Blockchain-driven Investing App Hedgehog Offers Two New Tokens

Blockchain-driven investing app Hedgehog unveils two new tokens representing fractional investments in real-world assets, including real estate and infrastructure.

The tokens, available to individuals in the US, UK and Switzerland, target a combination of regular income and growth, and will be available to buy directly via the Hedgehog app for $5,000.

Hedgehog is on a mission to make it more accessible and efficient for people to invest through digital and automatic investment processes. It has secured investment opportunities in more than $1.5billon of real assets, including warehouses, content studios and renewable energy infrastructure.

Rob Lamb, co-founder of Hedgehog, says: “Our model is to provide investors with the opportunity to pick and choose between investments that offer a different mix of benefits, to prioritise the outcomes most important to them as individuals: financial, social or environmental.”

Real assets

Real assets, or tangible assets with intrinsic value, can provide stability and reassurance in periods of stock market volatility, while they also offer portfolio diversification. Institutions, including pension funds, are increasing their ownership of real assets, says Hedgehog – citing a 2021 Bank of America Merrill Lynch report.

Hedgehog uses tokenisation technology, underpinned by blockchain-based smart contracts, to offer digital tokens that are backed by income generated, directly or indirectly, by real-world assets. It says that by removing barriers to entry, it enables eligible individuals to have more control over the investments they own.

Both tokens represent indirect investments in real-world assets located within one hour of Manhattan, New York:

  • Industrial Warehouse @ i.Park 84 is a fully leased manufacturing building at i.Park 84, the former IBM East Fishkill semiconductor manufacturing facility situated on 300-acres of land with more than three million square feet of buildings.
  • Solar @i.Park Hudson a large array of rooftop solar in the New York metro area: 3,700 solar panels covering 2.2 acres of rooftop that provides the tenants of @ i.Park Hudson with a source of green energy.

Hedgehog co-founder Michael Ward adds: “We are catering to investors that have demand for some of the benefits that investing in valuable real-world assets can provide. Industrial Warehouse @ i.Park 84 is a source of stable cash flow and upside potential, while investors in Solar @i.Park Hudson can earn regular income and support the transition to a low-carbon economy at the same time.”

Fraugster To Enable BNPLs and Enterprise Merchants To Make Better Decisions About Credit Risk

Alternative Credit Decisions, the latest product from Berlin-based Fraugster, will enable buy now pay later (BNPL) and enterprise merchants to approve more customers without increasing credit risk.

The artificial intelligence (AI) payment company’s new product has set out to enrich BNPL credit scoring models and to give a more accurate picture of a buyer’s true credit risk.

The product consolidated over 100 attributes to assess credit risk, including a buyer’s positive transaction history, account history, purchase history and unpaid amounts. This insight has been facilitated by global network intelligence and real-time graph networks.

The launch of Fraugster’s product coincides with BNPLs reporting much higher bad debt impairment rates than credit cards. For every $1billion of processing volume, BNPLs write down $19.2 million of bad debt compared to $270,000 per billion for credit cards.

At the same time, good customers continue to experience service denials because BNPL providers and e-commerce merchants are unable to accurately determine their level of risk. This includes a significant proportion of returning shoppers who are treated as if they are buying something online for the first time. This is happening because credit decisions are missing important data.

Fraugster CEO Christian MangoldFraugster CEO Christian Mangold
Christian Mangold

“We want our customers to feel confident that they can trust the person they are approving to repay the amount they are borrowing,” said Fraugster CEO Christian Mangold whilst discussing the launch.

“The positive results we are already seeing with trial customers make me confident that we can help the e-commerce ecosystem approve more customers without increasing exposure to loan defaults.”

Currently, BNPLs and enterprise merchants broadly use credit bureau checks to increase their confidence in an approval decision, but they typically encounter a fee for each check made. Being one of the USPs of the service, Alternative Credit Decisions is able to reduce dependency on these checks, improving both the cost and accuracy of the process. The product also helps customers rationalise other third-party data vendor costs.

  • 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.

Nium Secures Broader Licence Capabilities in Malaysia

Singapore-based fintech Nium rolls out real-time payments in Malaysia and announces broader local licence capabilities.

