Square said it will provide more information next year.

The only thing surprising about this announcement is how late to the game Square is. Square launched in 2009 when fintech was still in its infancy. The company debuted its lending arm in 2014 and remained relatively quiet until the challenger banking boom last year when it unveiled its savings and checking accounts.

In comparison, one of the largest challengers in the business banking arena, Brex, was founded in 2017. The company launched its business credit card offering in 2018 and was an overnight success. Multiple other new players joined in, including Ramp, Divvy, and Expensify. Perhaps Square plans to rely on its existing customer base to give it a competitive edge against the competition. The company had more than 64 million business clients as of 2020.


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

https://finovate.com/square-to-offer-american-express-credit-card-for-sellers/

Wells Fargo Launches Small Dollar Digital Financing Solution, Flex Loan

https://finovate.com/wells-fargo-launches-small-dollar-digital-financing-solution-flex-loan/
  • Wells Fargo launched a new small dollar digital financial solution called Flex Loan this week.
  • The new offering provides loans of $250 and $500, with a flat fee of $12 and $20, respectively.
  • Available in selected markets now, Flex Loan will be available nationwide by the end of the year.

Certainty, simplicity, and clarity are among the virtues of Wells Fargo’s new small dollar digital financing solution, Flex Loan. The new product is a digital, small dollar loan of either $250 or $500 with a flat fee of $12 or $20, respectively. Available only in select markets now, Flex Loans will be introduced across the U.S. by year’s end. Wells Fargo indicated that Flex Loan is part of the financial services company’s efforts to help customers meet short-term cash needs and avoid potential overdrafts.

“What makes Flex Loan different from other payment options is its certainty of approval for eligible customers, the simplicity of obtaining funds in minutes, and clarity around how much it will cost to pay for things like holiday gifts, travel, or an unexpected home or car repair expense,” Head of Personal Lending and Retail Services for Wells Fargo Abeer Bhatia said.

Eligible customers will see the Flex Loan offer in their Wells Fargo mobile banking apps. Once customers take out a Flex Loan and establish their repayment plan (four equal monthly installments), the funds are available in customers’ Wells Fargo account within seconds. Customers can then use the funds via their Wells Fargo debit cards for payments or purchases. There are no applications, late charges, or interest fees.

Flex Loan joins a trio of options announced by Wells Fargo in January that are designed to help customers better manage short-term cash needs. These options are: Early Pay Day, Extra Day Grace Period, and Clear Access Banking. Early Pay Day gives Wells Fargo customers access to eligible direct deposits up to two days in advance. Extra Day Grace Period adds an extra business day to make deposits to avoid overdraft fees. Clear Access Banking offers customers a checkless banking account with no overdraft fees.

With $1.9 trillion in assets, Wells Fargo & Company provides financial services to one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of U.S. small businesses. Wells Fargo is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker WFC, and has a market capitalization of $176 billion. Charles W. Scharf has been CEO of the bank since 2019.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

https://finovate.com/wells-fargo-launches-small-dollar-digital-financing-solution-flex-loan/

5 Tales from the Crypto: FTX Fallout and Making the Case for Keeping the Faith

https://finovate.com/5-tales-from-the-crypto-ftx-fallout-and-making-the-case-for-keeping-the-faith/

The fallout over the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX continues. On Friday, the embattled company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, noting that it had in excess of 100,000 creditors – before amending its filing days later to report that the number of creditors might be more than one million.

While 2022 has been a dark year for a number of cryptocurrency companies, none have suffered as FTX has. With a valuation of $32 billion and more than one million users, FTX was the third largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume last year. But all of this came crashing down earlier this month. When rival Binance learned that FTX partner Alameda Research had much of its assets in FTX’s token FTT, Binance began selling its holdings of FTT. This resulted in more selling, in what some observers have called the equivalent of a bank run, which demolished the value of FTT and created a serious liquidity crisis for FTX. An aborted plan by Binance to buy FTX gave the company few alternatives to the bankruptcy declaration it made late last week.

What’s next? The FTX crisis has reached the recrimination stage, with even the company’s performance coach weighing in. (You can read Dr. Lerner’s response to rather lurid allegations about the behavior of the company’s senior executives. Spoiler: he refers to the company’s Bahamas headquarters as a “pretty tame place”). A sizeable swathe of celebrities – from NFL star quarterback Tom Brady to supermodel Gisele Bundchen- who served as brand ambassadors for FTX are also finding themselves under scrutiny – and worse.

