Expo 2020 Dubai: In Focus with Canada and Its Financial Services, Fintech and Wider Digital Sector

https://thefintechtimes.com/expo-2020-dubai-in-focus-with-canada-and-its-financial-services-fintech-and-wider-digital-sector/

The World’s Fair, currently in Dubai, is showcasing innovations across its themes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. Countries across the world are taking part and highlighting their wider economic development. The following will look at Canada.

The Fintech Times, as part of its analysis on Expo 2020 Dubai, which is hosting the first ever world’s fair in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, after looking at countries such as Israel and Thailand now looks at the country of Canada – which has been a renowned leader globally for its stable and developed economy.

Canada’s country pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 is an impressive 1,364 square metres, which is located in the sustainability part of the Expo site. Fun facts – the pavilion’s water is heated through solar power and the pavilion was designed by Moriyama & Teshima.

The Canada Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020The Canada Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020
The Canada Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 IMAGE SOURCE THE CANADA PAVILION FOR DUBAI EXPO 2020

According to The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade on the official Expo 2020 Dubai Canada website, “Promoting Canadian know-how at Expo 2020 Dubai is the perfect example of how our government is opening doors for Canadian companies of all sizes to compete and succeed in thriving global markets, which in turn is helping drive our economic recovery and create jobs. Canada’s presence at Expo 2020 Dubai will further demonstrate what many around the world already know: Canada is an ideal place for business, investment, education, tourism, and immigration.”

Canada’s Expo 2020 theme, The Future in Mind, serves as a platform to promote opportunities from across Canada’s provinces, territories and cities, and throughout all sectors of society – all from the same previous source. The official Canada at Expo 2020 Dubai further highlights that “the theme for Canada will focus on its leadership in key sectors, which includes artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, education, digitisation, telemedicine, clean technology, agriculture, health sciences and aerospace. The inspiration of Canada’s approach to Expo 2020 Dubai is with the country’s steadfast commitment to embrace diversity, inclusion, human rights and gender equality as the foundation to building a prosperous and inclusive nation capable and intent on offering solutions to global challenges.”

Canada’s financial services, fintech and wider digital economies are strong and is home to leading global cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In fact, the last two were home to their own Expos – such as with Montreal in 1967 and Vancouver in 1986.

Vancouver’s own Expo for instance, which I previously have written on a guest entry with the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), propelled it to be the world-renowned city the world over has fallen in love with. Expo 1986 transformed the sleepy city on the Pacific coast to consistently being voted as one of the most livable cities, where in 2018 it ranked sixth. Expo 1986 propelled the largest city in the Canadian province of British Colombia (BC) on the global spotlight and accelerated the economic development that was much needed to transform it to the global player it is now. Expo 1986 is even credited with helping get BC out of recession as well, which hit the province hard especially in 1982.

Case Study: Toronto and Toronto Finance International

Toronto is the largest and commercial hub of Canada. According to the Toronto Finance International (TFI) website, it states that Toronto is the hub of Canada’s financial sector and the 2nd largest financial centre in North America. Toronto’s banking, pension and insurance institutions are global leaders and their success has created a thriving financial sector with increasing international influence. Home to one of the largest and most highly qualified talent pools, the TFI is an ideal city to grow industry leading financial services businesses.

Jennifer Reynolds is the CEO of Toronto Finance InternationalJennifer Reynolds is the CEO of Toronto Finance International
Jennifer Reynolds is the CEO of Toronto Finance International

According to Jennifer Reynolds, CEO of TFI, “Toronto is establishing itself as a global fintech leader thanks to a strong core of financial institutions, top-tier research facilities, a large and skilled talent base, low operating costs, and global leadership in areas such as AI. While Toronto is the second largest financial centre in North America, the city is also a leader in technology innovation. Toronto is North America’s fastest-growing tech market, adding over 80,000 tech jobs in the past five years, with technology talent comprising over 10% of total employment in Toronto (the third highest concentration in North America). Toronto also has the densest cluster of AI startups in the world.

Toronto’s global footprint in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is also being noticed. For example, 3iQ, the company behind The Bitcoin Fund listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, completed its dual listing on Nasdaq Dubai earlier this year. Through the listing, it becomes the first exchange-traded fund offering an investment in bitcoin in the MENA region.

Toronto’s unique combination of large and growing finance and technology sectors is fostering a tremendous environment for innovation and investment and investors are definitely noticing. For example, Canada’s VC investments are now the second largest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and in the first half of 2021 VC investment in Canada eclipsed all previous full-year totals. These are just a few reasons why Toronto is the ideal platform to launch and grow fintech products and services in North America.”

Via their website, TFI is a public-private partnership between Canada’s largest financial services institutions and the government. TFI is the lead voice for the international promotion of the Toronto Financial Centre and the global prominence of their financial services sector.

TFI also acts as a hub for Toronto’s financial sector and works with our stakeholders on initiatives which drive the growth and competitiveness of the industry.

Expo 2020 Dubai is being held from the 1st October 2021 until the 31st March 2022.

Stay tuned for the future series here, which is being presented by Economic Development Advisor Richie Santosdiaz and journalist Tyler Smith.

If you want to contribute your country pavilion that hasn’t been featured yet feel free to contact our MEA content newsdesk [email protected]

  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/expo-2020-dubai-in-focus-with-canada-and-its-financial-services-fintech-and-wider-digital-sector/

“NFT” is Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year: What Does the Industry Think?

https://thefintechtimes.com/nft-is-collins-dictionarys-word-of-the-year-what-does-the-industry-think/

NFT, or Non-fungible token, has been named Word of the Year by dictionary publisher Collins, who say the use of the abbreviation rose by over 11,000% in 2021. 

NFT is one of three tech-based words to make Collins’ top list, narrowly beating “crypto” for the top spot and joining “metaverse”.

NFTs have become a popular form of digital token for their ability to convey information in an exclusive way whist simultaneously protecting the ownership of the information itself, becoming an increasingly collectable item.

Over the last year, the industry has boomed with NFTs becoming the latest fad, with big brands creating and selling NFTs from Banksy artwork to farts. 

Adam Morris, NFT expert at community platform NFT Club, explains why they’ve experienced such a boom:

“Despite what some people may think, NFTs have mostly been a natural progression. They were present in the 2017 crypto hype, but people were just starting to understand cryptocurrency, so NFTs were too advanced for that time. Within this recent crypto rally, there are more people who are experienced in the industry as they went through the 2017 cycle, so as a result, a lot of people who understood the ins and outs of crypto were looking for the next ‘thing’.

“Currently the top end of the NFT market is mostly made up of successful business people and people who did very well off cryptocurrency. This is why the price tags on some NFTs are so high, simply because these people have the money to spend.

“But, just like any market, there will be a correction and because NFTs are new it’s more likely to be a very large correction. Similar to how the crypto market was in 2017, people are just discovering NFTs and there is a lot of excitement. At some stage it will reach a tipping point and most NFTs will drop substantially in value. However, NFTs and the technology behind them are definitely here to stay. With the announcement of Facebook rebranding to Meta and the amount of effort they are putting into creating the Metaverse, NFTs have a large role to play in this futuristic setting.”

The Reaction

The news has been met with a lot of excitement in the industry, with the move highlighting just how big a reach the crypto community has.

Barron Solomon, CEO and co-founder of Solo Music said: “Collins Dictionary choosing NFT as their word of the year is a strong testament to the power of the crypto community and blockchain technology. NFT technology was known by few, and understood by even less, only a few years ago. The community continues to innovate, using blockchain technology to redefine ownership and empower artists, and the world is taking note. Mainstream adoption is increasing rapidly, and we’re excited to see how this trend continues in 2022.”

Amelie Arras, Marketing Director, Zumo continues these thoughts, saying: “It’s brilliant news that NFT, or non-fungible token, has been named ‘word of the year’ – but it’s not surprising. The decision recognises the huge impact that NFTs are having, and the possibilities they unlock. NFTs bring crypto and the emerging decentralised world to a whole new level; they have proven to be a useful and tangible application of blockchain across multiple industries, such as art, music and real estate. This will only further fuel the adoption of crypto across the world.”

A “digital representation of reality”

Uldis Tēraudkalns the CEO of Nexpay, agreed with Arras in that the news came as no surprise at all.

“We have witnessed a sudden and massive explosion in digital representation of reality in 2021, he said. “Last year, nobody knew the word ‘metaverse’ and only a few people knew NFT. Then suddenly this is what most major brands globally are jumping on and Facebook even rebranded to meet this new exciting world. So it’s not a surprise. I would guess that metaverse would be the word of the last month or two…”

Emphasising the digital world, Dr Hirbod Assa, Senior Lecturer in Finance and Fintech, University of Kent said: “NFT or Non-Fungible Token is Collins Dictionary’s word of the year. Why? The world is becoming heavily digitalised. That can include any collectable piece, so there must be some way to define the ownership of digital collections. The main characteristic of any real collectable piece is that they are non-fungible commodities. NFT is a computer algorithm that commodifies a digital piece that is also non-fungible. But NFT has gone beyond that and introduced new types of collection, digital collections, which are mainly business objects. Can they sustain? Nobody knows; this is a new world to explore.”

“Since the explosion of NFTs over the course of this year, especially after Beeple’s mammoth sale, it provided an opportunity for digital artists from across the globe to perceive NFTs as a viable source of income. NFT being the word of the year also puts focus onto the mass as a concept that is not scary, but is something that they could get behind. Kalamint since launch (on Mar 23, 2021), we have over 150,000 users from 192 countries (with a lot of artists from economically weaker countries who view NFTs as their primary source of income). Legitimizing it at a global scale will only encourage a lot more artists to dive into the NFT world and experience it first-hand,” said Pradeep Atmaram, Director of Marketing, Kalamint.

They continued: “The term NFTs being in the constant news cycle and also the ‘word of the year’ establishes that NFTs are more than just a fad and is here to play the long game. I’m confident that this will bring in more attention and encouragement to the artists who are here as early adopters to push it more into the mass adoption stage.”

Finally, looking forward to the future of the NFT market, Viktor Prokopenya, fintech investor, & entrepreneur said: “NFTs as elite art-forms are definitely here to stay: this is the beginning of a huge new trend.

“NFTs create scarcity online; a quality only possible offline before. All kinds of online art could easily be replicated before NFTs – you could download a file with music with no loss of quality, for instance. NFTs are essentially digital collectables, they make something unique and therefore highly prized. Scarcity creates opportunities for new forms of digital art to exist and can create an entirely new market for artists.

“The previous cryptocurrency boom was centred on the financial world – the NFT boom looks like it will bring innovation to art and creativity, which can only be of benefit to the world.

“Humans have collected art for many centuries, from grand Renaissance works to Impressionist paintings by Monet or Renoir. This is the next incarnation of that basic desire to collect creativity and own inspiration.”

  • 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.

https://thefintechtimes.com/nft-is-collins-dictionarys-word-of-the-year-what-does-the-industry-think/

British Business Bank Finds UK Venture Capital Fund Performance has Increased

https://thefintechtimes.com/british-business-bank-finds-uk-venture-capital-fund-performance-has-increased/

The latest British Business Bank market research finds that higher company valuations, combined with strong exit activity in 2020 and 2021, has contributed to a material uplift in venture capital (VC) financial returns since the Bank’s last published report.