Nium has expanded the availability of real-time payments into Malaysia, increasing its total real-time payment markets to a ‘market-leading’ 100 countries. With the addition of Malaysia, Nium now processes more than 75 per cent of transactions globally in real-time.

According to GlobalData, a real-time transactions in Malaysia are forecast to grow to 3.6 billion in 2026. In comparison, Malaysia recorded 1.1 billion real-time payment transactions in 2021.

Pratik Gandhi, COO and co-founder at Nium, said: “More countries are turning to Nium to bring their legacy systems into the modern age. We enable money to move around the world – instantly, easily, and securely – while helping businesses position themselves for more opportunities in the digital future.”

Broader licence capabilities 

Nium has also announced it has secured an expanded license in Malaysia. It is now able to onboard licenced corporations of all sizes to its platform – including financial institutions and PSPs – with higher outbound limits, up to MYR6,000,000 per day, and the ability to control end user pricing.

The International Remittance Hub’ (IRH) licence is issued by the central bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), and it provides Nium with in-market capabilities including Pay Out in more than 190 countries, with over 100 in real-time, as well as technology and compliance cost savings for businesses, and settlement in local currency (MYR).

Collaboration with HLF

In a separate announcment, Nium has unveiled a collaboation with Hong Leong Finance (HLF) to launch HLF FASTPAY, a multi-currency e-wallet app that comes with a virtual Visa Prepaid Card.

HLF FASTPAY provides a cross-border digital payment solution for SMEs, corporates and consumers to manage and transfer funds in multiple currencies.

Ang Tang Chor, president of Hong Leong Finance said: “Cashless transactions have become an integral part of our daily lives and the demand for digital payment solutions has increased. By joining forces with a fintech partner, we can create customised solutions more efficiently so customers enjoy new and expanded financial services with safe and secure payment options.

“Global business trades for our SME clients are increasing and international travelling is becoming the norm again. We recognise that our customers are looking for safe and cost-efficient cross- border payment methods and a secure prepaid card to use for their travel overseas. HLF FASTPAY is the ideal solution for them.”

Personetics: How Open Banking Will Transform the Way Banks Build Powerful Customer Relationships

Banks have been closed-off and self-interested for too long, losing sight of an unwritten social contract with customers to promote financial wellbeing. When open banking is done right, it presents a huge opportunity for banks, as well as fintechs, to put customers back at the centre of operations.

Jody Bhagat, President at PersoneticsJody Bhagat, President at Personetics
Jody Bhagat

With this in mind, Jody Bhagat explores how open banking can move from a self-serving ecosystem to a flourishing ecosystem that transforms customer relationships. He argues that open banking still has the potential for a revolution, but that its biggest impact could in fact be a cultural one, identifying now as a generational opportunity for banks to reshape their business model.

As president of Americas at Personetics, Bhagat is responsible for creating market leadership and driving customer impact. He was previously a partner at McKinsey & Company, where he helped financial institutions define and execute digital transformation programmes to drive customer growth and operating efficiency.

Bhagat also served in senior digital operating roles at US Bank, Wells Fargo, and Providian. In these positions, he led digital sales and service functions and direct to consumer businesses to deliver organic growth and enhanced customer experience. Bhagat has an MBA from Northwestern University and a BS in computer engineering from The University of Michigan.

From ego-system to ecosystem: how open banking will transform the way banks build powerful customer relationships

Ask any customer to describe the properties they value in a bank, and security of money and data will be a recurring theme. That’s why open banking – and the idea that banks and their customers could benefit from sharing data with outside institutions – is an important phenomenon.

In recent months, however, open banking has been a target for criticism, focused on slow uptake rates and so-called lack of innovation. Yet, such criticism misses a fundamental point; the real potential open banking presents is the opportunity to completely transform banks’ business models and create new ways for firms to compete.

To understand what’s at stake, let’s take a look at the prevailing model in financial services. Historically, many banks have maintained a transactional relationship with customers organised primarily around bank products. Now we’re beginning to see banks moving to a much more proactive approach as trusted advisors to customers, and many financial institutions are looking for new ways to help improve their customers’ financial wellbeing.

With the rise of open banking, this shift will become a reality and banks will re-shape their business model with customers and their needs at the centre. Open banking gives financial institutions new capabilities to make decisions and recommendations with consideration for the lifetime value of the customer. If banks implement this model successfully, customers are the winners – and banks share in their success.

