SoFi is Making Early IPO Investing More Accessible– But it’s Not Alone

Alternative banking services company SoFi unveiled a new product last month that will enable eligible members to participate in upcoming IPOs.

The tool will sit within SoFi Invest, a suite of investment tools that offers automated investment services, retirement accounts, a cryptocurrency wallet, and more.

Here’s how it works- users with at least $3,000 in their Active Invest accounts can select the IPOs they’d like to participate in by submitting an indication of interest. Once the IPO is live, investors will receive a notification asking to confirm their order and secure their shares.

If you’re a fintech veteran, this concept may sound familiar. There have been a handful of companies that have opened up IPO participation for retail investors, which are generally excluded from IPOs since they don’t generate the same revenues as institutional investors or high net worth individuals.

The first fintech to offer IPO access to retail investors was Loyal3, which was founded in 2008. The company launched a social IPO platform in 2014 that partnered with pre-IPO companies to enable them to include consumers, employees, partners, and fans in their IPO. Investors were required to purchase a minimum of $100 in stock but were not charged a fee. Loyal3, however, may have been ahead of its time. The company closed its doors in 2017.

Linqto, which recently demonstrated its platform at FinovateWest 2020, allows accredited investors to invest in pre-IPO unicorns. The company requires investment minimums ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Among the companies currently available to investors are Impossible Foods, Ripple, and Nerd Wallet.

Yet another fintech in this arena is MarketX, a cross-border marketplace that allows investors to browse deals and invest in pre-IPO companies across the globe. MarketX currently offers investors access to pre-IPO companies in the U.S., China, Singapore, Indonesia, India, the UAE, and more. While MarketX advertises to accredited retail investors, the company requires a minimum of $50,000, a figure that is much higher than others working in this space.

With higher minimums and accredited investor restrictions, the IPO investment offerings from Loyal3, Linqto, and MarketX aren’t as accessible as SoFi’s proposed IPO investment tool. Stock trading app Robinhood, however, is also rumored to be entering this space with an offering that will compete on the same level as SoFi.

Reuters reported last month that Robinhood plans to democratize IPO investing by enabling its users to buy into IPOs. According to the news source, Robinhood is allowing its users to buy into its own IPO (which is slated for later this year) and will then use the technology it built to create a more general IPO investment tool for its 13 million users.

SoFi showcased at FinDEVr New York 2017 in a presentation about leveraging bank authentication. FinDEVr will be returning to the Finovate lineup with its own stage at this year’s FinovateSpring digital event. Check out the event page to learn more.

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Hatch Raises $20 Million for Small Business Banking

Small business financial services platform Hatch unveiled its funding total today. The California-based company has pulled in $20 million in two funding rounds since it was founded in 2018.

The first investment, a Seed round that closed in January 2019, totaled $5 million. The company’s Series A round closed in February of last year, totaling $14 million.

Hatch’s investors include Kleiner Perkins, Foundation Capital, and SVB.

Hatch offers small businesses a line of credit and a business checking account which it launched this January. The checking accounts come with a Mastercard debit card and allow Hatch’s 4,000 business users to send money through ACH, billpay, or via digital checks from the Hatch dashboard. Additional features include overdraft protection and cashback rewards.

Because Hatch uses machine learning to complete KYC, KYB, and OFAC compliance checks, businesses can get approved for a checking account in under five minutes. Accounts cost $10 per month and feature a transparent fee structure.

Founded by Thomson Nguyen, Hatch has a team of 48 people, 40 of which were brought on in the past year during the pandemic.

Photo by Nishaan ahmed on Unsplash Lands $500 Million in Funding After Record Year

Mortgagetech innovator recently landed a $500 million investment from Japan-based Softbank, bringing the company’s total funding to over $900 million.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, Softbank is buying shares from existing Better investors, a list which includes Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Kleiner Perkins.

With the new round, experts estimate Better’s valuation to be around $6 billion. This is a significant jump from the company’s most recent valuation, which sat at around $4 billion after Better closed a funding round in November of last year.

Better was founded with the goal of reengineering the mortgage process. The company streamlines mortgage originations by taking the entire process online. Better also offers Better Real Estate, which matches buyers with real estate agents; Better Settlement Services, which offers title insurance; and Better Cover, a home insurance marketplace.

The new investment comes at a time of significant growth for Better. Inspired by low interest rates, more consumers have been refinancing their properties. The Wall Street Journal reports that because of this increase in demand, Better lent out $25 billion in loans in 2020 and has extended $14 billion in loans the first quarter of this year.

Better saw $800 million in revenue last year and is expected to go public by the end of 2021. Founded in 2014, the company is headquartered in New York City. Vishal Garg is CEO.

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Ximena Aleman on Open Banking and Financial Access in Latin America

The fintech industry in Latin America is among the world’s most vibrant. From the initiatives in Mexico to provide a legal framework that will enable local fintechs to flourish, to the innovations in central bank digital currencies in the Caribbean, to the rising fintech giants like Nubank in Brazil, financial technology is making a major difference in the lives of a growing number of Latin Americans.

For this week’s Finovate Global: Voices, we caught up with Ximena Aleman, co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer of Prometeo, to discuss fintech in Latin America and the power of open banking to improve financial wellness and create opportunity in the region.

Please tell us a little about Prometeo and what drove you to co-launch the company.

