Following the ‘Super Connect for Good’ competition, a list of the Top 100 Tech for Good start-ups and scale-ups has been released by Hays Technology and Empact Ventures.
The competition was established to spotlight the most influential emerging tech start-ups and scale-ups that are utilising technology to create a positive impact on people’s lives.
Out of this year’s entrants, some notable appearances include:
GoodBox – A fintech start-up that is developing contemporary contactless and digital fundraising technology to benefit the charity sector.
BrainBerry – Developers of artificial intelligence (AI) and personalised-enabled cognitive behavioural therapy to assist those with neurological symptoms, such as Alzheimer’s.
BeNosy – Fintech developers of a form of wearable technology that provides consumers with protection against air pollution.
The competition, which took place across 10 regions in the UK, Ireland and Europe, was judged by over 50 judges of regional experts, entrepreneurs, funders, and professionals.
“The list of the top 100 innovative start-ups and scale-ups showcases the exceptional creativity that the start-up scene has to offer across the UK, Ireland and Europe,” comments James Hallahan, Director, Hays Technology UK and Ireland. “Lots of the organisations featured are doing fantastic work using tech to highlight social change and make a difference to people’s lives. We’re looking forward to supporting these organisations on their next stage of growth to help accelerate their success.”
The regions covered by the competition included the North (North East, North West and Midlands), South (South East, South West, East England), London, Ireland (covering Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), and a joint region of Scotland and Wales. This was in addition to 4 regions across Europe, including D-A-C-H and Nordics, France and BeNeLuX, Southern Europe and Centre and Eastern Europe.
The tech start-ups and scale-ups pitched their developments to innovation partners and judges at the virtual Top 100 Innovation Showcase event, which was held on 30th September 2021.
The regional judges will review all applications to decide which 10 regional winners will be invited to pitch at the Virtual Final, which is scheduled to take place on 18th November 2021. Finalists will go head-to-head to become the Super Connect for Good 2021 Overall Champion.
“We are delighted to announce the Super Connect for Good Top 100 finalists who are truly making an aggregate social impact through technology that is really changing people’s lives,” said Kosta Mavroulakis, Founder and CEO, Empact Ventures. “It has been fantastic to open the competition up to companies across Europe, and we are excited to embark on the next stages to crown our winners over the coming months, and super connect them to scale their impact.”
Alongside Hays Technology and Empact Ventures, the competition was backed by partners including Seedrs, RTC North, Linkilaw Solicitors, Red Flag Alert, Dublin BIC, Boardroom Advisors, Top Business Tech, and HealthTech World.
Each week we take a look at some of the latest finteh news stories from the UK. This week, emerchantpay finds Gen Z are more loyal to brands than Baby Boomers in its latest report, and money.co.uk predicts there will be a ‘Record number of new businesses’ as UK comes out of coronavirus lockdown.
Tesco Bank introduces Tesco Clubcard Pay+ for shoppers to save and earn Clubcard points
Shoppers can add money and ringfence their grocery spend from any UK bank account into their Tesco Clubcard Pay+ account, using the free Tesco Bank mobile banking app. Tesco Clubcard Pay+ also gives shoppers the power to save while they shop by rounding up their purchases to the nearest pound, saving the difference into a Round-Up account. Customers have so far collectively saved over £150,000 into their Round Up savings accounts.
Phase one of the launch will now continue, with capacity created for an increase in customer numbers. This will also inform further developments and additional features for Tesco Clubcard Pay+. This precedes a full launch in early 2022 when 20 million Clubcard members will be able to apply online for Tesco Clubcard Pay+.
Gerry Mallon, Chief Executive, Tesco Bank, said, “Tesco Clubcard Pay+ is a smarter way to shop and a clear demonstration of Tesco Bank’s strategy to focus on products which closely align to the needs of Tesco shoppers. Tesco Clubcard Pay+ has been designed to help customers feel more in control of their money. The innovative features will help shoppers pick up extra Clubcard Points and, at the same time, give them the confidence to start saving.”
Starling Bank launches campaign to encourage Britons to break free from traditional banking
Starling, the digital bank, has launched a new campaign produced by Wonderhood Studios, encouraging consumers to break free from their old way of banking.
The campaign, which includes one 60, two 30, three 20 second versions, launches on TV on Friday 1st October on Channel 4 and Sky, with spots in prominent shows such as Gogglebox. Sky Cinema Premiere Sponsorship will air from 8th October. It is supported by spots in VOD, cinema and digital. The media planning and buying is handled by Electric Glue. The ad shows a woman flying above a banking queue before flying freely. Another version of the 60-second advert features a family with a young child as the lead characters, taking flight and breaking free of their old bank.
Anne Boden, CEO at Starling Bank said, “When people see the campaign, we want them to feel inspired to make the change to a fairer and smarter alternative to traditional banks.”
Gen Z are more loyal to brands than Baby Boomers, emerchantpay report finds
emerchantpay’s research surveyed 2,000 UK consumers to understand the brand loyalty landscape in retail. Pubulished in its Loyalty Paradox Report, it was found that consumers across all age groups were most likely to be loyal to brands in the grocery, food, drink and supermarket industry (49%) and within this sector, Baby Boomers were the most likely to be loyal (57%). Gen Z respondents broke the trend as they were more likely to stay loyal to technology and gadgets brands (48%), with fashion, clothing and accessories brands coming in at a close second (47%) and grocery, food, drink and supermarkets at only 42%.
Baby Boomers were one of the least likely to be loyal to any brands, with nearly a quarter (23%) stating they didn’t feel loyalty to any brands whereas only 9% of millennials and 7% of Gen X consumers did not feel loyal to any brands.
emerchantpay found that payments were a huge driver in customer loyalty, with Svetlio Todorov, Managing Director at emerchantpay, stating, “Payments are essential to this frictionless customer experience, and some retailers are failing to see them as part of their loyalty strategies. Retailers are under even greater pressure to listen to their customers and understand how they want to pay. All of this means that customer loyalty will lie with the retailer that makes shopping quick, easy and intuitive whilst delivering a seamless buying experience.”
UK’s ranks with the most small businesses in Europe
Money.co.uk can reveal that the UK is home to the largest number of micro enterprises which have survived five years in Europe. The UK created a whopping 265,255 micro enterprises with one to nine employees in 2013, of which an incredible 114,590 survived five years. Although this means that the UK has a five-year survival rate for its micro enterprises of 43%, their surviving businesses more than double those of any other country.
Despite survival rates fluctuating by around 30% from the best to worst countries, money.co.uk also sought to find out which countries produced the most businesses which survived the five-year period. Turkey was second with 56,395 surviving, France third with 35,060, Italy fourth with 31,211 and Spain fifth with 28,612 surviving micro businesses. Completing the top 10 countries are: Germany, Poland, Romania, Portugal, and Slovakia, in that order.
Twenty-nine startups have been accepted onto Tramshed Tech’s twelve-week programme starting today designed to support entrepreneurs through the initial stages of building a business. The cohort will be provided with weekly workshops, peer-to-peer sessions, progress support and a large range of OnDemand video and written content.
The cohort includes Airb-Easy, MYCulture, Virtus Tech, Configur, Discovery ETS, Lattice Build Technology, Jacob’s Jobs, Venyu Limited, My Procurement, Ubookedit, RBuddie Ltd, Let’s Compare Health, T3 Naturals, Time toSleep Stories, and Soroni.
Jessica Phillips, Enterprise Innovation Manager and Academy Founder, Tramshed Tech said: “To win Incubator/Accelerator of the Year at Fintech Wales Awards last week was a fantastic achievement and a great precursor to launching the Startup Academy supported by Google for Startups this week. We have been blown away by the talent that has applied to the Startup Academy this year and we’ve seen an exciting mix of pre-start and established businesses. Wales is currently outperforming the rest of the UK in creating new business starts and we’re confident that our 2021 cohort will be great contributors to the thriving startup ecosystem in Wales.”
This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Julia McColl, Samantha Fogerty, Neha Mittal and Amelie Arras as they share with us their greatest achievement.
Julia McColl, Commercial Director at Chetwood Financial
“Firstly, this is a dauting question to tackle but in the spirit of needing more female role models in banking and fintech, I am here sharing my story.
“My greatest achievement isn’t an outcome, a thing I delivered, or something I made happen. It’s a mindset I have followed that has influenced the career decisions I’ve made to date.
“Early in my career at Lloyds Banking Group I was given some really great advice not to chase promotions, but to really focus on breadth and learn as much as I could in sideways moves. At the time it was hard to hear. We were finishing the graduate programme and the competitive side of me was urging me into the level above. Instead, I moved around different teams, fine tuning my work, understanding myself better and learning what kind of a leader I wanted to be. I figured out what was important to me.
“Years later, having been promoted into a role that I truly loved, I decided to move into consultancy. Whilst daunting to leave my friends and colleagues behind, I knew that I would learn more about myself with a sideways step.
