Who should pay for earnings on demand?

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Earnings on demand apps offer instant access to earned wages. A useful service employees should pay for? Or a loyalty perk employers should provide free?

One thing about lockdown is guaranteed. People who earn by the hour, yet are paid by the month, are going to feel the pinch as hospitality workers join shop staff in starting to get back to work.

The Fintech industry has been offering a solution to access wages earlier than pay day for the past couple of years. However, it is arguably only at this crucial moment, of restarting the economy, that these apps are gaining more public attention. In fact, the niche is so new in the UK that even those offering the technology use different terms.

Whether it is wage streaming, flexible pay or earnings on demand, the principle is the same. A fintech operator’s platform connects to an employer’s pay and HR software to show an employee, via an app, how many shifts they have worked and, hence, how much they have earned so far that month.

The decision is then up to the employee whether to leave the money until pay day at the end of the month or take out a proportion of their wages in advance. Normally, this is limited 40% or 50% of the total wage earned so far.

For many workers it will be a lifeline to put new tyres on a car or buy birthday presents ahead of pay day. However, it does come with an obvious catch. Although the fintech providers will rightly describe themselves as a much-needed alternative to credit card borrowing or pay day loans, there is a fee involved.

An ATM in your mobile

Tom Pickersgill Co-founder and CEO of Orka Technology Group

Tom Pickersgill

The newest flexible pay app to launch is Orka Pay from recruitment marketplace, Broadstone. It already offers advance wages for those working through its business but is now rolling out that functionality for companies it sends employees to, such as leading FM businesses. The fee, picked up by the worker, though, is 4.5% of wages drawn down before pay day.

Tom Pickersgill, Co-founder and CEO of Orka Technology Group, believes the new “instant pay” service will be a welcome boon to thousands of workers who want the reassurance of what he likens to a mobile cash machine.

“There are thousands of workers out there who need a service like this to put fuel in their car or pay an unexpected bill,” he says.

“The pay day loans companies are still out there charging exorbitant interest rates, so we’re here to save people getting into an ever-increasing cycle of debt through loans. We also save them from the high fees and interest rates of borrowing on credit cards or using an overdraft facility.”

More flexible workers

Pickersgill points out that earnings on demand apps allow employers to offer a benefit that employees find very useful. At the same time, access to wages before pay day also makes employees more loyal. It can encourage staff to take on extra shifts, when needed, because they know their earnings can be drawn down within an hour or two of having clocked off.

Its experience is that around 40% of those eligible to use the app will do so and the average worker will take out around £70 in advance wages 1.5 times per month. Such widespread use begs a question. Is it right that employers get more engaged workers and yet employees are charged to access a proportion of money they have already earned?

“It’s there as a benefit for the worker, they don’t have to use it,” says Pickersgill. “It’s certainly not something any employee should be allowed to overuse but it does give that reassurance they can pay a bill before pay day without going overdrawn or borrowing at exorbitant rates.”

Employer help

Peter Briffett CEO wagestream

Peter Briffett

At Wagestream, there is a slightly different strategy. It charges employers, depending on their size, between £2.75 and £1.25 per month to have an employee on its app. It then charges a flat fee of £1.75 per ‘stream’ – its term for each time the app is used to download earned wages.

However, it is not always the employee who picks up this cost, as Peter Briffett, the service’s CEO and co-founder points out.

“Five of our bigger customers pay for the first two uses of the app in any month, and that’s something we encourage all the employers we work with to consider,” he says.

“It’s hard to argue against people being given free access to money they’re already earned, even though £1.75 is effectively what they could pay at some ATMs anyway. The nub of the issue is that we’ve moved from weekly pay to monthly pay becoming normal. In USA just about everyone gets paid on a fortnightly basis. It means UK employees are far more exposed to unexpected bills.”

Resolution Foundation workers are being paid less frequently

Graph courtesy Resolution Foundation: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/

Instant earnings card

Peter Ingram CTO Hastee

Peter Ingram

At Hastee Pay, the notion of instant wages is being taken a step further and applied to a card, launched last month. It cuts out the task of a worker having to use the app to download money to a bank account before it can be spent. Instead the Hastee Card can be used like a pre-paid debit card, limited to that employee’s available balance.

The Hastee Pay service allows any user to take out £100 for free each month. Thereafter, withdrawals come with a 2.5% transaction fee. Hastee’s CTO, Peter Ingram, points out several employers choose to cover a further two transaction fees per month per employee. Although the company falls into the modern fintech sector, he believes its core promise lies in providing a bridge back to the old days of workers being paid weekly.

“We’re effectively invoice factoring for humans,” he says.

“The problem is technology has given us a whole host of new ways of paying for things, such as contactless cards, mobile wallets and PayPal, but at the same time people have gone from being paid weekly to monthly. They’re effectively giving a month’s worth of labour as a credit to their employer.”

Fintech executives may be excited by the advances they can offer cash-strapped workers and employers are also keen to keep employees more flexible and loyal. Wagestream’s Peter Briffett claims the company’s research has shown employee churn rates are reduced by 16% when businesses embrace earnings on demand.

Charles Cotton Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

Charles Cotton

However, at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) there is a call for caution if any tech company thinks this is a panacea. Its Senior Policy Advisor for Pay and Reward, Charles Cotton, has a balanced view. While he believes apps that provide access to earned wages are useful, they should be seen as a starting point rather than the whole picture.

“These apps are not a silver bullet, employers need to take a wider approach,” he says.

“The obvious point is that businesses could think about whether they’re paying people enough, if they are in financial trouble. That may not be possible, but paying people on a more regular basis is an obvious step forwards. So too is providing insurance against, say, sickness and also offering a hardship fund facility through which employees can occasionally borrow money to meet an unexpected bill.

“Investing in financial education is also advisable because our research has shown one in four employees are so worried about money it affects their ability to do their job.”

So, apps that allow employees to draw down money they have already earned are undoubtedly very useful. They become even more appealing to employees when employers cover all or some of the cost of occasional use.

The advice from HR experts, though, is for employers not to rely on them exclusively but to offer a pay and wellness package. This can ensure earnings on demand services are a safety net, not a regularly-used mobile ATM leaving workers with a hole in their wages each month.

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Thought Machine’s Vault now proven and available on all infrastructure options: SaaS, Private or Public Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and on Premises

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Core banking firm expands product compatibility, now runs on Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, as well as on premise or as Hybrid Cloud using OpenShift from Red Hat

Thought Machine, the cloud native core banking technology firm, has today announced that its core banking platform Vault now runs on every major cloud infrastructure provider including Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud. In addition, Vault can be deployed on either the bank’s choice of cloud provider, on premise, in a hybrid cloud using OpenShift from Red Hat, or as a SaaS product.

Thought Machine’s expanded compatibility enables banks to migrate with the freedom to pick the cloud infrastructure partner of their choice – while adhering to any regulatory and legal requirements they might have in place.

As a cloud agnostic business, Thought Machine continues to expand its list of compatible cloud providers. Vault initially rolled out on GCP and AWS before progressing to run on the four leading cloud hosting providers, enabling far greater flexibility than peers in core banking and financial services technology.

The new SaaS offering brings further flexibility for banks wishing to operate an instance of Vault for their institution without the overhead of software management and updates. This Thought Machine-managed service is now available on AWS, with further provider compatibility planned for 2020.