Ximena Aleman: Prometeo is a fintech company striving to create an open and connected financial market in Latin America (LATAM). We are building a huge highway of financial information across financial institutions and countries in LATAM. Prometeo is the largest Open Banking API platform in the region disrupting the financial sector in México, Colombia, Brazil, and six more countries. We provide a single point of access to information, transactions, and payments across more than 30 financial institutions and 45 APIs in nine countries of LATAM. 

As LATAM entrepreneurs, we are well aware of the tech gap in the financial sector between underdeveloped and developed countries. In particular, the lack of adequate tech infrastructure. So we decided to approach this as an opportunity to build not only a great solution but also a path towards financial access for the region. 

What are the drivers of open banking in Latin America?

Aleman: Open Banking is a disruptive innovation that reframes the way banking is carried out. Transactions and communications between customers and institutions are going from taking place behind closed doors to transparent exchanges in the public square. It is no wonder that traditional financial institutions initially viewed the practice with a measure of bemusement or even suspicion.  

However, there has been a marked shift in their thinking. Adoption has been slower in Latin America than in other parts of the world, but most of the open banking biggest names in the region have headquarters abroad. Open banking has been a hot topic globally; Latin American associates have taken note and ushered in the conversation.

Another factor that has changed the playbook is the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions on daily life and public interactions have forced even the most hard-rooted, traditional financial institutions to review their digital transformation strategies. If customers can’t visit branches, digital channels become the sole venue of exchange. 

What do you think it will take to get more women in leadership and founding roles in fintech?

Aleman: I think that as we move forward to a more “gender-balanced” society we have to rethink our financial exchanges from a gender perspective, too. There’s little offered in the financial sector for women and little by little some female fintech entrepreneurs are developing solutions for this segment (for instance, Emma Sanchez’s neobank for women, Jefa). If the startup ecosystem understands that half of the world’s population has been historically financially underserved, and the huge opportunity this is, it won’t take long for women to start developing custom-made products for that segment.

You have said two of the biggest challenges to diversity in fintech are funding and technical training. What can and should be done about this?

Aleman: The gap between VC investments in startups led by women is significant versus those led by men. In the last 10 years, fintech companies led by women have raised 1% of the total investment in fintech. The disparity is really significant.

I believe this gap is multifactorial: historically, the financial and the technology worlds were dominated by men. Also, among VC funds, women in the decision-making process are just a few in number and, per my own experience, men really value having another man as their counterpart. 

There’s a lot we can all do: all the stakeholders involved in the fintech sector should make their own changes and push to close the gap. As women, we have to create our support network on every front, talk to mentors, female start-up groups, and above all, be confident and trust your knowledge, your experience, and your ability to navigate through hostile environments. If you feel you are not strong enough in certain areas, seek training. Technical training and really knowing your business is key to build confidence and close this gap.

One of the biggest reasons why women receive less VC investment than men is that so few of them make up decision-makers in VC funds.

How has the pandemic impacted the work you do and the communities you serve?

Aleman: Open Banking has seen a rise in LATAM in the past year, so our business vertical – as everything related to digital transformation in the financial sector – has been benefited by how the pandemic reshaped human interactions. However, no one in LATAM can be a stranger to the economic challenges we are facing today and ahead. There have been huge increases in unemployment, debt, etc. In Uruguay, a year after the pandemic, surfing what might be the country’s second wave of COVID-19 cases, early in the morning in the small towns in the countryside, you will bump into people waiting in line just in one shop, in the local microfinance branch, to ask for credit or pay their debt.

There are many who do not know much about Uruguay. What do you think more people should know about the country?

Aleman: Of course. I’m very proud of my country. We are a small country down in South America, between Argentina and Brazil. We are popular for the quality of our meat and football players, but as noticeable as that is, we are a growing tech hub, in particular for financial services. Uruguay has a long history of providing high-tech software to the financial sector, for instance, we host four banking core software companies (Infocorp, Topsystems, Bantotal, and Mantentia – that was recently bought by Technisys). Most recently, we joined the fintech wave with great B2B solutions like Bankingly or our first local unicorn, dLocal. I think it is worth mentioning the government’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship through the Innovation Agency (ANII) and Development Agency (ANDE). We are well aware that Prometeo was possible thanks to their support and as a startup, we are a result of the whole ecosystem pushing us to grow.

What can we expect from Prometeo over the balance of 2021?

Aleman: We are pushing hard for Open Banking adoption in Brazil, México, and Colombia. For those countries, it’s a challenging shift so we want to provide the best possible solution. That’s why we are releasing a payment feature that allows automated payments across banks in those countries. At the same time, we are on a mission to provide full coverage across LATAM. So this year it’s all about expansion, coding, and growth! 

Learn more about fintech in Latin America and the work of Prometeo.

Here is our look at fintech around the world.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean


Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

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MoneyLion Enables Users to Buy, Sell, and Earn Cryptocurrencies

Mobile banking platform MoneyLion announced a move into the crypto realm today. The New York-based company will soon unveil tools that enable members to buy, sell, and earn digital currencies.

The new offering is expected to launch this fall.

Facilitating the new cryptocurrency capabilities is a strategic investment that MoneyLion has made in digital asset settlement provider Zero Hash. Founded in 2015, Zero Hash provides a turnkey solution that allows platforms to integrate a range of digital asset capabilities into their own user experiences.