“At Capco I found myself learning so much more than I expected. It wasn’t just the breadth of work but a whole different set of leadership challenges, including building teams from scratch and selling work they wanted to do. I knew if I wanted to try and make Partner, I would need to run bigger projects and leave behind the customer proposition work I loved. It was a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make.
“I joined Chetwood Financial as employee number one. The founders’ joke that at the time all they had was a PowerPoint presentation – and looking back it was a bigger gamble than I realised! I knew that if the worst happened – we didn’t launch our brands, receive a banking license or raise investment, I could get another job, as by moving around, I had reduced the fear around trying something new. But luckily it worked out! I’ve been at Chetwood for five years and we’ve accomplished so much. We’ve built 4 customer propositions from scratch, brought 4 brands to market, onboarded over 100 partners from aggregators to Banking as a Service partnerships, won awards and generated Trustpilot reviews that I am so proud of. Oh and raised investment, built a team of 180 people and got our banking license! Sometimes you just have to take a risk.”
Samantha Fogerty, Managing Director of Payl8r
“Never in my wildest years did I imagine I would be the MD of a finance company. My weakest subject at school was maths. And yet today I have built and now manage a multi-million fintech business. In my mind, my greatest achievement is overcoming the odds to succeed at something people told me I would fail at. Lacking natural ability in one area doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in it – it means you double down on your natural attributes until you find ways around the problem.
“At school I was energetic, confident and inquisitive. I performed well in all my exams except for maths. I really struggled at the subject, so I never imagined I would end up working in finance. In my early career I stayed away from anything that involved numbers, as I recognised my weakness.
“But just as I recognised my weaknesses, I had to acknowledge and rely on my strengths. My parents had a market stall when I was growing up, so I was brilliant at sales and dealing with people. I was great at negotiating, building relationships, motivating teams and had the drive, vision and creativity to start something from scratch and scale it for success.
“In 2016 I was approached by a really good friend of mine – Louis Alexander – to lead a new business he had formed. He already had a successful finance company under his belt, but he wanted someone to take his business plan and make it real. I scoffed at the idea initially as both he and I knew the limitations of my mental arithmetic, but eventually he persuaded me that I had the right skills to do this job, and I could see a big gap in the market for millennial finance.
“Over the past five years I’ve had to throw myself in at the deep end and upskill myself in a host of new disciplines and tasks. I’ve had to learn and understand a new industry and its regulations, mastered the art of underwriting loan applications, learned about back-end development, APIs and Iframes. I’ve learned how to build a decision engine and interpret credit bureau data, secured million-pound funding from banks and built a successful team where everyone feels valued. Payl8r won Best Retail Finance Provider at the Consumer Credit Awards last year and by 2026 I expect it to have become a £billion business. Throughout all of this I’ve never let my poor maths fail me.
“Fifteen years ago, nobody would imagine me working in finance. But believe in yourself and the rest will follow.”
Neha Mittal, CEO of Divido
“Back in 2018 when I was named one of Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35, as part of my application statement I had set out my vision ‘to revolutionise the old-school world of finance using technology over the coming years’.
“Jumping a few years on, I am now the CEO at retail finance firm Divido. This is a major personal achievement for me and a platform from which I’m in a position to really continue this mission of overcoming some of the barriers that I have experienced as a small Asian woman climbing the tall and often broken ladder set out for women in financial services.
“One way I see to revolutionise this industry is to foster inclusivity and drive diversity to bring in fresh thinking and innovation by championing those from underrepresented groups. Women are all-too-often missing from the meeting rooms and especially the board tables of financial services. I am proud to say that at Divido women make up a third of the executive team but there is still more to do.
“I have always said that ensuring your voice is heard is vital for getting on. Even if sometimes you have to shout, when a valid viewpoint comes to the fore women should always speak up. This was certainly paramount to reaching the position I am in today and I strongly encourage others to do the same.”
Amelie Arras, Marketing Director at Zumo
“One of my greatest achievements, and the one that opened my eyes to the potential of cryptocurrencies, was winning the 2017 Money 20/20 Payments Race, travelling some 2,300 miles on only bitcoin.
“The concept behind the race, now an annual competition, is that each racer must travel as extensively as possible around the world, using only one method of payment. This format shows the limitation of each payment method and demonstrates how important it is to provide choice to customers. “Back then, it was a huge challenge because hardly anyone had heard of bitcoin, so to finish the race, I had to be creative and resourceful. These are qualities that I believe are crucial in the workplace, especially in the start-up world.
“It also made me realise the power of communities, in this case the bitcoin community, which I found to be open, friendly and amazing. This makes sense, given that bitcoin was created as a way for people to work together to reclaim their financial sovereignty.
“I used social media to connect with the burgeoning crypto community in each destination, providing updates on what I was doing via Facebook and Reddit. The response was unbelievable. For example, the Denver bitcoin community picked me up from the airport and drove me to my hotel. I used the same strategy to pay for food whilst on the road, finding community members who held bitcoin, letting them buy my dinner in dollars, and then reimbursing them in bitcoin.
“This was a few years ago of course, and since then the crypto and decentralised finance space has changed. Crypto is usually only considered from an investment perspective, but it’s actually offering a wealth of use cases, such as better international trade, and a huge potential to bypass an ailing ‘traditional’ financial system and boost financial inclusion.
“I’m proud of the journey I took, and it’s also led me to my current role at Zumo, a decentralised financial platform that brings the benefits of blockchain and digital currencies to people and businesses everywhere.”
Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.
Cryptocurrency is no longer a niche investment for the technically savvy. Since Bitcoin’s launch in 2009, there have been more than 4,000 different cryptocurrencies and 250 exchanges established to cater for the digital assets’ growing popularity. It seems like only a matter of time before cryptocurrencies overtake the use of fiat currencies, but this can only happen if a larger audience uses crypto exchanges.
But how can crypto exchanges encourage new users to use their facilities? Louis Granger is the Head of Solution Consulting, EMEA at UserTesting argues this is achieved through User Experience (UX). The more accessible an exchange is the more likely it is to attract new customers who are new to the crypto scene and do not understand it very well:
It’s no secret that cryptocurrency is booming. Bitcoin launched in 2009 and a year later was worth a miniscule fraction of a penny, but by 2013 it had reached the $1,000 mark. This year, the pioneering digital currency reached record highs of almost $64,000 per coin.
With such a huge influx of money and investment in the new asset class, it’s perhaps no surprise that more than 4,000 different cryptocurrencies and 250 exchanges have sprung up over the last decade. But in such a competitive landscape, how can exchanges stand out from the crowd?
User Experience (UX): the great differentiator
Built on deeply technical concepts and processes, like decentralised peer-to-peer blockchain and open-source next generation data preservation market network, cryptocurrency was initially only popular among the most tech-savvy internet users. But as its popularity grows, so too does its target market.
It’s reported that more than 106 million people around the world have now invested in cryptocurrency. Increasingly more of these are everyday users. With thousands of options before them, how will consumers decide where to invest their money?
UX can be the great differentiator. Customers will turn to platforms and services that demystify the cryptocurrency investment journey with easily navigable apps or websites, simple language, and clear, straightforward processes.
Crypto brands are lagging behind
The technical nature of cryptocurrency required early adopters to have a deep understanding of computing and internet technologies. It attracted users with backgrounds in software, computer engineering and finance.
With the broadening demographics of crypto users, brands are facing the challenge of catering to existing, advanced audiences alongside complete beginners with limited knowledge of buying and trading cryptocurrencies. As software engineer Doug Petkanicstweeted, “Some of your users arrive with [thousands] of hours of background context, and others arrive with no context whatsoever. They almost require different products.” And this is precisely why UX is overlooked in the sector – most firms haven’t found a way to cater to both novices and experts.
Why great UX is essential
A competitive edge isn’t the only reason for great UX in the crypto space. Digital currencies are heralded by some as the future of finance, with predictions it will overtake fiat currency as soon as 2050. UX designer Flavio Lamenza says: “If Bitcoin and all the cryptocurrencies might be the future, and it’s up to us (humans) to use it, then a human-centered approach is mandatory.”
Being functional for advanced users will no longer be the only requirement; cryptocurrency platforms will need to provide a smooth, easily understandable and navigable system for consumers at every level.
Fintech challengers, particularly app-based banks like Monzo and Revolut, have revolutionised the financial services industry with radically customer-centric business models and drastic improvements in UX across all aspects, such as application processes, customer service interactions and budgeting tools. This has forced legacy banks and providers to keep up as customers, especially younger generations, have raised their UX standards. These expectations will soon be passed onto cryptocurrency platforms.
While legacy banks relied on their heritage and decades of consumer trust to maintain customer loyalty, challenger banks offered convenience and digital innovation instead. The volatile and highly technical cryptocurrency market will need to ensure UX is tailored specifically to mainstream users if it is to compete with the established financial sector.