According to the Bank’s latest report, UK Venture Capital Financial Returns 2021, UK VC funds with a 2008 to 2013 vintage have seen an increase in their pooled Distributions to Paid In Capital. Over the same time period, their pooled Total Value to Paid In Capital multiple has increased by 0.28 points, from 1.81 to 2.09 in 2021. UK venture capital has also performed strongly over the longer term, with pooled TVPI multiples above 2 for most two-year periods since 2002.

The overall improvement in UK fund performance was confirmed by the Bank’s fund manager survey which shows fund managers have positive views on VC market conditions. Nearly all surveyed fund managers reported positive views on the quality of investments available (97%) and current exit conditions (93%), with the majority (59% and 72% respectively) reporting an improvement on these measures over the last year. However, a high proportion of fund managers (59%) reported high levels of competition for deals, which may suggest these high valuations might not be sustained until exit.

UK VC funds continue to perform well compared to their US counterparts

Historically, US VC financial returns were considered by many in the VC industry to be substantially higher than the returns of UK and European funds. Analysis of data within this report suggests that this is not the case, and returns are very similar since 2002.

Overall fund returns for UK VC funds with 2002-2016 vintage years show a pooled DPI multiple of 1.01 and a pooled TVPI multiple of 2.08. US funds of the same vintage generated higher pooled DPI multiples of 1.12, but the US pooled TVPI is 0.11 points lower than the UK’s.

In particular, the UK performs well across the earlier 2002-2007 post-dotcom bubble vintage years where UK pooled DPI and TVPI returns are, respectively, 0.20 points and 0.35 points higher than in the US.

UK’s top performing VC funds reporting very high returns

Overall VC market returns are driven by the performance of outlier funds. The top one percentile of UK VC funds with 2002-2019 vintage generate TVPI multiples of 11, an improvement from multiples of around six a year ago, although this still lags similar US funds, which have TVPI multiples of 26.

While the US still outperforms the UK for the top 3% of its funds, the UK has made a substantial improvement since 2019, when the top 8% of US funds had higher TVPIs than UK funds. The UK’s distribution of TVPI multiples follows an almost identical shape to that of the US, up to the third percentile. The improved performance of these top UK funds suggests that UK VC could be an attractive asset class for those LPs currently investing or considering investing in US VC.

British Business Bank funds performance

British Business Bank-supported funds are largely performing in line with the wider VC market. Pooled TVPI multiples for private sector LPs in the Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds programme is 1.99, are comparable to the 2.01 generated by funds in the wider UK VC market. This provides strong evidence of the effectiveness of this policy intervention which aims to increase the supply of equity capital to high-potential, early stage UK companies and lower barriers to entry for fund managers looking to operate in the VC market.

Matt Adey, Director of Economics at the British Business Bank, said: “This report provides as comprehensive a view as possible of the performance of the UK venture capital market. The report shows that UK VC continues to have good performance relative to the US and has the potential to be an attractive asset class for LPs. It’s encouraging that fund managers are overwhelmingly positive about market conditions with a sharp increase in performance in the last year.”

UK Venture Capital Financial Returns 2021 is the British Business Bank’s third annual report examining the financial performance of UK VC funds. The report covers 154 UK VC funds with a 2002-19 vintage and draws on data from both the British Business Bank and commercial data providers including PitchBook and Preqin, as well as a survey of UK VC fund managers. This provides a robust and thorough view of the asset class and its performance, covering 38% of the UK VC market.

  • 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.

https://thefintechtimes.com/british-business-bank-finds-uk-venture-capital-fund-performance-has-increased/

VentureSouq Establishes $50 Million Fintech Fund in MENA

https://thefintechtimes.com/venturesouq-establishes-50-million-fintech-fund-in-mena/

The GCC-based venture capital firm VentureSouq is set to launch its MENA Fintech Fund I, the region’s first sector-specific fund focused on fintech across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region and Pakistan.

The $50 million VentureSouq fund invests in early-stage fintech and SaaS companies and focuses on key subsectors including payments infrastructure, alternative credit, digital banking, PropTech, InsurTech and personal financial management, working closely with innovative regional entrepreneurs that are disrupting financial services.

Suneel Gokhale, Partner, VentureSouqSuneel Gokhale, Partner, VentureSouq
Suneel Gokhale, Partner, VentureSouq

VentureSouq General Partner Suneel Gokhale commented on the new fund: “Prior to the MENA Fintech fund, we were early investors alongside some of the biggest global VCs in a number of fiintech companies, including high-profile ones such as Jeeves, Khatabook, Belvo, FamPay, Vouch, Point, Atomic and Fondeadora.

“In 2020 we started to reflect on what fintech adoption in the MENA region was going to look like and we dove right in. Based on what we have seen in other emerging markets that we have invested in, we believe it is still early days in terms of the fintech ecosystem in the MENA region and we are really excited about the overall opportunity set.”

VentureSouq MENA FinTech I is backed by the Jada Fund of Funds programme and Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC), Bahrain’s Al Waha Fund of Funds, UAE’s DisruptAD, ADQ’s venture platform, and Mubadala Investment Company, as well as multinational conglomerates such as OFC, the Middle East investment arm of The Olayan Group.

VentureSouq General Partner Maan Eshgi added: “As the first vertical venture fund in MENA, it was critical to assemble the right LP base. We needed partners that would both understand where the region currently sits on the evolutionary curve, but also that could help our portfolio companies navigate the challenging regulatory and funding terrain in MENA. For us to get the outcomes we need, our portfolio companies need to access not just a single market, but the entire MENA region. We believe we have the right stakeholders to help make access to that broader market a reality.”

The Fund has been actively deploying capital into startups across MENA and Pakistan, including regional ‘buy now pay later’ Tabby, Saudi-based B2B marketplace Sary and PropTech platform Huspy.

UAE-based investments include Baraka, Flexxpay, fintech infrastructure company NymCard and digital bank Verity and in Pakistan, digital ledger platform Creditbook, e-commerce financing platform PostEx and salary advance startup Abhi Finance.

The fund also invested into Egypt-based transportation platform Trella, gig economy financial platform Dayra and North Africa-based super-app Yassir, along with a number of other promising companies, which will be announced in the coming months.

Jad Antoun, CEO and co-founder of Huspy, shared: “The VSQ team have been true partners to Huspy. We share the same belief that people and talent are the foundation of building a healthy organization and on fundraising, they constantly support us through their network of top global funds across the US and Europe.”

Mohammed Aldossary, CEO and co-founder, SaryMohammed Aldossary, CEO and co-founder, Sary
Mohammed Aldossary, CEO and co-founder, Sary

Mohammed Aldossary, CEO and co-founder of Sary added: “VentureSouq‘s presence, conviction, understanding of the daily challenges of a startup, and massive belief in the potential of us as a management team has been extremely important to us. Thanks to their great experience and proven global track record, they were able to support us in attracting multinational VCs and close multiple investments in less than eight months; a true agile and pro-founders VC that can take startups to new levels.”

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/venturesouq-establishes-50-million-fintech-fund-in-mena/

Digital Tokens: Who’s Trailblazing Asia’s Development of Central Bank Digital Currencies?

https://thefintechtimes.com/digital-tokens-whos-trailblazing-asias-development-of-central-bank-digital-currencies/

This November, The Fintech Times is looking to broaden the understanding of digital currencies, ranging from blockchain’s use outside of crypto to CBDCs, in an attempt to replace the notion that digital currencies are a synonym for crypto.

In today’s coverage of digital tokens, we’ll be investigating the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) race within Asia to explore who’s falling behind, and who’s coming out on top.

Defined in its simplest and purest form, a CBDC is a digital form of fiat or local currency. It’s an electronic token of a national ledger that can be issued for retail, wholesale, or international payments, and is regulated by a central banking body. And although interest in this contemporary form of digital payment suffers no restrictions in terms of international interest, nowhere is the development of such more prominent than in the APAC region. So, who’s leading Asia’s CBDC race?

Cambodia’s ‘Project Bakong’, which was launched in October 2020 in collaboration with Japan’s Hyperledger Iroha blockchain, stands as the only live example of retail CBDC in Asia.

Unlike other similar initiatives, Project Bakong does not utilise digital native money. Instead, users can make payments through their own reserves of either riel or the US dollar. To achieve this, Cambodians can use either their own telephone numbers or a QR payment system to connect with digital wallets over the blockchain. As of January 2021, Project Bakong had successfully transacted over $20 million via 50,000 users and 20 banks.

Despite the lack of a nationwide rollout, neighbouring China appears to be very much leading the way in the development and adoption of CBDCs. The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) heavily signalled their arrival in the technological landscape, when in April of 2021, it issued the e-CNY, or digital yuan; becoming the very first major economy in the world to do so. Although the e-CNY is issued by the PBoC, it’s distributed by the country’s leading commercial banks and payment platforms. For example, Alipay – which boasts an impressive collection of 1.3 billion users – added the e-CNY to its platform in May of 2021; although the payment option is only currently available to a proportion of certain users as use of the currency continues through its pilot phase.

The e-CNY pilot is currently being trialed across 4 major cities in China; Shenzhen, Chengdu, Suzhou and Xiong’an. And despite these geographical limitations, the PBoC has reported that the e-CNY has successfully completed 70.75 million transactions as of September 2021, an achievement that has been spread across almost 21 million personal wallets and 3.5 million enterprise wallets.

Running a little bit behind its neighbours in the development of CBDCs is Japan. And despite the lack of any official implementation, the Bank of Japan made a statement in April 2021 whereby it announced the commencement of preliminary trials to develop a retail-focussed digital yen; which is expected to run until March 2022.

In an official statement, BoJ said that it would focus on “the basic functions that are core to CBDC as a payment instrument such as issuance, distribution, and redemption.” Although two additional phases of testing are scheduled post the completion of the trial period, the BoJ is still yet to announce any official launch.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) outlined their intention to strengthen CBDC research in Hong Kong through their Fintech 2025 strategy, which included cross-collaboration with the Hong Kong Centre of the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Hub (BISIH) and the PBoC.

Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive, HKMAHoward Lee, Deputy Chief Executive, HKMA
Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive, HKMA

Under their strategy, the HKMA is undertaking the mBridge project, whereby it will work closely with its aforementioned collaborators to further understand and refine the cross-boarder payment capabilities of the e-CNY, whilst also testing the waters for the introduction of an e-HKD. In a recent statement, Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive of the HKMA, said: “The mBridge project builds on our existing strengths and network in the global financial system, and helps keep Hong Kong in the forefront as digitalisation continues. The HKMA would continue to collaborate closely with the BISIH and peer central banks to broaden and deepen the research, which could also contribute to the global exploration for using CBDC to expedite cross-border payments.”

2016’s ‘Project Ubin’ kickstarted the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) interest in CBDC development. MAS partnered with JPMorgan and Temasek to finish its fifth testing phase in July of 2020; which incorporated blockchain-based payment tests across 40 institutions.

