How Accusoft’s FormSuite for Invoices Puts Machine Learning and RPA to Work

https://finovate.com/how-accusofts-formsuite-for-invoices-puts-machine-learning-and-rpa-to-work/

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft. For more information on sponsored contributions please email sponsor@finovate.com.

Machine Learning continues to dominate conversations across the fintech ecosystem, but one aspect that rarely gets into the limelight is where the data to train the algorithms actually comes from.

Finovate sat down with Tracy Schlabach, Senior Manager, Product and Customer Marketing at Accusoft to discuss the company’s latest technology, the data challenges they overcame, and why having a symbiotic relationship with their clients drives their strategy.

Finovate: Give us an overview of what FormSuite for Invoices does.

Tracy Schlabach: FormSuite for Invoices is a toolkit for developers that are building invoice processing software solutions. FormSuite for Invoices does the heavy lifting of invoice processing, solving the hard part of finding and extracting data, such as invoice number, purchase order number, total due, line item quantity, line item description, and other data. It is configurable by the developer to extract the data specific to their needs.

Finovate: What are the technical differences between FormSuite for Structured Forms and FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: FormSuite for Structured Forms deals with fixed forms, where the location of the information doesn’t move, such as a tax form, while FormSuite for Invoices deals with what we call semi-structured forms since the locations of certain values might move around the page based on the data.

For example, the “Total Due” field would move down in an invoice that has more line items. While FormSuite for Structured Forms does use AI to identify which form was passed in and to extract the data, the AI is more limited than what is required to process more dynamic content such as invoices.

FormSuite for Invoices uses some of the latest machine learning (ML) to be able to extract data from the line item tables found in invoices. This type of ML is what you hear about most often these days; deep learning with supervised and unsupervised training of a custom ResNet convolutional neural network. This technology “learns” from the changes that users make to the output results. For example, if the Total Due information on ABC Company’s invoice is located in a different quadrant on the document, the user will correct the output information. The ML technology in FormSuite for Invoices learns from these corrections, ultimately increasing confidence values.

A lot of our customers are dealing with both types of forms, structured and semi-structured, so we see people using these toolkits in combination to solve their overall forms processing challenges.

Finovate: What role does Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) play in FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: Both FormSuite for Invoices and FormSuite for Structured forms have been used to serve as a data input source for RPA. When companies are using RPA to automate data entry on legacy systems, that data has to come from somewhere. Before RPA, a data entry person might key data from a piece of paper or from a computer screen into another screen that has the legacy application running on it. RPA performs the typing in place of that person, but now that data has to come from somewhere. If the data isn’t digital, for example, it is on a piece of paper, that paper can be scanned and the data extracted with one of our FormSuite products allowing the RPA robot to type that data into the legacy application.

Document capture and RPA make great partners in this way, automating what was previously a tedious and time-consuming job. Having that data available in systems quicker allows people to have quicker access to the data and make decisions faster. And the people doing the data entry are freed up to do more valuable work.

Finovate: What was the biggest challenge your team had to overcome in launching FormSuite for Invoices?

Schlabach: Line item tables are particularly challenging on multiple fronts. Their format varies a lot. Some have graphic lines surrounding each cell, but some are what we call white space tables which just use spacing to align the rows and columns. All the variation makes it really hard.

In addition, in order to use any ML, you have to have a lot of data to train with. We tried to solve the table detection and recognition using data from the leading research papers in this space, those that were winners of various ML competitions. But, we found they always fell short in some subset of our test data. 

Eventually, after working with various algorithms, one of our Principle Engineers identified a way to make a significant improvement in the ML algorithm, and the results are quite impressive. To solve the data challenge, we used a number of unique ideas to source the invoice images and used raw manpower (internal crowdsourcing) to create the “ground truth,” the correct values that are used in training and testing the machine learning.

It was an impressive effort that had the entire Accusoft organization contributing to our training data. We even had our CEO helping with the data creation at one point.

Finovate: Aside from the obvious benefit of saving time on data entry, what other benefits does FormSuite for Invoices bring to an organization?

Schlabach: There are several benefits. With Accusoft specializing in solutions for content processing, conversion, and automation solutions since 1991, developers can focus on their core strengths and let Accusoft handle the heavy lifting of content capture. As a toolkit, FormSuite for Invoices helps developers solve the most challenging aspect of the invoice process: data extraction. By embedding FormSuite for Invoices, developers significantly shorten their product’s time to market.

On the end-user side, automating invoice processing has been shown to contribute many benefits. The data entry, as mentioned, is the obvious benefit. However, companies also see dollar savings by paying invoices sooner and recognizing early payment discounts. In addition, with the speed of business today, having visibility to data is important. Invoice processing automation helps companies see a more accurate picture of their cash flow much quicker.

Finovate: So, what do you see as the next evolution of this technology?

Schlabach: As customers provide feedback, sometimes in the form of challenging images, we make improvements to the technology. That is the symbiotic value we have seen in many of our partnerships for document capture products. When partners report challenging images, we incorporate improvements into our products to better handle those images. We see this in our forms processing solutions, our barcode recognition product, our OCR and PDF products, and our viewer. We continually evolve our products, and as the exposure to documents in the wild increases, our products improve. 

We also see this technology expanding into other semi-structured forms use cases. Credit card statement processing, bills of lading, and purchase orders are just a few of the documents that could be processed using this technology. There are some different challenges in those types of documents, but there are also a lot of similarities to invoices that we can take advantage of.

https://finovate.com/how-accusofts-formsuite-for-invoices-puts-machine-learning-and-rpa-to-work/

U.S. Neobank Upgrade Launches Contactless Card

https://finovate.com/u-s-neobank-upgrade-launches-contactless-card/

When Upgrade set out to create a new banking experience in 2017, there’s no way the company could have envisioned what 2020 would bring. Now, with social distancing measures in place across the globe, Upgrade’s launch of a contactless version of its credit card is just what the doctor ordered.

Furthermore, the California-based company is making the card available in digital form, supporting Apple Pay and Google Pay mobile wallets.

Upgrade first launched its card last year and has since made $500 million in new credit available to consumers every year. The company differentiates its card, which is issued by Sutton Bank, from traditional credit cards by combining monthly charges into installment plans that the borrower repays over 24 to 60 months. Upgrade structures the repayment this way to get its users into the habit of paying down their balance every month and avoid getting trapped in a continuous cycle of debt.

Further protecting consumers is the contactless element of Upgrade’s new card. “These new Upgrade Card features enable payments without any surface contact,” said Upgrade co-founder and CEO Renaud Laplanche. “While more customers have been shopping online since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are still using their card in stores. We want to do what we can to keep our customers safe and give them a smarter way to pay.”

The Visa-branded Upgrade cards offer users credit lines from $500 to $20,000 and boast no fees.

Upgrade also offers personal loans for debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, and major purchases. In partnership with Cross River Bank of New Jersey, which issues the funds, Upgrade has originated $2.5 billion in loans and cards since inception.

Upgrade is headquartered in San Francisco, California, with an operations center in Phoenix, Arizona, and technology centers in Chicago, Illinois, and Montreal, Canada. The company has raised $122 million.

https://finovate.com/u-s-neobank-upgrade-launches-contactless-card/

3 Ways to Avoid Occupy Wall Street 2.0

https://finovate.com/3-ways-to-avoid-occupy-wall-street-2-0/

In a COVID-19 world, the rich may not necessarily be getting richer, but it has become clear that the virus is taking a toll on lower income populations. And with this, the global pandemic is shining a light on income disparity.