And speaking of scrutiny, it appears as if the FBI is in discussions with the Bahamian authorities on extraditing FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to the United States for questioning.


Is cryptocurrency lender BlockFi now endangered due to the crisis at FTX? Media reports from The Wall Street Journal indicate that the company, launched in 2017 and headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey, may be considering bankruptcy.

Why? According to reports, BlockFi admitted that while it did not keep the majority of its assets at FTX, the firm did have deposits on the company’s platform, as well as an undrawn line of credit from FTX “and obligations that FTX owed it.” BlockFi has suspended customer withdrawals in the wake of the FTX collapse, is limiting platform activity, and also is reportedly planning to layoff an unspecified number of workers.

BlockFi has not responded to the reporting from The Wall Street Journal at this time. A message at the company’s website reads: “BlockFi is not able to operate business as usual. We have limited platform activity, including pausing client withdrawals as allowed under our Terms. We request that clients not deposit to BlockFi Wallet or Interest Accounts at this time.”


Entrepreneur and investor Anthony Pompliano was interviewed on CNBC’s Overtime program Tuesday afternoon. Asked about the FTX situation, Pompliano made an impassioned case for the future of cryptocurrencies. Pompliano also argued that the American market-based system is the only place where this kind of innovation – and accountability – is possible.

Pompliano runs investment firm Pomp Investments. He was formerly co-founder and partner with Morgan Creek Digital Assets, and Managing Partner with Full Tilt Capital. Pompliano also was a Product Manager at Facebook where he led the growth team for Facebook Pages, and helped launch solutions including AMBER Alerts and Voter Registration. He is the author of a daily email newsletter of business, finance, and Bitcoin called “Pomp Letter.”


At a time when so many are down on cryptocurrencies, it may be reassuring to hear news that innovation platform Plug and Play is keeping the faith.

In collaboration with founding partners Visa, AllianceBlock, The INX Digital Company, IGT, and Franklin Templeton, Plug and Play has launched its new Crypto and Digital Assets program in Silicon Valley. The goal of the program is to help startups around the world that are innovating in the crypto and digital asset spaces to connect with the program’s aforementioned founding partners to help them pilot their solutions. The program has four main focus areas: stablecoin adoption, decentralized finance, crypto economics, and enterprise blockchain.

“Not only will this unique partnership offer deeper connections on the West Coast and Silicon Valley, but it will also allow us to put our leadership and expertise to work as we advise companies on the benefits of participating in the rapidly growing ecosystem of blockchain, tokenization, and cryptocurrency,” INX Chief Business Officer Douglas Borthwick said.

Companies interested in participating in the Plug and Play Crypto and Digital Assets program are being encouraged to apply.


With its decision to acquire FTX now a thing of the past, blockchain company Binance is back to focusing on its own organic growth.

The company announced at midweek that it has secured a license from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). This license — a Financial Services Permission (FSP) — will enable Binance to offer digital and virtual asset custody services to professional clients that meet the FSRA’s conditions for FSP.

“Obtaining this license is a pivotal step in the growth of Binance in Abu Dhabi, and a reflection of the city’s progressive stance on virtual assets,” Binance (AD) Senior Executive Officer Dominic Longman said. “We are excited to continue to strengthen our symbiotic relationship with ADGM and the city of Abu Dhabi and look forward to providing institutional investors with a secure and reliable platform for their virtual asset activities.”

ADGM’s FSRA issued its virtual asset regulatory framework in 2018. ADGM Chairman Ahmed Jasim Al Zaabi said that the framework is a core part of ADGM’s goal of supporting fintech innovation in the financial sector and “reinforcing the UAE’s status as a rapidly accelerating global crypto marketplace, with Abu Dhabi and the ADGM as the engine room powering this growth.”

Finovate has held two fintech conferences in the UAE in recent years: an inaugural event in 2018 and a second conference the following year in 2019. Read more about fintech in developing economies in our weekly Finovate Global column, published on Fridays.


Photo by Pixabay

https://finovate.com/5-tales-from-the-crypto-ftx-fallout-and-making-the-case-for-keeping-the-faith/

Railsr Taps Featurespace for Fraud Prevention

https://finovate.com/railsr-taps-featurespace-for-fraud-prevention/

Embedded finance platform Railsr is teaming up with fraud prevention company Featurespace this week to bolster fraud prevention efforts for Railsr as a company, as well as for its clients.