Vault works with financial institutions and technology companies across the spectrum – from tier one global banks, to smaller regional banks, greenfield offerings as well as fintech players who offer banking capabilities to their customers. All of these firms can now deploy Vault in the way that is most suitable for their needs.

Paul Taylor, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Thought Machine, comments: “At Thought Machine, the benefits of being cloud agnostic are crystal clear. Banks, fintechs and financial institutions have differing needs, and different relationships with the cloud. We don’t want to influence those choices, or those relationships, and are proud to announce we can deliver Vault wherever, and whenever, a business needs. By delivering Vault as a Software-as-a-service product, banks no longer need to concern themselves with the implementation, regulatory and logistical obligations of bringing software in-house. Vault SaaS is now available with the same high level of security and resilience as our deployed version, without the infrastructural management overheads.”

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Galileo Instant Takes Aim at Growing 1099 Payment Landscape

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New solution speeds time to market for digital payment solutions

Galileo today announced the full launch of Galileo Instant, a frictionless solution for gig-economy, marketplace, ecommerce, fintech and other businesses that want the speed and convenience of creating debit cards through a single point of contact – Galileo. Using Instant, qualified businesses can launch their debit card programs as early as 14 days – start to finish.

While all types of businesses can use Instant to create branded debit cards issued by a financial institution, the Instant solution is particularly useful for the U.S. businesses paying millions of 1099 workers. By working with banks to standardize the debit card issuing process, Instant reduces the cost of entry and time to market compared to traditional solutions. This makes it fast and affordable for businesses that need a card and digital banking solution – but don’t want to be in the payment business – to have one.

“In time and dollars, the barriers to entry in digital payments have been prohibitively high, even as the need for solutions has grown,” explained Galileo Instant Managing Director Cole Wilkes. “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. With Instant, we’ve created a solution that enables businesses to easily create branded debit cards and accounts for these individuals and pay them instantly, ending the cost of cutting checks or making ACH payments.”

In November 2019, Instant launched in beta mode. Just prior to this month’s full launch, Instant had a waiting list of over 100 businesses.

Early adopters of Instant looking to achieve cost saving and new revenue opportunities through Instant’s interchange revenue sharing plan represent a variety of use cases, including:

  • Content Creation Platforms – Create physical debit cards to instantly pay revenue share or subscription fees.
  • Gig Employees and Contractors – Create physical debit cards to instantly pay employees on a per gig basis.
  • Startup Fintechs – Create bank accounts and live debit cards to demonstrate digital banking account features to investors.

The implementation process begins with the Instant Dashboard, a portal where businesses can find everything they need to launch and scale a debit card programs and access the Instant API.

“In a live demo, we went from idea to issued card to completed transaction in less than an hour,” Wilkes noted. “Like all banking services, of course, Instant is backed by a regulated financial institution and requires compliance and validation steps, but we’re still estimating that most businesses can launch their programs as early as 14 days, and we plan to shave that down over time.”

For more information about Instant, click here.

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Breeze Partners with Assurity Life to Launch Affordable, Online Disability Insurance to Consumers Amid Pandemic

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Breeze announces its launch of the first API-driven disability insurance product with a digital application and underwriting process provided by Assurity Life. Breeze, which has already helped thousands of consumers apply for disability insurance coverage, is on a mission to help the 51 million working Americans without sufficient income protection in place.

Individuals can request a personalized disability insurance quote and complete a secure application process online in 10-15 minutes. By using existing data from health records and other sources, Breeze allows eligible applicants to skip the medical exam often required by manual underwriting. Policies from the Omaha-based company are issued by underwriting partner Assurity Life, which is rated “excellent” by AM Best for financial strength. Coverage is available in 49 states and the District of Columbia; it is not yet available in New York.

Breeze CEO and Co-Founder, Colin Nabity, believes this innovation comes at a time when the need for income protection is abundantly clear.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, we are proud to launch an insurance product that makes it easier to protect your income in the event you become too sick or hurt to work,” said Nabity. “Our streamlined online experience provides consumers a quick, convenient way to find coverage without enduring high-pressure sales tactics or archaic processes that have plagued the insurance industry in the past.”

“Breeze is an ideal partner for providing disability insurance to working Americans,” says Jared Carlson, Vice President of Individual Sales and Ventures at Assurity. “We’ve long believed modern technology can help an underserved market access vital protection, and Breeze’s system streamlines and simplifies what can otherwise be a complicated process. It’s the right service at the right time, and Assurity is proud to underwrite this revolutionary new platform.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on the vulnerabilities faced by a changing workforce, it is a reminder that an unexpected disability can happen to anyone. The Social Security Administration reports that one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will experience a disability that prevents them from working for at least one year before reaching the normal retirement age.

“With independent workers expected to be the majority of the workforce by the end of this decade, portable benefits for individuals are more important now than ever before,” said Nabity. “We are excited to make affordable income protection insurance more accessible to business owners, freelancers, and gig economy workers.”

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ClauseMatch expands compliance workflow and collaboration platform with a launch in the US

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ClauseMatch grows the team in the US signing two North American clients

ClauseMatch, a compliance platform that enables compliance, legal, finance, operations and risk departments to collaborate in real-time on policy documents, has announced the launch of its US office in New York. The opening comes in response to demand from US companies and international clients operating in the US.

They include Barclays, as well as two of the largest financial organizations in the country: a publicly traded bank based in New York and one of the world’s largest investment firms. After London and Singapore, New York is the third location across the globe where ClauseMatch is represented.

Earlier this year, ClauseMatch was selected among 10 companies as part of the FinTech Innovation Lab in New York run by the Partnership Fund for New York and Accenture. The company was mentored by industry experts from top-tier banks in the US and continues to have momentum with them. On June 25th ClauseMatch graduated from the Lab bringing the expertise to the market along with its technology for effective policy management that is in demand by US banks of different size sand insurance companies.

“Technology that more efficiently facilitates compliance with regulatory requirements was a priority for the financial institutions in our FinTech Innovation Lab, who selected ClauseMatch for the 2020 class,” said Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the Partnership Fund for New York City. “We’re excited that ClauseMatch is entering the U.S. market by opening an office in New York at a time when new activity and jobs are so important for our local economy.”

Unlike traditional solutions for policy management, ClauseMatch’s proprietary AI-powered document collaboration platform enables work with smart connected policy documents in real-time. Furthermore, it helps teams to map them with regulatory obligations applying machine-learning (ML) algorithms on a granular level, something that’s not available anywhere else.

At Barclays, the platform is already used by all risk and compliance departments to manage their global policies in real-time. This helped to reduce the annual policy refresh cycle by 40%, compliance reports by ClauseMatch took away 85% of manual work and every employee always has access to the latest policy in one central place from desktop, tablet, and mobile.

Evgeny Likhoded, CEO & Founder, ClauseMatch: “Our technology has found a warm welcome in the US, especially in the current climate where the entire workforce is now working from home, and organizations have to find new tools to adapt. With daily changes happening in the global arena, it is imperative to be able to adapt quickly and communicate better with employees. Through our platform, business continuity plans and disaster recovery policies could be updated and communicated to everyone in real-time, so people in compliance can work smarter and concentrate on higher-value tasks.”