Do you remember the last movement to highlight income inequality?Occupy Wall Street. The movement started in September 2011 as groups assembled at major financial districts and banks to make their voices heard about income distribution, bank reform, student loan forgiveness, and capitalism in general. Nearly 200 protestors camped out in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district, ultimately costing the city $17 million.

So with the income inequality fresh on consumers’ minds, here are a few ideas on how banks and fintechs can be their ally instead of their perceived enemy.

Be flexible

While you don’t need to bend over backwards, offering some flexibility is key. And even though offering flexibility on payment plans can be essential, it’s not all consumers are looking for. Your call center, for example, is likely overloaded right now. Instead of having callers wait on hold, can you direct them to a chatbot or make an option for them to request a call back from an agent at a certain time?

Straying from traditional operations and bending some rules (in a compliant manner, of course!) can make a huge difference to a stressed-out consumer that is just looking for someone to understand their situation.

Be generous

You don’t have to forgive a customer’s mortgage payment for them to like you. Peer-to-peer payment company Venmo is doing a great job at engaging with its customers during this time. The company is depositing $20 into consumers’ accounts in exchange for their generosity toward healthcare workers or others in need.

Select an idea that works for your organization’s image. You can give away gift cards to Netflix or offer free gift cards to local restaurants for take away meals. The giveaways can be in under $10 and done at random or as a daily or weekly online drawing. For something more simple, you could host a larger cash giveaway with only one or two winners.

Show unity

Play a role in your community, even if it’s not an in-person effort. Advertise in the local paper that your staff is volunteering to drop off groceries for elderly citizens, display uplifting sayings to encourage passersby, or even place rolls of toilet paper on front steps of houses in nearby neighborhoods. If toilet paper isn’t your style, mail coloring sheets and simple art supplies to customers with small children. For smaller banks, publish the phone number of a representative who can help customers sort through financial issues.

Small actions can have big outcomes during a crisis like this. During a time when people are “looking for helpers” as Mr. Roger’s instructed, banks have a great opportunity to be the helpers in their community.

https://finovate.com/3-ways-to-avoid-occupy-wall-street-2-0/

SoFi Inks Agreement to Acquire Galileo Financial Technologies

https://finovate.com/sofi-inks-agreement-to-acquire-galileo-financial-technologies/

In a cash and stock deal valued at $1.2 billion, online lender and personal finance innovator SoFi has agreed to acquire financial services API and payments platform, Galileo Financial Technologies.

Galileo enables companies to build innovative consumer and B2B fintech services via its suite of open APIs. The company’s technology powers a variety of functions including:

  • account set-up
  • funding
  • direct deposit
  • ACH transfer
  • IVR
  • early paycheck deposit
  • billpay
  • transaction notifications
  • check balance
  • point of sale authorizations

Galileo processed $53+ billion in annualized payment volume in March of this year, more than doubling its September 2019 tally of $26 billion. Notably, SoFi and Galileo are already quite familiar with each other; SoFi’s Sofi Money solution is currently integrated with Galileo’s payments platform and leverages a number of the platform’s account and events functionalities.

Together, the two companies will further combine their efforts to create value for customers of both firms, who will benefit from a feature set that enables them to participate in the transition from “physical-only to a multi-channel digital and physical platform.”

“SoFi has established itself as a leader in the fintech sector, providing our more than one million members a full array of financial products to help them get their money right,” SoFi CEO Anthony Noto said. He credited SoFi’s members for motivating the company to continue innovating, and for encouraging “bigger, bolder, and more expansive” thinking. “Together with Galileo, we will partner to build on our companies’ strengths to drive even greater financial technology innovation, making those products and services available to both current and future partners.”

Galileo will operate as an independent subsidiary of SoFi, post-acquisition, with Galileo CEO Clay Wilkes remaining on board to continue leading the company. Praising SoFi’s suite of solutions for borrowing, saving, spending, and investing, Wilkes said, “these are products that many of our leading fintech clients are asking for. Distributing products through our enterprise class API is the vision behind this combination. I think it’s very powerful.”

SoFi made its Finovate debut in 2017, partnering with Quovo to present How Quovo and SoFi Perfected Bank Authentication at our developers conference, FinDEVr Silicon Valley. The company, based in San Francisco, California and founded in 2011, has raised $2.5 billion in funding, earning a valuation of $4.3 billion as of May of last year.

https://finovate.com/sofi-inks-agreement-to-acquire-galileo-financial-technologies/

Sila, a Startup Founded by Shamir Karkal to Rethink ACH, Raises $7.7 Million

https://finovate.com/sila-a-startup-founded-by-shamir-karkal-to-rethink-ach-raises-7-7-million/

Blockchain-based payments company Sila announced today it has pulled in $7.7 million in Seed funding. The round was led by Madrona Venture Group and Oregon Venture Fund with contributions from Mucker Capital, 99 Tartans, Taavet Hinrikus, and Jerry Neumann.

Sila was co-founded in 2018 by Shamir Karkal, one of the entrepreneurs who co-founded Simple in 2009 and was responsible for integrating the challenger bank’s system into BBVA after it was acquired by the mega bank in 2014 for $117 million. Karkal now serves as Sila CEO.

The company will use today’s funds to accelerate growth, introduce new product features, and acquire more customers. As part of today’s deal, Madrona Venture’s Hope Cochran and Oregon Venture’s Rick Holt will join Sila’s board of directors.

The Portland, Oregon-based company has a single API that offers what it’s termed Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Overall, Sila helps companies authenticate consumers via a partnership with Alloy, connect with consumer bank accounts via a partnership with Plaid, and move money. All three of these capabilities come together to enable companies to create their own in-app, white-labeled digital wallet. Sila’s customers range from startups to established businesses working in finance, insurance, real estate, and blockchain.

To power the funds transfers, Sila is using SILA, its own ERC token that is pegged to the U.S. penny. Since the money is held in Evolve Bank and Trust, a traditional bank, all funds are FDIC insured.

“The global financial system is broken,” said Karkal. “(It) doesn’t serve consumers, small businesses, or the innovators trying to reach them. It is too expensive, inefficient, tightly regulated, and difficult to integrate into fintech applications.” Sila is addressing these challenges in multiple ways, one of which is its price point. The company’s pricing ranges from $0 per month plus fees for startups, to just under $10k per month plus fees for enterprises.

As for what’s next, Sila is currently working on adding support for card payments, business ID verification, and international payments. The company, however, has yet to disclose timing on these projects.

https://finovate.com/sila-a-startup-founded-by-shamir-karkal-to-rethink-ach-raises-7-7-million/

The Importance of Financial Literacy During Uncertain Economic Times

https://finovate.com/the-importance-of-financial-literacy-during-uncertain-economic-times/

What does it mean to be financially literate? Is it more important to be able to balance a checkbook or to understand the power of compound interest? Does a financially literate person pay down student debt or consumer debt first? And does a truly financially literate person even take on debt in the first place?

A growing number of fintechs – many of them Finovate alums you’ll meet below – have devised innovative ways to help young people in particular, become better earners, savers, spenders, and investors. The majority of these innovations leverage rewards and gamification to make the educational medicine go down easier. These strategies use everything from gift cards to actual cash to encourage users to successfully complete lessons on personal finance or watch videos on common sense money management.