Room for improvement
In a recent webinar, Nick Spiller, head of product design at digital bank Xapo, said, “I feel some companies seem to be afraid of testing and research in general. Product teams seem to shy away from talking to customers, perhaps in the fear they’ll poke holes in their product or suggest unfeasible improvements that will completely tear up their company roadmap.”
“Usually at start-ups there’s a sense, especially at the beginning of that company, that ‘we know what our customers want’,” continued Spiller. He believes many start-ups feel the founding team are the target market, and often skip over in-depth research to be the first to market.
But in order to build human-centred cryptocurrency experiences, brands must get into the minds of consumers through services that unlock human insight and allow companies to experience what their customers experience. Users can complete actions on a website, provide feedback on a product or prototype, or perform real-world tasks like unboxing a device and setting it up in their house – all while verbalising their thoughts and feelings – and staff can watch it first-hand. This can give cryptocurrency firms and exchanges the qualitative feedback they need to understand what it is like to be a customer–while also tapping into genuine user experiences and interactions with a product or service. By working with novices right through to experts, brands can uncover insights that will allow them to cater to a range of user types and levels.
The future of cryptocurrency
In 1995, Newsweek published predictions from American astronomer Clifford Stoll about the future of the internet. He said forecasts of “a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries” and the internet replacing a daily newspaper or CD were “baloney”.
It’s clear internet pundits have been wrong before. But if the experts are right, cryptocurrency is set to shake up global financial systems. The cryptocurrencies and associated platforms that are set to succeed in this futuristic landscape of virtual currency will be those that tap into human insights to deliver great UX.
The rise in digital currencies and crypto has caused many countries to start thinking about CBDCs and how they could be best used. This does not happen overnight and must go through various stages of testing before rolling out nationally. Project Inthanon-LionRock, organised by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Bank of Thailand (BOT) looked to design and iterate a new efficient cross-border payment infrastructure that improves on key pain points, including high cost, low speed, and operational complexities. However, the project has now evolved into mBridge following the addition of various banking institutes.
With the signing by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Bank of Thailand (BOT) of a joint memorandum of understanding (MOU) in May 2019, Project Inthanon-LionRock embarked on the first common platform for multiple CBDC settlement, corresponding to a BIS Model 3 arrangement based on a single multi-currency system. Phase 2 began with the BOT and HKMA agreeing to proceed further with joint applied technology research and cross-border fund transfer trials, in collaboration with participating banks and other relevant parties. With the joining of the BIS Innovation Hub (BISIH) Hong Kong Centre, the Digital Currency Institute (DCI) of the People’s Bank of China (PBC) and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) in February 2021, the project evolved into Phase 3 and to this effect was renamed as the mCBDC Bridge project or, in short, mBridge.
Upon completion of Phase 1, the BOT and HKMA agreed to proceed further with joint applied technology research and cross-border fund transfer trials, in collaboration with participating banks and other relevant parties. The goals were to enhance the Phase 1 prototype to support CBDCs from other jurisdictions, to continue investigating different design trade-offs, and to explore business use cases and connections to other platforms. This took the shape of Project Inthanon-LionRock Phase 2, the findings of which are summarised in the report.
The Project Inthanon-LionRock Phase 2 prototype (also referred to as the IL2 prototype) is built by ConsenSys on HyperledgerBesu. The prototype encompassed Thailand, Hong Kong and two additional jurisdictions. Participating central banks were able to control the flow of their CBDC on the prototype, monitor transactions and balances of their issued CBDC, utilise programmable levels of transaction privacy, and automate certain compliance functions.
The overall goal of the project throughout the three phases is to design and iterate a new efficient cross-border payment infrastructure that improves on key pain points, including high cost, low speed, and operational complexities.
The report looks at both the successes of Phases 1 and 2 to date and the roadmap for Phase 3 and beyond, looking at:
An overview of the project: including its background, vision and goals, whilst also looking at the scalability of the project and how it would be regulated.
Inthanon-LionRock Phase 2: looking at the speed and cost of operating the model, whilst also looking at operational considerations including deployment, security and disaster recovery.
mBridge: The evolution that took place and how Phase 3 is divided into different subcategories: the Steering committee, the Technology sub-committee, the Legal sub-committee, the Policy sub-committee, and the Business sub-committee.
BISIH wrote in the report, “There is still more work to be done developing the prototype into a production-ready solution. Within the mBridge governance structure, the subcommittees have already begun this work and will continue to build and evolve their efforts guided by the Steering Committee, chaired by the BIS. Legal, policy, governance, and business concerns are being catalogued, analysed, and prioritised for future research and development with a focus on driving to live and production usage.
“We look forward to continuing to contribute to the international dimension of this work, including by welcoming more central banks to our agile and experimentation driven journey founded on the principles of do no harm, compliance and interoperability. As milestones are achieved, further progress reports will be issued.”
Late September saw the return of the biggest Fintech event in the European Calendar: Money20/20. If you don’t know already, Money20/20 is one of the world’s leading, premium content, sales and connections platforms, with a focus on the global money ecosystem and the fintech industry. They host yearly events in Europe, Asia and the USA, that are usually well-attended by professionals from across the world of financial services.
Known for creating a multi-day event like few others, Money20/20 has received an additional boost by taking place in a physical venue, with real-life fintech professionals in attendance. After more than a year of virtual or Zoom-based events, attendees and speakers alike had a spring in their step as they took advantage of all of the benefits that face-to-face interaction offers.
Here at The Fintech Times, we have produced a short summary video from our time at the event, allowing you to get a real feel for what a Money20/20 event looks like, or to simply re-live the nostalgia.
This year’s Money20/20 Europe took place in Amsterdam from 21st – 23rd September, and welcomed over 4,000 people (many of whom are Executive or Board level) with more than 1,500 companies in attendance.
The agenda for this year’s Money20/20 was split up into a number of different themes.
The what: Creating products you can’t imagine The who: Defining a new cast The how: Developing a regenerative gene The where: Designing an intelligent environment The what next: Finding problems for solutions
Key highlights from day one of the event included:
“How do we make the point of purchase the trigger for a cascade of other, more interesting, interactions?” Part of “The what: Creating products you can’t imagine” series at Money20/20, Sanjib Kalita, Guppy CEO & Money20/20 Editor in Chief, moderated this event, which featured Daniel Marovitz, Senior Vice President, FinTech, Booking.com as the headline speaker.
This talk focused on looking at how it is possible to turn a payment, from a moment of transaction, into a long-lasting relationship. And, as the Senior Vice President at one of the largest global e-commerce companies, Daniel Marotivz was able to offer his own very unique perspective on the importance of the experience with the financial elements of their platform in building a significant relationship. Daniel also took the time to share how his organisation develops new products, whilst looking to continuously add value to the user’s experience with the platform.
Next, we had a discussion hosted by Karen Tso, Anchor, CNBC Europe, that featured Paolo Bertoluzzo, CEO at Nexi as the main speaker. In this event, they explored the question of “How do we compete in highly consolidated industries?”
Organisational and product roadmaps have to serve your business goals. How do you align them if your goal is to become the largest paytech player in Europe? With the completion of SIA acquisition, Nexi will fulfill its dream of becoming the largest payments group in Europe. Since 2016, the company has been on an ambitious journey of acquisitions and ruthless focus on becoming the largest, most specialized company in end-to-end payment management across Europe. But in payments, competition is never over. At a scale of over 2.4 million merchants and over 160 million cards managed, the CEO of Nexi is divulging the hallmarks of competition and key factors of success in one of the most crowded sectors in the financial services industry.
Finally, we looked at “What would cross-border trade with zero intermediation look like?” The speakers on this panel covered a wide range of industry areas and brought with them a wealth of experience. They included Jed Rose, General Manager for EMEA, Airwallex; Tyrone Lobban, Head of Blockchain Launch, Onyx by J.P. Morgan and Massimiliano Alvisini, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Europe, CIS &, Africa, Western Union. Ricky Knox, Chairman at ForMore, was the moderator for this event.
During this discussion, the panel explored what it would look like to remove all intermediaries from the movement of money across borders, and asked the question that, if we accept decentralised ledgers as the technological basis for cross-border payments, how do we manage risk and liability? Also up for debate was the issue of how best to adopt CeFi and DeFi, in order to remove friction and cost in doing business and facilitating payments across borders.
The second day of Money20/20 featured a bumper crop of talks, discussions, and panels, with several key headline sessions.
One of the early events taking place this morning was a discussion about Stock Exchanges, and exploring whether or not they are still relevant in the ‘new economy’. Olga Zoutendijk, Board Director, Julius Bär Group, led the discussion, and she was joined by Julia Hoggett, CEO of the London Stock Exchange plc.
During this talk, Julia Hoggett shared her vision for the ongoing purpose of one of the world’s oldest stock exchanges as a force for good in society, and on how the London Stock Exchange can manage the ongoing demands of the modern economy. Modern demands, of course, include adapting to the changing needs of issuers and investors and the fast pace of technological change. Also up for debate was ESG, and how it will drive the activities of the London Stock Exchange as a venue, and the London Stock Exchange Group as a whole, going forwards.
