Numa integrates with Google for customer messaging

The AI-powered answering service for restaurants and other businesses, Numa, now offers businesses the ability to send and receive text messages, pictures, Facebook Messenger communication and voicemail, according to a news release.

Numa’s new platform allows brands to offer a “message” button from within Google Maps and Google Search. The company said this feature allows restaurants and other businesses to not only further their conversations with customers, but also drive and improve sales, as well as customer loyalty.

“We are excited to be part of Google’s program for Business Messages,” Tasso Roumeliotis, Numa’s founder and CEO, said in the release. “We’re committed to improving customer connection with the best conversational messaging experience.”

Numa enables texting with a business phone, even if it’s a landline, allowing restaurateurs to send and receive text messages from an existing phone number and catch calls when the business can’t grab them.

“Helping businesses improve and enhance ways to communicate with their customers has always been a focus for Google,” Fei Gao, Google partnerships manager, said in the release. “We’re excited that Numa is integrating with Google’s Business Messages to meet their customers where they are, create connections that count, and respond to messages that allow program optimization.”

As an AI-powered virtual assistant and concierge platform, Numa is designed to help restaurants and other businesses communicate via text, which many customers prefer.

Eurozone banks form payments group to take on Visa, Mastercard

A group of 16 Eurozone banks have launched a plan to create pan-European payments system called the European Payments Initiative, which will offer consumers and merchants a new regime that includes digital wallets and P2P payments.

The founding banks come from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and plan to offer a system that leverages Instant Payments/SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (European real-time payments system) and will allow in-store, online, P2P, cash withdrawal as well as international payment schemes. The plan is widely seen as a plan to take on the payments landscape dominated by Visa and Mastercard.

“The initiative will reinforce competition in the payment services market, currently dominated by a few big international operators/schemes,” Carmen Alvarez Diez, a spokesperson for BBVA, in Spain, told Mobile Payments Today via email. “The COVID-19 crisis has confirmed the need for digital payments solutions in Europe. Therefore EPI’s wallet solution offering cards and digital SCT Inst would be ideally positioned offering hence the choice to clients.”

Erik Tak, global head, ING Payment Center, said that local payment systems like Ideal in the Netherlands, offer a series of fragmented payment methods for mobile and e-commerce, but noted the need for a more unified system that can support cross-border payments.

“We believe that the ongoing investments in a pan-European Instant Payments infrastructure that is able to process payments in seconds, 24/7/365 is an ideal basis to build a cheap, fast and efficient payments solution for P2P, e/m commerce as well as POS payments,” he told Mobile Payment Today via email.

The plan calls for the creation of an interim company that will be based in Brussels, Belgium and additional banks and third-party payment service providers would be eligible to apply to join the group before the end of 2020 as founding members. The payments plan is scheduled to officially launch by 2022.

The 16 initial member banks include BBVA, BNP Paribas, Groupe BPCE, Caixabank, Commerzbank, Credit Agricole, Credit Mutuel, Deutsche Bank, Deutscher Sparkassen und Giroverband, DZ Bank, ING, KBC, La Banque Postale, Santander, Societe Generale and UniCredit.

DigniFi raises $14M , buys $275M in assets to grow auto repair finance

DigniFi, an app-based platform for financing auto repair, has raised $14 million in Series A funding from Austin, Texas-based BuildGroup and Exor Seeds, the venture arm of Exor N.V., which is the holding company of the Agnelli family, the controlling shareholders of Fiat Chrysler.

DigniFi also signed an agreement with Neuberger Berman Private Equity to buy $275 million in assets, which will allow it to grow its network of 5,000 auto service centers.

“After months of financial uncertainty, Americans are eager to get back to work and many will need their cars in working order to do that,” Rick Counihan, CEO of DigniFi, said in a company release. “Our network of auto service centers has grown by 500 locations over the last 90 days, spurred by this rising demand.”

HighRadius opens Frankfurt office to continue European expansion

HighRadius Corp., a fintech that automates accounts receivable and treasury management businesses, has opened a new office in Frankfurt, Germany, continuing its international expansion.