Following this, Singapore is now undertaking ‘Project Dunbar’, which is developing a common platform for multi-currency CBDC settlements. MAS has also expressed its interest in collaborating with other central bodies, most notably China’s PBoC.

The Bank of Korea is also taking tentative steps towards developing its own form of CBDC. The Bank is currently testing a new form of e-Won within a limited capacity, and two main areas of focus for the trials are functionality and security.

To do this, the Bank is simulating real-world financial services, including mobile payments, money transfers, and fund deposits; however any full-scale rollout of the e-Won appears to remain some way off for the citizens of South Korea.

How has China come up ahead?

When we consider the data available for CBDC development in Asia, it’s clear that out of all the competitors, China is very much coming out ahead. But why is this, and how has China managed to achieve such a feat?

Firstly, the development and adoption of CBDCs has been exacerbated by China’s large unbanked population. According to the recent data of Finbold, around 278 million Chinese citizens remained without access to a bank account as of Q1 2021; equating to roughly 20% of the country’s population. However, this alarming figure is counteracted by China’s large proportion of mobile phone users. As detailed in GSMA’s ‘2021 Mobile Economy’ report, the country supported 992 million mobile users in 2020, penetrating 67% of the total population. This figure is expected to increase to 80% by 2025, when the country is forecast to see 1.2 billion users.

Not only will such an increase facilitate a higher level of mobile banking, but it also cultivates promises for a prosperous future in CBDC adoption. One of the central benefits to CBDCs is that they’re handled and processed through both online and offline mobile devices, and with the forecast of 1.2 billion mobile users by 2025, China is perfectly positioned in terms of CBDC adoption.

When considering more timely developments, China’s recently imposed ban on all cryptocurrency transactions has been interpreted by some as a strategic move to further the reach and promotion of the e-CNY. By completely removing crypto and its permissionless nature, China and the PBoC have the opportunity to fill the gap with their newest digital ledger, whilst also taking a step against private forms of digital currency.

China’s implementation process of the e-CNY has also pointed to the central governing body’s interest in a more regulated approach. The pilot phase offered users the chance to establish a digital wallet for expenses of up to 5,000 RMB using just their mobile number. However, if said users wanted to increase the capability and volume of their wallet, stringent security and identity checks would be required.

One of the most noteworthy ways through which China’s CBDC came out ahead is by the central bank’s involvement in international CBDC development, and especially in the development of neighbouring countries. For example, the PBoC expectedly had a hand in the development of Hong Kong’s e-HKD, and even tested the viability of their own digital currency within the state.

The cross-border capabilities of China’s e-CNY have even been tested further afield. The PBoC recently formed a partnership with the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) to test cross-border foreign currency payments under the m-CBDC Bridge initiative. The likes of the HKMA and the Bank of Thailand are also involved in the initiative. This interconnectivity between projects and governing bodies on an international scale has allowed China to test the waters for its new digital currency, whilst also providing an opportunity to size up the competition, and ensure efficient cross-functionality between other blooming digital currency ecosystems. 

With this much wind in their sails, it appears that China’s central banking body is perfectly poised for a successful rollout of their e-CNY digital currency. And what’s more, public enthusiasm towards its adoption also appears to be promising. For instance, trials of the currency have cultivated a largely positive response. A 2020 trial in the Luohu district of Shenzhen granted more than 47,000 people with access to digital freebies that would test the practicality of the CBDC. There were a total of 1.9 million applications to this programme. Each freebie – or ‘red envelopes’ as they were known – gifted 200rmb (roughly around £22 each) to the recipient, and in the short space of a week-long trial, citizens spent the equivalent of 8.8 million yuan spread across 62,000 successful transactions. In addition to this, China’s central banking body also applied for more than 120 patent applications for its official digital currency; more than any other central banking body in the world.

It’s clear that the appetite for China’s CBDC is already proving to be insatiable, and with the arrival of an accessible digital currency into a population that yearns for more financial inclusion, the PBoC and its collaborators very much appear to be able to drive their developments home to success. The real test however is soon to come, as the country’s Central Bank has announced that it is preparing the e-CNY for widespread use at the 2022 Winter Olympics, which is due to be held in Beijing.

Across many of the various live initiatives within Asia’s CBDC development, we’re seeing thorough and comprehensive research being translated into practical experimentation. The region’s central banking bodies have cultivated an opportune and singular environment for this to happen, and when set alongside the cultural and societal need for their implementation, Asia, if they haven’t already felt it, could very soon find themselves leading the world in exactly how to develop and use CBDCs with a positive end result.   

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/digital-tokens-whos-trailblazing-asias-development-of-central-bank-digital-currencies/

Chip Launches ‘OnlyFunds’ Hotline to Encourage Saving on Black Friday

https://thefintechtimes.com/chip-launches-onlyfunds-hotline-to-encourage-saving-on-black-friday/

Chip, the digital savings account, has launched the ‘OnlyFunds’ hotline, a free phone line inspired by the adult hotlines of the 80s and 90s, to help consumers say no to impulse buying and encourage saving this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

With its ‘OnlyFunds’ initiative, Chip, which has saved its 400,000+ users over £670 million to date, aims to highlight that Black Friday spending, and in particular impulse purchases, could prove a real threat to people’s long-term saving goals.

This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Brits are predicted to spend a total of £4.8 billion, which is an average of £275 per person, and goes up to £339 on average per person for Generation X.

According to Chip’s data team, who analysed the savings goals created by the app’s 400,000 users, the most popular items people are currently saving for are:

  1. Laptop
  2. iPhone
  3. PlayStation 5
  4. Bicycle
  5. iPad
  6. PC
  7. Sofa
  8. TV
  9. Ring
  10. Apple Watch

However, should consumers reconsider their Black Friday spending and deposit that money into market-leading easy-access savings account instead, they could save thousands in a matter of years.

Chip’s data team has calculated that if people were to give up spending and impulse purchases on Black Friday, and put aside £275 – the average amount a person will spend this shopping weekend – into the market’s best easy-access savings account (currently Chip’s Allica account offering 0.70% interest), they’ll have saved;

  • £1,119.38 in three years
  • £1,404.14 in five years
  • £3,133.12 in ten years.

For Gen X, who are predicted to spend £339 on average each, these prospective savings go up to £1,370.30, £2,069.92 and £3,862.28 in three, five and ten years, respectively.

Chip’s CEO and Founder, Simon Rabin, commented: “At Chip, we do believe savings should be about saying yes, not no. When it comes to shopping, we want to empower our users to buy that car, purchase that laptop they need, and save for the house of their dreams. Our goal is to take the hassle out of saving and make it as smooth as possible. Impulse spending can seem innocent enough, but it adds up and can derail your bigger goals.

“Impulse purchases feel so good because they provide you with instant gratification”, Simon continued, “but think about your future self. That’s why we’ve launched our ‘OnlyFunds’ initiative – a playful way of encouraging people to resist unnecessary impulse purchases and focus on their long-term savings goals. So this Black Friday, if you find yourself tempted by a flashy offer, call our hotline for some steamy savings encouragement.”

Chip’s Co-Founder and CMO, Alex Latham, added: “The last week of November is a peak time for impulse spending. It’s a tug of war between retailers who are desperately trying to entice consumers, who in turn often find themselves giving in to the FOMO of flashy discounts and limited-time offers. So, with our ‘OnlyFunds’ campaign, we wanted to cut through that noise with a more unconventional approach and hopefully help people reconsider impulse purchases. We want to enable our users to reach their big financial goals, and hope that our humorous take on the pleasures of not giving in to impulse buying can help them keep their eyes on the big prize.”

  • 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.

https://thefintechtimes.com/chip-launches-onlyfunds-hotline-to-encourage-saving-on-black-friday/

Businesses and Consumers Alike at Risk as BNPL Usage Creates New Avenues for Fraud

https://thefintechtimes.com/businesses-and-consumers-alike-at-risk-as-bnpl-usage-creates-new-avenues-for-fraud/

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) transactions increased 182% in the 12 months from June 2020 to June 2021, according to LexisNexis Risk Solutions‘ Cybercrime Report H1, 2021, reflecting the boom in online shopping as a result of global lockdowns. As we near Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the further increase in BNPL transactions could put both merchants and consumers at a higher risk of falling victim to fraud.

In the race to onboard and checkout customers during the festive retail season, BNPL payment providers and online retailers must take care not to overlook the potential risks associated with this emerging payment option.

A major risk lies in fraudsters ability to use stolen credentials of good, trusted customers to open new accounts. Since BNPL providers typically carry out ‘soft’ credit or identity checks, they’re unlikely to spot potential fraud indicators, such as the email address or mobile number not being linked to the named applicant. Implementing tools that can check this in seconds without interrupting the application process, will help retailers and BNPL providers to spot and stop such fraud attempts.

Account takeover, whereby a fraudster uses the stolen credentials of an existing BNPL user to make purchases on their account, presents further risk. Here, the ability to use a mix of physical and digital attributes to verify an individual’s identity, and dynamically add layers of verification where required, could help further minimise fraud risk for providers.

Equally, retailers can reduce the risk of reputational damage and negative scores as a result of issues such as chargeback fraud on payment cards, by ensuring they carry out enhanced fraud and identity checks at point of sale.

BNPL schemes provide consumers with additional flexibility and choice when shopping online, yet both retailers and the providers themselves should be mindful of the potential risks.

BNPL fraud is not the only risk associated with transacting online. The latest Cybercrime Report, combining data from 28.7 billion online transactions also revealed bot attack volumes grew 41% from June 2020 to June 2021, while human-initiated attacks fell 29% over the same period. This growing ‘industrialisation’ of digital fraud is seeing fraudsters increasingly working together, conducting fraud attacks in organised networks, across sectors and borders, using sophisticated automated tools and dark web intelligence, to commit theft.

Businesses must therefore ensure they are doing all they can to protect themselves and consumers from fraud risks, by implementing technologies that can accurately distinguish between trusted and fraudulent customer behaviour, without interrupting the customer journey. Consumers want a slick service, but they also need the reassurance that the online merchant they’re using can effectively protect their account from being compromised and may take this into account when deciding whether to buy from an online retailer.

Kate Dunckley, Senior Solutions Consultant, Fraud and Identity at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, comments:

“Fraudsters will always look to exploit new avenues wherever possible. With the increased levels of online shopping activity in the period around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the festive retail season, we’re facing a perfect storm that is likely to lead to a surge in risks for both businesses and consumers.

“With an increased volume of transactions expected over this period, there is greater opportunity for fraudulent transactions to slip under the radar – something fraudsters know and will always look to exploit. To add to the complexity of the problem, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales now often occur across several days, even weeks, meaning that attacks can be spread across a much longer period.

“As fraudsters adapt to the changing eCommerce environment, businesses will need to bolster their defences and arm themselves with tools that can automatically differentiate between a trusted customer and a cyber-threat and implement multi-layered defences that can stop attacks, whilst remaining completely invisible to the customer. The ‘newer to online’ businesses in particular should take extra care to implement adequate defences, given they’ll be perceived by opportunistic fraudsters as having the lowest defences against sophisticated fraud attacks, over the coming weeks.”