Establishing a presence in the US is a strategic move as it comes at a time of uncertainty and volatility. On the one hand, the lockdown and remote work have challenged compliance teams in many ways and have had a significant impact on technology adoption in the region. And on the other, it is the latest new guidance for corporate compliance programs published by the Department of Justice (DoJ) that takes compliance program effectiveness into consideration by checking whether it is well designed, being implemented effectively and whether the program works in practice.

Rich Heller, Head of US Branch commented: “With fast-changing regulations, especially in the current crisis, risk and compliance continue to be the biggest concern for financial institutions. We see an increasing demand and appetite for the kind of technology we offer from banks of all sizes and insurance companies. It is definitely the right moment to enter and serve the North American market now.”

“North American organizations are being hammered with regulatory obligations and oversight for compliance, particularly in financial services. They need efficient, effective, and agile ways to manage regulatory obligations and governance documents such as policies. ClauseMatch’s entry into the North American market comes at the most ideal time as the U.S. Department of Justice just this month released guidance on the evaluation of compliance programs with a predominant focus on policy design, comprehensiveness, accessibility, and operational integration, these are all specific things that ClauseMatch enables and delivers upon,”Michael Rasmussen, US-based GRC expert added.

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ING provides loans to Amazon sellers

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  • Amazon helps sellers to access loans of ING Germany in a convenient application process

  • Small and medium sized businesses gain access to liquidity to help them grow

  • ING Germany opens up new sales channel and lays the foundation for further growth in the customer segment “Business Banking”

ING Germany will provide eligible Amazon sellers with loans of between EUR 10,000 and 750,000 with periods of up to three years. Applications to the program are available to established sellers based in Germany who meet ING’s criteria, for example with regard to their sales history.

“Our goal is to help established sellers grow their business. More than half of the units sold on Amazon worldwide come from independent small and medium-sized businesses, and our success is deeply tied to theirs,” said Felix Kristl, Country Manager Amazon Lending Germany. “With the fresh capital, businesses can for example buy inventory to meet sales demand, fund staffing and operations, and reach more customers. Therefore, we are thrilled to help make ING Germany’s loan offering available to eligible German sellers.”

ING Germany’s loan offering to Amazon sellers opens up a new, digital sales channel for the bank to support the financing of small and medium-sized businesses. Germany’s largest direct bank has been active in commercial financing since 2018 and with this step lays the foundation to grow in the segment “business banking”. In Germany, ING is the first bank to cooperate with Amazon in financing eligible sellers on www.amazon.de.

“ING Germany stands for digital products and services that are simple, transparent and affordable. There is a growing demand from small and medium-sized enterprises for solutions of this kind”, says Nick Jue, CEO ING Germany and Head of Region Germany. “We see great potential in the cooperation with Amazon. We are convinced that our credit offer meets the requirements of Amazon sellers very well,” says Sven Foos, Head of Business Banking ING Germany.

With the program, Amazon acts as a broker and presents loan proposals to eligible sellers in Seller Central, Amazon’s seller portal. Those who are interested are then directed to ING’s website where they can submit a credit application (LINK to be inserted to Amazon Lending Page) to ING.

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Resurs Bank partners with Nordic API Gateway for open banking services

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Today the open banking platform Nordic API Gateway announces its latest partnership with Nordic niche bank, Resurs Bank, creating new innovative and customer-centric solutions with account aggregation and payment initiation to improve the customer experience.

With a customer base of approximately six million people across Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, Resurs Bank is the leading niche bank with extensive experience in developing flexible payment and financing solutions for both retailers and their customers.

With the banking industry in rapid transition due to modernised customer behaviour and increased competition from new types of companies, Resurs Bank believes that leveraging on the opportunities that open banking brings is crucial to keep delivering the best market solutions and stay ahead of the competition.

With access to financial data and account-to-account payments from Nordic API Gateway, Resurs Bank will be able to optimise and improve the customer experience across the Nordics.

Commenting on the partnership, Casper Wahlström, Program Manager, Strategic Office of Resurs Bank says: “Rapidly changing customer demands and increased competition is upon the banking landscape these days. PSD2 and our strategic partnership with Nordic API Gateway allow us to act now and stay ahead of the complex competition and new requirements through efficiency and innovation. The partnership is an important step for us to act even more data-driven and purposeful towards a better experience for the customers.”

Commenting on the partnership, Rune Mai, CEO & Founder of Nordic API Gateway, says: “Simplifying the process for a loan application is a wonderful example of how access to account data can help consumers get a fair assessment. We’re proud to enable Resurs Bank in building a simplified and more automated way to let consumers lend money through digital channels. Nordic API Gateway makes it a breeze for Resurs Bank to offer this solution to customers in all Nordic markets.”

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Market Cap of World`s Five Largest Banks Dropped by $393.9bn in Four Months [REPORT]

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The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the banking system, wiping out billions of dollars in profit and market cap of even the largest financial institutions.

According to data gathered by BuyShares, the market capitalization of the world’s five leading banks dropped by $393.9bn from December 2019 to April 2020. As the largest financial institution in the world, the US megabank JP Morgan Chase has taken the hardest hit, with the market cap decreasing by $128.71bn in four months.

Three Largest US Banks Lost $345.3bn in Market Cap

JP Morgan’s quarterly earnings hit a record high at the end of the last year, driven by the bond trading revenue, which surged 86% to $3.4bn value. The investment banking revenues were also booming in the fourth quarter, increasing more than 30% year-on-year.

In December 2019, the market capitalization of the US megabank reached $437.2bn, revealed Statista data. However, with financial markets tanking and merger and acquisition drying up in the first months of 2020, this value dropped to $356.9bn by the end of February. The coronavirus outbreak brought a new hit, causing the market cap of the largest bank in the world to plunge to $274.28bn in March. Although April brought a recovery with the market cap rising to $308.49bn, statistics indicate this value still represents a $48bn plunge compared to December figures.

As the second-largest bank globally, Bank of America has also witnessed a significant drop in the market cap in the last few months. In December 2019, the US multinational investment bank saw its market cap reaching $316.8bn value. By the end of the first quarter of 2020, this figure dropped to $185.23bn, a 40% plunge in three months. Statistics show that by the end of April, the market cap value slightly recovered and reached $208.65.

Wells Fargo lost $108.5bn in market cap in four months, falling from $227.5bn in December 2019 to $119bn in April 2020. Statista data revealed that the combined market cap of the three largest banks in the United States dropped by $345.3bn during this period.

Market Cap of Leading Chinese Banks Dropped by $48.6bn

Statistics show that the market capitalization of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), as the third-largest financial institution globally, dropped by $30.47bn, falling from $267.3bn in December 2019 to $236.83bn in April 2020.

As the second-largest bank in the country and the fifth-largest globally, China Construction Bank has also witnessed a drop in the market cap value. In December 2019, the Chinese financial corporation reached $216.26bn in market capitalization. By the end of January 2020, this figure fell to $188.88bn. However, the last few months have witnessed a recovery with the market cap reaching $198.13bn in April. Statistics show that the two largest Chinese banks lost $48.6bn in combined market capitalization between December 2019 and April 2020.

The full story can be read here.

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Open Banking has arrived and is here to stay but how should banks take charge?