The Houston-based company originally expanded into Europe in 2017 when it opened a London office and opened an Amsterdam location in 2019. HighRadius officials said the firm has grown bookings in the region by more than 250%, added 25 new customers and quadrupled the number of employees in the region over the past 12 months.

“Frankfurt’s position in central Germany makes other parts of the country readily accessible, and its status as the financial center of the country opens up a gateway to a deep pool of talent and relevant partnerships,” Jon Keating, vice president and general manager, EMEA at High Radius, said in a company release.

The Frankfurt location follows a new $125 million funding round announced in January.

The company sees Germany, Switzerland and Austria as major market opportunities. The company plans to staff the Frankfurt office with pre-sales, sales, marketing and consulting teams.

Moneycorp nabs e-money license in Dublin for EU expansion

Moneycorp Group, a London-based foreign exchange and payments company, has obtained an e-money and MiFID license to operate in Dublin, part of a strategy to maintain international operations post Brexit.

The firm, originally founded in 1979, has operated an office in Dublin since 2013, however, the licenses mean the firm can now operate an Ireland-based business called Moneycorp Technologies Ltd.

“We are delighted to have secured both E-Money and MiFiD licenses from the Central Bank of Ireland,” Bryan McSharry, CEO of Moneycorp’s European business, said in a company release. “This ensures we can continue to support our existing customer base, continue to grow business in Ireland and expand our business across the EU in a post Brexit environment.”

The company has existing offices in the U.K., U.S., Brazil, Hong Kong, Spain, Gibraltar, Romania, the UAE and Ireland.

Curv raises $23M to grow digital asset security platform

Curv, a provider of cloud-based digital asset security, has raised $23 million in Series A funding from a group of investors, including CommerzVentures, Coinbase Ventures, Digital Asset Group, Team8 and Digital Garage Lab Fund, according to a blog post on Medium from CTO Dan Yadlin.

The company also introduced a group called public tX, which is an elite group of cryptographers and engineers that use the company’s keyless technology to develop deployment models for crypto firms and traditional financial institutions.

The funding will be used to expand the New York-based company’s international business, to innovate new products, to develop solutions inside tX and to hire additional talent.

“Despite a challenging economic climate, we’re seeing strong growth among traditional financial institutions who require our enterprise-grade security infrastructure, robust governance engine and seamless integration with blockchain technology,” Itay Malinger, CEO of Curv, said in a company release. “Unlike other legacy solutions, we simultaneously deliver the protection, instant liquidity and complete control for all institutions to thrive in the digital asset economy.”

Curv is used by a variety of firms around the world, including eToro, Genesis and investment firm Franklin Templeton.

Munich authorities raid Wirecard offices

Munich law enforcement officials have launched a raid on Wirecard AG’s offices in connection with the ongoing accounting scandal that led to the arrest of former CEO Markus Braun, according to multiple reports, including Reuters.

Meanwhile, Wirecard officials said the process to sell off assets has begun, as a court appointed creditors’ committee confirmed attorney Michael Jaffe as the company’s preliminary insolvency administrator.

The committee’s main role will be to stabilize the business, including its payments processing operations and to that end, intensive discussions are being held with customers, credit card organizations and trading partners.

A search for investors for the core parts of the company and various subsidiaries of Wirecard is underway.

“A large number of investors from all over the world have already contacted us who are interested in acquiring the core business or the independent and the successfully operative business divisions,” Jaffe said, in a release from Wirecard.

The company is also in touch with overseas licensed units of Wirecard, with the intent of continuing business and safeguarding customers.

A spokesperson for Wirecard said the company had no additional comment.

ShopKeep offers no-interest advances to minority-owned businesses

ShopKeep, a point-of-sale platform for independent retailers and restaurants, has launched a program called ShopKeep R.I.S.E. to offer no-fee, no-interest cash advances to minority owned businesses in a bid to help close racial disparities in accessing capital.