As companies, these fintechs partner with financial institutions – community banks and credit unions in particular – to help make their financial literacy offerings available to their customers and members. In some instances, companies have successfully partnered with educational institutions which have used their solutions as part of their financial education curricula.

April is financial literacy month. And as the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown – and potential recession – has everyone reconsidering the stability of their financial circumstances, now seems like an especially good time to be reminded of the importance of a solid – contemporary – financial education.

As recently as last fall, Finovate audiences were ranking financial literacy among the top of fintech’s most important themes. Zogo Finance, a Durham, North Carolina-based fintech that made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall, took home a Best of Show award for its Teen Financial Literacy app. Zogo’s solution pays users cash rewards – in the form of gift cards from leading brands – for successfully completing lessons on topics such as budgeting, credit, and investing.

The platform’s more than 300 educational modules were designed by educators at Duke University and ensure that users meet national standards for financial literacy. Zogo has teamed up with more than 11 community banks and credit unions in 12 states since its inception in 2018. The company began this year announcing a new partnership with fellow Finovate alum Bankjoy.

EVERFI, a Washington, D.C.-based company founded ten years before Zogo Finance, is another recent Finovate alum that has made a commitment to promoting financial literacy. The company powers community-oriented financial education for more than 850 financial institutions and 3,500+ partners in all 50 states of the U.S., as well as in Canada and Puerto Rico.

EVERFI, which offers workplace training and other educational programs as well as financial literacy, demonstrated its Achieve solution at FinovateSpring last year. The financial wellness technology enables financial institutions to offer personalized financial education to customers, employees, as well as to small business and corporate banking clients. From savings for college to navigating the homebuying process, EVERFI’s Achieve platform offers financial education that is as relevant as it is comprehensive.

Last fall, EVERFI announced a partnership with Zelle parent Early Warning Services to provide free financial education coursework to more than 1,000 high schools and 50,000+ students. The company began this year working with the MassMutual Foundation and the Washington Wizards NBA team to host the FutureSmart Challenge – an interactive financial literacy event for middle school students. Named to Fast Company’s 2020 World’s Most Innovative Companies roster, EVERFI unveiled a new financial education website earlier this month dedicated specifically to the financial challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Plinqit is another platform that made its Finovate debut last year and combines being an actual savings app with financial literacy features. Developed by Ann Arbor, Michigan-based HT Mobile Apps (HTMA), Plinqit leverages its Build Skills feature to pay users for engaging with its educational content. Once users sync their Plinqit account with their bank or credit union checking account and set up as many as five savings goals, Plinqit will help the user set aside a pre-determined amount of money on a customized schedule. Users can earn Plinqit cashback rewards (of approximately 1%) by reaching savings goals, referring friends and family to Plinqit, or by viewing articles and videos on personal finance and financial wellness topics.

A partnership with Arkansas-based First Community Bank ($1.5 billion in assets) put Plinqit back in the fintech headlines at the beginning of the year. The 26-branch bank teamed up with Plinqit parent company HT Mobile Apps in order to provide HTMA’s savings and financial literacy solutions to its customers. More recently, HTMA brought its financial education solutions to ChoiceOne Bank and Marquette Savings Bank.

Provo, Utah-based Banzai is another fintech oriented around financial literacy that made a major splash in its FinovateFall debut in 2018. The company picked up a Best of Show award for a demonstration of its turn-key, Community Reinvestment Act-eligible solution to enable organizations to add personal finance-based educational content – including interactive online simulations – to their websites.

Partnerships with community banks and credit unions enable Banzai to offer its financial literacy solution free of charge. The company provides three tiered courses for youth – Junior, Teen, and Plus – to ensure that the information provided and real-world scenarios are age-relevant and appropriate. Banzai’s curriculum has been used by 60,000 teachers across the U.S. and can be accessed from desktops, tablets, and mobile devices, as well.

In launching a new financial education resource for adults last fall, Banzai Coach, the company made a significant addition to its financial literacy offerings. Banzai Coach provides adult users with financial advice and instruction on how to get out of debt, how to manage basic business finances, and how to maximize their tax-advantaged investments such as retirement accounts, health savings accounts (HSA), and flexible spending accounts (FSA).

“Kids in schools love knowing that their decisions in the game actually have an impact,” Banzai’s Bryce Peterson wrote on the company’s blog announcing the availability of Banzai Coach. “As adults, we have quite the opposite concern: just about every decision we make has some kind of impact we didn’t predict or control.”

https://finovate.com/the-importance-of-financial-literacy-during-uncertain-economic-times/

Payroll Company Paylocity Acquires Video Platform Provider

https://finovate.com/payroll-company-paylocity-acquires-video-platform-provider/

HR and payroll software solutions provider Paylocity made an acquisition today that will bring the company into the COVID-19 era. The Chicago, Illinois-based company announced it has purchased video platform provider VidGrid for an undisclosed amount.

Paylocity made the purchase to reinforce its services with VidGrid’s peer-to-peer learning courses. The company expects that adding workplace video communication tools will boost employee collaboration, engagement, and retention.

“We believe video will play a critical role in transforming workplace communication,” said Paylocity CEO Steve Beauchamp.

Today’s acquisition stems from Paylocity’s previous partnership with VidGrid that powered Paylocity’s learning management system (LMS), a tool that enables clients to learn from interactive videos featuring subject matter experts. “As part of our product expansion, we introduced our Learning Management System and worked with VidGrid to provide learning opportunities that the modern workforce expects,” Beauchamp said. “VidGrid’s approach aligns with our culture of caring deeply for our clients and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome their talented and innovative team to Paylocity.”

The acquisition– Paylocity’s first– comes at a time when traditionally in-person consultations and services have been pushed to online channels in order to comply with social distancing requirements. Secure video communications channels have proven to be invaluable during the COVID-19 era. Many experts are predicting consumers’ habits to pursue services online instead of in-person to continue even after it is once again deemed safe to gather in person.

Founded in 1997, Paylocity has more than 3,300 employees, more than 60% of whom work remotely (this was, of course, before everyone was required to do so). The company has more than 20,000 clients and 2,200 partners. Paylocity is publicly traded on NASDAQ under the ticker PCTY with a market capitalization of $4.71 billion.

https://finovate.com/payroll-company-paylocity-acquires-video-platform-provider/

Kabbage Collaborates with Facebook to Back Retailers During the COVID Crisis

https://finovate.com/kabbage-collaborates-with-facebook-to-back-retailers-during-the-covid-crisis/

One of the most immediate impacts of the worldwide effort to combat the COVID-19 virus is social distancing. And however effective social distancing is in limiting the ability of the coronavirus to spread, it is equally effective in crushing the revenues of businesses large and small.

To help small businesses in the retail sector cope with this challenge, small business cash flow solution provider Kabbage has partnered with Facebook. Together, the two companies will help merchants continue to generate revenue at a time when their customers – for sound reasons based on public health – are largely staying away.

Via the partnership, small businesses can sign up on a new website sponsored by Kabbage: www.helpsmallbusiness.com. This will enable them to sell online gift certificates through Kabbage’s KabbagePayments portal and automatically list them on Facebook. These offers will be visible to Facebook users through their Facebook mobile app; Facebook users can then purchase gift certificates from the www.helpsmallbusinss.com website.