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The imminent arrival of Open Banking is scheduled for rollout across Australia’s top four banks this July with other financial institutions to follow their lead in November.

By July 2021, every bank in Australia needs to be Open Banking ready and able to provide access to product, account and transaction data for personal loan and other accounts. The passing of Australia’s Open Banking legislation will enable consumers in the future, the authority to direct banks to share their credit and debit card, deposit account and transaction account data with accredited third-party providers.

With Open Banking’s disruption to the financial services landscape, Australian Bank’s should pay close attention to what they can learn from their counterparts in the UK, where Open Banking is already in the market. Open Banking will bring with it opportunities for the market to capitalise on, however this will require banks to focus and invest strategically – to not only meet regulatory compliance, but also educate their customers on the advantages and ensuring their digital online and mobile platforms are ready for the July 2021 deadline.

Will Australia reap the benefits and learn from the UK experience?

The low adoption rates in the UK around Open Banking has resulted in only 15% of banks registered on the UK Open Banking directory. This lack of interest can be attributed to several different factors, however the three main drivers have been regulation, complexity and fear.

It is no secret this digital disruption and transformation is a complex and costly exercise. Banks are having to upskill and invest in technologies that will require significant investment to install necessary infrastructure and support processes.

Unlike the UK, Australian banks and financial institutions should seek to initiate Open Banking focussing on unlocking the potential benefits which include:

  • Increased operational efficiencies
  • Cost savings
  • The creation of digital revenue streams
  • Utilising existing software to create new innovative services – Enhanced customer experience

With these opportunities on offer and the competitive landscape that will introduce new players amongst Financial Institutions and industries such as education and utilities. Banks can either embrace Open Banking taking advantages of the opportunities laid out before them, or choose to look at Open Banking as a burden and focus only on meeting regulation and compliance standards set out by the government and the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC), resulting in missed opportunities.

Dom Monty, GM of Digital Banking, Sandstone Technology comments:

“The impact of Covid-19 globally has also resulted in poor financial well-being of so many people dramatically which is only likely to increase. This emphasises the importance of Open Banking adoption for banks to leverage its capabilities and to address current systems which are ill equipped to help consumers effectively manage their financials.

Furthermore, Australian banks and their Open Banking initiatives will be navigating in a landscape post Covid-19 and whilst consumers may not understand or really care about Open Banking, it presents an opportunity for banks to lead and join forces with new entrant competitors for all to benefit. The result, to enable consumers with their everyday money management to achieve greater control, improved financial freedom and well- being”

As the term Open Banking is now so closely attached to regulation, it is perhaps no longer appropriate to be used as a description for a bank digitising their business. Perhaps a more appropriate term would be ‘Banking as a Service’ (BaaS) which some organisations have started to do. The expectations set around Open Banking to create a marketplace for financial products, drive innovation and improve customer experience will ultimately depend on how Australian banks and financial institutions approach this new way of handling data.

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Digital Driver’s License Service Now Available in Korea through Identity Authentication App PASS

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SK Telecom (NYSE:SKM), together with KT and LG Uplus, today launched a digital driver’s license service on PASS*, an identity authentication app provided by the three mobile carriers.

*Launched in July 2018, PASS currently has 30 million subscribers and is mainly used for authentication in mobile financial transactions.

Developed jointly by the three mobile carriers, the Korean National Police Agency and the Road Traffic Authority (KoRoad), the digital driver’s license marks the first case where a digital version of an official identification is used as a legally acceptable form of identity verification.

Subscribers of PASS can register their driver’s license on the app through a verification and encryption process. Users can only use one smartphone registered under their own names.

To confirm the authenticity of the information on the driver’s license and block attempts to register counterfeit driver’s license, the three mobile carriers connected their identity authentication servers to the Korean National Police Agency’s driver’s license system and applied blockchain technology.

For identity verification, the app will show the user’s photo on his/her driver’s license along with a QR code and barcode. To prevent theft or illegal use of identity information, the codes are automatically refreshed and come with a floating animation layer.

The new digital driver’s license service is applied to all stores of convenient store chains CU and GS25. For instance, the digital driver’s license can be used to verify age at convenient stores for the purchase of age-limited goods such as alcohol and cigarettes.

In addition, from July 2020, the digital driver’s license will be used for reissuance and renewal of a driver’s license, as well as issuance of a driver’s license in English at 27 Driver’s License Examination Offices located throughout Korea.

The Korean National Police Agency is reviewing plans to apply the digital driver’s license service to police work that involves identity verification such as a check by traffic police. Moreover, the three mobile carriers are in talks with companies in the car rental and shared mobility industries to adopt the digital driver’s license to facilitate non-face-to-face services.

“We are delighted to launch the digital driver’s license service, which will provide users with greater security and convenience,” said Oh Se-hyeon, Vice President and Head of Blockchain/Authentication Office at SK Telecom. “Going forward, we will work closely with diverse institutions and enterprises to promote its use in non-face-to-face services, which have surged since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The Korean National Police Agency will make concerted efforts with the three Korean mobile carriers to boost the usage of the digital driver’s license service, which can help address social problems caused by theft or illegal use of driver’s license,” said Min Gap-ryong, commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency.

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ING collaborates with Minna Technologies to launch a new subscription management service

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ING Belgium has entered a partnership with Minna Technologies. The two companies will work together to launch a new digital banking service, allowing the bank’s customers to manage their subscription services
without leaving the bank’s digital channel.

Today Minna Technologies announces a new partnership with ING Belgium, one of the leading banks in Belgium with more than 1.8 million digital banking customers.

The partnership is a continuation of Minna Technologies’ participation in ING Labs Brussels program 2019, the former FinTech Village, where the two companies successfully completed a proof of concept (POC) that demonstrated the value of subscription management in the Benelux region.

With the new subscription management service, the bank’s customers will get a clear overview of all active subscriptions. The service also allows customers to cancel existing subscriptions, as well as improving them by switching to better alternatives.

Olivier Guillaumond, Global Head of ING Labs & Fintech’s, said: “We are delighted to announce the collaboration with Minna Technologies. This is a clear example of impactful Fintech partnerships that we aim to scale within ING. It will offer a differentiating experience to our customers allowing them to have a better insight into their subscriptions and save millions of euros via cancellation and fully automated switching services. This partnership is yet another great outcome for ING Labs Brussels. ING Labs Brussels is a special purpose vehicle concentrating on validating proof of concepts with mature fintech’s to bring maximum value for our clients so they can stay a step ahead in their lives. It covers all value spaces primarily for Belgium and the Netherlands with the potential to expand to other countries”.

Joakim Sjöblom, CEO, Minna Technologies, said: “We are beyond excited to partner with such a forward-leaning bank as ING. We have been very impressed by their innovation speed, and look forward to delivering new values to their digital banking customers. Given ING’s multinational presence, we have a great opportunity to help millions of customers in these uncertain times”.

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Behind the Idea: OakNorth

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When COVID-19 first began to emerge in January 2020, the first step that OakNorth took was to look at the potential for international supply chain disruption. The European fintech unicorn developed its own “COVID Vulnerability Rating” (CVR) Framework, which integrates over 130 proprietary subsector-specific COVID-19 stress scenarios with regional overlays, incorporating assumptions for impacts on key financial metrics such as revenue, operating costs, working capital and CapEx.