The new cryptocurrency tools will enable users to buy and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum and earn cryptocurrencies via a rewards program and a spending roundup tool that will round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar, investing the spare change in cryptocurrencies.

“We’re seeing exploding interest in the utility and investment potential of digital currencies, but one of the top reasons our members say they haven’t yet acquired cryptocurrencies is because they lack knowledge of the asset class,” said MoneyLion co-founder and CEO Dee Choubey. “The MoneyLion crypto offering will provide members an intuitive way to own digital currencies within a seamless and secure environment and, through our strategic investment in Zero Hash, we’re confident that we’re advancing our mission to increase access to previously exclusive financial services.”

This news comes at a time when user interest in cyrptocurrency is at an all-time high. According to a recent survey, 27% of Americans are planning to invest in cryptocurrency this year. Among MoneyLion users, almost 60% are already investing in cryptocurrencies.

Founded in 2013, MoneyLion recently announced its planned public debut after agreeing to merge with special purpose acquisition company Fusion Acquisition Corp. The deal is expected to close in the first half of this year.

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FIS On Ecommerce Trends & BNPL Market Predictions

What’s behind all of the buzz surrounding the recent buy now, pay later (BNPL) trend? We spoke with Jason Pavona, FIS General Manager for North American E-commerce, to get his thoughts on the matter.

As the General Manager for North America, Pavona leads FIS’s merchant acquiring commercial efforts in the United States and Canada along with driving the payments analytics business he founded and acquired by FIS.

In our interview below, we gleaned insights from FIS’s recent payments report and tapped Pavona’s expertise on BNPL, the uptick in ecommerce, and banks’ responses.

It’s widely understood that ecommerce grew in 2020. Do you anticipate that the growth curve will continue or level off?

Jason Pavona: We are seeing this growth continue for at least the next three years. Our recent Global Payments Report is forecasting that the global ecommerce market will grow by nearly 60 percent by 2024 to a total value of $7.3 trillion. The pandemic did accelerate this growth, as we saw two to three years of typical acceleration condensed into 2020, so some leveling off can be expected. However, this rapid growth was also driven by a push towards digital retail that was underway well before we had ever heard of COVID-19. Consumers are now more comfortable than ever making payments online — their inclination to the speed, ease, and flexibility of online shopping points to continued growth in the ecommerce market. While growth may slow down the line, we are not seeing signs of a plateau in that growth.

The report notes that Asia is leading when it comes to using mobile wallets at the point of sale. What’s holding back U.S. consumers from using mobile wallets at the point of sale?

Pavona: Payment innovation in Asia, and particularly China, has coincided with the rise of smartphones and powerful local super apps, helping the region leap ahead of the rest of the world in the use of mobile wallets. The pandemic helped to accelerate digitalization of the point of sale across the world and increase the usage of digital wallets, but buy-in from Asian governments in the innovation of payments has supported that development.

Mobile and digital wallets are rising in the U.S., with digital wallets accounting for a third of all online payments in 2020, but the U.S. does still have some catching up to do. We expect mobile wallets to become more ubiquitous as Americans become more used to the technology and begin using digital wallets in place of their physical credit cards.

Many Americans, however, are torn over going fully digital in their payments. FIS has found that while 55% of consumers prefer digital payments, 67% feel more comfortable using traditional payments methods.

There’s been a relatively large influx of third-party players in the BNPL space, but some banks have created their own BNPL offerings. Which do you see coming out on top?

Pavona: It is possible that banks are able to take some market share in the BNPL space, however this could be considered to be taking back market share from BNPL providers that have taken over the relationship with bank customers at the point of sale.

Third party BNPL providers are growing rapidly, and in order to compete banks need to forge stronger relationships with merchants at the point of sale – relationships companies like Affirm and Klarna already have. It may also be reasonable to expect banks, in response to third party financing, to adjust their consumer credit card offerings to gain a competitive edge and compete directly within their customer’s wallets, rather than at the point of sale.

Do you think BNPL payments will be a lasting trend or will consumers eventually default back to traditional credit?

Pavona: It is a bit early to say one way or another whether BNPL will be a lasting trend and how the leading providers will expand their product sets and relationships, though given the rapid growth of BNPL solutions across markets it’s not difficult to make a case for BNPL being here to stay. FIS expects BNPL to more than double its market share to 5% of all transactions by 2024, and comprise 4% of the global ecommerce market by 2024. While U.S. consumers may still be building trust in BNPL tools, some European countries have accepted them whole-heartedly. For example, BNPL purchases account for 20% of all online transactions in Sweden and Germany.

While we forecast several more years of strong BNPL growth at least, another question to consider is how BNPL will fare under heavier scrutiny from regulators. The U.K. and other countries have already begun discussing and introducing BNPL regulations and other countries like the U.S. could be soon to follow.

TrueLayer Raises $70 Million to Build for the Next Phase of Open Banking

Open banking platform TrueLayer recently landed $70 million in Series D funding.

The investment, which brings the London-based company’s total funding to $142 million, was led by Addition, with contributions from all major existing investors, as well as new investors including Visionaries Club, Surojit Chatterjee, Zack Kanter, Daniel Graf, and David Avgi.