The integration makes it easy for small businesses to sell online gift certificates and place them where they are most likely to be seen by consumers increasingly resorting to online shopping in lieu of traveling to brick and mortar stores. It’s also a way for consumers to support their favorite retailers.

“Now with the powerful reach of Facebook, small business owners have greater opportunity to share gift certificate offers to the community that rely upon them,” Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein said. “Small businesses are the most impacted in this crisis and this is one way Kabbage is applying its technology and resources to save them.”

The initiative with Facebook is only a small part of Kabbage’s participation in the effort to help SMEs survive the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The company is one of many helping facilitate relief funding to SMEs via the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP provides funding up to 2.5x average monthly payroll, and the SBA forgives the portion of the loan that is used for critical business operations such as payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities if all employees are kept on staff. Kabbage reports that it has received more than 37,000 applications for the PPP, totaling more than $3.5 million.

“The smallest businesses in America are always the hardest hit, the most vulnerable, and the most in need when a crisis strikes, and together with our bank partner, we are working tirelessly to support them,” Frohwein said.

Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Kabbage has been a Finovate alum since 2010 when the company debuted its Kabbage Loan at FinovateSpring.

https://finovate.com/kabbage-collaborates-with-facebook-to-back-retailers-during-the-covid-crisis/

Open Banking in the Same Language

https://finovate.com/open-banking-in-the-same-language/

What happens when third party fintechs try to access banking data on behalf of their consumers, but each way has a different way of doing so?

That’s exactly what’s happening in the U.S. right now, and it’s a major factor in preventing the country from adopting an open banking culture. In an era when consumers conduct their banking activities with multiple providers, open banking not only safeguards consumer data but also places them in control of how they want their data used and for how long.

Speaking different languages

The lack of a consistent approach is also the reason why customers of some U.S. banks have been locked out of third party applications such as Robinhood and Digit. While these customers were prevented from using their own banking data, banks had good reason to lock out the third party providers, citing security concerns. Our piece Are U.S. Banks Leaning Towards Closed Banking? covers the drama in more detail.

What’s needed is a standardized regulation for data sharing. Banks can’t trust third parties and what they may do with customer data. With new regulations such as CCPA and GDPR, banks are required to keep track of how their clients’ data is used. Once a third party possesses customer data, the bank can no longer guarantee it will be used and stored properly.

Aligning the approach

So how does the fintech industry get everyone on the same page when it comes to data sharing?

The Financial Data Exchange (FDX) was created to solve that very same problem. “FDX is member-driven and governed by majority vote and we’re united by a common mission and purpose: providing secure and convenient financial data sharing,” said FDX Managing Director Don Cardinal. “Our Working Groups are inclusive, transparent and benefit from our members’ decades of experience and professionalism.”

FDX is a non-profit organization that is creating what is essentially a playbook of data communications rules for banks and third party fintechs. FDX currently counts 102 organizations– only two thirds of which are banks– that vote on an agreed upon global standard for data sharing.

Keeping the end consumer in mind

Importantly, FDX not only helps its member organizations speak the same language, the alignment trickles down to benefit end consumers as well. That’s because FDX helps place consumers in control of their own data, allowing them to decide which organizations can use their data and for how long. Aiding in this transparency, some banks have created dashboards that allow customers to view and edit which apps have access to their data.

To promote more consumer awareness, FDX is working to create a certification stack that would indicate to consumers whether a bank, fintech, or organization is part of FDX. You can think of this similar to a bluetooth logo on a device that informs consumers that a product has undergone the Bluetooth Qualification Program.

So when can we expect mainstream adoption of FDX?

“While we cannot give an exact date, we know from similar innovations (online banking, billpay, mobile banking, EMV chip cards) that we are moving from the Innovator to the Early Adopter stage and that acceleration of adoption will accelerate once we pass the mid-market peak,” said Cardinal. “To date, our members have moved nearly 12 million U.S. consumers over to the FDX API.”

https://finovate.com/open-banking-in-the-same-language/

Chime is Making Up for the U.S. Government’s Slow Stimulus Payments

https://finovate.com/chime-is-making-up-for-the-u-s-governments-slow-stimulus-payments/

With many U.S. citizens out of work these days, some are struggling to put food on the table. Recognizing this need, the U.S. government has agreed to come to their aid by issuing $1,200 checks to every adult earning less than $75,000 per year and $500 per child. The actualization of this effort, however, has been slow. While some families haven’t been able to work in weeks, they will not receive their check for another two-to-three weeks.

Because of this lag time, U.S. challenger bank Chime is supporting its user base by helping select members access their stimulus money early. So far, the bank has provided a group of randomly selected 1,000 of its members that meet certain criteria to immediately receive an additional $1,200 in their account while they wait for the government’s funds to come through.

“…these randomly selected members will have access to spend an amount equaling their estimated government payment 2-3 weeks early and be able to use that money right away on everyday needs such as groceries and bill payments with their Chime card,” the company noted in its blog post announcement.

The California-based company is using SpotMe, Chime’s free overdraft protection service that allows eligible users to hold a negative balance of up to $100 while they wait for their next paycheck. Instead of charging interest on this microloan, however, Chime requests users to “pay it forward.” As stated on the company’s website, “When your SpotMe negative balance is repaid, we’ll give you the option to leave us an optional tip to pay it forward. Whether or not you tip won’t affect your SpotMe eligibility. SpotMe is a fee-free service, and friendly tips from our community help it stay that way!”

So who is funding all of this? Chime is leveraging its relationships with The Bancorp Bank and Stride Bank, as well as its investors (and specifically Mark Cuban), to forward the funds.

With a valuation of $5.8 billion as of December 2019, Chime has raised nearly $809 million. Last fall, rumors indicated that the company had 5 million customers and CNBC reported last December that Chime was adding 150,000 accounts each month.

https://finovate.com/chime-is-making-up-for-the-u-s-governments-slow-stimulus-payments/

Yapily Locks in $13 Million in New Funding

https://finovate.com/yapily-locks-in-13-million-in-new-funding/

Open banking platform for Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Yapily has picked up $13 million (€12 million) in Series A funding. The round was led by Lakestar and takes the company’s total capital to $18 million. Also participating in the funding were existing investors HV Holtzbrinck Ventures and LocalGlobe, as well as angel investors including TransferWise’s Taavet Hinrikus and Twilio’s Ott Kaukve.

This week’s funding comes a year after the company’s last capital infusion – a seed investment of $5.4 million. Yapily will use the new funds to help support adoption of open banking by institutions across Europe.

Based in London and founded in 2017 by former Goldman Sachs executive Stefano Vaccino, Yapily helps drive open banking adoption by connecting banks to fintechs and other financial services providers. The company notes that its recurring revenues have grown by more than 5x over the past six months. Yapily also has increased the size of its London office to 45 employees, and expanded into Italy, Ireland, and France.

“We believe open banking is a force for good. Using our API and infrastructure, we’re not only providing our partners with strong and powerful connectivity to boost their user experiences,” Vaccino said. “But we’re also giving their customers, whether they be customers or businesses, greater control of their finances, through the creation of products and services which can fuel greater financial management and accessibility.”