The program will offer a total of $250,000 on a rolling basis, with individual businesses able to access anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 each.

“While we must all make decisions about the types of actions we take as individuals, we believe it’s also critical for the business community to take a stand and to take action where it can make a difference,” Michael DeSimone, CEO of ShopKeep, said in a company release. “With the creation of this special fund, we are taking sustainable action to help drive real and impactful change.”

To be eligible for the funding, the businesses must meet the following criteria:

Businesses must meet the criteria for being a minority-owned business. For purposes of the program, an minority group member is a person who is at least 25% Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American as defined by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Businesses must use ShopKeep as their only point-of-sale platform.

Merchants must actively process transactions with ShopKeep Payments. Non-ShopKeep Payments customers can still apply for an advance and switch over if they are approved.

The business must be based in the U.S. and also be majority owned by a U.S. citizen.

Wex nabs $400M investment from Warburg Pincus

Wex Inc. a fintech specializing in fleet management and corporate payments, nabbed a $400 million investment from Warburg Pincus, according to a press release.

The investment includes $310 million in convertible notes and $90 million through a private placement of common stock.

Wex also got an amendment to senior secured credit facilities that provides it with increased financial flexibility.

“We are pleased to further fortify our balance sheet during the current uncertain operating environment, while reaffirming our relationship with Warburg Pincus, who has demonstrated their strong commitment to the future growth of Wex,” Melissa Smith, chair and CEO of Wex, said in a company release.

Uber in talks to buy Postmates for $2.6B: report

Uber Technologies Inc., fresh off losing out on a deal to buy meal delivery platform Grubhub, is now in talks to buy rival delivery service Postmates Inc. for $2.6 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Postmates is widely considered the fourth largest meal delivery platform in the U.S., trailing Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash.

The report said such an agreement, if completed, could be announced as early as next week.

Wirecard North America goes on market, while operations allowed to resume in UK

Wirecard North America officials said the company was looking for a new owner as the multi-billion accounting scandal at the German-based payments firm reverberated across the globe. UK regulators reached agreement to let operations resume there.

Wirecard North America Inc. said that it is seeking new ownership amid the massive accounting scandal surrounding Germany’s Wirecard AG, and said an investment bank is coordinating the sale, while regulators in the U.K. have allowed Wirecard to resume operations in that market.

Wirecard AG has been under a regulatory microscope in recent weeks after more than $2.1 billion went missing and the payments giant was forced to delay financial statements. The company fired CEO Markus Braun who was later arrested by Munich authorities.

Wirecard North America formerly operated as the Citi Prepaid Card Services business until it was sold to Wirecard AG in 2016. Wirecard North America said in a company release that it is a “self-sustaining entity that is substantially autonomous” from Wirecard AG.

“Wirecard North America continues to operate without any disruption to clients and cardholders,” Seth Brennan, managing director at Wirecard North America, said in a company release. “The strong, independent cash flow and financial position of Wirecard North America allow us to operate the business on a completely standalone basis.”

Wirecard said that cardholder and client funds are being held at well capitalized and independent banks in the U.S. and Canada, including Sunrise Banks, Fifth Third Bank and People’s Trust Co.

Meanwhile in the U.K., the Financial Conduct Authority said today that it lifted the freeze it placed on Wirecard’s U.K. operations. Customers of several fintechs, including Curve, Anna Money and Pockit, were temporarily unable to access funds due to the suspension.

“The Wirecard situation is interesting as it exposes how reliant some challenger banks and fintech services are on other fintechs, meaning that if fintechs encounter difficulties this will have knock on effects throughout the ecosystem,” said Nick Maynard, lead analyst at Juniper Research in the U.K. “However this will not have a huge impact going forward.”

“Prior to the fraud, executives generally have pressures to meet capital market expectations and small problems lead the executives to push out into the gray zone,” Bradon Gipper, assistant professor of accounting at Stanford Graduate School of Business, told Mobile Payments Today via email.