Later on in the morning, Karen Tso, Anchor at CNBC Europe, led a session on “How do we empower SMEs to take on the likes of Amazon?” It’s an interesting question indeed, and attempting to provide an answer to it were Adriaan Mol and Shane Happach, the Founder and CEO of Mollie Payments, respectively.
In this panel, they agreed that the task of taking on e-commerce juggernauts like Amazon isn’t one for the faint of heart. With the hindsight of what led to the creation of Amazon, they set out how Mollie Payments has the foresight to what the next stage for SMEs should look like. They also tried to explore what have we solved for, and what is it we haven’t yet.
One of the final headline sessions of the day saw Shola Akinlade, the Co-Founder & CEO of Paystack, outline how you can build local infrastructure and, at the same time, take it global. Hugo Amsellem, VP, Creator Accelerator, Jellysmack, moderated this talk.
Shola’s company, Paystack, is a growth engine for a new generation of innovative, forward-looking organizations operating in Africa, with an ambition to build a pan-African payments infrastructure. Shola explained how he is looking to expand the company’s horizons beyond the home market, and how Paystack is capitalising on African payment infrastructure opportunities and building innovative solutions that not only contribute to increasing regional online GDP but are scalable beyond their home markets too.
The third and final day of Money20/20 was action-packed, with a number of must-see headline sessions bringing the week to a conclusion.
There were two key headline sessions taking place. First up, there was an intriguing question up for discussion: “How do we get from the hearts to the wallets of the fan economy?” Debating this topic were Adam Pearsall, Founder of +QNTMPAY, Gareth Dunsmore, Chief Marketing Officer, McLaren Automotive, and Nigel Verdon, CEO & Co-Founder at Railsbank.
We all know about the infectious passion that fans put into supporting brands they love. However, it is an energy that the financial services industry perhaps isn’t yet harnessing. Working for McLaren, Gareth was able to offer his opinion on how it may be possible to marry the magic of F1 with finance and, in the process, build unbreakable bonds between fans and brands they love. Carla Buzasi, President and CEO at WGSN moderated this discussion, which formed a part of the Money20/20 agenda theme called “The what: creating products you can’t imagine.”
Next up, there was a discussion based around a recurring topic: “What role should banks play in the financial services industry of the future?” The lead speaker for this event was Ana Botín, Executive Chairwoman at Santander Group and PagoNxt. Santander has recently spun out PagoNxt, an autonomous technology company that comprises their payments businesses. In conversation with Karen Tso from CNBC, Ana shared her vision for the future of Santander and the strategy behind the creation of PagoNxt and their ambitious expansion plans.
Also up for discussion were the macro trends in European regulation. Ana believes that sweeping reforms are needed to support financial institutions and their recovery from the recent economic downturn. This riveting session was part of the Money20/20 agenda theme called “The how: developing a regenerative genre.”
All good things, of course, must come to an end. And sadly, so does Money20/20. Alongside the interesting sessions, thought-provoking questions and sparkling debate, Gina Clarke, the Editor-in Chief of The Fintech Times managed to catch up with Tracey Davies, President of Money20/20. In a video interview, the pair discussed producing a European event during the pandemic, and what little surprises Tracey had worked into the agenda this year.
While Money20/20 Europe is now over, there will be more to come throughout the year as it re-emerges this October in Las Vegas as Money20/20 USA. You can catch more upcoming content from The Fintech Times and the Money20/20 team during the event.
Haven Technologies is an advanced insurtech platform for the life, fixed annuities and disability industries. Backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), the newly launched Haven Technologies will leverage a SaaS model to make their solutions available to carriers.
The modern, cloud-native platform is built around four main parts: new business, underwriting, policy administration and actuarial. Taken together, the platform offers an advanced solution and enables faster set-ups, easier integrations, enhanced visibility and customisation for insurance carriers. While Haven Technologies has the ability to support the life, fixed annuities and disability industries, potential early client partners include property and casualty insurers with life books, mid-size life carriers, and private equity and others who have acquired large blocks of closed business.
While now available to other carriers for the first time, the software that Haven Technologies offers has been the platform behind Haven Life’s direct-to-consumer term life, disability and annuities insurance products for the past six years. Haven Technologies also now helps to power MassMutual’s core advisor-driven life insurance business, where it offers an end-to-end digital solution to create a better digital experience for its advisors and customers across distribution channels and products. In 2020, Haven Technologies also helped MassMutual condense its new product development timeline to just three weeks in order to launch HealthBridge, its online free term life insurance offering for covid-19 frontline healthcare workers and volunteers.
“The life, annuities and disability industries have gone as long as they can relying on legacy technology, whether that’s outdated homegrown platforms or a patchwork of vendor solutions. It’s time they stop running on fumes and start transforming to deliver a seamless digital experience, reform complex advisor driven businesses, and launch new products with speed,” said Yaron Ben-Zvi, CEO of Haven Technologies. “We are eager to partner and build hand-crafted relationships with the most forward-thinking carriers in order to do just that.”
While Haven Technologies is wholly owned by MassMutual, the company will operate independently, including having its own Board of Directors, business goals and objectives, corporate functions, and an independent technology footprint.
“Over the past few years, and as a result of using the Haven Technologies platform to power our digital offering, we’ve seen an improved customer experience, faster time-to-issue of policies and increased ease of doing business for advisors. That’s translated into substantial cost savings across new business activities as well as legacy blocks of business we’ve migrated over,” said Gareth Ross, Head of Enterprise Technology and Experience at MassMutual. “Because of this, we are quickly moving to consolidate 100% of our new and legacy life business onto a single platform, something we would have thought impossible just a few years ago. This will help us stay ahead of the technology transformation happening in the industry.”
Haven Life, the digital life insurance agency founded in 2015 and wholly owned by MassMutual, will continue to be a direct-to-consumer life insurance agency. Current policyholders, applicants, and partners will experience no changes, and policies will continue to be underwritten and issued by MassMutual and its various subsidiaries.
The formation of a strategic partnership between CreditOnline, the Lithuanian creator of alternative financing platforms, and the attorney office exe.legal will provide integrated solutions to crowdfunding service providers.
The Lithuanian creator of alternative financing platforms CreditOnline and the attorney office exe.legal have together signed a strategic partnership agreement to provide integrated solutions to crowdfunding service providers. This one-stop-shop of legal and technology services is expected to help the crowdfunding market expand its business in the EU.
The formation of this partnership is a direct response to the changes to crowdfunding regulation in the European Union.
Beginning November 10th, 2021, the European Parliament and European Council regulation on European crowdfunding business service providers will come into power. It will bring fundamental changes to the EU’s crowdfunding market. From the aforementioned date, a company with a crowdfunding licence in any EU country will be able to offer crowdfunding services across the EU.
This means that crowdfunding companies established and licensed in countries like Lithuania will be able to serve the entire EU market.
As explained by Dr. Paulius Astromskis, the Head of the Attorney Office at exe.legal, the favourable Lithuanian business environment and the growing reputation of Lithuania as the EU’s fintech centre could help the country attract new crowdfunding market players who would develop their business from Lithuania.
“Lithuania holds 11th place of 190 countries in the global Doing Business ranking,” Paulius explains. “This means that, in general, we can offer especially favourable business conditions to companies that want to build their business in Lithuania.
“Furthermore, Lithuania has markedly improved its reputation as Europe’s fintech centre over the past few years, with an ideal ecosystem and high-quality oversight. Due to these and a myriad of other reasons, the new crowdfunding market regulations could be especially favourable for Lithuania.”
According to Juozas Rupšys, the Founder and Head of CreditOnline, Lithuania has deep traditions in creating alternative financing platforms.
“As of late, platforms created in our county have been touted as some of the best in the world. For example, the financing solutions created by CreditOnline have appeared among the top 10 best platforms on the prestigious GoodFirms ranking,” Juozas comments. “In addition, one of the world’s leading service, product and software review websites, Digital.com included CreditOnline among its Top 20 global loan servicing software creators.
“Furthermore, the rapid growth of the crowdfunding market in Lithuania shows that our specialists know how to grow this business niche. Lithuanian banking figures indicate that in the first half of this year, crowdfunding platform operators formed a third more contracts than over the entirety of 2020, and the combined value of financed projects has also grown by a third.
“One of the reasons for such growth lies in how both Lithuania and the entire Eurozone have seen citizen savings fluctuate around the historical maximum and so, people are actively seeking means of effectively employing their savings. For example, just in Lithuania, the citizens’ banking deposits increased by around €4 billion since the beginning of the covid pandemic, reaching €19.4 billion. Similar trends also prevail in other Eurozone countries. Thus, the new regulations will open up new opportunities for these investors to invest, for project developers to receive necessary financing and for crowdfunding platforms to facilitate the aforementioned parties’ deal-making.”