TrueLayer’s mission is to open up finance with its open banking network that connects payments, data, and identity to help people spend, save, and transact more freely online.

The funding comes at a time of major growth in the open banking scene in the U.K. The nation has seen more than three million open banking and if the growth curve continues, 60% of the U.K.’s population will be using open banking by the end of 2023.

Founded in 2016, TrueLayer now processes more than half of the open banking volume in the U.K., Ireland, and Spain. Much of this growth has come over the course of the past year during which time the company has grown by 600x and expanded across 12 markets.

As for what’s next, TrueLayer will launch new open banking capabilities this year. The company will also expand its network, which will in turn add more account connectivity for consumers.

“We believe that open banking is reaching maturity in several markets and the next phase is about solving bigger, more complex problems for our customers – layering value on top of the raw infrastructure,” said TrueLayer CEO and Co-Founder Francesco Simoneschi. “You’ll see us building more and more in this direction.”

TrueLayer’s clients number in the hundreds and include fintechs such as Revolut, Nutmeg, Trading 212, Stake, and Payoneer.

Ramp Scores $115 Million to Help Businesses Spend Smarter

Here’s an idea: a corporate card that incentivizes spending less rather than rewarding you for spending more.

Ramp, a New York-based fintech launched by Eric Glyman, Gene Lee, and Karim Atiyeh, has raised $115 million in Series B funding to power this approach to business expense management. Taking Ramp’s total capital to $320 million, the investment gives the company a valuation of $1.6 billion.

“Co-founding a fintech unicorn was never my plan,” Ramp CEO Glyman wrote on the company’s blog in a funding announcement, “and almost feels crazy given my job 12 years ago was selling t-shirts and jeans.”

The round was led by D1 Capital Partners and Stripe. Joining them were Founders Fund, Coatue Management, Thrive Capital, Redpoint, and Box Group. Ramp also announced that it had received a $150 million line of debt financing from Goldman Sachs. “During our next phase of growth,” Glyman added, “we plan to expand our efforts to bring the value of Ramp to more businesses in more places and to transform the way more companies do business.”

Ramp offers a corporate card with unlimited 1.5% cash back on every transaction, 10x to 20x higher limits and no fees, and both smart virtual and physical cards with built-in spend management controls. An integration with Slack makes it easy for managers to get alerts, approve expenses in real-time, and respond to issues from within the business communication platform.

Ramp says that it has identified more than $10,000,000 in annualized savings for 1,000+ customers, with the average Ramp customer saving in excess of $100,000. Companies using Ramp’s spend management platform range from startups to corporations, and include technology innovators in their own right such as Clubhouse and Finovate alum Marqeta. The technology is integrated with popular accounting platforms such as Netsuite, Sage Intacct, Xero, QuickBooks, and more than 100 others.

Onboarding its first company in 2019 and launching publicly one year later, Ramp has experienced 4x growth over the past six months. Glyman said the company is approaching annualized transaction volume of more than $1 billion.

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Three Ways Collaborative Innovation Benefits the Payments Industry

How does a technology company with a near-50 year pedigree adapt and grow in a world of rapid technological change? How does a company like this meet the challenge of embracing new opportunities while remaining true to its core competencies and values?

“Our core mission has not changed,” Nick Kerigan, Head of Innovation Execution at SWIFT explained in an interview for Finovate TV. “But we are moving from a world of point-to-point messaging to end-to-end transaction orchestration.”

Watch the rest of the conversation to find out how you can collaborate to Innovate with SWIFT.

On the ways SWIFT’s new strategy benefits the payments industry

In payments, we believe we can unlock huge opportunities that help our community strengthen their many existing market segments like core banking, B2B, and cross-border payments. We also think we can open up bold new opportunities for the future around SME and consumer segments. What we’re essentially trying to do is to create instant and frictionless, account-to-account transactions anywhere in the world. The vision is to make international payments as simple and easy as domestic payments.

Obviously that’s a big goal and it won’t be accomplished overnight. But we do think, particularly with our transaction management platform, that it’s fully achievable.

On the key areas of focus in SWIFT’s new innovation agenda

Innovation is not new to SWIFT; we were created to solve a big industry challenge 40 years ago, so that’s at our heart … A few things are high on our mind: one is cloud and simplifying the journey to cloud. All large financial institutions – and smaller ones as well – have important programs around bringing their services into the cloud. Everyone knows the benefits of doing that – and they also know that can be quite a challenging task.

What we’re doing is aiming to ease that journey for our customers. We’ve launched new cloud-based products and we are also making our existing products cloud-ready so when our customers are ready to migrate and move, we are ready for them.

On the collaborative innovation and the importance of partnership

Organizations in the financial community often find it challenging to balance the imperative of innovation with everything else they have to do on their agenda, which are often driven by forces such as regulations and others, that means that they are “must do.” What we say with collaborative innovation is that one way of unlocking that challenge is to work much more together as a community so the burden isn’t on any one bank or institution, but the burden is more shared.

SWIFT is well-placed to help the industry collaborate because we are a neutral, member-owned organization that sits in the middle of this great financial community. We think that by enhancing collaborative innovation and working together we can maybe unlock some of these problems that individually we struggle to solve.

For more from our Finovate speakers, check out our Finovate TV YouTube playlist.

Plaid Scores $425 Million in Series D Funding

Plaid to DOJ: No acquisition? No problem.