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/businesses-and-consumers-alike-at-risk-as-bnpl-usage-creates-new-avenues-for-fraud/

Modern Data Management Matters – Building Financial Resilience Through Machine Learning

https://thefintechtimes.com/modern-data-management-matters-building-financial-resilience-through-machine-learning/

For the financial sector, the conversation has shifted from business agility to business resilience. What was once a battle of speed and first-to-market has now become a war on weathering the storm during highly volatile operational or security-related situations.

Jeff Fried, Director of Product Management, InterSystemsJeff Fried, Director of Product Management, InterSystems
Jeff Fried, Director of Product Management, InterSystems

When these events occur, decision-makers within financial organisations need to analyse every scenario and act quickly – using data-extracted insights to guide the way.

In this piece, InterSystems’ Director of Product Management Jeff Fried explains how machine learning can play an integral role in building resilience within the financial sector, using real-time examples such as automated trading, fraud detection, and customer experience (CX) initiatives that utilise modern data management and analytics capabilities to make it through the most strenuous business challenges with almost no effect on the operations of the organisation itself.

Before the pandemic, increasing business agility was of utmost importance for organisations across industries. But what was once a battle of speed and first-to-market has now expanded its focus to include business resilience. Recent events have underscored the need to weather the storm during volatile operational or security-related situations. When these events occur, decision-makers within these financial organisations are forced to analyse multiple scenarios and act quickly, using data-driven insights to guide the way.

Financial resilience – the ability to withstand and recover from temporary financial hardship and disruptions – is not just an ability to react to conditions.  It goes much deeper and requires building adaptive processes and maintaining customer relationships on a whole new level. Leveraging technology and data to gain insights and inform decision-making has become more important than ever before – especially within this highly dynamic and competitive landscape. As changes occur, financial organisations need to be able to react quickly – sometimes even before the change. Their ability to do this relies on healthy data and the use of analytics to extract insights out of that data rapidly.

Machine Learning’s Resilient Role

When implemented properly, machine learning (ML) can play an integral role in increasing business resilience for those within the financial sector. Machine Learning is intrinsically adaptive; it can adjust to changes in data, uncover the most important factors that drive outputs, and support a broad range of “what if” modeling.

By integrating ML into systems such as risk management, automated trading, fraud detection, customer service, loan underwriting, and marketing, business leaders will be able to make it through some of their organisation’s most strenuous challenges while minimising the impact on the operations of the organisation itself or its bottom line.

There are plenty of proven applications for ML in financial services, yet the number of actual production implementations of ML in financial services is still relatively low. In fact, financial services trails many other industries in both ML adoption and benefit.  Why is such a quantitative industry lagging in machine learning? Among other factors, data challenges are the commonly cited issues among financial services firms struggling with implementing and deploying ML.

Gaining operational benefits from ML hinges on access to large and diverse data sets. However, attaining sufficient amounts of quality data continues to be a challenge.

Creation, capture, and consumption of data went up by a whopping 5000% between 2010 and 2020, and is projected to grow even faster in this decade. Data quality issues are brought to the forefront in this climate across all industries – poor data quality costs the US economy up to $3.1 trillion yearly – and financial services is no exception. In financial services, there is also a particular premium on tapping data in real-time, making things even more challenging. Organisations must grapple with these immense amounts of data and learn how to manage it intelligently and quickly.

Overcoming the Data Challenges

The way in which data is viewed by organisations has evolved, with data moving from being a by-product of business processes to one of its most valuable assets. But for many financial services firms, overly complex infrastructures that rely on a disjointed set of data management technologies are leaving them unable to leverage data fast enough – and in ways that can drive their ML initiatives forward.

These challenges have brought the need for next-generation approaches to data management to the forefront. Leading financial institutions, including Citi, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan are leveraging enterprise data fabrics to process, transform, secure, and orchestrate data from multiple, disparate sources in real-time, with full governance and a simplified data architecture to power their machine learning initiatives.

A well-governed, high-performance data fabric provides many benefits and can address many of the challenges in ML adoption. Enterprise data fabrics can access and harmonise data from disparate sources. In this kind of environment, machine learning is not simply hostage to data quality issues – it can be applied to assess and improve data quality.   

Many of the roadblocks to the adoption of ML in financial services are being addressed with next generation data platforms that not only provide the core for developing enterprise data fabric architectures but provide high performance and low latency to handle large volumes of data in real-time. The most advanced technologies incorporate embedded analytics for developing and deploying machine learning models without moving the data. Unifying MLOps and DataOps under one data fabric makes real-time ML practical.  Resilience is fully realised for real-time trading, customer personalisation, fraud detection, and a wealth of other applications.

Beyond data challenges, financial services firms also report a shortage of skilled data scientists. Solving the data challenge helps with this as data scientists spend an inordinate amount of time in data wrangling and strong data management with modern data fabrics can free up some of their time. Another advance is the advent of AutoML, which automates many of the mundane tasks of data science. Data fabrics that incorporate AutoML can free up data scientists to do deeper work and also bring the ability to develop machine learning models to a broader set of users.

Further volatility is ahead of us before we emerge from the effects of the pandemic, but with the use of modern data management, analytics capabilities and ML, financial organisations can reap the benefits of greater resilience and make it through to the other side with greater stability.

https://thefintechtimes.com/modern-data-management-matters-building-financial-resilience-through-machine-learning/

Diebold Nixdorf: Can Banks Keep Up With the Accelerating Evolution in Payments?

https://thefintechtimes.com/diebold-nixdorf-can-banks-keep-up-with-the-accelerating-evolution-in-payments/

In the last 60 years, we have seen the payments industry make one giant leap after the other: from chip and PIN, to contactless, to biometric payments, the industry has continued to evolve. The banking industry has not shared the same fate. With many still using technology that dates back to the introduction of electronic payments, banks simply cannot keep up with customer demand.

Consumers expect everything instantly: from buying something online and getting next day if not same-day delivery, to instantly playing a new song on their phones the minute it’s released. This demand has now seeped into banking, as customers expect instant payments and real-time processing.

But how can banks do this when they use such outdated technology? Matt Phillips, VP, Head of Financial Services UK and Ireland, Diebold Nixdorf, a company looking to digitise and automate the way people bank and shop, explains how banks shouldn’t view digitisation and the development of fintechs as competitors, but as an opportunity to catch up through partnerships:

Matt Phillips, Vice President and Head of Financial Services UK & Ireland, Diebold NixdorfMatt Phillips, Vice President and Head of Financial Services UK & Ireland, Diebold Nixdorf
Matt Phillips, Vice President and Head of Financial Services UK and Ireland, Diebold Nixdorf

The past 40 years have seen a dramatic acceleration in payments, whether it is the mode of payment or the technology that sits behind this. In the late 1970s, the magnetic stripe was introduced on credit cards and everyday electronic payments were born. It took 20 years for the industry to move forward to a more secure system of chips in cards, meanwhile, PayPal was already driving peer to peer payments and revolutionising the use of internet banking. In the 20 years since, we have cycled through contactless payments, mobile payments, wearable payments and even biometric payments, with Amazon adopting ‘palm payments’ in its physical stores as its latest innovation.

During this time, traditional banks and the legacy technology they use have been under increasing pressure to adopt the next technologies and offer customers the smoothest payments journey. Customers expect instant payments and real-time processing, but many banks still have active technology which dates back to the introduction of electronic payments.

How can banks ensure service keeps up?

Ultimately, in the competitive payments landscape, banks must ensure that customer choice is at the heart of their offering. But with technological innovation and consumer trends evolving at such a rapid rate, this is hard to deliver, particularly when these institutions are working with outdated infrastructures and systems. Banks are simply unable to operate as nimbly as required. They require both financial investment and a strong operational focus towards the new technology that needs to be adopted.

The introduction of Open Banking has left many banks without a choice – it’s a sink or swim situation as to whether they adapt or just get left behind. Startups in the payment space operating on a SaaS model are increasingly taking advantage of the integration that enables them to compete in the payments industry through Open APIs, and new services on offer have shined a light on those banks which have stood still and not changed their offering over the past decade.

However, the emergence of new players and platforms does not necessarily come at the detriment of banks. Partnerships and collaboration are key to how these establishments embrace the future of payments and evolve to meet the demands of their customers. By outsourcing payments technology, they will be able to keep pace with industry evolution – but they must make sure they pick the right strategic partner so they can focus on their legacy infrastructure and guarantee their existing systems are maintained while new technologies are plugged in.

Fintech innovation

Banks can also work with fintech partners in a way that enables their current technology infrastructure to be built on and fed into. While legacy systems may – to a certain degree -have a ceiling in terms of how future-proof they can be, the majority will have significant space to improve what they are currently working with. Leaning on the expertise of a specialist fintech provider means they can keep pace with current industry standards and developments if they aren’t naturally a leader who can really move the needle when it comes to next-level technology.

Having said this, the right fintech partner for any bank should go beyond this and open up broad and ambitious possibilities. For example,  payment providers can help banks revolutionise technology more widely across their services through new payment methods, such as voice-activated payments – which have become a recent addition to the payment mix. Banks are increasingly recognising that external partners can provide infrastructure networks that will improve their business models and help accelerate change, and this is really a crucial factor in keeping up with customer demands.

As banks step back and survey the situation they currently face, there should be many reasons for optimism and ambition rather than uncertainty around how they can keep pace with their fintech rivals. It takes openness, collaboration and the willingness to integrate with providers in the payments space – but the main challenge will be the due diligence and strategic thinking required to make sure their network expands to the right places. We are already seeing signs of friction and disagreement in places, for example, a number of new ‘buy now, pay later’ integrations, and this is a prime example of why the industry must have its ears to the ground on what consumers like and want in their banking mix.

As we are witnessing across the banking world and the range of services that span further than payments, keeping pace with technological evolution will be at the top of the agenda for all, and this isn’t a trend that’s changing any time soon. Those who get it right will be like a magnet when it comes to customers looking at which provider can meet their needs for a modern banking experience and payment solutions that are accessible, flexible and efficient.

https://thefintechtimes.com/diebold-nixdorf-can-banks-keep-up-with-the-accelerating-evolution-in-payments/

Without BNPL, Over 1 in 4 UK Customers Do Not Believe They Could Afford Christmas

https://thefintechtimes.com/without-bnpl-over-1-in-4-uk-customers-do-not-believe-they-could-afford-christmas/

Equifax, one of the UK’s big three credit reference agencies, has released its findings on how UK shoppers are approaching BNPL as we near the end of the year and the festive season. More than a quarter (28%) of shoppers are now regularly using Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services to spread the cost of purchases, and this figure is only going to grow as more people find the service necessary in order to ‘afford Christmas’.

A record 28% of the adult population had at least one BNPL repayment leave their current account in October 2021, up from 23% in December 2020, suggesting that 2.6 million more people are now using BNPL than at the start of the year. The payment deferral service, popularised by providers such as Klarna, Clearpay, and PayPal, allows customers to spread the cost of retail purchases over a number of weeks or months, often with no additional interest.