The Framework enables commercial lenders to re-underwrite loans and brings consistency to their credit approach through the crisis, running risk analysis on a consistent basis, and since the start of the year, has analysed around $400bn of loans.

Rishi Khosla OBE is the Co-founder and CEO of OakNorth

Rishi Khosla OBE, is the Co-founder and CEO of OakNorth. Prior to this, he co-founded Copal Amba, a financial research firm that was scaled to 3,000 employees and sold to Moody’s Corporation in 2014. He is also an early-stage investor in Paypal and Indiabulls. Known for building the fastest-growing business in Europe and one of the world’s only profitable fintech “unicorns”.

What has been the traditional OakNorth response to financial technology innovations?

OakNorth combines a deep understanding of credit, rich data sets (which include unconventional and previously unavailable data), cloud computing, and state of the art machine learning, to provide its bank partners with the insight and foresight they need to holistically and profitably lend to the Missing. The operating efficiencies realised through the OakNorth Platform allow banks’ relationship managers to focus more time with borrowers, having received insight on those borrowers and their sector.

Through 360-degree monitoring of borrowers’ financial and operational data, the Platform provides banks with early warning indicators in case of deterioration in credit quality, enabling it to have preliminary conversations with borrowers before negative credit issues arise – something that will prove invaluable during the economic recovery that will follow after the COVID-19 crisis abates. 

How has this changed over the past few years?

It hasn’t – our approach was always to build a Platform and prove it within our own bank before we begin licensing it to other lenders. That’s what we’ve done – we’ve built OakNorth Bank in the UK which today ranks within the top 1% of banks globally in terms of performance, and that gives us a great proof of concept for the Platform.

Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?

We’re a very mission-driven and values-driven company. Like any fast-growing company, it’s an environment that is very intense and high-pressured, but it’s also fun, rewarding, collaborative and open.

We’re fortunate to continue to attract some of the most ambitious and talented people from across industries who also share our values. Those values are working together as One Team to deliver products and services to our customers that are ‘10X’ better than the competition and deliver ‘Customer Delight’, ensuring that we put energy and momentum into everything we do.

We’re not afraid to ‘Say it how it is’ or zero-base the way things have always been done. Joel and I have said numerous times that we want to continue building this business for the next few decades. We are not looking for a quick exit. This reflects our final value of ‘Right Ambition’, and one that is shared by our team. Almost half of our employees have taken the opportunity to become shareholders in the business, investing their own money and in doing so, helping to build for the long term.

What FinTech ideas have been implemented?
One of the largest banks in the US, PNC, is deploying OakNorth’s CVR Framework across its C&I and CRE portfolio, mapping individual borrowers to 130 domains. PNC and OakNorth will run portfolio diagnostics on a periodic basis to factor the rapidly evolving scenarios of COVID-19 across subsectors and regions.

What benefits have these brought?
The OakNorth Platform enables the lenders we work with to have fundamentally different conversations and engage with their borrowers in a dramatically different way. It brings credit insight about borrowers’ businesses back to the front line, democratising this knowledge so that lenders have a deeper understanding of the individual business, its industry and its sub-sector. As a result, they have more relevant and thoughtful conversations with the business owner and can build much more meaningful relationships with them.

However, the Platform doesn’t only assist them with credit analysis and data optimisation, it also aids in portfolio monitoring. By proactively monitoring clients’ financial and operational data, it is able to provide early warning indicators in case of deterioration in credit quality, enabling the lenders we partner with to have preliminary conversations with their borrowers, well before a negative credit issue arises – thus leading to more positive credit outcomes.

Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?

Businesses need liquidity to overcome the challenges being presented by COVID-19 and get back on their feet when the recovery begins. They are looking to banks and lenders to support them in this crucial period – either directly, or through Government loan programs.

However, given the unprecedented scale and dynamics of this crisis, trying to assess credit risk based on previous risk ratings doesn’t make sense as all previous correlations are broken. As a result, lenders need to be able to:

  • Reassess credit risk based on forward-looking scenarios which factor in the impact that COVID-19 is having on businesses and then follow through on these stress scenarios on a granular, loan-by-loan basis, rather than just at the portfolio level;
  • Monitor all credits more closely as sectors have become more volatile post-COVID-19, and;
  • Re-underwrite these loans at depth and bring consistency to their credit approach through the crisis, running risk analysis on a consistent basis.

Can these challenges be aided by FinTech?
Absolutely. We’re helping lenders address this challenge via our “COVID Vulnerability Rating” (CVR) Framework, which helps them undertake portfolio diagnostics to rate loans from 1-5 based on their vulnerability to the new economic environment, with 1 being least vulnerable, and 5 being most vulnerable. The ratings are based on multiple factors including liquidity, debt capacity, funding gap and profitability, and can be dynamically customized to reflect the lender’s credit risk criteria and appetite.

Final thoughts?

Credit insights will play a huge part in the COVID-19 recovery. Instead of wasting time on the things that don’t matter, it allows banks to be able to spend more time on the things that do – such as structuring a loan for the borrower’s needs in the time frame they need it, as well as exploring cross-selling opportunities

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

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American Express Global Business Travel Launches Neo1, a Spend Management Platform for SMEs

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Free online service helps finance teams manage cashflow

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has launched a service to help owner-managed businesses control cashflow. Neo1 integrates purchasing from Amazon Business and GBT’s online travel booking tool. It gives finance managers better visibility over what employees are spending money on, in addition to the powerful backing of the world’s leading travel management company (TMC). It’s free to subscribe, and can be set up in less than five minutes.

Jason Geall, GBT’s Vice President and General Manager for Northern Europe, said: “We understand how
important cash flow and liquidity are to companies in the current environment. It’s crucial they have the tools to manage their businesses as efficiently as possible. We also realise how important SMEs are in driving a country’s economy, so we actually expedited development of Neo1 to make it available to business owners as soon as we could.”

Neo1 allows finance teams to manage all spend categories, such as office supplies, utilities and travel bookings, in one place. The tool gives users real-time visibility of money spent, money committed, and future spend requests. It is particularly helpful in managing large volumes of smaller line items, which can collectively amount to a significant percentage of overall business expense.

Fiona Hastings, Neo1 General Manager, said: “Finance teams can get started with Neo1 in only a few minutes. It will help them effectively manage all employee spend. People can request budgets, order supplies and manage all purchasing, payment and expense reporting in one place online. Payments are integrated from corporate cards, while the same system is used to log claims for reimbursements.”

In a February 2020 poll, nearly three quarters of business owners said controlling spend was more important for making strategic business decisions than had been five years previously. One in five admitted they did not have visibility of their business expenses from the previous 30 days. These issues are now in even sharper focus.

Neo1 is currently available in the UK. Click here to sign up.

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Equity investment in smaller UK tech businesses increased 27% to £4.0bn last year

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  • Value of total equity investment in UK’s smaller businesses rose 24% to £8.5bn

  • Growth stage deals are the primary driver of increased investment – Early signs of market softening before emergence of Covid-19 – British Business Bank programmes supported 11% of all UK equity deals

Equity investment in the UK’s tech businesses increased by 27% in 2019 to £4.0bn, the highest amount since the series began in 2011, reveals the British Business Bank’s annual Small Business Equity Tracker report, published today. The UK’s thriving tech sector remains highly attractive to equity investors, accounting for 47% of total equity investment in UK SMEs through 691 deals in 2019.