There has been no stopping Plaid since the U.S. Department of Justice put the kibosh on its planned acquisition by Visa at the beginning of the year.

Last week, the financial data connectivity platform announced that it was collaborating with fellow Finovate alum DriveWealth. Before that, the company introduced the first graduates of its diversity-oriented fintech accelerator, FinRise; announced a partnership with Dun & Bradstreet; and unveiled its new income verification tool, Plaid Income.

Today brings news that Plaid has secured a massive $425 million investment in a round led by Altimeter Capital. The Series D round also features participation from Silver Lake, Ribbit Capital, and other current investors, and gives the firm a total capital amount of more than $734 million. Now sporting a valuation of $13.4 billion, Plaid said it will use the additional capital to “grow its platform, invest in infrastructure, payments capabilities and global expansion,” according to the company’s U.K. head, Keith Grose.

In a blog post titled “Digital finance is everywhere, but it’s just getting started,” Plaid CEO and co-founder Zach Perret described how, in some ways, the dream that led to the founding of Plaid “nearly a decade ago” is beginning to come true. “We dreamt of a financial system that was built to empower consumers and unlock financial freedom for everyone,” Perret said. “We are humbled to watch as fintech continues to expand and improve the financial lives of billions of people worldwide.”

More specifically, Perret’s post makes it clear that “scale” is the next big objective for the San Francisco, California-based fintech. In order to meet increasing global demand, as well as deliver on the growing expectations of ever-more-digitally-savvy consumers, Plaid will continue to invest in API technology as well as “tools and services to support enhanced privacy, personalization, decisioning, and automation.”

Founded in 2012, Plaid made its Finovate debut two years later at our developers conference, FinDEVr. The company has grown from an API-building technology infrastructure startup to now also offer key insights into the data access it provides via a suite of analytics solutions. Plaid’s technology enables users to access detailed transaction histories, setup direct debits and payouts, verify borrower assets, user identities, and real-time account balances; and make instant, in-app bank payments.

Since inception, Plaid has analyzed more than 10 billion transactions. Use cases for the company’s technology range from personal finance, lending, and wealth management, to consumer payments, banking, and business finance.

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Avant Acquires Digital Bank Level

Online lending platform Avant is building out the breadth of services for its underbanked clients this week. The Illinois-based company acquired Zero Financial and its neobank Level for an undisclosed amount.

Level is built on the premise of helping users attain financial freedom. To differentiate itself from traditional financial services offerings, the digital bank offers cash back rewards on debit card purchases, a competitive APY on deposits, early access to paychecks, and no hidden fees.

As a result of today’s deal, Avant will be able to offer its 1.5 million customers access to Level’s digital banking services to augment its existing personal loan and credit card products. The additional banking products will also offer Avant access to more customer data which, in the end, will help in its underwriting process.

Avant CEO James Paris describes the move as “an important element” of the company’s strategy that involves providing underbanked consumers with financial products. “Expanding our product portfolio allows us to serve even more people, offering every consumer access to innovative and rewards-based products to simplify and improve their financial journey,” he added. “We’re looking forward to building on this acquisition and continuing to bring new products to our growing customer base.”

Current Level customers will still be able to make purchases, earn rewards, receive direct deposits to their account, and earn interest. While new customers cannot sign up for a Level account, they are able to join the wait list for Avant’s newly-branded banking product.

Avant was founded in 2012 and has since connected customers with more than $7.5 billion in loans and 400,000 credit cards. The company has raised more than $600 million in equity from investors including JP Morgan Chase and Hyde Park Venture Partners.

SoFi Revamps Auto Loan Investing with MotoRefi Partnership

Digital financial solutions provider SoFi is getting into the vehicle loan refinance game. The online lender formed a partnership with MotoRefi to offer users yet another reason to use its services.

Founded in 2016, MotoRefi connects users with lenders and manages the back-end documentation process with each state’s motor vehicle department.

According to SoFi Executive Vice President Jennifer Nuckles, the addition of an auto loan refinancing tool was a logical one since many of the company’s users carry large balances on their auto loans.

Additionally, the nation is an increasingly fertile ground for a car loan refinancing tool. In the past decade, the number of vehicle loans has grown by 41%. Today, auto loans account for 9% of all household debt, with 114 million Americans carrying a total of $1.37 trillion in auto loans.

Through today’s partnership, MotoRefi will have access to SoFi’s two million customers via an integration on SoFi’s website. MotoRefi is banking on this increase in exposure; the company expects to process $1 billion in loans this year after handling $250 million last year.

Overall, the addition of the new service is another step toward making SoFi into a more “bank-like” environment. The California-based company, which originated in student loan refinancing, has since expanded to offer personal loans, home loans, investing tools, a checking account, rewards, budgeting tools, and more.

Launched last month, SoFi’s latest tool offers investors early access to IPOs. Users with at least $3,000 in their account can purchase shares of companies as they go public. This type of access to IPOs, which is generally not available to individual retail investors, will help SoFi reach the new generation of traders that have entered the stock market since the pandemic hit last year.

Fintech connoisseurs may notice the irony in SoFi’s new IPO investment tool. The company itself recently eschewed a formal public listing for a SPAC merger with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings.