Vaccino added that this flexibility for institutions and developers was especially valuable “during this period of uncertainy.” This point was echoed by Lakestar partner Stephen Nundy who cited the COVID-19 outbreak in crediting Yapily’s technology as being “best placed” to support financial innovation that drives business growth “across the financial ecosystem.”

In addition to IBM, Yapily includes GoCardless and Intuit Quickbooks among its customers.

https://finovate.com/yapily-locks-in-13-million-in-new-funding/

Fintech in Extraordinary Times: Leadership and the Importance of Productivity

https://finovate.com/fintech-in-extraordinary-times-leadership-and-the-importance-of-productivity/

With a global pandemic reshaping the way we live and work, Finovate VP Greg Palmer and his Finovate Podcast turned to two of our industry’s most insightful observers this week to help put the current challenges to fintech in context.

Ron Shevlin, Managing Director of Fintech Research at Cornerstone Advisors, is one of the world’s top fintech influencers. Author of the book Smarter Bank and a columnist for Forbes, he has provided keynotes and moderated panels at industry events including FinovateFall.

On the challenges facing business leaders during the COVID crisis

We’re wrestling, all of us, with three major concerns: our physical health, our mental health, and our financial health. And if you’re an executive at a fintech company, a bank, a credit union, whatever it might be, you’re wrestling with those things in multiple dimensions: your personal physical, financial, and mental health; your family’s physical, financial, and mental health, your employees’ three areas of health and your customers’. You add that up and it’s pretty daunting …

Listen to Greg’s full 20 minute conversation with Ron Shevlin.


Alyson Clarke is a Principal Analyst with Forrester Research. Among our Analyst All-Stars at FinovateFall 2019 last year, she is a specialist in digital business transformation, creating digital and customer “obsessed” cultures, and digital strategy and innovation.

On how a likely post-COVID-19 recession will affect fintechs and financial services firms

I think we’re clearly going to see fintech funding slow – especially for new or less established startups. In fact, I think it will slow across the board from VCs to corporate funding. I think that will be some of the downside for the fintechs.

In terms of financial services and banks, they’re going to do what they naturally do and that’s focus on cost-cutting and making the operations more efficient. Sadly, some of that focus will be on automation and things like that for the sake of reducing headcount. The problem with that is that they really need to be focused on productivity, not just cost-cutting, because (managing) recessions is about preparing for the upturn.

Listen to Greg’s full 15-minute conversation with Alyson Clarke.

And be sure to check out the all the interviews from the Finovate Podcast.


Here is the latest news from our Finovate alums.

  • Microsoft and Plaid collaborate to enable people to import bank and credit card account data into a new PFM solution, Money in Excel.
  • Newly-rebranded Transact Bank (formerly Colorado National Bank) to deploy core banking technology from Fiserv.
  • Vymo introduces new Work from Home solution to help agents and relationship managers work remotely.
  • Insuritas partners with Indiana-based Security Federal Savings Bank.
  • Tradeshift launches Tradeshift Engage to foster digital collaboration between suppliers and buyers.
  • Signifyd releases COVID-19 Business Continuity Package to help ecommerce businesses during the pandemic.
  • NYMBUS launches SmartLenders program to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
  • Dwolla appoints Brady Harris as CEO.
  • iProov releases new Android SDK with user experience improvements, easier integration, and performance enhancements.
  • Breach Clarity to waive fees for six months during COVID-19 crisis.
  • PayActiv partners with Paychex to give businesses the ability to grant their workers immediate access to earned wages.
  • Onfido, Admiral Markets, and GetID collaborate to drive omnichannel identity verification in Estonia.
  • Jack Henry’s lending suite now supports Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Finovate Alumni Features and Profiles

Teslar Teams Up with Liberty National Bank to Boost Commercial Lending – The Oklahoma-based bank will use Teslar’s technology to boost productivity, increase transparency, and streamline its commercial lending process.

IdentityMind Global Acquired by Acuant – The deal offers Acuant access to IdentityMind’s digital identity product, a SaaS platform that builds, maintains, and analyzes digital identities and helps companies perform risk-based authentication, regulatory identification, and detect and prevent synthetic and stolen identities.

Vymo Offers Work From Home for Sales ProfessionalsVymo, the company whose intelligent sales assistant makes life easier for on-the-go sales pros, has unveiled a new enhancement to help sales teams at this time when customer engagement is even more challenging. 

Azimo Partners with Siam Commercial Bank – SCB clients will benefit from Azimo’s digital money transfer program that uses RippleNet, a blockchain-based money transfer service. Using RippleNet, Azimo will be able to instantly deliver payments from Europe to SCB client accounts.

CRIF to Acquire Strands – The union will bring Strands’ personal financial management and business financial management solutions to CRIF’s client base that includes 6,300 banks, 55,000 businesses, and 310,000 consumers across 50 countries.

Ocrolus’ Nicole Newlin On Digitization, Visualization, and the Age of Partnerships – We caught up with Nicole Newlin, VP of Solutions for Ocrolus, to talk about how the company leverages artificial intelligence to automate critical business tasks like underwriting for lenders.

EVO Payments Raises $150 Million to Help Manage COVID-19 Crisis – Merchant acquirer EVO Payments, the parent company of EVO Snap, has secured $150 million in cash to help fortify the company’s balance sheet, retire debt, and provide funding for future investment opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis.

How Lending-as-a-Service Can Impact Small Businesses in Need – One of the brutal facts of the COVID-19 outbreak is that it will be difficult for small businesses to survive. The self-distancing and shelter-in-place orders, while temporary, are taxing for already cash-strapped merchants.

Plaid to Power Microsoft’s New PFM Tool – Further proving that every company is a fintech company, Plaid has formed a partnership with Microsoft.

More Than $1.3 Billion Raised by 13 Alums in Q1 of 2020 – Finovate alums raised more than $1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2020, matching their best, first quarter performance to date from two years ago. 

https://finovate.com/fintech-in-extraordinary-times-leadership-and-the-importance-of-productivity/

Looking Forward to Fintech this Fall

https://finovate.com/looking-forward-to-fintech-this-fall/

Finovate events have always been celebrations. Celebrations of innovation, celebrations of technology, celebrations of industry. But this spring was not a time for celebration, and our thoughts are with every single person and company impacted throughout the community.

As heard from our followers and in news recently, we are turning a corner and seeing the light. The fall season has always been a big time for product launches, and these will be more important now than ever as companies reemerge. And that’s something to celebrate.  

This fall for the first time, Finovate hits both coasts: FinovateFall in September in New York and FinovateWest (formerly FinovateSpring) in November in San Francisco. And we’re accepting applications from companies interested in demoing their technology at each.

Showcasing products and solutions – not just talking about them – is the best way to do business. It allows 1,000+ potential buyers, partners and investors to see how your technology works and how it can benefit them. Not convinced? Hear from some of our alums:

It’s one of the leading fintech conferences around the world, so there’s no better place to launch a product. With any conference, it’s about the return on investment — you never know if you’ll meet one person of five, but we’ve already met 10 potential partners that I’m really excited to work with.

Dana Budzyn, CEO & Founder, UBDI

It’s been successful here! We’ve already had around 30 to 40 people visit our booth and 15 requests from people saying, “Can you come and show us your technology?”

Ned Phillips, CEO & Founder, Bambu

I think we’ll be here every year – we met 90% of our clients at Finovate. We meet our clients; we meet our prospects. If you’re a bank or fintech and want to know about the trends and get a sneak peek into the future, this is the place.