Railsr will leverage Featurespace’s ARIC Risk Hub, combined with its own fraud teams, to provide its clients with a compliance tool to stay on top of regulations. The fraud tools will be available to Railsr clients with a single integration, making it easier for them to focus on growth while remaining compliant.

“As the market accelerates towards embedded finance, consumers expect a frictionless payment experience that is built into the transaction process. With Featurespace’s AI and ML capabilities, Railsr can provide an enhanced level of customer experience, making consumers’ lives simpler and safer,” said Railsr Global Head of Product for Fincrime and Operations Stuart Hartley.

The ARIC Risk Hub will enable Railsr customers to view and manage their fraud analytics, as well as offer them a single place to access Featurespace’s fraud and AML (FRAML) solutions.

“The Railsr platform is a natural fit for Featurespace,” said Featurespace Chief Commercial Officer Matt Mills. “As embedded finance increasingly becomes expected by consumers, making sure they are protected from fraud and financial crime must be expected in equal measure. Railsr have recognized this early and added a critical layer of self-learning technology to ensure their customers get only the best experience.”

Railsr anticipates the new fraud tools will be available within the next year.

Today’s news comes amid a string of high-profile partnerships for Featurespace last month, including with BBVA, Diebold Nixdorf, and Global Processing Services. Featurespace has more than 30 major bank clients including four of the five largest banks in the U.K. Among Featurespace’s customers are HSBC, TSYS, Worldpay, RBS NatWest Group, Danske Bank, ClearBank, and more.

Founded in 2005 by a university professor and his PhD student, Featurespace has raised $108 million, including its most recent investment of $37 million received in 2020.


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

https://finovate.com/railsr-taps-featurespace-for-fraud-prevention/

Brightwell Launches Cross-Border Payments Solution

https://finovate.com/brightwell-launches-cross-border-payments-solution/
  • Brightwell is launching a new cross-border payments solution called ReadyRemit.
  • Integrating ReadyRemit will enable Brightwell customers to help their end clients send money to 90% of the world’s population.
  • The new tool is leveraging partnerships with Mastercard and The Bancorp Bank.

Payments technology company Brightwell unveiled its new cross-border payments solution today. The new offering, ReadyRemit, is a cross-border-payments-as-a-service tool.

Powered via partnerships with Mastercard and The Bancorp Bank, ReadyRemit will enable Brightwell’s business and fintech clients to offer their end customers a cross-border payments solution with built-in compliance capabilities. The new tool aims to be faster than traditional money transfer tools, taking place in near-real time or on the same day the transfer was initiated.

“Our partnership with The Bancorp Bank, N.A., and Mastercard will enable customers to build a new revenue stream by offering low-to-no-code platform integrations containing everything needed to launch a global payments program in as little as 30 days,” said Brightwell Senior Vice President Hal Ramakers.

ReadyRemit will enable Brightwell’s clients to send payments to 90% of the world’s population and to more than 100 countries. Clients can make a range of payment types, including B2B, B2P, P2P, and P2B, and send the funds to 280,000 cash payout locations, including bank accounts, mobile wallets, and cash-out locations.

“Our Cross-Border Services enable fast, smart, and simple access to funds whenever and
wherever you are,” said Mastercard Senior Vice President, Debit, North America Vickie Van Meir.
“Our work with Brightwell supports a reliable, equitable payments experience, broadening
financial access around the world.”

Brightwell offers a suite of payment products that includes a corporate expense program, global payroll service, an ATM program, fraud protection, and more. The company launched as a division of West Suburban Bank in Chicago, Illinois in 2009 under the name Prepaid Solutions. In 2011, the company split from West Suburban Bank, rebranded to Brightwell, and moved its headquarters location to Atlanta, Georgia.


Photo by Photoholgic on Unsplash

https://finovate.com/brightwell-launches-cross-border-payments-solution/

Bank of the West Turns to Extend for Virtual Cards and Spend Management

https://finovate.com/bank-of-the-west-turns-to-extend-for-virtual-cards-and-spend-management/
  • Virtual card and spend management platform Extend announced a partnership with Bank of the West.
  • The collaboration will enable small and medium-sized businesses to take advantage of virtual card technology to enhance spend management.
  • Extend made its Finovate debut three years ago at FinovateSpring 2019, demoing its platform, app, and APIs.