The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia witnessed the highest adoption of contactless payments through Near-Field Communication (NFC) with 94%, the highest in the Middle East and North Africa, above of the European Union average, and ahead of Hong Kong and Canada.
SAMA clarified the kingdom’s successful adoption of contactless payments is part of the Saudi Central Bank’s strategy, which builds on the goals of the Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 that aims to reduce cash transactions while raising electronic payments to 70% of all transactions by 2025. To achieve these goals, the Saudi Central Bank has fully adopted NFC payments since 2016, taking strategic steps to authorise and facilitate ePayment transactions after ensuring the highest level of security in accordance with international standards and best practices.
The Saudi Central Bank further indicated that the relevant infrastructure supporting NFC payments has been deployed through close collaboration with Saudi Payments, payment services providers, and banks to provide unified, interoperable specifications that make these transactions within everyone’s reach. These operations included overhauling the national payment ecosystem and replacing all bank cards and Point-Of-Sale terminals as well as ensuring that all devices endorse the technology.
A number of key initiatives that paved the way for the rapid adoption of contactless payments in Saudi Arabia included the Saudi Central Bank’s decision increasing the NFC transaction limit from SAR100 to SAR300, and enabling payment through smart devices, as well as the National Anti-Concealment program’s decision urging all commercial activities to install POS terminals. This is in addition to the awareness efforts to introduce NFC payments to the public and resolve misconceptions regarding the security of such transactions.
The Saudi Central Bank also indicated that public transport projects and the Riyadh Metro project will adopt NFC in their payment operations, in a step that will align the Saudi public transport system with the latest payments technologies.
The announcement of Saudi Arabia’s ranking in contactless payments adoption was first made in a whitepaper published by Saudi Payments, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), in partnership with Visa, the world leader in digital payments. The whitepaper, titled ‘NFC Contactless adoption in Saudi Arabia 2020’, covered NFC penetration in the European Union (80%), Hong Kong (79%) and Canada (76%), besides MENA, where Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates had an 81% adoption rate.
Morey Haber,Chief Technology Officer & Chief Information Security Officer at BeyondTrust, shares his thoughts on rethinking fintech security through the lens of Zero Trust.
I recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by The Fintech Times on the subject of why financial organisations require a zero-trust approach. I felt this was a thoughtful and productive session, and encourage you to check out the recordinghere. In this blog, I want to build on some thoughts I shared via my recent article (Why Zero Trust for Fintech, & Why Now?), and also expand on a concept that arose during the webinar, a Common Office Environment (COE) for zero trust.
Momentum in Fintech toward Zero Trust
As is now widely recognized, the global pandemic has sparked an era of aggressive digital transformation and vastly increased the proportion of remote working. As a consequence, the threat surface greatly expanded and new attack vectors have emerged. These developments essentially created momentum for embracing a zero trust model; a concept that had been much talked about for the past 5-10 years, but is only now being pervasively adopted.
Zero trust environments are set up to deny or distrust (rather than trust) by default. Authentication is granted dynamically, based on many contextual triggers and data sources, on a per session basis and behaviour is continuously analysed. In this setting, trust is no longer binary, but requires input from multiple trust sources that coalesce in an ecosystem to grant/or deny access. And any access granted is only finite–not open-ended. Segmentation and micro segmentation are also applied to further restrict lateral movement and restrict data bleed from one environment into another.
While financial services have traditionally been more risk-averse to going to cloud, the pull of digital transformation and the necessity of zero trust to enable work-from-anywhere will accelerate adoption. A zero-trust environment will help fintech:
Improve remote access security and securely enable work-from-anywhere and BYOD-heavy environments.
Reduce risk from ransomware, malware, and other threat vectors.
Document access regardless of source to ensure the activity was appropriate
Ensure more robust and seamless authentication between B2B. For instance, one organisation granting privilege from a foreign organisation without instantiating in their own directory services.
Consideration of a Zero Trust COE for Fintech
One topic that emerged during the panel session was the idea of a Zero Trust Common Office Environment. A COE refers to the common features, technology, consumables, and security present in an office environment, and can vary based on company and vertical. This can include everything from desks, staplers, printers, cameras, paper, pens, computers, and software. When we consider that an office is not the only location to conduct work, we realise very quickly that our COE for security has changed.
While the primary enterprise security controls once were firewalls, intrusion prevention, network segmentation, and wired network security, these are insufficient to manage technology in a modern COE. Organisations must adapt their COE security controls to home networks, and even public WiFi. Furthermore, security for a modern COE should adhere to the foundational principles of zero trust to remove the perimeter and network security controls from being the primary method used to secure resources.
What is emerging is a modern security COE that embraces the cloud for device and identity management. This also eliminates:
The need to utilise VPN for every remote employee/session
The redesign of security management solutions to make them available via a DMZ and potentially exposed to the Internet
High-risk Internet-exposed services like remote access, log management, and other policy services.
One of the most powerful foundational technologies to lean into during this journey is Privileged Access Management (PAM). PAM perfectly supports zero trust and enables a digital transformation across multiple, diverse use cases—from protecting human/machine privileged credentials to enforcing least privilege across all endpoints, applications, and systems, to securing all privileged sessions—whether on-premises or remote, employee, or vendor.
With all the above said, zero trust cannot be readily adapted to every area of a fintech IT environment. For instance, some legacy technologies require secure networking technologies to operate and may not fit with zero trust. PCI zones also don’t adapt well to zero trust since they rely heavily on the network for security and fixed security zones. Moreover, financial services/fintech organisations embracing cryptocurrencies may need to plan for a significant investment if they seek to overlay zero trust controls since there truly is no perimeter for these transactions.
Simply put, you need to understand that some cloud solutions, products, and tools will adopt more easily to zero trust than others. For example, a cloud-based solution that does not use local agents on endpoints will be more difficult to monitor for appropriate behaviour, ensure secure communications, and provide authorization at a granular level as compared to something implemented with agents that can extend functionality to cover the tenets of zero trust. As an example, agents can inherently go deeper into a resource than using external API’s, but agents require more maintenance and overhead to implement. This is a tradeoff when deciding on your zero trust design and implementation.
In addition, not all cloud solutions are built with security in mind. Communications, log storage and forwarding, etc. can all hinder the ability to meet zero trust principles.
A COE is a valuable model to establish a baseline for the operations in an office environment and employees working remotely. In the last two years, the COE has changed significantly due to the impact of COVID-19 and initiatives like digital transformation. Establishing the cloud as a baseline for any new technology to be deployed is a sound decision that can accommodate fintech workers operating anywhere and provide an on-ramp for enabling zero trust. All financial organisations should consider adopting zero trust. However, you should consider how your COE must change to make zero trust a reality for your environment.
Morey J. Haber is Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored three Apress books: Privileged Attack Vectors, Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors.
This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Ivy Lu, Leslie Thomason, Roxanne Hererra, and Nathalie Miller as they share with us their greatest achievement in the industry.
Ivy Lu, Chief Data Scientist at Oxygen
“I consider being named ‘Chief Data Scientist’ and the only female member of the executive team at Oxygen at such an early point in my career to be my greatest achievement. It has not always been easy, and I’m proud that other women have looked to me for inspiration. It’s a major reason why I volunteer and mentor younger female engineers, scientists and technologists. I want to encourage them to continue to pursue their passions. I personally know the joy and satisfaction that comes from pursuing passions.
“I’m also proud to be part of a startup environment at Oxygen reimagining personal and business banking for the ‘new economy.’ I come from very large organisations (Apple, CapitalOne) and I enjoy being part of a startup team that we believe is really addressing what we perceive as structural problems in financial services. It’s exciting to start at basically zero in so many aspects where you can imagine ‘what if’ instead of just focusing on incremental improvements. It’s truly an opportunity to make a difference in the world and from the ground floor.
“Since I have a passion for mentorship and encouraging women in tech, I am honoured at the opportunity to take on an executive role and ensure my direct reports are receiving mentorship and engagement opportunities to really take their lives to the next level. I have been fortunate to have mentors along the way that have inspired me to reach higher levels of achievement and I have a strong desire to do the same for others.
“Finally, as Chief Data Scientist, I have the opportunity and responsibility to build a data-driven culture across our entire organisation, a key component to building the financial platform for the 21st-century economy. Because of advances in AI and data-sharing, leading through data and AI will be a critical component in engagement and overall success in financial services and I am humbled to be able to lead that effort.”
Leslie Thomason, Director of Client Success at Paymerang
Over the past eleven years, Leslie Thomason has been integral to Paymerang as the company has grown from ten employees to 200. Leslie has done it all at Paymerang, from singlehandedly calling vendors and processing payments, to now being the Director of Client Success and managing a team that provides world-class customer service.
Leslie originally came from a customer service background, so she had all the tools and experience necessary to build Paymerang’s Client Success team. Leslie streamlined the implementation process, created a vertical-specific account management structure, and made client relationship building her team’s priority.