BNPL’s popularity has jumped in recent months, recently inviting scrutiny from the Treasury and FCA, but Equifax’s data shows that the total sum borrowed by each individual has risen far less dramatically. The average user made £125.32 of BNPL repayments last month, just £5 higher than the £120.35 in December 2020, broadly in line with inflation. The average number of monthly transactions also grew slightly, fluctuating around 5.02 in 2021, and hitting 5.76 last month.

Jayadeep Nair, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Equifax UK, said, “BNPL is not a new concept, it’s been part of the UK’s credit industry for decades, but it has taken on new forms in recent years that has sent its popularity soaring. For switched on shoppers that want to smooth out their spending over the festive period, it can be an incredibly useful budgeting tool, and may soon even help those with thin credit files to build up a healthy credit score.

“However, as useful as BNPL can be, it’s important that shoppers don’t see it as a way to overstretch themselves in the coming weeks. Prices are rising, interest rates are creeping up, and unless wages keep pace, most borrowers will see their finances squeezed over the coming months. The message to shoppers considering using BNPL at the checkout is clear: are you sure you can make the repayments on time? And could you have afforded this purchase without BNPL?”

black friday sale

black friday sale

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Equifax’s research found that more than 1 in 10 (16%) shoppers expect to use BNPL over the festive period, with Black Friday being a major focus this year. 10% expect to use BNPL for at least one of their purchases this weekend, more than double the 5% that ended up doing so last year.

Those most likely to use BNPL this Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend include young people aged 18-34 (23%), and people earning more than £50k per year (23%), especially those with the security of full-time income, one in five (18%) of whom expect to use it this Friday. One in seven (14%) BNPL users say it will help them make the most of the sales when one month’s salary won’t stretch far enough, while one in four (27%) like having the ability to splash out now, and only pay for items they decide to keep.

Christmas

Christmas is also a major driver of BNPL use, with 9% of Xmas shoppers last year using BNPL to spread out the cost of presents. The number expecting to do so next month has risen to 11% and may end up being higher once all is said and done. Once again it is 18-34 year olds that are expected to lead the charge, a quarter (25%) of them plan to use BNPL this Christmas, compared to 10% of 35-54 year olds and just 2% of over 55s.

Despite it being people earning above £50k, and those with at least one full time job, that say they are most likely to use BNPL this Christmas, 18% and 13% of these audiences respectively, there are signs that the social pressures of Christmas are fuelling BNPL use. One in five (22%) people planning to use BNPL say they feel pressure to buy presents for family and friends, and over a quarter (27%) say they would struggle to afford Christmas without its help.

Jayadeep Nair, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Equifax UK continued, “The research shows that more and more people are using BNPL, and while early signs suggest that individual use of BNPL remains relatively constant, it’s important that new users are aware of the risks of mismanaging their repayments.

“Two in five users report missing at least one payment in the past, and half of them say they have been hit with extra fees as a result. While it’s great to see consumers offered a more convenient way to shop in our modern times, BNPL is still a form of borrowing, and it’s important we don’t lose sight of that.”

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/without-bnpl-over-1-in-4-uk-customers-do-not-believe-they-could-afford-christmas/

Businesses That Welcome Technology To Enjoy 120% Higher Revenue; Xero Finds

https://thefintechtimes.com/businesses-that-welcome-technology-to-enjoy-120-higher-revenue-xero-finds/

Simple changes in habits and processes could prove more effective than costly educational campaigns in helping small businesses take advantage of digital technology’s benefits, according to behavioral science research conducted by Xero.

Produced in a partnership with the behavioural science consultancy Decision Design, the ‘One Step‘ study surveyed more than 4,200 small business owners from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Canada, and Singapore.

The findings expose how small businesses enjoy on average 120% higher revenue if they readily welcome the adoption of financial technology. They also reported 106% higher productivity than those who repeatedly fail to do so and were 27% more likely to feel excited about carrying out their work.

Yet despite technology adoption’s substantial and well-documented benefits, and even after the pandemic drove firms to deploy digital solutions en masse, only one in five small businesses consider themselves as technology adopters – compared to nearly one in three who admit they continually delay investing in new technology.

The research revealed that this ‘adoption gap’ stems from several behavioral barriers – mindsets and perceptions about technology and change – that frequently recurred amongst small businesses all over the world.

Small business leaders tended to believe that their current solutions were good enough even if new technology might help them do better; to focus on risks and short-term losses when considering change; and to freeze up when forced to compare, understand, and choose between numerous technology options.

The study found that amongst the six countries surveyed, small businesses in the US were most likely to delay adopting new technology (31%), with only five in ten being open to taking risks when making business decisions; and seven in ten putting off technology decisions because they felt more comfortable working on day-to-day matters. However, small businesses in the US were also least likely to:

  • Stress about competitors gaining an edge by upgrading their technology (3 in 10);
  • Declare that the safest course of action is to stick to existing technology solutions (less than 5 in 10);
  • Say they can’t handle the effort needed to adopt new technology (less than 3 in 10).
Ben Richmond, US Country Manager, XeroBen Richmond, US Country Manager, Xero
Ben Richmond, US Country Manager, Xero

“Relatively few US small businesses feel challenged by insufficient internal support, the complexity of how new technologies work, or the effort involved in upgrading technology – yet compared to other countries, they’re falling behind on technology adoption in a substantial way,” said Ben Richmond, US Country Manager at Xero. “The report’s findings suggest that while small businesses in the US don’t lack confidence, they may be struggling to turn that into decisive choices – whether because of time or more short-term pressures.

“Communicating the value of technology adoption with greater urgency – by contrasting adopters’ performance to those who delay – might help spur US small businesses to take that first step.”

How to adopt technology for the better

Based on its results, One step offers several recommendations for how policymakers, advisors, and technology vendors can help small businesses by presenting technology adoption in a more straightforward, less daunting way. These include:

  • Encouraging smaller incremental changes to technology, rather than high-cost, high-risk investments;
  • Celebrating small businesses who’ve benefited from technology adoption as examples that normalise digital change;
  • Quantifying the true gap between current operations and those enhanced by technology; while also
  • Measuring technology’s benefits in a way that’s more relatable to small businesses’ experiences; and
  • Narrowing and simplifying technology choices to minimise decision paralysis.

The report also includes simple handles that small businesses can grasp to help overcome their behavioral barriers including decision matrices, ‘pre-mortem’ evaluations, cost-benefit analyses, and setting aside time for peer learnings. Each activity helps to clarify the true risks and rewards of technology adoption, allowing small business leaders to overcome confusion and uncertainty to make more rational decisions about the different options they may face.

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/businesses-that-welcome-technology-to-enjoy-120-higher-revenue-xero-finds/

Resistant AI: Don’t Let the Fraudsters Benefit From the Holiday Shopping Season

https://thefintechtimes.com/resistant-ai-dont-let-the-fraudsters-benefit-from-the-holiday-shopping-season/

Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) has shaken up the payments industry as no other technology has in a while. Whilst many have been able to benefit from the new technology, the lack of background checks and flexibility surrounding BNPL makes it the perfect breeding ground for fraudsters, and with Black Friday coming up, BNPL risk managers are left with an important decision: how tightly do they monitor and accept shoppers wanting to use the service?

Joe Lemonnier is Product Marketing Manager at Resistant AI, where he works on product strategy. He’s been engrossed in online privacy and security products for over a decade, working on multiple VPN, anti-fingerprinting, and cybersecurity tools. He loves diving into data to inspire product teams to solve customer problems. 

Speaking to The Fintech Times, Lemonnier explains how thanks to advances in machine learning, BNPL risk teams can choose a broader set of options and be more deliberate in their approach, and they do not need to worry as much about protection vs growth, and risk vs revenue:

Joe Lemonnier, Product Marketing Manager at Resistant AIJoe Lemonnier, Product Marketing Manager at Resistant AI
Joe Lemonnier, Product Marketing Manager at Resistant AI

By any reasonable accounts of her shopping habits, Cheryl Anderson led a pretty unremarkable life. For most of last year, she’d been filling out her wardrobe with a set of sport apparel outfits and occasional sneakers. Sometime during lockdown, she developed a taste for slightly fancier bracelets and earrings. She’d been using a popular Buy Now Pay Later service to make her purchases, and dutifully paying back the four monthly payments on each item.

By the time Black Friday rolled around, her limits on the platform had been increased to the point that she could afford more expensive items. So she splurged on a flatscreen TV and surround sound speaker set bundle. And that’s when Cheryl suddenly became very remarkable. Because she never paid for it. But she didn’t default on payments she couldn’t afford. You see, Cheryl never existed in the first place.

To say that point-of-sales payment markets are undergoing a transformation undersells the impact of BNPL: nothing else has brought the users-over-profits growth model of tech companies to the financial services industry in quite the same way.

Despite none of the major players having really turned a profit in this pioneering new form of fast-paced/low-friction lending, they’re making everyone from MasterCard to Apple and Goldman Sachs chase after them in a land grab for users — and the potential to create the next big marketplace. And the customers are loving it. According to a March 2021 survey run by The Ascent, 56% of Americans had tried BNPL, up from 38% the year before. 62% said it could replace their credit card, and 77% trusted BNPL companies more or as much as credit card providers. Meanwhile, GoCardless found in their survey that 42% of Americans fully intended to use the services this coming holiday season. In other words, BNPLs generate a ton of goodwill from their users, and they fully plan to leverage that into other lines of revenue to turn a profit.

But the mechanics of the space don’t just democratise access to credit, they also significantly increase risks. To avoid impacting conversion rates at the point of sales, credit and KYC checks often get neglected in sign up flows — and customers know this. That same Ascent survey showed that 31% of Americans used BNPL because their current credit cards were maxed out or because they wouldn’t otherwise be approved for loans. Another 24% were specifically seeking to borrow without credit checks — either because they wanted to minimise credit score check impacts, or because they likely wouldn’t be approved if the checks occurred.

BNPLs shoulder those credit risks on their balance sheets. UK equity research house Redburn showed the typical cost structure breakdown in the BNPL industry usually includes 30% of revenue going to cover credit losses — four times the estimated profit margin.

And this is where Cheryl comes back into our story. Because an environment with very few checks, very high customer and transaction volumes, and a high expectation of natural losses is the perfect hunting ground for fraudsters using stolen and synthetic identities.

A report put together for Reuters by IDCare, a not-for-profit consumer support organisation based in Australia, the birth-place of the industry, showed that BNPL-related identity theft doubled year over year, and had an outsized share compared with credit card fraud despite being a quarter of the size. Indeed, the ease of perpetrating these kinds of fraud is generating a seemingly endless string of outrage stories from victims, who end up with bills to deny and credit scores in shambles.