Within tech, the sectors receiving the largest share of deals were software (425 deals worth £2bn) and life sciences (78 deals worth £540m). The verticals attracting the greatest amount of equity investment in 2019 were Software as a Service (471 deals worth £2.5bn), FinTech (193 deals worth £1.8bn) and AI (173 deals worth £880m). Software as a Service companies in particular were highly attractive to equity investors, with investment value increasing by 69% in 2019 compared to 2018, a much larger increase than that seen in the overall market.

The Small Business Equity Tracker report, which analyses Beauhurst data on equity investments throughout the UK in 2019, provides an important benchmark of the market immediately prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. It shows the value of total equity investment in the UK’s smaller businesses rising 24% to £8.5bn in 2019 – the highest amount recorded – and a record number of deals, rising 4% to 1,832 with deal sizes up by 21%.

52% of deals by number took place outside of London, with South West, Scotland and Northern Ireland showing a strong increase by deal number in 2019, rising by 34%, 26% and 24% respectively. Several regions also saw investment levels by value increase strongly in 2019, including Northern Ireland (191%), Scotland (51%), North West (50%), London (37%), West Midlands (36%), and the South East (27%).

The growth stage engine

Equity investments into growth stage companies rose by 39% to £5.3bn. The average growth stage deal size, where the UK has lagged behind the US, also grew by 27% driven by a small number of very large deals. Such financing is important as it is often used to help international expansion and to enter new markets, demonstrating both the increasing strength and maturity of private UK SME equity markets and the broader potential of later-stage private companies.

Keith Morgan, CEO, British Business Bank, said: “The UK’s small business equity finance market saw a record year in 2019 with investment amounts soaring to £8.5bn. This was a clear sign of investor confidence in UK smaller businesses located across the country and their potential for growth as well as the strong fundamentals of the UK economy as a place to start and grow a business.”

“The British Business Bank’s equity programmes are estimated to have supported around 11% of all equity deals in UK SMEs in 2019. As the economic impact of Covid-19 continues to affect businesses across the country, the work of the Bank has never been more important. Ensuring a wide range of innovative and ambitious smaller businesses continue to have access to equity investment to support their growth plans will be essential to the UK retaining its world-leading position in science, innovation and technology.”

Emerging signs of market changes before Covid-19

Despite a record year for fundraising overall, signals of a softening in private UK small business equity markets were apparent prior to the impact of Covid-19.

The amount of investment into seed stage companies declined by 1% in 2019. While the scale of this decline is small, it is set against seed stage investment increasing every year since 2011. This decline, combined with the number of companies raising follow-on funding in 2019 being higher than the number of companies raising finance for the first time, has the potential to impact on the future UK equity pipeline.

Investors also appeared to be exercising more caution in 2019, particularly towards some growth stage companies where average pre-money valuations fell compared to 2018. There was an increase in the proportion of equity ‘down rounds’ in 2019, with down rounds forming 12% of all deals in 2019, compared to 9% in 2018.

Unsurprisingly the Covid-19 outbreak is expected to have an impact on smaller businesses’ ability to raise equity finance. The Bank’s analysis of Beauhurst data showed that 43% of all UK equity backed companies are at least moderately affected by changes in delivery and demand for their products and services.

Alice Hu Wagner, Managing Director, Strategy Economics and Business Development, British Business Bank said: “The British Business Bank’s Small Business Equity Tracker report illustrates a strong interest in growth stage investment in the equity market in 2019, with a particular focus on tech businesses. Ensuring our high-potential later stage companies have the capital they need to compete on the global stage will be crucial to powering the economic recovery.”

The British Business Bank Effect

British Business Bank programmes are estimated to have supported 11% of UK equity deals between 2017 and 2019, compared to 9% between 2016 and 2018 as reported in last year’s report. The increase in market coverage is due to British Patient Capital fund activity, which has grown considerably over the same period.

Seed and venture stage deals supported by the Bank are generally smaller than the wider market, while growth stage deals tend to be larger, showing the Bank’s programmes are tackling market gaps at both ends of the UK SME equity spectrum.

The commercialisation and growth of the UK’s science-based companies, crucial for building the future economy, is well supported by the Bank’s equity programmes – 50% of our deals between 2017 and 2019 went to technology/IP-based businesses.

Addressing regional imbalances remains core to all British Business Bank activity, with two funds in particular specifically targeting underserved regions. The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) contributed to 16% and 19% of deals in their respective areas.

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First Bank launches Micro Creditum app and continues its digital transformation with FintechOS as technology partner

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First Bank continues the steps of its digital
transformation process by launching the Micro Creditum application.
This optimization was possible with the help of FintechOS
technology.

First Bank continues its digital transformation with the launch
of the Micro Creditum application, making the entire lending
process more efficient for its business customers in need of
finance. Analysis of credit documents can now be achieved in just
one hour, marking a reduction in processing time of 80%.

This optimization was made possible with the help of FintechOS
technology, which has the ability to integrate data from multiple
external sources and analyze information automatically. Customers
benefit from fast access to finance and the bank’s specialists
gain valuable time in managing customer relationships.

“The future of First Bank is predominantly digital, but its
human component will continue to offer added value in finding the
best solution for every customer.

We focus on process automation to give customers a fast response
and allocate more time to offering financial advice, instead of
spending too much time analysing the paperwork.

We currently use 19 robots to perform operational processes in
the area of credit management, cards, deposits, collaterals,
payments and interbanking, but also in the HR departament.

Together with FintechOS, we launched Micro Creditum, the
innovative solution that reduces the processing time of documents
by 80%, enabling us to provide a response in 24 hours to every
client in the Micro segment, the target customer of First Bank.

MICRO CREDITUM represents only a step in the whole process of
digital transformation, through which First Bank follows its
“Digital Bank with a human touch” roadmap,” said
Mădălina Teodorescu, Vice President of First
Bank
.

“Using technologies that facilitate the bank’s interaction
with customers is a first step in the digitalization of financial
services. Opening remote accounts, accessing services without
having to go to the branch, and digital signing of documents are
all becoming part of how customers expect to bank. We see this
trend towards digitalisation evolving rapidly across the entire
market, even when the restrictions caused by the current crisis are
lifted. We look forward to working with FirstBank in accelerating
its digital transformation strategy”, said Teodor
Blidarus, CEO of FintechOS, global provider of digital
transformation technology to banks, insurance companies and other
financial institutions
.

In recent months, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, more
and more companies in the financial services sector have adopted
new technologies to ramp up the automation of internal processes
and migrate to a digital environment, as well as embracing cloud
solutions.

The highest demand has been for solutions that solve issues like
online enrollment of new customers, the configuration of virtual
branches and online support services. FintechOS technology is
natively built to respond quickly and flexibly to these needs.

FintechOS is currently involved in more than 20 projects to
deploy omnichannel solutions for banks and insurers in the UK,
Central and Eastern Europe, South-East Asia and North America.

The post
First Bank launches Micro Creditum app and continues its digital
transformation with FintechOS as technology partner
appeared
first on The Fintech
Times
.