Asking an organisation to change one of its most important processes, Accounts Payable, is no easy feat. Leslie realises this and has structured the customer experience to be accommodating, delicate and efficient. She has made it her mission to ensure Paymerang’s clients feel at ease and cared for.
Success is often viewed as the final product. Leslie has shown that while results are important, the challenges you face along the way and lessons you learn are what develop your character. Being a female in FinTech and holding a leadership position is highly admirable. Leslie has become a role model for women within the organisation based on her positivity, perseverance, and determination.
When asked what she would say to the next generation of emerging female leaders at Paymerang, she responded “I look forward to seeing Paymerang’s continued development of its female leaders. As we experience tremendous growth, I’m excited to see the increased opportunities as more roles are developed.”
Roxanne Hererra, Director of Corporate Development at Camino Financial
“Last year, I received a Key Contributor award during the pandemic as I led Schwab’s Community Development Lending portfolio. As I think back about the evolution of my career, I remember setting my first goal of becoming my high school’s valedictorian. I wanted to serve as a role model for other Latinas in my community and during this time, I completed my Associate of Arts degree. I then transferred some of these credits to USC where I double majored in Economics and Business Administration.
“My goal setting literally opened doors not only for myself but also for other Latinas who often reach out with ‘doubts’ about belonging. I encourage them to be a part of a future with ‘women thriving in a more just and equitable world’ to help drive impactful, exponential change together as one. This is why I currently help mentor an underrepresented Latina college student through the Peninsula College Fund. During undergrad, my diligence and participation in the career preparation program Management Leadership for Tomorrow, led to an internship at Goldman Sachs in New York that exposed me to a career in Finance. I also took part in the Summer Venture in Management program at Harvard Business School, which sparked my interest in graduate school. This is why I continue to volunteer and participate in local programs centred on helping provide access to information/mentorship for underrepresented communities.”
Nathalie Miller, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Ascend
“My greatest achievement is figuring out how to surround myself with true teammates–and I mean this in all aspects of life. Earlier in life I would gravitate towards people who were sparkling and charismatic and inspiring in many ways, but that often came with large egos and stressful politics.
“This, of course, gets difficult. So I made a conscientious shift to seek out people who uplift.
“Recently I have been lucky to work with leaders and teams that have big hearts, empathy, and humility to match their skills and brains. The older I get, the more these traits matter to me. There’s nothing like collaborating with people who value and uplift you because they understand that this culture will ultimately benefit the team. And because they understand that this is just a nice way to be.
“Similarly, on the personal side I am grateful that I found a true life partner. I think this is particularly crucial for professional women, as household and family responsibilities are traditionally so gendered–what Arlie Hochschild called the “second shift” of duties that typically fall disproportionately on women. But it’s different for Isaak and me. When I needed to step back from paid work to do the unpaid work of caring for our babies and building our family, he stepped up professionally. When my dad was in the hospital, he showed up bedside to caretake in equal measure as I did. And now my baby is Ascend, as our company is in its earliest stages, so when I’m needed more at work Isaak keeps our household stable and functioning, making sure hair is braided and teeth are brushed. He does all of this happily and without fuss.
“I don’t take any of this for granted. It’s incredibly lucky when you connect with people that understand that collaboration isn’t just working together. That’s the bare minimum. True collaboration–the kind that lasts and the kind that wins–is when people care about each other. When you love each other and the project you’re working on enough to pick up slack and then ask for help and then do it all over again.”
Lloyd Wahed met with David Jarvis, Founder and CEO of Griffin on the latest Searching for Mana podcast where they discussed the challenges of being the fintech’s OS for embedded finance.
Griffin is building a Banking as a Service (BaaS) platform to support the fintech ecosystem, and as a new player it can look forward rather than having to be slowed by legacy. The best supplier is one that enables you to do what you do best, and that will support you with an expertise that you don’t have and don’t need to have. Businesses rely on complex services that they cannot possibly always be experts in.
Finance, Technology, Recruitment, Law and so many other fields of specialist knowledge can be bought as a service that is leading-edge, compliant, cost-effective and user friendly. That is what Griffin is bringing to the rapidly expanding and entrepreneurial world of fintech. They enable fintech’s through operating solutions for embedded finance. They build the tech stack and create the products and services their clients will need. For every solution, they create there is a product to be defined and marketed externally.
David shares with us that Griffin can look forward in order to build what clients will need, not what they have needed, so new operators hit the ground running with Griffin solutions. Driving this is a team of experts, constantly building their intellectual property and domain expertise, tech nerds and professionals with authorisation experience.
From there, the conversation dives into David’s background and how he grew up partly in Japan, UK and US, and how he learnt about finance from his father and how that world works in those different cultures. We learn about the family’s strong work ethic and the entrepreneurial streak that David reflects on. He became an analyst, who learnt to code and went on to become a software engineer in Silicon Valley with the likes of Airbnb and CircleCI. He has added to this background the ability to define a vision based on his view of how the middleware market can be better and he has the energy and intellect to drive a solutions business, build a team and attract the funding they need. David has taken full advantage of a favourable environment in the UK to build a banking business and looks set to change the world of Banking as a service.
The Asian digital assets financial services platform Matrixport has formed a partnership with and MetaOpus to offer NFT investors best in class custody solutions.
MetaOpus, an asset issuance and trading platform, is powered by BlockCreateArt (BCA) Network. With this partnership, Matrixport will provide institutional-grade storage and protection measures for high-net-worth, institutional and retail investors.
The NFT-tailored services include secure custody, top-auction house consignment, and on and offline exhibition curation. Matrixport will also provide institutional custody solutions for assets of Vulcan DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation), Asia’s first DAO-based art fund, including CyptoPunks, Meebits, and Great Mercy Universe amongst other NFT assets.
Speaking on their partnership with MetaOpus, John Ge, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Matrixport said, “We are witnessing strong demand from crypto investors for new pathways to invest and manage their wealth. The partnership with MetaOpus reflects our commitment to meet such evolving demands in a secure and trusted manner.”
MetaOpus is an NFT marketplace curated with the best creators around the world to empower the future of art and collectibles for the metaverse. It provides a range of supporting services such as secure hosting, top auction house delivery, online and offline curation for high-net-worth NFT holders and institutions.
“With NFT sales volume reaching $2.5 billion in the first half of this year, the market represents unparalleled opportunities for yield generation. We want to enable our customers to unlock even greater value from their crypto through new, innovative avenues,” added Ge.
As the fastest growing crypto platform in Asia, Matrixports exponential growth has been driven by robust technology capabilities, best-in-class security standards, and innovative product offerings, such as its first-mover products ETH 2.0 Staking and BTC-U Range Sniper. Based in Singapore, Matrixport has over $10 billion in assets under management and custody, with $5 billion in monthly transaction volume.
InvestaX has announced the outcome of ‘Project e-VCC’, which examined the technological, legal, and practical feasibility of tokenising the Singapore Variable Capital Company (VCC) using a blockchain native structure.
Through this proof-of-concept (PoC), industry participants were able to determine the lifecycle and workflow processes for efficiencies gained using an e-VCC, and the key considerations for potential tradability of such e-VCC securities on exchanges like InvestaX.
The project also explored VCC fund shares issued directly on either a permissionless/public blockchain or a permissioned/private blockchain. It also compared the benefits of a blockchain native security token design (“one-tier”) as opposed to a tokenised security (“two-tier”) design.
Globally recognised UBS, State Street, PwC Singapore, and CMS brought together practical industry insights across the fund value chain, and in particular, where the use of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) could enable new market opportunities and operating models. The Tezos Foundation and Hashstacs Pte Ltd. (STACS) provided support as public and private blockchain protocol providers, respectively, for the PoC.
InvestaX was awarded the PoC grant in September 2020, which provides funding support for experimentation, development, and dissemination of nascent innovative technologies in the financial services sector. The PoC grant is part of the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme under the Financial Sector Development Fund administered by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
InvestaX is a digital securities investment and trading platform licensed by the MAS for offering end-to-end solutions for the issuance, trading, and custody of digital securities for real estate, private equity, and other alternative investments.
InvestaX is an early pioneer in the use of blockchain technologies, and works with both issuers as well as investors to use DLT to develop technology-driven investment vehicles and products to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and transparency, remove friction, and facilitate secondary market trading in private capital markets.
“We are thrilled to have collaborated with UBS, State Street, CMS Holborn Asia, PwC Singapore as well as our blockchain partners Tezos and STACS on this groundbreaking initiative to bring efficiencies to the fund investment and management industry,” comments InvestaX’s CEO, Julian Kwan. “These funds in the real estate, private equity, and venture capital world, typically suffer from a lack of liquidity, high barriers to entry, and are burdened with paper-based processes that add to the costs of this competitive industry. By tokenising the VCC, we hope to support Singapore’s ambition of becoming the world’s fund management center as well as the hub for capital markets innovations.”
The PoC determined that in a one-tier approach, record keeping of fund interests, traditionally done by a transfer agent, can now be executed via DLT.