Uday Akkaraju, CEO, Bond.AI

Finovate is the best place for our startup to get exposure to potential clients and investors, all under one roof!

Emil Tarazi, Chief Data Scientist & Founder, ETFLogic

Finovate is a great way to meet the right people at the right organizations! It was really exciting to have them approach us after seeing our demonstration on stage!

Mark Friedenthal, CEO & Founder, Tolerisk

For more information on demoing this fall, visit the FinovateFall and FinovateWest websites. Hope to see you apply!

https://finovate.com/looking-forward-to-fintech-this-fall/

Lunar’s $22 Million Boosts Series B Funding Total to $50 Million

https://finovate.com/lunars-22-million-boosts-series-b-funding-total-to-50-million/

Nordic challenger bank Lunar announced a new tranche of funding today, boosting its Series B round. The new $21.6 million (€20 million) installment adds to the $28 million (€26 million) the digital bank disclosed in August of last year.

Today’s investment brings the company’s Series B round to $49.6 million (€46 million) and raises its total funding to $74.7 million. Leading the extension round is Seed Capital, with participation from Greyhound, Socii, Augustinus, and Unity Technologies founder David Helgason.

Lunar’s free bank account includes transfers, payments, debit card, billpay, and access to in-app budgeting tools. The Premium accounts offer a fancier-looking card, three personal accounts, travel insurance, virtual cards, and more at a cost of just under $7 (69 krona) per month. The challenger bank also offers a business bank account for $194 per year that integrates with third-party software providers comes with commercial lending opportunities.

Lunar was founded in 2015 and received its banking license in August of last year from the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority. In all, the company touts 150,000 users. Ken Villum Klausen is founder and CEO.

https://finovate.com/lunars-22-million-boosts-series-b-funding-total-to-50-million/

Will a Hackathon Help the Fight Against COVID? A Spotlight on Fintech in Asia

https://finovate.com/will-a-hackathon-help-the-fight-against-covid-a-spotlight-on-fintech-in-asia/

The world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and financial services and fintech companies are no exception. We’ve taken a look at how lenders are working to help small businesses struggling with cash flow challenges, and how firms are offering their services free of charge during the crisis to help businesses continue operating with as little interruption as possible.

Beyond this, a number of institutions around the world have taken more innovative approaches to helping manage the dislocations caused by COVID-19. Stockholm, Sweden-based Swedbank, for example, has supported hackathons in Latvia and Lithuania dedicated toward finding solutions to help businesses and individuals deal with COVID-19 related issues. The firm announced today that it is sponsoring a global hackathon in April, called “The Global Hack” to broaden the effort to get fintechs involved in the effort.

Swedbank is specifically sponsoring the economy track of the hackathon, which Swedbank Head of Digital Banking and IT Lotta Lovén said would help drive innovation in products designed to help keep markets moving.

“We not only dive into topics that will help our customers and industry through these unprecedented times, but the results will also support the local communities and the society as a whole,” Lovén said.

The Global Hack event is also supported by the European Commission, the World Health Organization, The World Economic Forum, and LinkedIn, among others.

The Fintech Times has just published its special edition on Asia – guest edited by The Finanser’s Chris Skinner. And while the timing does not allow for much consideration of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on China’s fintech industry, a handful of articles nevertheless feature worth-reading insights on what that industry might look like on the other side of the current public health crisis.

Foremost among them – and having the most relevance for Western audiences – may be Jim Marous’ article, Tomorrow’s Model for Banking Exists Today. Marous, publisher of The Financial Brand, credits “big data, advanced analytics, modern digital technology and an innovation culture” for what he calls “the spectacular growth of innovative financial services in China.” The fact that this innovation is accompanied by – instead of being ahead of – successful financial inclusion makes the achievements of China’s techfin and fintech enterprises all the more worth learning from.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Payments platform Paysafe launches Paysafecash in Latvia.
  • Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB Bank, announces big data joint venture with telecom Rostelecom.
  • Polish payments processor KIR partners with Danish authentication solutions provider Cryptomathic.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • PayBy, a fintech based in Abu Dhabi, begins mobile payment services in the UAE.
  • Dubai-based Rise, which provides banking services to underbanked migrant workers in the UAE, raises $1.4 million in funding.
  • Mobile banking services provider Khazna secures seed funding in round led by Egyptian VC Algebra Ventures.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Recko, an Indian fintech that leverages AI to reconcile digital transaction plans, raises $6 million in Series A funding.
  • Fortune India looks at the impact of COVID-19 on India’s fintech industry.
  • The case for an “urgent adoption” of digital cash in Pakistan.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Uruguayn-Mexican fintech Mozper, which specializes in helping parents financially educate their children, raises pre-seed investment of $770,000.
  • Mexico-based digital payment processor Kushki locks in Series A funding in round led by DILA Capital.
  • Brazil’s Cora adds cash flow boosting feature to its SME platform that enables customers that are observing quarantines to purchasing vouchers today from their favorite merchant for goods and services to be picked up later.

Asia-Pacific

  • Japanese digital banking startup Kyash raises $45 million in Series C funding.
  • Hong Kong virtual bank Airstar Bank pilots its virtual banking service.
  • Ripple to power cross-border payments for Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • South African fintech TaxTim teams up with PwC to support expansion to Nigeria.
  • Zeepay Ghana wins approval for mobile money license.
  • Bank of Zimbabwe inks memorandum of agreement with Apollo Fintech to build a gold-based digital currency.

Top image designed by Freepik

https://finovate.com/will-a-hackathon-help-the-fight-against-covid-a-spotlight-on-fintech-in-asia/

Technology, Financial Inclusion, and Banking in Frontier Markets

https://finovate.com/technology-financial-inclusion-and-banking-in-frontier-markets/

As the current COVID-19 pandemic reminds us, technology has a critical role in helping us respond to unforeseen events. Whether it is development of treatments and vaccines in the case of public health emergencies, or the ability to offer services and solutions to keep businesses running and workforces productive, technological innovation takes on an entirely different light at times of crisis.

One of the major themes of our FinovateEurope conference in February had to do with the ethical deployment of these financial technologies in areas like emerging markets and the frontier. These are regions where challenges from public health crisis to financial inequality can be all the more acute.

Mel Tsiaprazis, Group Chief Operating Officer at Crown Agents Bank, is one of the women who helped lead that conversation at our event in Berlin. A financial services specialist with international experience in markets such as Europe, Asia, and Oceania, Tsiaprazis believes that the combination of financial inclusion and financial education is key to ensuring financial wellness for future generations. Much of her support for diversity in financial services is revealed in the work she does as an angel investor and advisor for fintech startups.

We caught up with Ms. Tsiaprazis to discuss her work at Crown Agents Bank, the importance of ethics in fintech innovation, and the challenges of banking on the financial frontier.

Finovate: You are relatively new to the post of COO at the bank – What have been some of your early priorities?

Mel Tsiaprazis: It’s my nature to dive straight into a new challenge, so while it’s only been a year I feel like we’ve already made great progress. My priority when joining was to help drive the bank’s ambitious plans for digital transformation, so making sure we have the right infrastructure and passion to build on our technology focus has been really important. Joining at the same time as the Segovia acquisition was announced, then running with the integration, was really exciting. You can feel that becoming more technology-driven has helped keep us agile and pushing for more.