Virtual card and spend management innovator Extend has teamed up with Bank of the West. The collaboration will enable Bank of the West’s small and medium-sized business clients to leverage Extend’s technology to create and control digital company cards and enhance spend management.

Bank of the West cardholders will be able to sign up for Extend in a process that does not require any technical integration. After enrolling their commercial cards, SME users can access Extend online or through a mobile device to create unique virtual cards; send virtual cards to workers, vendors, suppliers, and others directly from the application; attach purchase orders and receipts to transactions; and manage recurring expenses and subscriptions. Companies will be able to provide employees with a budget for issuing virtual cards, and virtual cards can be approved, modified, or canceled at any time.

“Bank of the West is committed to optimizing B2B payments, and our relationship with Extend offers our clients an efficient, easy-to-use solution for better spend management,” Bank of the West Managing Director Dominique Fracchia said. “Using Extend and their Bank of the West cards, businesses can create, distribute, and manage virtual cards to pay vendors, empower employees, track spending, and more.”

The offering is designed to bring the benefits of virtual cards and spend management to small and medium-sized businesses. Extend’s technology helps SMEs manage vendor payments, reconciliation, and other tedious and manual – but essential – payment tasks. In addition to saving time and boosting efficiency, Extend’s solution also helps businesses obtain real-time insights into – as well as real-time control over – company card spending.

“With Extend, Bank of the West is delivering new spend management capabilities that ensure its clients don’t wonder who paid what, when, why, or to whom,” Extend CEO and co-founder Andrew Jamison said. “This is what clients need from payments technology today – the power to run their businesses better, with the support of their preferred financial partners.”

New York-based Extend made its Finovate debut at FinovateSpring in 2019. The company demoed its virtual card distribution platform, its app – which instantly gives employees access to virtual cards – and its APIs that enable fintechs to take advantage of the technology. Founded in 2017, the company has raised $54 million in funding from investors including March Capital, Point72 Ventures, and FinTech Collective.

Bank of the West is headquartered in San Francisco, California, and has more than 600 branches and commercial banking offices in the midwest and western United States. A subsidiary of French banking group BNP Paribas, Bank of the West has more than $94 billion in assets and 1.7 million customers. Nandita Bakhshi is President and CEO.


Photo by Pixabay

https://finovate.com/bank-of-the-west-turns-to-extend-for-virtual-cards-and-spend-management/

The Association of Military Banks of America Launches Debit Card

https://finovate.com/the-association-of-military-banks-of-america-launches-debit-card/

Before jumping into the content of this post, I’d like to recognize and thank our military veterans and their families for their continued sacrifice.

  • The Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA) is launching a new debit card called the Patriot Card.
  • The card is launching in partnership with digital accounts and payment processing company MOCA Financial.
  • AMBA will donate a portion of the interchange generated by every swipe of the Patriot Card to military and Veteran support organizations and causes.

The Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA) unveiled a new debit card today called the Patriot Card. AMBA, a military bank trade association, is launching the new payment card through a partnership with digital accounts and payment processing company MOCA Financial.

The Patriot Card aims to offer Veterans a safe, flexible, and reliable card that they can use to receive, spend, and save their government benefits. Features of the new card include a virtual card option, fee-free person-to-person transfers, card-to-card transfers, and low fees.

AMBA will donate a portion of the interchange generated by every swipe of the Patriot Card to military and Veteran support organizations and causes.

“AMBA is thrilled to offer Veterans a new, safer, and more flexible option to receive payments and manage their finances,” said AMBA President and CEO Major General (Ret.) Steven J. Lepper. “We teamed with MOCA because they share our determination to help Veterans achieve financial success. The Patriot Card will provide Veterans who prefer not to use bank or credit union accounts to manage their money an alternative that is equally safe and secure.”

Transactions made using the Patriot Card will be routed across either VISA’s network or the Armed Forces Financial Network (AFFN). AFFN serves consumers of more than 375 military banks and defense credit unions and will enable users of the Patriot Card to access more than 800,000 ATMs and 2.3 million retail locations across the globe.

“We’re honored to be able to play such a monumental role in serving Veterans worldwide,” said MOCA President Shawn Sinner. “We hope that this advancement continues to make life easier for Veterans, Military, Military Spouses, and families.”


Photo by Robert McGowan on Unsplash

https://finovate.com/the-association-of-military-banks-of-america-launches-debit-card/