Maynard said the Wirecard problem is more of a corporate governance and mismanagement problem rather than an industry wide indicator of the fintech industry as a whole.

i2C Inc., a Redwood City, California-based provider of digital payment and open banking technology, said that it stood ready to assist clients of Wirecard or any other insolvent bank or processor that has been negatively impacted of late.

The company said that it would be able to help Wirecard clients secure new bank sponsors and support a smooth and rapid transition of credit, debit and prepaid card issuer programs to minimize customer disruption.

The role of ATMs and cash access in the digital banking era
The role of ATMs and cash access in the digital banking eraPublication Type:
White Paper

Published / Updated:

Cash is not going to be phased out any time soon, but cash access is evolving to suit people’s “anytime, anywhere” needs. The role of the ATM is evolving for financial institutions and cardholders — new ATM technology can make banking easier and more convenient which plays a critical role in keeping consumers connected to their financial institutions.

Amex commits $200M to small biz recovery, $10M to Black-owned biz

American Express committed more than $200 million to help small merchants recover from the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown over the next few months, according to a press release.

American Express is giving eligible card members $5 for every $10 spent at an eligible small merchant when they shop online, curbside or in-store through Sept. 20. Cardholders must enroll by July 26 and can qualify for the discount up to 10 times during the promotion period.

“American Express has backed small business owners through challenging times for decades, and we are standing for them today, as many struggle to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stephen Squeri, chairman and CEO of American Express, said in a company release. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, and now is the time to join together and help them rebound from this global crisis, because their success is critical to job creation, strong economies and thriving neighborhoods.”

The promotion is also available in Canada, the U.K. and Australia, with rollouts planned for France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico and Spain with more countries to follow.

The company conducted a survey showing 62% of small businesses said they needed to see consumer spending recover to pre-COVID-19 levels in order to avoid shutting down.

The company has also pledged $10 million over the next four years and is forming a coalition with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to provide grants to Black-owned small businesses as part of a program to address systemic inequalities. The coalition will include the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Business League and Walker’s Legacy.

Wirecard negotiating with regulators as UK fintechs disrupted

Wirecard AG announced that it plans to continue operations after filing for insolvency in a Munich court, saying the company’s management board believes that remaining open is in the best interests of its creditors.

The Germany-based payments firm issued a statement Saturday that the court appointed Munich-based attorney Michael Jaffee as an official expert, and the court will determine whether insolvency proceedings will be opened. The board expects a provisional insolvency administrator will be appointed soon, according to the Wirecard statement.

The company said that Wirecard Bank is not part of the insolvency proceedings and that electronic funds transfers from Wirecard Bank are not affected. Wirecard Bank will continue payouts to merchants, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the company’s U.K. unit, Wirecard Card Solutions Ltd., has suspended operations, which followed an order from the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority. Wirecard has held talks with FCA officials and is hopeful that operations will continue there.

The FCA issued a statement on Monday regarding the order, saying that officials from the U.K.and other countries were “seeing good progress” in terms of Wirecard meeting the conditions it set out.

“We are maintaining pressure on the firm to resolve these issues which could allow it to operate under certain conditions,” FCA officials said in the statement. “However we cannot lift the restrictions without reassuring ourselves that the firm has been able to satisfy all our concerns that clients’ money is safe.”

The FCA order disrupted operations at three U.K.-based fintechs, including Curve, Anna Money and Pockit.

Curve issued a statement saying it has severed all ties with Wirecard and switched to Mastercard to help it with its card issuing capability and to process payments.

Anna posted an update on its website with Q&A regarding how the FCA order left its accounts frozen. The company said that accounts were being held by Wirecard in a ring fenced account at Barclays. Anna said that it expects the freeze to be lifted, but it is talking with two payments providers about moving away from Wirecard and is talking with Mastercard about switching to a new payment provider.

Federal Reserve allocates coin inventories to shore up supply during COVID-19

Federal Reserve allocates coin inventories to shore up supply during COVID-19Logo provided.

The Federal Reserve has begun allocating coin inventories in response to declining coin inventories due to COVID-19, according to a press release.