Finovate: Can you tell us a little about Crown Agents Bank and the markets it serves?

Tsiaprazis: In simple terms, Crown Agents Bank moves money to, from, and across developing, emerging, and frontier markets. We really pride ourselves on serving markets that most other players can’t. Many players don’t have the adaptability of a boutique bank like CAB or the unique relationships and expertise that we have built up over nearly two centuries, which is part of why it’s crucial we continue to serve these territories. For many countries, we provide vital access to the international market, by offering cross-border payments and FX solutions.

Our coverage spans the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia Pacific, and our knowledge of Africa is particularly high. Within these regions, there are countries that are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters or political and economic volatility, so our services are often essential for enabling aid to reach the people who need it most.

Finovate: You participated in our FinovateEurope Power Panel on AI and Data Management in February. What were the key points you emphasized in that discussion?

Tsiaprazis: That was a really fantastic discussion! One of the key points I emphasized on the panel was how AI can help to solve societal challenges. A lot of governments worldwide are rushing to foster AI investment and develop formal AI frameworks to help spur economic and technological growth, and we need to pay close attention to the positive impact that this boom can have.

The other thing that I think is important in every AI discussion is to talk about how we can shift from fear to acceptance. What many people don’t realize is how ingrained AI already is in our daily lives – and how helpful it is – so as an industry we need to help people recognize the benefits of AI and build trust.

Finovate: You’ve spoken before about the challenges of developing or frontier markets when it comes to the lack of liquidity in local currency and the lack of financial services infrastructure. Are there ways that technology can respond to these concerns?

Tsiaprazis: Technology is an absolutely crucial part of the solution to these issues. Low liquidity and poor or absent financial infrastructure have been an issue in frontier markets for generations, but the strides we’ve made in technology over the last few years have and will be transformational.

For example, automation has already made a considerable difference in trading currencies in terms of reducing the time and cost of transactions. For markets where a large volume of cash inflow comes from remittance payments, minimizing the cost for the sender is really vital.

We’ve already seen how mobile wallets can transform access to financial services for a population. M-Pesa in Kenya is still a fantastic example of how technology leapfrogs a lack of infrastructure to reach consumers. Our payments gateway, powered by Segovia, enables International Development Organizations, for example, to reach individuals directly by allowing them to pay into mobile wallets.

Technology provides optionality in markets where financial infrastructure is considered to still be developing. We are proud to be able to offer FX to last mile delivery payment options from ACH to mobile transactions.

Finovate: One of the interesting things I’ve heard you discuss is the mutually-reinforcing relationship between financial inclusion and the need for better knowledge of local markets. Can you explain the importance of this mutually-reinforcing relationship?

Tsiaprazis: The lack of local knowledge of emerging and frontier markets can make it exceptionally difficult to serve those with limited infrastructure in the right way. A strong understanding of local financial processes and more complex environments are vital to providing financial services in hard-to-reach territories. It also helps to build trust and relationships with key organizations in that region.

Where the relationship becomes mutually reinforced is when financial inclusion increases and we get more data on people within the market. As we understand consumer behaviors and markets are better understood, more players are willing to serve them and we are able to reach more people with financial services. When the two complement each other well, we can make a real difference in improving access to these services.

Finovate: You champion gender diversity in the financial services industry through angel advice and investment in startups that support this cause. Who are some of these companies – especially in financial services? Why do you think it is an effective way to bring about the change you seek?

Tsiaprazis: Diversity is vital in all forms. It comes in numerous guises including but not limited to race, age, gender, and work experience. It is all important to the future profitability and health of an organization. Gender challenges more specifically though, within the world of startups are exacerbated. When looking for investments, I factor in BCG research which showed startups launched by women are significantly better financial investments. For every dollar of funding, startups launched by women generate 78 cents, while male-founded startups generate less than half of that at just 31 cents. Sadly, I am also very alert to the fact that only 3% of the total capital invested in 2018 in U.K. fintech companies went to firms with female founders. This challenge isn’t only in startups, we see this gender fragmentation in the top VC firms that invest in startups with only 7% of partners in the top 100 VC firms are women, according to research by Crunchbase.

While 72% of founders say that diversity in their startup is extremely or very important, only 12% of startups are diversity leaders in practice. With only 1 in 10 startups having diversity leaders, I place greater emphasis on this 10% portion not because of their background, but because startup track record shows these are sound investments. The question remains, how do we actively change the distribution of investment? How do we encourage a broader more diverse group of co-founders/startup colleagues? In my experience, the latter is answered by not only focusing on recruitment, but on retention strategies for diverse backgrounds (perhaps targeted at working/single parents, apprenticeship-like approach for high school leavers or non-degree colleagues). Encouraging a workforce reflective of your client base starts with recruitment but ends with retention.

There is no magic bullet to solve this challenge. My advice to those thinking of starting a startup is to remember you may be a superhero and a brilliant SME, but you can’t do it alone. Be wise on diversity recruitment, prioritize retention even more, and embrace lateral thinking that sets you apart.

https://finovate.com/technology-financial-inclusion-and-banking-in-frontier-markets/

Azimo Partners with Siam Commercial Bank

https://finovate.com/azimo-partners-with-siam-commercial-bank/

Foreign exchange platform Azimo announced today that it will facilitate payments on behalf of Thailand’s largest commercial bank, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB).

SCB clients will benefit from Azimo’s digital money transfer program that uses RippleNet, a blockchain-based money transfer service. Using RippleNet, Azimo will be able to instantly deliver payments from Europe to SCB client accounts.

The partnership leverages a program called PromptPay, which offers Thailand residents a PromptPay ID to serve as a proxy for their bank account number. PromptPay was launched in 2017 as part of the Bank of Thailand’s E-Payment initiative.

According to Azimo CEO Richard Ambrose, “Transfers can be set up in minutes from a smartphone. The fees are low and the rates are great, so our customers will be spared the extortionate charges levied by many competitors.”

Azimo counts more than one million customers of its digital money transfer platform, which allows users to send money from 25 countries to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Last year, the company increased its transfer volume by 60% year-over-year. Today’s move with SCB should boost that growth even further; Thailand is one of the top destinations for remittances. The country receives $6.7 billion from around the globe each year.

Headquartered in London, U.K., Azimo was founded in 2012. The FinovateEurope alum brought in $21.7 million (€20 million) in debt financing last month, bringing its total combined debt and equity funding to $88 million.

https://finovate.com/azimo-partners-with-siam-commercial-bank/

Webinar: Loan Defaults are About to Surge – What Have We Learned from Past Crises?

https://finovate.com/webinar-loan-defaults-are-about-to-surge-what-have-we-learned-from-past-crises/

Thursday 30 April | 11am ET Register now

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold, loan servicers are experiencing unprecedented call center and default volumes as customers struggle to stay above water. With a looming global recession in 2020, financial institutions are reevaluating their loan servicing operations across the board (mortgage, auto, commercial, and personal).

During the last financial crisis in 2008, the rate of foreclosures in the United States more than quadrupled over five years, reaching a high of 1.18 million homes as falling valuations and high unemployment pushed people into default. At the same time, 3.7 million homes were in serious delinquency.