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Mastercard SpendingPulse: UK E-Commerce Sales up 72% Year-On-Year in May as Pandemic Continues to Drive Consumers Online [REPORT]

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New Mastercard Recovery Insights Report Spotlights the Impacts of COVID-19

Online retail sales were up 72% year-on-year in the UK in May according to Mastercard SpendingPulse1, which tracks overall retail sales across all types of payment, including card, cash and cheque. This is an advance on April’s online sales – which were up 64% year-over-year, showing an ongoing growth trend as consumers continue to shop online during the pandemic.

To dig into this further, Mastercard has released the first report, The Shift to Digital in its Recovery Insights series, which sheds light on the impacts of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, including the incredible growth of online shopping.

In the UK, total retail sales for May were down 13.6% year on year while e-commerce sales* were up 72.3 percent, according to SpendingPulse, underscoring the broader shift to digital in how we work, live and shop. Indeed, during April and May 2020, e-commerce as a share of total retail sales reached 33 percent in the United Kingdom – an unprecedented high.

Additionally, consumers are focusing more on consumer staples versus spending on luxury. UK SpendingPulse retail sales estimates for May show e-commerce spending on groceries increased by 76% year-on-year. By comparison, e-commerce luxury decreased by 14% year-on-year during that same time.

UK E-Commerce Sector

Year-On-Year E-Commerce Growth

May 2020

Total eCommerce

72%

Clothing

69%

Department Stores

227%

Electronics

192%

Grocery

76%

Luxury

-14%

“There has been an undeniable shift to online shopping over the past two months,” says Janne Karppinen, Head of Retail at Mastercard “The question is whether these trends will continue for the long-term. We’ve seen some redistribution of sales away from the High Street into online channels and this could have a huge impact on how retailers blend their online and physical footprints in the future.”

Yesterday, Amazon announced it is to tokenise Mastercard transactions in the UK and 11 other countries, for a faster, safer and more convenient checkout.

Mastercard has been committed to helping retailers and many others navigate the challenges of the pandemic – and now the recovery. This has included making certain insight-driven tools available at no cost to consumers, governments and small businesses to give a timely snapshot of economic performance during this time.

Earlier in June, Mastercard launched www.shopopenings.com, a new online search tool that confirms which UK shops and businesses are open for customers to visit as the nation gradually reopens. Having the ability to make informed decisions is critical to the long-term success of companies, communities and individuals around the world.

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Using tech to get back to work – Finastra CEO

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Businesses all over the world are now grappling with the next COVID-19 challenge: as new cases slowly begin to fall, how do companies restart and rebuild operations? Some firms have continued to operate from their facilities throughout lockdown and others, like Finastra, quickly moved most of their people to home working. Some have had to temporarily cease operations completely.

We all now face a new reality. Whether a business is based in an office or a factory, whether it hosts customers or its people travel to other offices or homes, everything has changed. Serving our customers and protecting the wellbeing of our people has always been a key focus for us. And as we learn to live with COVID-19 and approach the next phase of recovery, we must protect our employees and think about which parts of a ‘normal’ workplace we want to return to – and, importantly, those we don’t.

Employers need new information. How people get to work, where they work or whether they are symptomatic is all important data. Much of this is personal information that employees may never have been asked to share before, so it’s important that when they are asked to, they can trust it will be used properly.

It’s also important that people are not obliged to give too much away: some organizations advocate systems where employees are physically tagged and every step around their workplace is monitored. Even if the technology is out there – for example, smart wristbands or lanyards to track movement and adherence to social distancing – this wouldn’t fit with our open company culture.

Maintaining a degree of physical separation to protect colleagues will be extremely important for the foreseeable future. This is something that must be taken into consideration as workplaces return to some semblance of business as usual.

Much of what is necessary to adjust is about sharing the load across the economy. Millions of people have adapted to working from home and proven that business can keep running in this new environment. Firms should embrace this. Fewer journeys, particularly on public transport, mean less risk for everyone. There are also significant benefits to be derived from increased digital collaboration and virtual events.

Tying all of this together will need coordination and communication, which technology can help with. Businesses can easily send messages to employees and receive useful, relevant information back. Done right, it means every aspect of managing the return to work can be held in a single secure system.

At Finastra, we use Everbridge. Its technology brings together data about the pandemic as it’s made public and gives business leaders the tools to apply it in real time. During the current situation we’ve sent around 20 different messages to our people, mostly informing them about office closures. We’ve used it to manage our business continuity plans – moving over 8,000 staff to home working in just three days. In fact, since adopting Everbridge, we’ve used it a number of times to respond to situations such as hurricane warnings or minor incidents at local facilities.

There’s never been a more important time to harness the power of technology to keep staff safe. We use Everbridge to significantly reduce the time it takes to connect with our people at crucial moments. Workplaces are very different from just a few months ago and will most likely never be the same again. COVID-19 has forced businesses to transform the way they work – virtual events, video conferencing, less travel and a readiness to emerge stronger together.

By Simon Paris, CEO at Finastra and NED at Everbridge

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Giving access to any sort of earned income – anytime

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Dubai and Riyadh-based FlexxPay, which according to their website, offers an online platform to employers whose employees can access their earned salaries & commissions instantly before the regular payday.​ We sit down with Michael Truschler from FlexxPay to understand more about the company and their future aspirations.

FlexxPay is a Dubai and Riyadh-based fintech company Dubai and Riyadh-based FlexxPay

Can you give us a bit of background about yourself and your role at Dubai/Riyadh-based FlexxPay?

I am Michael Truschler, co-founder and CEO of FlexxPay. I have been in the Gulf region for about 16 years. Prior to FlexxPay, I built citrussTV, the largest TV home shopping network in the MENA region. We sold the company in 2017 and I then started FlexxPay in late 2018.

What Makes Your Product Unique in the Fintech Ecosystem both in the GCC and Potentially in the Global Market?

FlexxPay gives access to any sort of earned income, anytime. This includes salaries, commissions and soon pensions and end of service benefits. We believe that everyone should be able to access what they have already earned, whenever they need to. There are companies around the world that let you access your salary early, but FlexxPay is the only company give access to any sort of earned income. We aim to positively impact society and the overall economy of a country.

Dubai’s story from a small fishing and trading post to a global hub across various sectors (including fintech) is both remarkable and admirable.
Being based in Dubai and Riyadh, can you give some insights to our international audience who might not be familiar in detail with Dubai and Riyadh, and their roles in fintech specifically?

Dubai International Financial Center is a top ten global financial centre, and the leading financial hub in MENA. DIFC and FlexxPay share the vision to drive the future of finance and create value for the economy. Dubai is home to most of the well known international firms and provides a great infrastructure for conducting business.

Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision is a strategy to reduce the country’s dependency on oil and the FinTech sector plays a vital role in this. All government institutions and private sector companies support that vision and that’s why we have chosen to open our co-headquarters in Riaydh. There is a massive potential for FinTech companies in Saudi Arabia and the support given is significant.

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the main financial hub of Dubai as well as where you are based at, has recently announced that Flexxpay (as well as three other companies) has received a significant investment. How will that help you both manage the current global situation that is Co-VID 19 and also continue to grow in the future?

We are based at in5 Tech, a Dubai based innovation centre as well as in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

The investment we received will mainly be spent on the technology development and the business expansion to acquire new corporate customers in various countries in the region.