The COVID‐19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin. In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees.

Federal Reserve coin orders from depository institutions have begun to increase as regions reopen, resulting in the Federal Reserve’s coin inventory being reduced to below normal levels. While the U.S. Mint is the issuing authority for coin, the Federal Reserve manages coin inventory and its distribution to depository institutions, including commercial banks, community banks, credit unions and thrifts, through Reserve Bank cash operations and offsite locations across the country operated by Federal Reserve vendors.

The Federal Reserve is working on several fronts to mitigate the effects of low coin inventories. This includes managing the allocation of existing Fed inventories, working with the Mint, as issuing authority, to minimize coin supply constraints and maximize coin production capacity, and encouraging depository institutions to order only the coin they need to meet near‐term customer demand.

Effective June 15, Reserve Banks and Federal Reserve coin distribution locations began allocating coin inventories. To ensure a fair and equitable distribution of existing coin inventory to all depository institutions, the Federal Reserve Banks and coin distribution locations began to allocate available supplies of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to depository institutions as a temporary measure.

The temporary coin allocation methodology is based on historical order volume by coin denomination and depository institution endpoint, and current U.S. Mint production levels. Order limits are unique by coin denomination and are the same across all Federal Reserve coin distribution locations. Limits will be reviewed and potentially revised based on national receipt levels, inventories and Mint production.

For an update on how the coronavirus pandemic affects convenience services, click here.

NYS regulator, SUNY launch virtual currency program for startups

The New York State Department of Financial Services and the State University of New York signed an agreement to launch a SUNY-related virtual currency program, called SUNY Block. The agency also will launch a licensing program to help startup companies enter the NY market.

The plan would allow startup virtual currency companies, developed by students, alumni or others in the community, to use SUNY Block for support.

“This MOU with SUNY is a strategic step to diversify and deepen the next wave of innovators in the virtual currency space in New York,” Linda Lacewell, superintendent of NY DFS said in a release from the agency.

Six contactless technologies for restaurants in a post-pandemic world

Restaurants looking to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic should consider a series of contactless ordering and payment technologies that will help bring customers back in a secure and healthy environment.

As states reopen from their Covid-19 shutdowns, restaurants are looking for ways to make their guests feel safe. One of the best ways to do this is through the introduction of contactless technology. With public health top of mind, consumers are becoming more wary of anything that involves physical contact and are opting for ways to engage without touching anything.

Here are six contactless innovations that restaurants can implement now.

Contactless Payments have been around for a while. Nearly half (47%) of American consumers expect to use contactless payments this year. Guests download an app, such as ApplePay or the Google Wallet, then simply tap that app to a card reader using near field communications (NFC) to transfer the payment information. This eliminates the exchange of the card between consumer and employee as well as the need for the consumer to touch the card reader.

QR codes, or Quick Response codes, are matrix barcodes that can be read by a smartphone to quickly communicate information – such as a digital menu – to the device. Both Ruth’s Chris steakhouse and Denny’s have adopted QR codes as a way to eliminate the exchange of physical menus between guests and servers. Instead, they’ve placed QR codes on each table that guests can use to access the menu on their own phones.

Many of today’s smartphones can automatically read QR codes through the camera. Those that don’t have this feature can easily read the QR code through an app – either a proprietary app from the restaurant that has that capability, or through third-party QR code reading apps, which are free and easily accessible.

Curbside Pickup eliminates the need for guests to come into the store. It proved effective during the pandemic and will continue to be an important piece of the puzzle even after restaurants reopen.

When Starbucks opened the majority of its US-based stores in May, many of those stores opted to accept order and payment through the mobile app only. Guests pick up their drinks from a barista at the door and don’t need to venture inside the store at all.

Some brands, like Panera Bread, are even taking it a step further, making it as convenient as possible for the consumer. In a new feature the restaurant is just rolling out, Panera has used geofencing to alert store employees when a guest who ordered curbside pickup has arrived.