These frauds damage the reputations of the BNPL services just as they attempt to leverage customer loyalty into new revenue plays. But since they hide in the services’ natural credit losses, they inflate them, and invite additional scrutiny from regulators.  And so every risk manager at a BNPL faces what seems like an unsolvable dilemma during the holiday shopping seasons that start on Black Friday: Tighten the screws too much, and lock potential new users out and leave money on the table. Loosen up too much and get overwhelmed by a string of new account fraud. But the problem is actually deeper, and they should also be asking themselves how many of their already approved users are actually sleepers — Cheryl’s — lying in wait to pull a coordinated, high-value bust out fraud and blow a hole in their plans and profits.

Choosing between protection and growth, risk and revenue, is the oldest story in finance. It might even be more extreme in the immediate, low-friction world of BNPL. But thanks to advances in machine learning, risk teams can choose a broader set of options and be more deliberate in their approach.

Reliable document forgery detection using machine learning can give trust verdicts on sign up within seconds and at scale, helping to weed out fraudsters before they enter the system. Once in the system, context-aware AI that takes in data not just from individuals, cohorts, and counterparties, but also real-world population densities, crime rates, and more can weave together a new, adaptive understanding of customer risk.  They can spot and root out sleepers like Cheryl before they have a chance to deal their damage, and reallocate legitimate customers blocked by unsophisticated security rules into happy, engaged customers.

These approaches can smooth the path of BNPLs towards the new services they are seeking to deploy and achieve profitability sooner.

https://thefintechtimes.com/resistant-ai-dont-let-the-fraudsters-benefit-from-the-holiday-shopping-season/

Money20/20 USA Meetups: Vesta, Gr4vy, Chargebacks911 and Money20/20

https://thefintechtimes.com/money20-20-usa-meetups-vesta-gr4vy-chargebacks911-and-money20-20/

Money20/20 USA took place in Las Vegas during October 2021. With this year marking the 10th anniversary of the event, during the show The Fintech Times caught up with a number of companies to discuss what the last 18-months looked like for them and what their key focus is moving forward.

Chargebacks911

Monica Eaton-Cardone, COO and Co-founder Chargebacks911 spoke to Adam Snyder from The Fintech Times about the year the company has had.

Money 20/20

Tracey Davies, President of Money 20/20 sat down with Adam Snyder from The Fintech Times, to discuss the road to Las Vegas and the challenges with hosting such an event.

Vesta

Matt Haroldson, Senior Vice President of Strategy and development, Vesta spoke to Raf De Kimpe, about the momentum they have achieved over the last 18 months.

Gr4vy

John Lunn, president and CEO of Gr4vy discussed their “crazy first year” of operations with Adam Snyder.

  • 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.

https://thefintechtimes.com/money20-20-usa-meetups-vesta-gr4vy-chargebacks911-and-money20-20/

Spotlight Middle East and Africa: In Conversation Live From Dubai Series Part Five of Seven

https://thefintechtimes.com/spotlight-middle-east-and-africa-in-conversation-live-from-dubai-series-part-five-of-seven/

This special Spotlight Middle East and Africa (MEA) series will reflect on conversations from the recent Seamless Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that was held on the 29th and 30th September, 2021. This is part five of seven. 

Economic development advisor Richie Santosdiaz spoke with various organisations throughout the Seamless Middle East show, which was a first for The Fintech Times. Stay tuned during the upcoming Spotlight MEAs by The Fintech Times to watch more from the following companies. In this series TAP and Monty Finance are featured.

TAP: Watch full interview with Racha Sibai from TAP below:

As one of the most innovative and fastest-growing startups, Tap Payments provides powerful, tech-driven payment technologies with global payment industry standards and a focus on being easy, quick, and secure for businesses as well as customers.

Tap Payments unified the fragmented payment landscape in the MENA region by developing a single API driven payment gateway, goSell, for all popular and trusted payment methods in the region such as mada in Saudi Arabia, KNET in Kuwait, Benefit in Bahrain, Naps in Qatar, Oman Net in Oman, plus Fawry and Meeza in Egypt alongside with Visa, Mastercard and American Express as well as alternative payment methods such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and STC Pay.

Many businesses operate without a website or mobile app, in order to collect online payments, Tap Payments developed a billing application, goCollect. This invoicing app enables businesses to easily send bills via email, SMS, WhatsApp, or social media platforms and collect online payments using major debit and credit cards. Payment options supported include debit and credit card payments such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, along with highly adopted local payment schemes within the MENA region.

Today, Tap Payments serves merchants locally, regionally and globally who seek in serving their paying customers in the MENA region by enabling prominent payment options and preferences in 9 countries that include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. The simplification of online payments for the markets the company is standardizing is empowering over 75,000 businesses of all sizes from home businesses to SMEs, startups, and corporates across various industries, such as retail, food, airlines, and more.

MONTY FINANCE: Watch Full Interview with Charles Matta from Monty Finance:

Monty Finance is the newest online banking platform designed to meet the needs and expectations of every business and customer in the geographies where it operates. Launched in 2021, Monty Finance caters to previously underserved, unsatisfied, and unbanked communities, offering financial convenience, competitive offers, AI-backed features, and a transparent and empowering digital banking experience for those it serves. Monty Finance is also the digital banking Fintech arm of Monty Holding, which was established in 1998 and contains closely integrated Mobile and Fintech divisions that benefit from knowledge-sharing across the telecommunications and financial services industries.

Charles Matta is a Financial Expert and a Fintech enthusiast who has joined Monty Finance, the Digital Banking arm of Monty Holding, since the Group’s inception. Charles graduated from the Lebanese University in 2010 with a degree in Accounting & Finance and has come a long way since then.

With over 10 years of experience in the field he has worked in multiple international geographies including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Luxembourg and Greece. Charles is specialized in the financial services industry, worked with Deloitte and KPMG for more than 10 years, and accumulated a number of international certifications to his portfolio of achievements.

Charles is currently expanding Monty Finance’s portfolio into innovative fintech services and venturing into digital banking.

Seamless returned for its 21st year this year. This was the first show The Fintech Times physically took part in at MEA and was pleased to have recorded video interviews and after presenting these special editions Spotlight MEAs. To follow the rest stay tuned here.

  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

  • Head of Digital production

  • 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.

https://thefintechtimes.com/spotlight-middle-east-and-africa-in-conversation-live-from-dubai-series-part-five-of-seven/

Behind the Idea: Crowdz

https://thefintechtimes.com/behind-the-idea-crowdz/

Small businesses have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. As a result, a number of solutions have emerged to help small businesses access finance quicker. Payson Johnston is the CEO of Crowdz, an invoice finance platform for SMEs that allows them to access cash flow otherwise caught up in lengthy payment terms.

What has been the traditional company response to fintech innovations nationally?

Our company has always championed small businesses and strived to provide services to them where traditional finance has failed. For any small business, accessing cash flow quickly is their biggest concern. When you add in factors like interest, predatory lending practises by the banks and lengthy payment terms, something that seems incredibly simple becomes incredibly stressful. We’re passionate about changing that.

How has this changed over the past few years?

Covid-19 has seen the emergence of supply chain finance as a service – or SCFaaS – where corporations and other large enterprises are given the opportunity to assist small businesses through invoice financing platforms (like mine) as a CSR opportunity.

What fintech ideas have been implemented?

During the pandemic and following on from the emergence of SCFaaS, we launched our Reclaim the Future project, which uses receivables finance to provide cash flow to small and medium-sized businesses. The initiative is funded by P2P investors and the risk assessment is handled by algorithms, rather than humans, which eliminates the risk of bias. This is particularly beneficial for businesses run by minority communities who have been hit hardest by the pandemic but experience higher barriers to accessing business finance.

What benefits have these brought?

When it comes to minority groups accessing finance, often, these issues stem from human bias. By contrast, solutions like ours typically use data-led risk assessments, meaning that the risk of human bias is negated. This means that fintech is in a unique position that enables the industry to facilitate an inclusive economic recovery.

Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?

The UK has had an incredible fintech boom for SMEs but the challenge of creating solutions that are accessible to everyone still remains.

Can these challenges be aided by fintech?

Absolutely! Much of the UK’s fintech focus has been on Open Banking, but solutions that leverage blockchain and defi for example are still in their infancy yet can create truly accessible and equitable financial services.

  • 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.

https://thefintechtimes.com/behind-the-idea-crowdz/

Partnerships Related To Open Banking Are the Most Sought After in H1‘21 by Fintechs and Corporations

https://thefintechtimes.com/partnerships-related-to-open-banking-are-the-most-sought-after-in-h121-by-fintechs-and-corporations/

Positioned as the place-to-be for global networking between corporations, investors and FinTech, PropTech, InsurTech and many other X-Techs worldwide, Finnovating has launched a pioneering report that collects the TOP 200 collaboration agreements that took place in the first half of 2021, between FinTechs and corporations. Owning the concept of Matching as a Service, the global platform aims to drive innovation in the financial ecosystem by encouraging the different players involved to collaborate in transformative partnership solutions, which have now been reflected in this report.

“At Finnovating we have been seeing for many years that collaboration between the X-Tech sector and large corporations is completely necessary. Some call it Open Innovation, others Open Banking, and others simply a way to speed up digital transformation and the arrival of new customers” explains Rodrigo García de la Cruz, CEO at Finnovating. As a result, the X-Tech Matching Report 2021 H1 provides insightful information about a range of partnership behaviours worldwide throughout the first half of the year 2021 in the FinTech ecosystem.

The main conclusions of the report show that the most sought-after activities and the largest collaboration agreements in the first half of 2021 are those related to Open Banking, followed by BNPL for their momentum and by Sustainability Investments. Moreover, in terms of most active countries, the United Kingdom and the United States take the lead when it comes to fostering collaboration agreements between X-Techs and corporations.

The report features most of the top-level companies and concludes that the most active corporations were payment institutions and banks, where Mastercard, VISA and BBVA take the lead. Regarding FinTech activity in collaboration agreements, the Open Banking FinTechs Tink and Plaid are on the very top of the most active ranking.

Finnovating, as a global B2B platform, aims to reinvent the way of connecting and doing business. “The environment requires us to change the way in which we create value for our clients and, for this reason, collaboration is more important today than ever” concludes Rodrigo García de la Cruz.

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/partnerships-related-to-open-banking-are-the-most-sought-after-in-h121-by-fintechs-and-corporations/

The Evolution of Cloud Economics: Where We Started and Where We’re Going

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-evolution-of-cloud-economics-where-we-started-and-where-were-going/

Cloud computing has developed into a valuable tool for the fintech industry, so much so that it’s been identified as a highly sought-after tool for economic acceleration. 

James Farhat, CEO, ACTSJames Farhat, CEO, ACTS
James Farhat, CEO, ACTS

In this guest post for The Fintech Times, James Farhat, the CEO of ACTS, dissects the evolution of cloud computing software, how it’s meeting the needs and outcomes that organisations require, and why the future of cloud computing is set to become highly commoditised.  

Cloud computing has come a long way since its humble beginnings. What we define as cloud computing today began around two decades ago. In its infancy, it represented a means to access software on a pay-per-use rather than subscription basis – and today, software-as-a-service is firmly in the mainstream.

At the same time, the ability for businesses to access computing power from a public cloud service provider, only paying for what they use, and being able to scale capacity on demand was revolutionary.