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Rho Technologies Brings its BaaS Solution to Sterling National Bank

New York City-based Rho Technologies has inked a partnership with Sterling National Bank, the principal subsidiary of Sterling Bancorp that specializes in serving small-to-medium sized businesses as well as consumers. Sterling will leverage Rho’s digital Banking-as-a-Service platform, Rho Business Banking, to support its customer growth and expansion objectives.

Sterling National Bank’s Matthew Smith, Executive Managing Director for Direct Banking and BaaS, called the partnership “an important step” in expanding its portfolio of BaaS arrangements, as well as speeding up the bank’s “organization-wide digital transformation to offer customer-centric, digitally-enabled solutions to the marketplace.”

The Rho Business Banking platform combines collaborative finance software and commercial-grade banking in a single solution. Relying on a unified platform, team members can take advantage of integrated, intelligent solutions for A/P, budgeting, data automation, and accounting integrations. Rho offers no-fee global payments, up to 1.5% cash back on all spending, and access to its team of “world-class bankers.”

“Rho is thrilled to collaborate with Sterling National Bank,” Rho Technologies CEO and co-founder Everett Cook said. “We spent a lot of time seeking a partner that had the capabilities and scale that our current and future customers need. We look forward to working with Sterling in supporting our future product and service offerings.

With more than $30 billion in assets, Sterling National Bank made fintech headlines earlier this year when it announced a partnership with Google Pay to offer digital checking and savings accounts through the Google Pay platform. Headquartered in New York, Sterling National Bank also teamed up with Goalsetter during African American History Month to provide seed funding for a program to support financial inclusion and literacy among students in underserved communities.

“This critical initiative reinforces Sterling’s commitment to financial education and empowering young people to reach financial independence,” Smith said. “Black History Month provides an important opportunity to celebrate and promote Black achievement. We are excited to play a part in supporting these inspiring young men to become the next leaders, savers, and investors.”

Rho Technologies began the year with news of a $15 million investment courtesy of a Series A round led by M13 Ventures. The funding, which took the company’s total capital to $19.9 million according to Crunchbase, enabled Rho to launch an integrated accounts payable platform as part of an expansion of its flagship Business Banking offering.

“We’ve developed the modern commercial banking platform built around the way companies operate today: distributed, team-oriented, transparent, and built for scale,” Cook said when the funding was announced in January. “AP is the next step on our mission to help teams work better together with money.”

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Fintech Innovators Get Ready for FinovateSpring Debut

Spring is the time for newness and novelty. And with FinovateSpring a little over a month away, there’s no better time than the present to introduce a “Who’s New” of innovative fintech companies making their Finovate debut at our all-digital spring conference, May 10 through 13.

BaseCap Analytics: Specializes in analyzing data, diagnosing, and solving problems for banks, insurance companies, and other highly-regulated industries. Headquartered in New York. LinkedIn. @BaseCap_Inc

Coconut Software: Provides cloud-based, customer engagement software solutions that empower community banks and credit unions. Headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. LinkedIn. @coconutsoftware

DigiShares: Offers a white-label platform for the issuance, management, and trading of tokenized securities. Headquartered in North Jutland, Denmark. LinkedIn. @digisharesdk

FINBOA: Offers back office automation solutions to help community and regional banks meet regulatory obligations. Headquartered in Houston, Texas. LinkedIn. @finboatweets

FinHealthCheck: Offers a measurement, benchmarking, and insights platform to help employers better understand the financial health of customers and employees. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

Foxit Software: Provides fast, affordable, and secure PDF solutions for businesses and consumers to enable them to “do more with documents.” Headquartered in Fremont, California. LinkedIn. @foxitsoftware

Loan Pro: Offers a SaaS loan servicing solution that leverages automation and data visibility to empower tech-forward lenders. Headquartered in Farmington, Utah. LinkedIn.

Secure: Offers an emergency savings solution to help employees automatically improve financial wellness and feel more financially secure. Headquartered in Kirkland, Washington. LinkedIn. @SecureSave1

Signal Intent: Builds next-generation financial calculators for banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, and insurance companies. Headquartered in New York. LinkedIn.

Urjanet: Leverages its cloud-based, data collection platform to make the world’s utility data easily accessible and usable. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. LinkedIn. @Urjanet

Check out the growing roster of companies that are already on-board for FinovateSpring next month. And be sure to visit our registration page to pick up your ticket and save your spot for our annual spring fintech event!

Looking for an opportunity to demo your latest fintech innovation? Reach out to our Events Team today and find out how to be a part of FinovateSpring in May.

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The Evolving Role of the CDO at Financial Organizations

This is a sponsored post from InterSystems

Over the past several years, the role of the chief data officer (CDO) has evolved from being security-and compliance-oriented to being strategic and innovative. Not only are chief data executives of all stripes taking on a more progressive role in key business decisions, but the position itself is becoming an essential staple of forward-thinking organizations, especially at financial services organizations. According to a 2019 study conducted by Forrester, 58% of organizations had appointed a chief data officer and another 26% were planning to do so.

Moving forward, data executives must focus not only on securing data and ensuring their organizations meet rigorous data regulations but also on new strategies for leveraging Big Data and their organizations’ proprietary data to generate business value. This will require new strategies in data management, as well as the deployment of new data solutions like data fabrics, automated governance, machine learning, and blockchain.