Matt Nortcliff, Partner and Head of Funds (APAC) at law firm CMS, said, “This is a timely and important project and we were delighted that InvestaX invited us to contribute our funds, tech and VCC expertise to the POC. With the ever-increasing pace of digital disruption, the law often has to play catch-up; this is both a challenge and an opportunity for Singapore. Projects such as this POC are tremendously important in demonstrating that embracing and championing tokenised fund structures can be a positive step for Singapore and the asset management industry at large.”
Project e-VCC also led to the conclusion that there is nothing explicit in Singapore’s existing laws prohibiting the issuance of blockchain-native securities. Such securities would come under the purview of digital tokens that constitute capital market products and be regulated under the Securities and Futures Act. However, the potential application of stamp duty was identified as a hurdle that must be addressed in order to enable the secondary trading of e-VCC shares.
The commencement of a project to develop a blockchain-based insurance prototype has been announced by the open-source, decentralised insurance protocol and ecosystem Etherisc, in partnership with the Blockchain Competence Centre Mittweida (BCCM) at Mittweida University of Applied Sciences.
The aim of this joint project is to provide refined alternatives to traditional insurance policies by leveraging decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Ultimately, this combination seeks to streamline and automate the process of insurance assessment and payment.
Both parties involved in the project aim to create a fair and sustainable model that can significantly reduce premiums and distribute profits regionally for charitable purposes.
Commenting on the announcement, Christoph Mussenbrock, Co-founder of Protocol and Architecture at Etherisc, said, “We’re excited to be working with some of the brightest minds in the academic blockchain space. Traditional insurance models are characterised by cumbersome claims and payout processes, low levels of transparency, conflicts of interest, and low payout amounts. Through this enterprise and academic partnership, we seek to overcome these challenges through the development of an entirely new blockchain insurance platform. This harbours the immense potential for consumers in the region and beyond to benefit from truly innovative insurance products and policies.”
Etherisc and Mittweida University of Applied Sciences are collaborating on an initial proof-of-concept and pilot test, followed by the development of a final prototype for a fully-fledged decentralised insurance solution.
DAOs, AI, and machine learning will reportedly all be incorporated into the final prototype, and it’s forecast that the use of these technologies and frameworks will reduce administrative costs, enable scalability for products, and provide transparency for consumers.
The use of a DAO enables direct customer participation in product design and control decisions. In conjunction with this, the project is also set to include an AI component that will determine the risk of an occurring claim, aiding in better-designed policies and faster payout processes.
Professor Andreas Ittner, Head of BCCM at Mittweida University of Applied Sciences, commented, “Etherisc has an inspirational vision to make insurance fair and accessible through a decentralised open-source insurance protocol and we are excited to bring our expertise to bear in the development of a joint product. Together with Etherisc, we are exploring methods to incorporate the latest technological developments and harness the potential of blockchain technology to create meaningful insurance solutions for the benefit of all consumers.”
The cross-industry financial services membership body The Investing and Saving Alliance (TISA), has completed the proof-of-concept phase of its Digital Identity Programme to assess the viability of its new Digital Identity system.
This phase of testing saw the Digital Identity Programme experience real-life user journeys, including using a digital identity to open a new account. It’s reported that 84% of participants successfully used the service to open an account, demonstrating how the Digital Identity System would practically improve the onboarding rates for financial services whilst simultaneously reducing associated AML costs.
The objective of TISA’s project is to create a Digital Identity that allows consumers to securely identify themselves to Financial Institutions. This can then be used when applying for financial products and services, such as opening a new bank account, transferring a pension, or applying for a mortgage. In this way, financial services providers can easily verify and then authenticate a customer’s Digital Identity. The Digital Identity is controlled by the user and works across multiple organisations.
The testing phase included building and implementing a test platform. Financial services such as Fidelity, MoneyHub, and Profile Pension tested the connection with identity providers, such as the Post Office, Yoti, Digidentity, and Ardent. Identity providers create, maintain, and manage identity information.
Whilst 84% of users were able to successfully use a Digital Identity to apply for financial products and services, TISA also discovered that consumers were open to setting up and using a Digital Identity in the future. The figures show how 80% of those who tested wanted to use their Digital Identity to access their products following set up, and found it easy and straightforward to do so.
Customer experience was improved through the reduced cost of opening a bank account and reduced risk due to better fraud notification capabilities. Consumers also found that the range of products available to them increased due to digital product innovation. The financial service industry found it quicker and more cost-effective to onboard customers through digital identity. Like consumers, digital identity reduced the risk of fraud due to robust fraud controls. They also found it resulted in a more effective know your customer (KYC) process, further improving consumer experiences.
Harry Weber-Brown, Digital Innovation Director at TISA said, “It’s really exciting to see all the benefits that this phase of testing has bought to consumers, including reduced costs and a wider range of services. Consumers feel really comfortable in using digital identify because of the reduced risk of fraud and the financial service industry is also benefiting from this. After the success of the proof-of-concept phase we’re really looking forward to the “Live Pilot” phase, which will bring us one step closer to the wider role out of our world-class Digital ID scheme.”
Barclaycard Payments has launched a new FX integrated payment solution ‘Barclaycard Multicurrency’ in collaboration with Barclays Corporate and Investment Bank.
‘Barclaycard Multicurrency’ enables eCommerce customers to accept payments in a wide variety of currencies with settlement into Sterling, Euro, or US Dollars using a pre-determined fixed FX rate.
As eCommerce continues to grow, the opportunities to expand to new markets also increase. Barclaycard Multicurrency allows businesses to accept payments from cardholders in their local currency, then automatically converts the funds and settles the payment in either Sterling, Euro, or US Dollars, using a locked-in rate.
Barclaycard Multicurrency allows eCommerce customers to expand their global reach by accepting multicurrency payments using a pre-determined rate. The offer builds on, and is set to replace, Barclaycard’s existing Multicurrency Settlement Solution (MSS); which has previously been made available to all corporate payments clients.
The newly-enhanced product provides simplicity, convenience, and transparency for consumers through pricing in their local currency. It also offers eCommerce customers a host of additional benefits including:
Locked-in FX rates: Customers can protect their Barclaycard Multicurrency transactions against FX risk with pre-determined rates for 1 or 7 days, with mid-rates published before the trading period commences, which enables easier management of cash flows.
Ease of Integration: The Barclaycard platform has existing, built-in functionality that means if currency payments are acquired by Barclaycard, Multicurrency can be switched on with no additional integration. As integration processes can be lengthy, the enhanced product saves customers valuable time.
Improved Rates: Existing customers have the potential to benefit from an efficiency saving by using internal Barclays’ reference rates.
Speaking on the launch of Barclaycard Multicurrency, Paul Adams, Head of Product at Barclaycard Payments, said, “Selling abroad opens up exciting opportunities for businesses large and small – from growing their sales, to new markets and revenue streams.
“Barclaycard Multicurrency makes it easy for consumers to see prices and pay in their own currency, helping eCommerce businesses drive sales while protecting themselves from FX risk with locked-in rates. By the end of the year, we expect our existing corporate clients with FX requirements to be using the new service.”
As the rate of women entrepreneurs across Sub-Saharan Africa continues to rise, Visa is expanding its global ‘She’s Next’ initiative to empower women entrepreneurs on the continent, bringing practical insights and valuable tools needed to grow and advance their businesses.
The initiative comprises a series of programs giving women entrepreneurs access to insights via research and engagement with small businesses, private and public sector communities and educational resources. ‘She’s Next’, empowered by Visa, will also bring networking opportunities in partnership with She Leads Africa; a community of over 700 0000 women entrepreneurs, and lastly financial support and solutions to enable digital capability.
To coincide with the launch, Visa has unveiled new research titled “Understanding Women Owned SMEs”, which explores the role of technologies including digital payments in enabling the business success of female entrepreneurs in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. The research highlights the top business challenges experienced by women entrepreneurs in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, the impact of covid-19 on these businesses and how digital payments have accelerated business growth in over 80% of the businesses surveyed.
“According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs in the world, with 26% starting and managing a business on the continent in the last year. We aim to encourage and enable even more participation of women in driving the economy, through our She’s Next initiative,” says Aida Diarra, Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at Visa. “Our research shows that female-led businesses face unique challenges throughout their entrepreneurial journey, and we are committed to helping these business owners across Africa to identify opportunities for growth.”
Visa Survey: African Women Entrepreneurs
The World Bank sites Africa as home to 8 of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world, a market ripe with opportunity and enabled by woman-owned businesses. Key findings from the Visa survey include:
Top business challenges: Lack of technological infrastructure, economic fluctuations and a regulatory environment were highlighted as the top business challenges for women entrepreneurs in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya.
Digital payments accelerate business growth: The impact of introducing digital payments for businesses is positive, but the study shows room for improvement in adoption. 83% of respondents that did adopt digital payments experienced an improvement in revenue.
eCommerce: Over 50% of women-owned SMEs in Nigeria and Kenya have an eCommerce presence with a high likelihood of offering customers an option to pay online. At least 7 out of 10 women expect their customers use of eCommerce platforms to increase after the pandemic.