Back then, the beauty of cloud economics lay in the ability to access shared resources and capitalise on economies of scale. This was made possible through a shared fabric and distributed resources being shared by multiple customers.

Cloud worked in concert with ongoing advances in web and network connectivity, and later automation, to make doing business not only faster and more cost-effective but also much easier.

Where Are We Now?

While this evolution is well-understood in the industry, most businesses still find themselves struggling to understand how they can leverage the cloud not just for the sake of cloud, but to drive better, tangible economic outcomes.

To understand the economics of cloud in the business context, let’s consider the core outcomes that any organisation seeks: driving operational efficiency and growing market share.

So, the obvious first question is, “How can I use the cloud as an accelerant?”

At a basic level, the ability to tap into the data centre of a third party rather than build, operate, and maintain your own is one avenue to remove CAPEX expenditure from the balance sheet. That expense now becomes an OPEX one. It’s a more efficient model, and the savings you realise can be channeled into product and service enhancements that help build that all-important market share.

On paper, the economics of the cloud are compelling. But let’s not forget that technology works for people, not the other way around. The human factor is something many businesses struggle to factor into the cloud economics equation.

Factoring People Into the Equation

Many employees will recoil when faced with the prospect of large-scale change. A data centre administrator who’s been using an on-premise application for a decade might question why they’re being forced to start using tools and processes with which they’re entirely unfamiliar.

That’s perfectly normal. And it’s not just relevant to discussions around the cloud. Any business that procures a new asset or embarks on a merger or acquisition needs to anticipate and acknowledge that some of their people will feel nervous, even fearful.

The Invisible Hand

That’s where the value of empathy can’t be overstated. It’s incumbent upon leaders to prioritise crafting a change management roadmap and balance the business need for change with people’s natural human apprehension.

Leaders need to make people feel safe, as if there’s an “invisible hand” carrying them through what, for many, can be an uncomfortable experience.

Think of it like getting in a bathtub. To be comfortable, you need a blend of hot and cold water. If you add too much or too little of either, you’ll never be able to bring yourself to get in.

The Next Frontier: Looming Market Commoditisation

Businesses need to make sure that they channel consistent energy and effort into bringing their people along on their cloud journeys. That being said, they also need to keep a keen eye on evolving cloud market dynamics – specifically commoditisation.

There are undoubtedly imminent regulatory changes on the horizon. I like to compare this to the evolution and economics of the telephone. In its early years, the telephone was a one-dimensional, isolated service or resource. Today, we’ve moved into a shared telephony fabric. Thanks to some degree of deregulation, there’s greater competition, we’re not tied to one vendor, and we can port our numbers and our services at will.

Right now, that’s what companies like AWS, Microsoft, and Google are all talking about. They’ve got their eyes firmly set on finding ways to run their fabric “somewhere else.”

All this means that the cloud marketplace is set to become highly commoditised and hyper-competitive. The basic underpinnings of computing power, storage capacity, and security that all run in the backend will soon become little more than table stakes, and the game will be won by those who can create and deliver the best context.

Enterprise Architecture Considerations

As the market dynamics between the cloud hyperscalers play out, what can leaders do to ensure their businesses are ready to ride the next wave of cloud evolution?

I believe that architecture considerations should move front and centre. That’s because one of the trickiest challenges you’ll need to master is being able to access and optimise the new capabilities that ongoing innovation is spawning. Every day, vendors and cloud platform providers release thousands of new features. Figuring out which ones you should leverage and how becomes extremely important – but if you get it right, you’ll drive a better economic outcome.

When designing your architecture, ask yourself, “Can I permeate? Am I allowing for fluidity? Am I building a foundation that’s malleable enough that I can quickly adopt a new technology or take advantage of new features, keep on adding them, or even switch among them?”

Ultimately, the future masters of cloud economics will be those who thoughtfully and deftly synthesize their resources. After all, cloud economics is all about resources: technology resources (your software, hardware, tools, security, and cloud platform) and your people.

An adaptive, cloud-centric technology estate that’s functioning like a well-oiled machine will lead to lower costs and happier people. And we all know that happy employees mean happy customers.

This brings us full circle back to my original premise about what constitutes successful cloud economics in the business context – driving operational efficiency and growing market share.

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-evolution-of-cloud-economics-where-we-started-and-where-were-going/

The Corporate Credit Paradox: How Zombie Companies and Cheap Credit are Stifling Innovation

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-corporate-credit-paradox-how-zombie-companies-and-cheap-credit-are-stifling-innovation/

Cheap debt is keeping zombie companies alive while innovative and profitable crypto companies struggle to raise loans from traditional institutions.

Sid Powell, CEO and Co-Founder, Maple FinanceSid Powell, CEO and Co-Founder, Maple Finance
Sid Powell, CEO and Co-Founder, Maple Finance

In this guest post for The Fintech Times, Sid Powell shares his observations about the growing appetite for DeFi solutions, and how DeFi is revolutionising accessibility to loans in APAC.

He also addresses solutions where DeFi is the key to unlocking such corporate credit and allowing profitable businesses to grow, and how firms are answering the growing needs for DeFi solutions in APAC.

Sid Powell is the CEO and Co-Founder of Maple Finance, an institutional capital market built on the public blockchain. Sid comes from a background in debt capital markets and institutional banking. During his career in traditional finance, he participated in $3 billion-plus of corporate bond issuance, established and ran a $200 million bond funding programme, and managed Treasury at a commercial lending fintech company.

Corporate Debt Makes the World Go Round

Corporate debt is a significant source of financing for businesses and access to it is essential for any company looking to expand sustainably. One advantage to obtaining corporate debt is that it helps maintain profits within an organisation and has a lower financing cost compared to equity. Yet, while much has been said about the potential inflationary pressures of central bank accommodative monetary policy, the stifling of innovation has been less discussed.

Zombie companies, those that earn enough money to repay their debts and continue operating, but not enough to increase growth, are surviving on unsustainable cheap debt from banks and credit institutions. The impact of Covid-19 has given further rise to this discussion, which is putting a huge amount of pressure on these companies. As a result, governments have issued large-scale support measures to counteract the strains.

Since the pandemic impacted the US economy in March, the Federal Reserve lowered its borrowing costs to near zero, further easing credit conditions by buying corporate bonds. With the Reserve easing credit conditions by supporting $750 billion in corporate bond issuance while backing a further $600 billion in lending to small and medium-sized companies, economists believe this cycle of easy money will allow more zombie companies to grow as weak growth forces central banks to further cut interest rates. According to data from Bloomberg, since the onset of the pandemic, over 200 companies have joined the status of zombie firms, racking up an impressive $2 trillion.

On the other hand, in the fast-maturing world of crypto, companies that are profitable, but have minimal amounts of debt are unable to access traditional sources of debt to expand their operations. Even though some financial centres, like Singapore, have made steps to formally welcome crypto native companies, many traditional institutions have yet to embrace lending to crypto firms, stunting innovation and the growth of an increasingly important sector. There are a few companies that are trying to fill this shortfall through decentralised finance (DeFi), but more needs to be done to unlock access to efficient corporate capital for crypto-based organisations.

Despite reservations from traditional financial (TradFi) institutions and asset managers, it is they who will be left behind as institutional adoption by crypto continues at a pace. Added to that is the fact that innovative financial centres like Singapore are accommodating innovation in this sector by providing more regulatory guidance. This further complements the emergence of powerful crypto funds and institutions in Singapore to manufacture an ecosystem.

The Irony of Accommodative Monetary Policy

Traditional sources of debt are extremely defensive. Zombie companies are able to access capital despite non-existent revenue or assets because of ultralow interest rates, weak banks, and weak insolvency regimes. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has done little to stem the rise of zombie companies. In an attempt to prevent a tidal wave of bankruptcies, the Federal Reserve purchased corporate bonds; however, in doing so, hundreds of ailing firms were given access to capital markets, creating more business borrowing to unproductive companies.

Profitable crypto companies with proven business models do not currently have access to credit or lending through traditional financial institutions. In order to access credit, these companies are very limited. Consequently, it’s stifling growth by forcing companies to access inefficient centralised debt with unfavourable conditions. Amber Group, a Hong Kong-based crypto trading startup, is one example. In June, the company raised $100 million in a Series B funding round from a list of high-profile and venture capital firms, including China Renaissance, Tiger Global Management, and DCM Ventures.

While many dedicated venture capital funds exist, typically profitable companies with proven business models would opt for debt rather than cash for equity financing. Venture capitalists require companies to give up shares and voting rights in exchange for capital, which is less attractive to profitable companies who should access credit to be paid off over time.

So, what’s the alternative?

Decentralised Finance is the Solution

DeFi and the transformative emerging technologies are the keys to unlocking such corporate credit and allowing profitable businesses to grow. The wider benefits are threefold:

● Borrowers: they have greater options for companies seeking more favourable loan terms, rates, and access to efficient debt that is not bound by geographic location;

● Economy: there is increased financial innovation;

● Investors: You and I through pension funds and opportunities have access to diverse investment opportunities.

As with the early days of Netflix when slow download speeds had people saying “that will never work”, there are improvements to be made. Behind this, however, is a significant technology breakthrough, which promises a Netflix moment for online finance. Already it has withstood the shocks of March 2020 and May 2021 and emerged stronger.

Appetite for DeFi solutions in APAC is growing, which is witnessed by Amber Group, quantitative crypto trading firm Alameda Research, and MGNR, a proprietary trading firm, to name a few, accessing DeFi loans in 2021.

It All Starts with Institutional Capital

Institutional capital is the lifeblood of corporate finance and drives the evolution of companies from startups to established companies or corporate entities. With increased access to institutional capital for profitable companies in crypto, there will be an increase in high-quality investment opportunities in Asia and globally.

Additional benefits of such access to capital include transparency and geographical and sector diversification for investors. With transparency, investors in DeFi can see where and to whom their funds have been loaned, see the terms of the loan, and see repayments. This, in turn, solves issues around insolvencies and bankruptcies. Another benefit is that DeFi is an effective base layer for institutional capital. Building fintech products on legacy banking systems are akin to running a modern grid on 19th-century copper wiring. In comparison, DeFi is a single layer, which is always on, easily accessed, and does not require costly infrastructure to use.

As the crypto space matures, traditional players are beginning to look to decentralised alternatives to create more efficient and transparent financial products.

DeFi still has a long way to go to giving crypto-based companies the boost they need when it comes to gaining access to corporate capital. Yet, strides are being made that are seeing traditional avenues sitting up to take notice. Not only that, but the wider benefits to the economy include transparency, capital efficiency, speed, and increased growth opportunities. On top of that, there are future opportunities for DeFi loans that go beyond crypto-based opportunities.

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-corporate-credit-paradox-how-zombie-companies-and-cheap-credit-are-stifling-innovation/

This Week in Fintech: TFT Bi-Weekly News Roundup 25/11

https://thefintechtimes.com/this-week-in-fintech-tft-bi-weekly-news-roundup-25-11/

In today’s The Fintech Times Bi-Weekly News Roundup, Unit forges a partnership with Currencycloud to provide seamless cross-border payments. While, Plaid teams up with Moneybox to give customers control over their finances.