Especially during stressful times such as the current one cause by COVID-19, people need a solution such as FlexxPay more than ever. Unexpected expenses, emergencies, family support etc. – all this is very relevant.

COVID-19 forces companies (and society) to digitally transform. Many companies knew that they have to digitize their businesses and processes but were reluctant to invest or simply took too much time. These are the companies that suffer now. COVID-19 is a sort of catalyst or accelerator forcing companies to take the necessary steps immediately to survive and grow in the current (new) reality.

Globally – where do you see the fintech sector heading in the future? Also, specifically with the payday model that FlexxPay is looking to disrupt?

Not only FinTech, but any digital business will grow. Remote work is the new normal. Flexibility and quick adoption of trends are key to success. FlexxPay revolutionizes the way we get paid. The times of waiting for a month or 2 weeks (such as in the US) for your pay will soon be over. You will access what you have earned through an app such as FlexxPay.

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Technology to help businesses fight Covid-19

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Cassava Fintech International (CFI), a subsidiary of the Econet Group, has unveiled a secure blockchain technology-supported solution aimed at helping businesses to safely get their employees back to work.

Darlington Mandivenga, CFI chief executive, said the healthtech solution — known as the Sasai Health Status Report (SHSR) — will help individuals and communities get back control of their lives and kick-start productivity, while still observing the recommended public health and safety protocols.

“We (are) offering a solution that we believe will significantly move the needle in safely getting people to securely get tested, know their status and do the needful so that they get back to work and reclaim their normal lives,” he said in an online press conference yesterday.

“The Sasai  Health Status Report will, at the point of testing, capture a person’s Covid-19 health status which they can confidentially share, at the users’ discretion  with those who need to know — such as one’s family members and their employers — in a manner that respects personal data privacy and using secure blockchain technology,” Mr Mandivenga said.

Blockchain technology uses a digital ledger that, among other things, stores information in a secure way that makes it impossible to hack or to alter the record. The use of the technology in the design of the Health Status Report, will be seen as a crucial firewall embedded in the platform against counterfeit tests and fake test kits.

“We are offering a solution at a time many nations have embarked on large-scale screening and testing for Covid-19 in order to reopen their economies,” Mr Mandivenga said. While CFI was rolling out the SHSR in Zimbabwe first, plans were at an advanced stage to take it to other markets.

“We have already received strong expressions of interest from a number of African countries where we will be soon taking the platform.”

Speaking at the same press conference, Sasai chief operating officer Tapera Mushoriwa, said the SHRS was already available on the Google Play and Apple App stores.

“The Health Status Report feature is already available on Sasai  under the Sasai  ‘Explore’ menu. Users simply need to do a once-off registration to activate the service,” Mr Mushoriwa said.

He added that the SHSR feature carried a wide range of functionalities, including test reports and the capability to share one’s test reports with others or with one’s organisation.

“A test report can be securely shared through three ways, with another user within the application, by SMS or by QR code,” Mr Mushoriwa said. A user can also verify a report received, through inputting the verification code which will be authenticated by the blockchain technology.

He said because of the use of blockchain technology in the SHSR architecture, the platform will be able to validate whether or not test kits used across the report’s supply chain are counterfeit or fake.

“We are working with reputable manufacturers and suppliers whose test kits we pre-load onto the platform ahead of any testing programme. Using the SHSR, we are betting on reducing the spread of Covid-19 by ensuring that only authentic test kits sourced from genuine medical suppliers are used, especially given the scourge of counterfeit or substandard health and medical products in some parts of Africa,” Mr Mushoriwa said.

In a separate but related development last week, the African Union (AU) commissioned a secure African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) intended, among other things, to secure competitive prices and to protect African governments and organisations from procuring counterfeit Covid-19 medical supplies.

Mr Mushoriwa said the SHSR, which is integrated to a secure web application for use by registered medical professionals, would automatically reject counterfeit test kits and fake test results.

“The Health Services Report has an extra security layer that ensures all personal and medical information is in a secure environment and is temper-proof, such that bogus or unrecognised tests cannot be authenticated on the platform,” Mr Mushoriwa said.

He added that CFI was in the process of engaging the AU, through the AMSP programme, to ensure that all registered manufacturers upload their test kits onto the SHRS platform for validation.

This article was originally published on The Herald from Zimbabwe

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Banks, Abi: 10 considerations for a central bank digital currency

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The Executive Committee of the Italian Banking Association has approved general guidelines of its position concerning digital money and Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Italian banks are available to participate in projects and experimentations of a European central bank digital currency, contributing in foster the implementation of a European level initiative in a pilot national banking sector, thanks to their competences developed in a concrete realisation of distributed infrastructure and governance.

With the aim of analysing this matter, last year ABI set up an expert group dedicated to exploring digital money and crypto assets. From this work derive the 10 considerations approved by the Executive Committee:

  1. Monetary stability and a full respect of the European regulatory framework must be taken in account as a priority.

  2. Italian banks are already working on a distributed ledger infrastructure thanks to Spunta DLT project. They want to be part of the change that come from such an important innovation like digital currency.

  3. In the financial environment, a programmable digital money represents an innovation able to profoundly modify the way we conceive currency and exchange. This transformation can potentially deliver a great added value, in particular in terms of efficiency for both operational and support process. This is the reason why is so important to dedicate attention and energies to develop, quickly and in collaboration with the entire ecosystem, new instruments able to primarily support the development of the Euro area.

  4. It is necessary that digital money deserves the maximum trust from the public. To this extent, it is essential that the highest standards of regulatory framework, security and supervision are fully respected.

  5. Thanks to the key role played by the Central Bank, a CBDC represents the instruments that, more than others, can satisfy the innovation needs in alignment with the current framework of rules, existing instruments and interoperability with the analogical world. At the same time, an instrument like this may reduce the attractiveness of analogue tools issued by private or (in the fully decentralised implementation) non identifiable actors, due to a higher inherent risk.

  6. To deliver at its maximum the potential of transformation of such kind of tools, it is of absolute interest the possibility, currently under consideration, to issued a retail European CBDC, that can represent an innovation of cash. Thanks to the role of banks, it is possible to identify technical solution and operational framework able to preserve current characteristics of cash, while adding several typical benefits of the digital world (already satisfied by digital payment instruments), such as the ability not to lose money and, in this period where sanitary risk is under attention, to operate contactless.

  7. Analysing every detail, it would be possible to define how to distribute, store and exchange digital money in a way that enable to combine customer needs, together with the ability to ensure that the monetary policy is transmitted to the real economy and compliance to the regulatory framework. For sure, in each of these objectives, banks role is crucial.

  8. A key success factor for the adoption of CBDC is to reach a frictionless user experience, ensuring at the same time full interoperability between digital and analogical world and a complete circularity among all ecosystem actors.

  9. According the technological choices that will be taken, a particular attention to the protection of personal data of our citizens is required (privacy).

  10. Thinking to the future that awaits us, the availability of a CBDC will enable several very interesting use cases: to foster peer.to-peer value transmission, supporting money exchange between person and machine and in a machine-to-machine scenario; to facilitate cross-border transactions settlement, reducing interest rate, exchange and counterparty risks; to promote, thanks to the programmability of this instrument, the automatic execution of payments when predefined situations arise, reducing administrative processes.

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