If the guest has opted in to the automatic notification system, they can place an order on the Panera app and enter the details of their vehicle into the “special instructions” field. When they arrive on site, Panera’s wi-fi will automatically detect their phone and alert the employees to their arrival. Guests who don’t opt into this feature can tap an “I’m here” button instead.

Subscriptions and Meal Kits — Earlier this year, Panera Bread rolled out a new $8.99/month, all-you-can-drink coffee subscription service. Coupled with curbside delivery, it gives guests a reason to continue to choose Panera every time they crave coffee – because they’ve already made that investment.

Meal kits also took off during the coronavirus shutdown with restaurants offering kits that guests could finish assembling at home. Meal kits not only hold some degree of novelty, but they also minimize contact between the restaurant and the food, which may offer comfort to guests who are nervous about virus transmission, while still providing the guest with a high-quality, low-effort meal.

Reservations allow restaurants to control how many guests arrive and when, which will be especially important for restaurants juggling reduced seating and enhanced cleaning procedures, which will mean flipping a table takes longer than it used to.

In Italy, a few Burger King locations are testing reservation requirements, where guests place their order online and reserve a table before they arrive.

Those restaurants that continue to welcome walk-ins should consider ways to keep guests safe until they reach their table. At Outback Steakhouse, guests may be asked to wait in their cars until their table is ready to avoid crowded vestibules. These restaurants notify guests via text message when their table is ready, which eliminates “buzzers” that have to be disinfected between guests.

Loyalty programs, which can easily be contactless,also are proving to be critical to restaurants’ success. Data collected by Paytronix from the earliest weeks of the shutdown show that guests who were enrolled in loyalty programs continued visiting those restaurants at a much higher rate than those who were not in loyalty programs. Ultimately, loyalty programs are an opportunity to cultivate guest relationships and collect data that allow restaurants to conduct more efficient target marketing and advertising to drive profits.

In the current climate, guests might be wary of handing a rewards card to a cashier, or they might not want to take the extra step of using their card if they are paying with a mobile wallet. Restaurants should consider adopting technology to facilitate contactless loyalty transactions that enable guests to pay and swipe their loyalty card with a single tap of their phone.

Panera and Jimmy John’s are currently using this technology and have been able to seamlessly link their loyalty programs so that guests can both pay and swipe their loyalty cards with a mobile wallet. At Jimmy John’s, guests can do this in a single tap. In addition to creating a touch-free experience, the technology also automatically prompts guests to enroll in the loyalty program if they haven’t already.

Contactless loyalty technology increases the likelihood that guests will stay active in the program. It also makes it easy for the guest to use their rewards and perks, so they don’t forget about them and continue to see the value they are getting out of the program.

With public health top of mind, guests will seek out brands where they feel safe – and for many, that means a contactless experience. Some restaurants may adopt all of this, or portions; but guests will need to feel safe, and for some, that might mean coming as close to a contactless dining experience as possible.

Galileo rolls out fast debit card payments for gig workers

Galileo is rolling out a payment technology for gig economy, fintech, e-commerce and other companies that pay contract workers called Galileo Instant.

The service allows companies to create instant debit card payment programs within about 14 days.

“In time and dollars, the barriers to entry in digital payments have been prohibitively high, even as the need for solutions has grown,” Clay Wilkes, managing director of Galileo Instant, said in a company release. “Fast growing companies — like streaming and gig platforms for example — need to pay their content creators and gig workers quickly and easily, but there hasn’t been an easy way to do that.”

The technology entered beta in November 2019 and now has more than 100 companies lined up to use the service.

Revolut adds American Express to open banking feature

Revolut Technologies Inc., the U.K.-based challenger bank, has added American Express to its Open Banking capabilities, which will now allow its U.K.-based mobile banking customers to see card balances and transaction history directly through the Revolut app, according to a press release.

The technology was developed in conjunction with TruLayer, which provides the application program interface that allows the integration of various accounts.

Without the open banking capabilities, American Express cardholders would have to go into the American Express app directly to view balance and transaction history. Revolut is planning to expand the open banking capability to other countries and add additional credit cards.