Launches and product updates

Clinical regtech provider Comentis has launched a new financial vulnerability analytics tool. The dashboard presents firms with an overview of the vulnerability trends that exist among their customer base. It uses insights collected from vulnerability assessments, carried out through Comentis’ Cognitive Assessment Engine.

Stripe Terminal is now available in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Terminal extends Stripe’s payment infrastructure to the physical world, allowing online-first companies and platforms to integrate their online and offline businesses into a single omnichannel offering.

Volume, the payments fintech startup, has launched its 1-click checkout product for the e-commerce industry – Transparent Checkout. As well as seamlessly enabling consumers to pay online in one click straight from their bank accounts, the startup lets merchants save up to 75 per cent in fees by cutting out payment transaction costs.

Open, an SME-focused neo-banking platform, has launched Zwitch, a no-code embedded finance platform that lets fintechs, brands and enterprises to launch innovative fintech services using a DIY drag and drop interface. Zwitch takes care of the banking partnerships, compliance and technology through its network of 14-plus partner banks in India.

OpenOpen
Open’s co-founders
Partnerships

PPRO, the payments infrastructure provider, has integrated Indonesian buy now, pay later firm Kredivo. PPRO describes the addition of Kredivo to its platform as a milestone in its Indonesia expansion. Kredivo now sits alongside other key Indonesian payment players on the platform, such as Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Unit, the banking-as-a-service platform, has teamed up with Currencycloud. Following the integration, Unit offers US-based customers the ability to make cross-border payments, access FX and wallets, as well as quickly expand into global markets. Unit and Currencycloud will also offer their APIs as a joint solution to customers.

KNEIP has partnered with Nasdaq to register investment funds in Europe on the distribution channel Nasdaq Fund Network (NFN). KNIEP will provide European users with enhanced transparency and accessibility of investment products with a standardised 5-character symbol. NFN facilitates the collection and dissemination of fund data.

UnionPay signs new agreement with Nets to expand acceptance across Nordic region. The agreement will enable UnionPay contactless acceptance throughout Nets’ Nordic merchant portfolio. In addition, UnionPay acceptance will be extended to more than 6,000 ATMs in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. While, UnionPay and Nets also expect to agree to extend UnionPay’s existing POS merchant acceptance rate in Finland.

Financial software company NeoXam has strengthened its ties with financial data firm Refinitiv. Refinitiv will provide reference, pricing, ESG, regulatory and tax data sets, while NeoXam will disseminate and provide quality control through its NeoXam DataHub platform.

TenureX and Elucidate have announced a strategic partnership with a mission to increase financial inclusion worldwide. Together they also plan to tackle the ‘laborious and outdated approach’ taken by correspondent banks when onboarding respondent banks and managing the periodic review process of counterparties.

More partnerships

Sygnum Bank has onboarded VZ VermögensZentrum, an independent Swiss financial services company, as the latest partner for its B2B banking solution. Clients of VZ VermögensZentrum can now securely buy, hold, and trade various leading cryptocurrencies, as well as access a range of regulated asset management services.

Payments platform Paysafe has teamed up with the International Air Transport Association, the trade association of the world’s airlines. Global airlines and travel suppliers will be able to benefit from Paysafe’s  travel payments solution through its integration with the Association’s omni-channel payment and orchestration platform.

Meanwhile, Saigon Commercial Bank selects BPC as its solution partner in Vietnam to provide hyper-personalised experiences for customers. The bank has plumped for the SmartVista ATM switching and card management system. SCB will also deploy next generation, self-service virtual teller machines to help onboard and issue cards for customers and facilitate transactions.

There’s also a partnership for Moneyhub and expense management software provider Expense Once. Powered by Moneyhub’s Open Banking API, Expense Once offers its clients real time visibility on purchases on business credit cards. The service is also available for personal credit cards.

Marqeta has unveiled a collective partnership with Paycast and Mastercard to empower marketplaces with payment solutions. Specifically, Marqeta will support Paycast by providing and open API platform as well as leveraging virtual card functionality. Paycast enables marketplaces to hold funds in escrow between buyers and sellers until conditions of sale are verified.

Even more partnerships

Azimo, the digital money transfer service, has partnered with open banking payment provider Trustly to meet growing demand for cross-border payments in Europe. Trustly is available to all Azimo customers sending from the Nordics, the Baltics, Germany, Austria and Poland.

Plaid has partnered with Moneybox, the app-based digital wealth manager, to give customers greater control and visibility over their finances. With the help of Plaid’s Payment Initiation, Moneybox launched an instant payments option across a number of products for customers who want to top up their accounts in minutes.

Transak, the UK-based fiat on/off ramp, has teamed up with Zero Hash. Transak now leverages Zero Hash’s APIs that provide the regulatory and technology rails to expand into North America. Zero Hash, a B2B embedded infrastructure platform, provides the regulatory framework to serve more than 300 million Americans.

Job moves 

UK life insurance broker Reassured has appointed James Turnbull as its new chief digital officer. In the newly-formed role, Turnbull will look at how operations can be streamlined, identify new products as the company diversifies, improve user experience, as well as help find ways to increase efficiency and profitability.

Funding and investments

Allica Bank, the fintech SME challenger bank, has secured a £110million Series B funding round. Led by Atalaya Capital Management as well as existing lead investor Warwick Capital Partners. New funding will support Allica’s continued scaling as well as its recent acquisition of AIB SME lending portfolio.

Investor AnaCap Financial Partners has backed German fintech fintus GmbH, the low-code software provider. AnaCap has partnered fintus founder and CEO Benjamin Hermanns and will also provide significant growth capital, expertise as well as operational support. The fintus team will also benefit from significant investment in talent to expand operational capacity and drive sales.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity provider Shield-IoT has closed a $7.4million Series A round of funding. The Series A round was led by NextLeap Ventures and Bloc Ventures, with additional participation from Atlas Ventures and Akamai Technologies. Springtide Ventures, DIVEdigital and Janvest Capital Partners also joined the round.

Zenity, the governance and cybersecurity platform for low-code/no-code applications, exited stealth mode with a $5million seed funding round. The round was led by Vertex Ventures and UpWest. It will use the funds to expand R&D, product, marketing operation, and customer acquisition activities.

ZenityZenity
The Zenity team toasts $5million in funding
Research and insights

New research reveals the cryptocurrencies with the greatest increase in popularity and value, with one $10 investment a year ago worth over $200,000 today. BrokerChooser analysed the search volume and value increases of top cryptocurrencies to reveal the best performing coins and tokens in 2021.

Global e-commerce transactions expected to grow 23 per cent between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to an ACI Worldwide report. However, fraud attempts will also increase during the holiday season, with gaming, travel, and ticketing sectors at risk. The BNPL channel has also grown significantly – it has more than quadrupled (450 per cent) compared to the same period last year.

Mergers, acquisitions and collaborations

Lithuanian startup InRento acquires Estonian platform BitOfProperty and expands to Spain. The buy-to-let crowdfunding platform will fully integrate the BitOfProperty model, including moving all data. In Spain, InRento will specialise in the specific niche of short-term rental projects.

B4B Payments (B4B), a provider of card issuing solutions for businesses, is set to join Banking Circle. Following the deal, now in a regulatory approval process, B4B will operate as an independent sister company of Banking Circle. The management team will also remain with B4B. In addition, Tom Jennings and Brian Lawlor will join B4B’s management team to help scale the business.

United Fintech has acquired a 25 per cent stake in London-based FairXchange. According to United Fintech’s CEO Christian Frahm, FairXchange fits ‘hand-in-glove’ with United Fintech’s strategy of acquiring state-of-the-art capital markets software products ready for scaling and global roll-out on its platform.

Fintech Tintra PLC has formed a joint venture with TMC2, via its subsidiary Finsensr. The joint venture will utilise or create advanced, end-to-end AI tech – some already patented – to ‘revolutionise how compliance between developed and emerging market economies works’. Tintra also recently unveiled plans to raise additional capital to accelerate its growth strategy.

Company updates

mCloud Technologies Corp has announced pricing of $9.5million underwritten public offering and uplisting to Nasdaq. mCloud currently intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for growth initiatives in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. It also plans to accelerate its ESG optimisation applications.

Alviere, the embedded finance platform, has unveiled full page newspaper ads. The ads, in The Wall Street Journal, detail how brands can bring financial services to their customer base. Last month, the company also announced an additional $50million in Series B investment.

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The Alviere platform

Open Future World has announced Open Banking World Congress 2022 will take place  24-25 May 2022 in Marbella, Spain. The Congress will return as an in-person event. However, following the success of the virtual format of the last two years, there will also continue to be a free virtual ticket offering.

Altada, a provider of AI solutions for data-driven decision-making in financial services, has opened a London office, marking the sixth expansion of the company’s footprint this year. In 2021, Altada has also launched offices in New York, San Francisco, Malta, Dublin and Barcelona.

  • Claire works across print and online as Editor for The Fintech Times.

https://thefintechtimes.com/this-week-in-fintech-tft-bi-weekly-news-roundup-25-11/

Brankas To Facilitate the Launch of the Open Banking Exchange Asia

https://thefintechtimes.com/brankas-to-facilitate-the-launch-of-the-open-banking-exchange-asia/

In the hope of further developing Opening Banking and Open Finance across Asia, the Open Banking Exchange (OBE) has formed an alliance with the Open Finance technology company Brankas

The Open Banking Exchange was established by the regulatory authority Konsentus in May of this year to leverage the past achievements of Open Banking Europe, and the programme has already celebrated a successful launch in Latin America.

The programme’s newest partner, Brankas, is a prominent provider of Open Finance technology solutions and works closely with digital businesses and financial institutions within the APAC market. Its strategic position and local expertise is expected to facilitate the programme within Asia whilst making it more relevant to regional appetites.

OBE Asia, led by Brankas’ Todd Schweitzer, will bring ecosystem members together through educational events and publications, with support and input from regulators and national banks, to help drive financial inclusion and resilience in the region.

OBE will be sharing best practices from other regions globally as a base in the creation of common standards and rules both at a country-specific and regional level.

“We have a proven track record in supporting the ecosystem in the evolution of Open Banking and Open Finance across Europe, and other international markets,” said John Broxis, Managing Director, Open Banking Exchange. “Each country and jurisdiction are different, so there is no model that fits them all. Through OBE Asia, there will be many opportunities for collaboration and learning and we believe that Todd and his team are best placed to support us in the region.”

Todd Schweitzer, Director, OBE AsiaTodd Schweitzer, Director, OBE Asia
Todd Schweitzer, Director, OBE Asia

Todd Schweitzer, Director of OBE Asia commented: “John and the Open Banking Exchange team have unparalleled experience in enabling ecosystem members to successfully turn regulatory standards and rules into operational reality. We believe that combined with our local market expertise, the Open Banking Exchange Membership Programme can bring real value to the open banking community in Asia.”

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

https://thefintechtimes.com/brankas-to-facilitate-the-launch-of-the-open-banking-exchange-asia/