Supporting Growth of Small Businesses across the Globe
As one of the largest electronic payment networks in the world, Visa provides products, services and programs that go beyond payment tools to deliver the value of Visa’s network by helping small businesses to be more competitive today and in the future. Visa believes that economies that include everyone, uplift people everywhere and it focuses every day on enabling access to digital commerce for both buyers and sellers. For small businesses, Visa is taking steps to address the access gap and be a payments network that truly works for everyone.
So far, Visa has digitally enabled 16 million small and micro businesses (SMBs) worldwide, just over 30% of the multi-year goal it set in 2020 to digitise 50 million SMBs. The Visa Foundation also announced $3,500,000million in funding to organisations across Sub-Saharan Africa that support small and micro businesses (SMBs). This funding includes grants and impact investments; to programs that provide SMBs with training, support services and access to capital, with a gender-inclusive and diverse lens.
Passwords have kept our data safe for years, as traditionally, they have been the sole form of authentication to give a user access to information, and protect it from unwelcome eyes. However, this single form of protection is no longer enough as hackers are becoming more competent and skilful. 81% of data breaches have occurred due to stolen or weak passwords, begging the question, is there a better way of protecting one’s data?
Alexandre Vasconcelos is the Director of Pre Salesat Sikur. Vasconcelos argues that it is time for passwords to be abandoned in favour of other types of encryption and that passwordless authentication is the way to ensure security measures are able to work effectively. Alongside better protection, the user experience will be improved as authentication becomes seamless he says:
FinTech’s are born to be fast and satisfy client’s specific needs, heavily using technology to boost their operations and deliver services like payment accounts, small credit, insurance, and more. They must be agile, closer to customers.
On the flip side, Traditional Banks are doing their best to reinvent themselves. Trying to be (or, at least, look) cool for the new clients, who are more conscious about how to invest their money.
What a nice fight:
In the right corner: the Traditional Banks, with lots of resources, several clients, rock-solid brand, but slow, with tons of processes. Somehow, comfortably sitting on their leadership and profit.
In the left corner: Fintech, with few resources, fewer clients, no brand at all but agile, eager to conquer clients and disrupt the market, offering financial products that is the perfect fit.
Well, I am trying both (the Traditional Bank and the Fintech), there is a bit of advantage for the first, but Fintech is making me rethink it daily. I must say: it is hard to stay, I will probably move.
Choosing a financial institution that would take care of your money has also changed. The choice between Traditional Banks and Fintech is not only about “the coolest” ones but aspects like social consciousness, competitive products, security, and privacy.
It does not mean that Banks are safe from cyber-attacks, flying thousands of feet above with no concerns, expanding, and collecting their profit. Cyber security consciousness is a crucial subject these days. It has become so severe that it left CIO/CSO’s hands to the Board. Data leakage, ransomware, non-compliance with data protection regulation, and many more can bankrupt a company. Regulators hold leaders accountable, and they might get their wallets wiped out.
In cyber warfare times, cyber security strategists have a lot of options. Building protection on top of open-source, vendors, and a mix of the previous. Also, solution providers are claiming to have the silver bullet to solve all their vulnerabilities. Wrong way, it might be a cliché, but companies must deploy security in layers, and there is no one size fits all approach.
Authentication, as we know, is just a matter of inputting a username and password. The way we authenticate is changing fast. A better authentication, like a passwordless and behavioural model, generates benefits of safety and user experience.
Companies and governments did neglect passwordless authentication for almost a decade. Recently, a tech giant announced the availability of passwordless for all their customers, pushing the market in this direction. For the ones that breathe technology, it is a matter of time because passwords inject insecurity. It is simple as that.
It proves that passwordless is mature enough to deploy, no matter the organisation’s size. It will:
Eliminate the hacker’s target: credentials
Help on eliminating ransomware and malware
Improve customer experience
The best approach is taking credentials off the customer’s hands. A NordVPN study states that an average person has between 70 and 80 passwords to manage. Those credentials would probably be in some file in the cloud or a mobile device, reused, shared, and many other situations that put them at risk.
Getting into data is easy to overlook. It can be a turning point when it comes to cyber security strategy.
As previously mentioned, data privacy laws and regulations penalties and fines are here to stay. Today we have the technology to onboard and transmit data securely, but most often forget that this information gets stored clear. So, if it leaks, you are done. A backup may help to get back on track, but the damage is there. Encryption can solve this. Encrypting data at the origin protects sensitive data before it leaves the user’s device. This approach is not new, so why not implementing it?
Passwordless exist for around for almost ten years. The FIDO alliance is on a quest to support its development. Besides delivering safety, passwordless is a superior user experience without losing security.
Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report (2020) states: 81% of hacking-related breaches use either stolen or weak passwords. It clearly shows that we must avoid passwords.
When it comes to data protection, it is even worse and frightening. Only 17% of Organisations encrypt at least half of their sensitive data in the cloud. In a data leakage event penalties, fines from the Data Protection Regulators would be inevitable.
While most cybersecurity providers focus on detecting and solving issues, it is hard to find who focuses on anticipation, avoiding problems before turning into damages. Passwordless authentication and on-device encryption can help.
Passwordless also improves user experience. The App must be easy to use and safe so that the user feels good while using it. For sure, a path to pursue.
This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Vivienne Hsu, Ximena Aleman,Nabilah Hussain and Marion Leslieas they share with us their greatest achievement.
Vivienne Hsu, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at Sokin
“I am extremely proud of the somewhat meteoric career trajectory I have experienced – especially being a female, under-40 and a minority in an industry which is known to be heavily favoured towards men. I was one of the youngest MDs ever appointed at the consultancy I worked for before Sokin, and then moved to a C-Suite position shortly afterwards.
“I am also proud to be seen as a person others can trust and feel comfortable approaching for guidance. It isn’t in my nature to turn people away and I will always make the time to talk and understand those around me. I strongly believe in unity and supporting the people you’re with, no matter gender, age, ethnicity, or seniority. Listening to others share their life experiences – in both personal and professional circumstances – is a privilege.
“I believe some of our greatest achievements happen away from the office, and can be made up of the smaller, but equally important, snapshots of our personal lives. However, maybe we forget to celebrate these in the same way we do our professional milestones.”
Ximena Aleman, Cofounder & Co CEO at Prometeo
“What we have done so far with Prometeo is no doubt one of my greatest accomplishments. I was lucky to meet the group of friends with whom I would found my first fintech startup. We started in 2015 with a payment wallet. After a couple of years, we decided to pivot and take advantage of the new open banking trends and the technology we had built previously, and that’s how Prometeo started developing APIs. Since then our company has grown tremendously and together with my co-founders Rodrigo and Eduardo we work very hard to grow our network and our technology aligned to international security standards.
“I wouldn’t have been able to build Prometeo without them, they both have helped me improve myself in ways I could never have imagined. They have supported my growth and I have supported theirs. This has allowed us—as a team—to surpass our personal limitations and achieve not only personal success, but success as a startup as well.”
Nabilah Hussain, Head of Financial Crime at 3S Money
“Whilst I’m proud of many of my personal and professional accomplishments, my greatest one would have to be finding my niche amongst all the roles I’ve worked in throughout my career to date.
“Like many graduates, I came out of university with a Mathematics degree, having little direction and guidance as to how and where I would progress my career.
“The biggest challenge I faced during this time was honing in on my interests and skill set to establish where I was best suited in terms of industry and role. It was always imperative to me that I pursue my passions and find a career that I both enjoyed and that challenged me to always learn and grow.”
“I fell into finance, and thereby FinTech, almost by accident – walking past a high-street bank, I saw a job advert, applied, got the role and progressed from there. Finding my niche in compliance early on in my career really helped me to focus and excel.”
Marion Leslie, Head of financial information at SIX group
“Understanding what success looks like for you is step one. It is different for everyone and will change over the course of your life and your career. Being honest with ourselves is important – if we are lucky enough to have choice in who we work for and what we do, being comfortable with the choices made, and the compromises that come with that, is key.
“For me, achievement is the day-to-day wins (“what went well today?”) within the context of the answer to the overall question “am I happy?” A sense of perspective matters too – no obituary ever commented on whether the email got done.
“Fundamentally, I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am – and that is the achievement. I studied languages at school, purely because I liked them, but they have enabled me to have a rich and interesting international career, working with fascinating people, and now living in Switzerland. I have two teenage children who are still speaking to me! I have had some wonderful career experiences – starting as a data analyst and ending up running significant global data businesses, living in India for 4 years and building an operation from scratch, winning external recognition awards and leading through my executive board and non-executive board director roles are all things I am proud of. Achieving the perfect balance between home and work doesn’t happen each day, but I really try to think about what good looks like, both professionally and personally, for the current moment.”
Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.