Primarily, it will require data leaders to focus more on offensive data management—a data strategy that supports key business objectives, such as boosting profitability and improving customer outcomes—in addition to defensive data management, which refers to the strategy of securing data and maintaining compliance with regulations.

Read Intersystems’ latest report on The Evolving Role of the CDO at financial organization, which provides benchmarking information about how CDOs are fairing in a rapidly shifting regulatory landscape and exploration of CDOs’ and other data professionals’ opinions on enabling an offensive approach to data management and their best practices.

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More Than $3.3 Billion Raised by 26 Alums in Q1 of 2021

When it comes to the competition for investment dollars, Finovate alums are off to their best start to date. Having raised more than $3.3 billion in funding in the first three months of 2021, companies that have demoed their innovations on the Finovate stage are attracting VC capital at the fastest rate in years.

In fact, Finovate alums in Q1 of 2021 raised more money than in the previous four first quarters combined.

Previous quarterly comparisons

  • Q1 2020: $1.3 billion raised by 14 alums
  • Q1 2019: $468 million raised by 20 alums
  • Q1 2018: $1.3 billion raised by 26 alums
  • Q1 2017: $230 million raised by 20 alums
  • Q1 2016: $656 million raised by 32 alums

This year’s powerful first quarter came courtesy of nearly a dozen, nine-plus figure investments. Global breadth was wide. Among the countries represented by the quarter’s top ten equity investments are Sweden, Brazil, Germany, and the U.K. And within the U.S., innovators from familiar locations in Silicon Valley share our top ten list with fintechs from Boston, New York, and Lehi, Utah.

Top Equity Investments

  • Klarna: $1 billion
  • Nubank: $400 million
  • Blend: $300 million
  • MX: $300 million
  • Feedzai: $200 million
  • Jumio: $150 million
  • OutSystems: $150 million
  • Mambu: $135 million
  • Stash: $125 million
  • $120 million

The top ten equity investments of the quarter represented $2.88 billion or 87% of the quarterly total. As large as these investments were, they represented a smaller share of the quarter’s overall total than we’ve seen in the past few years. In 2020, the top ten investments made up more than 99% of the Q1 total. In 2019, the top ten represented more than 91% of the total raised by Finovate alums for the first quarter.

Here is our detailed alum funding report for Q1 2021.

January: More than $1.3 billion raised by 10 alums

February: More than $533 million raised by eight alums

March: More than $1.5 billion raised by eight alums

If you are a Finovate alum that raised money in the first quarter of 2021 and do not see your company listed, please drop us a note at We would love to share the good news! Funding received prior to becoming an alum not included.

Alkami Announces IPO

We reported earlier this year that cloud-based digital banking solutions provider Alkami was heading toward an IPO. Today, the Texas-based company has confirmed rumors.

Alkami will to list on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol ALKT, launching 6,000,000 shares of common stock. Shares will be priced between $22 and $25. The company believes it will to raise up to $250 million via its IPO, which would value Alkami at $3 billion.

“We currently expect to use the net proceeds from this offering, together with our existing cash and cash equivalents, to finance our growth, develop new or enhanced solutions, and fund capital expenditures,” the company said in a statement.

Alkami offers solutions for both retail and business banking. The subscription-based offerings include tools for money transfer capabilities, financial wellness, customer service, security, and more. And because the company is built on an open platform, banks can leverage third party solutions to customize their offerings even further.

According to Alkami’s S-1 document filed with the SEC, the company saw revenues of $112 million last year, representing a 150% increase over 2019 revenues. Alkami has received more than $385 million from nine investors, including Franklin Templeton Investments, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and D1 Capital partners.

Founded in 2009 as iThryv, Alkami counts 151 bank clients representing 9.7 million end users. Mike Hansen is CEO.

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Digital Onboarding Inks Partnership with Small Business Resources

Digital Onboarding, a company that offers solutions to enable banks and credit unions to better engage their customers, has announced a partnership with Small Business Resources (SBR). The company, which helps banks acquire small business deposits, and provides treasury management and lending services, will use Digital Onboarding’s platform to help its client banks boost engagement and increase revenue.

Specifically, the collaboration will enable Small Business Resources to offer a new branded solution, SBR FullWallet, to better serve the 42% of SMEs that, according to research from Accenture, believe that alternative providers can do a better job than traditional banks when it comes to serving small and medium-sized businesses.

“For banks, small businesses are significantly more profitable than consumers, but a large percentage of small business customers are unengaged and at risk,” Digital Onboarding CEO Ted Brown explained. “I am thrilled to partner with Small Business Resources to help regional and community banks deepen their business relationships and better compete in today’s marketplace.”

The challenge of new rivals was top of mind for Small Business Resources CEO Robert Boorin, as well. “Banks are facing stiff competition from fintechs and Neobank providers that are investing heavily to attract small and medium-sized business banking customers,” Boorin said. “Business banking relationship managers struggle to build deep relationships with all of the customers in their portfolios. SBR FullWallet will enable our Partner Banks to deliver timely and highly personalized communications that make it easier for small businesses to adopt additional products and digital banking services.”

Launched in 1998, SBR was founded to bring small business marketing solutions to institutions in financial services, insurance, and other strategic industries. With services ranging from customer acquisition and engagement to cross-selling and onboarding, SBR blends traditional and digital media services to ensure that financial institutions have multi-channel access to SMEs.