Join DXC Technology for a discussion on what lessons can be drawn from previous downturns and how institutions can better prepare their operations, technologies, and customers for what’s ahead. Topics will include:

  • Scalability
    How to rapidly scale capacity and quickly train internal resources and customers while maintaining customer satisfaction.
  • Self-service and a single source of truth
    How to give customers more control over the process
  • Speed to change
    How to proactively react in a matter of days– not weeks or months– in a dynamically changing environment.
  • Auditing
    How to maintain a consistent audit trail throughout the process

Featuring Bart Bailey, Head of Global Lending Product Management, DXC Technology and David Penn, Research Analyst, Finovate. 

Register now >>

https://finovate.com/webinar-loan-defaults-are-about-to-surge-what-have-we-learned-from-past-crises/

Teslar Teams Up with Liberty National Bank to Boost Commercial Lending

https://finovate.com/teslar-teams-up-with-liberty-national-bank-to-boost-commercial-lending/

Automated workflow and portfolio management solutions provider Teslar Software is partnering with Liberty National Bank. The Oklahoma-based bank will use Teslar’s technology to boost productivity, increase transparency, and streamline its commercial lending process.

“By leveraging our advanced portfolio management tools,” Teslar CEO and founder Joe Ehrhardt said, “Liberty National Bank will benefit from stronger data and increased visibility in the commercial lending process, helping them carry out their growth plans with confidence.”

Specifically, the bank will use Teslar’s technology to enhance its exceptions tracking, reporting, and portfolio management. This will give Liberty National Bank’s loan officers better access to more customer information, enabling them to both better engage customers as well as take advantage of potential cross-selling opportunities.

“We’re confident that through our partnership with Teslar, we’ll be able to boost efficiencies, improve accuracy of information, and provide better customer service, ultimately helping us rise above the competition,” Liberty National Bank Chief Credit Officer Michael Bucher said. “Our bank appreciates that Teslar’s platform is built by former bankers who understand our unique challenges and goals.”

With seven branches in five counties in Oklahoma, and a new loan production office in Oklahoma City, Liberty National Bank has nearly doubled its asset size over the past ten years. Founded in 1902 as the Bank of Elgin before Oklahoma had been granted statehood, the institution became Liberty National Bank in 2002. Currently serving customers in Oklahoma and North Texas, the bank has assets of $456 million as of last summer.

Teslar provides community banks and credit unions with a lending and credit management SaaS solution that enables them to manage all stages of the loan lifecycle, from pipeline and call activity to loan review. The company behind the technology, 3E Software, was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas. Teslar has been a Finovate alum since 2015.

https://finovate.com/teslar-teams-up-with-liberty-national-bank-to-boost-commercial-lending/

Will COVID-19 Be the Final Straw for Cash and the Branch?

https://finovate.com/will-covid-19-be-the-final-straw-for-cash-and-the-branch/

There are two things that the COVID-19 crisis is teaching us. Be careful of what you touch. And be careful of who you are near.

Neither one is a good message for the future of cash nor the bank branch, two staples of 20th century financial life whose demise analysts and prognosticators have been anticipating for decades.

Could a global pandemic that forces society into “social distancing” prove to be the final straw that breaks the back of both our commitment to cash and what’s left of the bank branch?

Cash: The Irresistible Force

For all the innovations in digital payments, and the increasing adoption of these technologies by younger generations, the persistence of cash in modern economies has been impressive. In part, this is because technology has not yet been able to outperform cash where it performs best: convertibility, convenience, and anonymity.

Of late, however, one of cash’s biggest – and probably least considered – downsides has become impossible to ignore: cash is dirty. At the end of the day, regardless of whatever hero, politician, or artistic talent adorns it, cash is a slip of cotton paper passed from hand to hand, over and over again. In a article published in Scientific American three years ago, Dina Fine Maron noted:

The fibrous surfaces of U.S. currency provide ample crevices for bacteria to make themselves at home. And the longer any of that money stays in circulation, the more opportunity it has to become contaminated.

And bad news for those who limit their cash exposure to a “just couple of bucks” for tips and tiny purchases.

Lower-denomination bills are used more often, so studies suggest our ones, fives and tens are more likely to be teeming with disease-causing bacteria. Some of these pathogens are known to survive for months …

Countries around the world have already begun a coronavirus-induced assault on cash, with South Korea’s central bank both quarantining and even burning bank notes, as well as resorting to a “high-heat laundering process” to help stem the spread of the virus. Paper money has faced a similar fate in China, and even the U.S. Federal Reserve is getting into the act (albeit with currency imported from China).

Not everyone believes that COVID-19 will herald the beginning of the end of cash. Maybe it is because of doubts that, as dirty as cash is, paper money may not be a reliable transmitter of viral infection. Possibly, like young revelers at beaches in Florida well into last month, we are just too accustomed to our habits to change.

But again, the emphasis on which “we” is being discussed is probably what matters. While there is a tendency to equate people’s willingness to use digital payments as one of many options with a desire to use digital payment method exclusively, the generational trends away from cash are clear. For those who grow up in a world in which cash is increasingly under assault from one source or another, it may simply be the passage of time that ends up accomplishing what neither global pandemic nor technological innovation – combined – could not.

Branches: The Immovable Object

As thousands of traditionally on-premises employees find themselves working from home, businesses all over the world are seeing a version of themselves that is far less dependent on a brick and mortar presence – let alone multiple ones. In banking, where the value of the local branch office with lobby, tellers, and loan officers is hotly debated, it seems like the COVID-19 crisis will make the case for branches that much more of a challenge to make.

Although essential businesses that are allowed to remain open in most instances during the pandemic, banks have dramatically cut back on access to their physical locations. Often, as is the case with my bank, access is limited to a drive-through window – complete with gloved and masked teller who has you to sign your withdrawal receipt with a branded pen she asks you not to give back.

As someone who still regularly visits his bank branch – and has for decades – I actually found the experience no less impersonal than the ATMs I’ve avoided for years. Could our social distancing response to the coronavirus pandemic encourage a long-time branch-lover like me to stay away? Asked whether the COVID crisis will accelerate the trend toward fewer bank branches, KeyBank EVP and head of digital banking Jamie Warder told The Financial Brand’s Jim Marous that more “thoughtful consolidation” wouldn’t surprise him. But Warder suggested that the world still had a need for the branch, even as it “continue(d) to morph and become more digitized.”

Many innovations in the branch designed to accommodate a more digitally-savvy customer, for example, could survive the demise of the branch. Self-service kiosks that enable bank customers to perform a number of routine banking tasks without the intervention of a human teller could find homes in locations ranging from fitness centers to restaurants and other recreation hubs. The ubiquitous bank branch in any U.S. supermarket of even middling size is a reminder of how compatible these banking kiosks could be with a wide number of environments.

Unfortunately, those innovations that are geared toward making the branch itself a more enjoyable place to spend your time may struggle in the current public health climate. More luxurious accommodations – including addition of full-service cafes – could be a weak draw in a world in which we are conditioned to keep our distance.

The strain between distancing and the branch will be most acute for those who live in communities where the bank branch serves as the center of everyday financial activity. Often this consists of bill payments, check cashing, money transfers, but notably does not include short-term personal loans, a major source of financial activity in many of these communities. While a great deal of time is spent envisioning a Branch 2.0 that would appeal to the digitally-savvy and already well-banked, it may be the case that the future of the branch – to the extent that there is one – is best geared to the real needs of these communities above all others.

https://finovate.com/will-covid-19-be-the-final-straw-for-cash-and-the-branch/