Digital Onboarding most recently demonstrated its technology at FinovateFall in 2018. At the event, the company showed how its platform gives banks and credit unions the email and marketing automation resources to create personalized digital journeys that educate and engage their customers. More recently, Digital Onboarding has announced partnerships with a sizable number of regional banks and credit unions including American Bank of Commerce, New York University FCU, Pacific Service Credit Union, Spirit FCU, and Southwest Financial FCU – all in the first quarter of 2021.

Digital Onboarding has also been a ready partner to its fellow fintechs – including some fellow Finovate alums. In March, Digital Onboarding partnered with both Moven to support user adoption of a turnkey digital bank-in-a-box, as well as with StrategyCorps to help financial institutions “maximize the profitability of checking account relationships.”

Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Digital Onboarding was founded in 2015. The company has raised more than four million dollars in funding from investors including FINTOP Capital, Detroit Venture Partners, and Jack Henry & Associates. Digital Onboarding’s most recent financing came in August of last year; the amount of the investment was not disclosed.

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Fintech Innovation and Open Banking in the Nordics

This week we learned that Norway-based Finovate alum Signicat has teamed up with a German software company Cryptshare to market a new B2B identity verification solution. The technology combines email encryption and secure file transfer with trusted sender and recipient identities to make business communications safer and more accountable.

In other fintech news from the Nordics, Santander Consumer Bank in Norway went live with a new PFM app that leverages open banking solutions from Nordic API Gateway. Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, Nordic API Gateway made its Finovate debut last month at our all-digital fintech conference, FinovateEurope.

At the event, co-founder and CTO Gudmundur Hreidarsson demonstrated how the company’s platform simplified open banking payments and access to financial data, offering powerful account-to-account payment services through a single API. More than 40 financial institutions in Europe – including Lunar, Danske Bank, OP Financial Group, and Checkout Finland – rely on Nordic API Gateway’s open banking services.

“Current payment rails such as cards are very expensive for businesses and and increasingly inconvenient for consumers,” Hreidarsson said during his presentation last month. “Open banking changes that. It enables payments with low fixed fees per transaction rather than the high percentage fees of cards which can mean very significant cost savings for businesses – and is very convenient for consumers.”

“But getting into open banking and using open banking is hard,” he added. “It’s really hard. The APIs of the banks are slow to mature and there is still quite some way to go. Businesses are just starting to realize what kind of use cases can be solved with open banking. And consumers are only now discovering the convenience of paying with their accounts. That’s why we built Aiia, to offer an open banking platform that simply works.”

Companies from the Nordics (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Greenland) have been well represented at FinovateEurope of late. This year alone featured – in addition to Nordic API Gateway – two companies from Sweden: Stockholm’s Dreams and Gothenburg’s Econans. Our most recent in-person FinovateEurope conference – held in Berlin, Germany – featured three companies from the region, as well: ReceiptHero and NordCheck of Finland, and Subaio of Denmark. Other Nordic fintechs that have demonstrated their technologies live on the FinovateEurope stage over the years include BehavioSec, Tink, and Klarna (Sweden); Encap Security, EVRY, Monobank, and Spiff (Norway); Meniga and Trustev (Iceland/U.K. and Iceland); and Mistral Mobile (Finland).

“It certainly seems that Schumpeterian destruction, where creating new markets is preceded by old ones being challenged or even destroyed, applies in the Nordics,” the team of Frida Jonsdottir, Olli Toivonen, Visa Jaatinen, Arttu Utti, and Richard Lindqvist wrote in the introduction to their FinTech in the Nordics: A Deloitte Review. “The Nordic FinTech market is rapidly growing and diversifying, with more companies and new technologies being created. This is happening regardless of the fact that the incumbent financial institutions are challenged by the lagging economic growth rates and ever changing regulatory burden, both of which afflict those who are looking to enter the market.”

Read the rest of the Deloitte report on fintech in the Nordics. For more about fintech in the region, check out:

Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Central and Eastern Europe

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean


Sub-Saharan Africa

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Next Insurance Raises $250 Million for Small Business Insurance

Online insurance company for the self-employed Next Insurance just closed a $250 million investment round. The funding marks the company’s second $250 million investment received in the past seven months.

Investors include FinTLV Ventures and Battery Ventures, which led the round, with participation from CapitalG, Group 11, Zeev Ventures, Founders Circle, and G Squared.

With its total funding now at $881 million, Next Insurance’s valuation now sits at $4 billion. This figure is double the $2 billion valuation assigned to the company last September.

The valuation boost is well-deserved. In the past six months, Next Insurance announced two acquisitions, added new strategic partners, and doubled its gross written premium (for those not in the insurance industry, gross written premium is essentially the total amount customers pay for insurance coverage).

Since it was founded in 2014, Next Insurance has boosted its client base to more than 200,000. The company leverages machine learning and a purely digital approach to drive costs down by up to 30% in comparison to traditional policies.

“This latest round of financing is a validation of our vision which is to make it dramatically easier for small business owners to get the insurance coverage they need by removing friction from the customer experience,” said Next Insurance Co-founder and CEO Guy Goldstein. “It starts with developing a comprehensive digital product portfolio under one roof, continues with leveraging technology that improves the customer experience, and ends with a network of integrated partnerships that bring policy purchasing to the customer within the systems they already use.”

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