From ego-system to ecosystem

So how does open banking hold the key to kick-starting this change in operating model? Open banking pushes financial organisations to transition from a transaction-based ‘ego-system’ of selling products, to part of a complete ‘ecosystem’ of banks and financial services.

Through the process of opening up access to financial data, open banking also allows banks to build a more comprehensive picture of their customers than ever before. Instead of seeing each customer through the lens of one bank account, service providers are beginning to develop an aggregate view of individuals’ financial status and behaviour across checking accounts, savings, investments, pensions, mortgages and insurance. This allows banks to take a truly holistic view of their customers and develop personalised services designed to improve their overall financial wellbeing.

Meaningful metrics for a customer-centric model

Commercial teams might baulk at the idea of ripping up their KPIs – but this shouldn’t be the case. By emphasising the focus on metrics like engagement, NPS and customer lifetime value, banks will be able to deliver experiences that create deeper, longer and more profitable relationships.

Through open banking, financial institutions can wholeheartedly take on this position and understand their customers across multiple touchpoints in their financial journey, which provides opportunities that benefit all parties.

Look across the globe for lessons in open banking

Banks around the world are refocusing their efforts on open banking-led transformation, driven by a combination of regulatory mandates and pressure from new competitors, from neo-banks and non-bank fintechs alike. Markets that lag behind global leaders today can use this time to learn from successes and failures in different regulatory environments, prepare their own strategies and consider how to maximise value for their customers.

Today, the EU and LATAM lead the way in open banking adoption. The UK in particular has enacted some of the most progressive regulatory regimes to spur the adoption of open banking, supported by regulatory guidance of GDPR and PSD2 policies. This has helped the country reach key milestones in growth, for example reaching five million open banking users in just over four years.

Similarly, in Brazil, open banking is regulated by the central bank and has four phases of implementation. In December, Brazil announced its final stage, which allows the entire financial footprint of individuals to be opened up, including data on mortgages, savings, pensions, insurance and credit.

Meanwhile, the US has taken more of a market-driven approach, with fintechs and challenger banks spurring innovation. Yet, without any material government or regulatory initiatives to support the development of open banking, America trails behind other markets.

A solid regulatory framework brings a welcome shot of trust into the market and drives adoption and uptake rates. Yet, there are other strategic options for financial institutions to pursue, including partnerships with fintech or API aggregators, but banks need to be ready to take that step.

Communicate with customers to establish your value

Technical implementation is just the first hurdle. For banks to successfully reposition their role in customers’ lives, it’s important to effectively communicate the value of open banking, rebuilding stronger customer relationships on new foundations. It sounds straightforward, but banks can struggle to deliver a cohesive message about the overall relationship value across multiple product divisions across the enterprise.

Bank Leumi, Israel’s second largest financial institution, is one provider that’s found success through insights on its mobile app. Leumi’s insights share personalised feedback with each customer – including rewards points earned, cash back totals, fees waived and interest earned. By playing back the value of products powered by open banking, Leumi customers can be confident that their bank is working to promote their financial wellbeing. And to bring customers on board with a bank’s complete proposition, the next step is to show predictive calculations of the cash they could earn or save with additional financial products.

Banks are obliged more than ever to fulfil their social contract with customers to protect their financial wellbeing. Open banking now offers a generational opportunity for banks to live up to this expectation and fundamentally reshape their business models by serving as trusted advisors to their customers.

What we’ve seen over the last few years has been an open banking evolution, but with the right mindset and regulatory frameworks in place, this year could see an open banking revolution.

UK Fintech Startup Tranch Raises £3.5Million For B2B BNPL Platform

Tranch, a buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform for SaaS sellers, has raised £3.5million in pre-seed equity, while bagging a place on Y Combinator’s next startup accelerator programme.

London-based Tranch, founded in 2021 by Philip Kelvin and Beau Allison, combines credit risk modelling and open banking data to make BNPL payments more accessible to more B2B customers.

Led by Flash Ventures, with an additional debt facility from Columbia Lake Partners, the £3.5million funding round will be used for team expansion and a drive towards launching in the US. It will also support onboarding more suppliers across multiple verticals.

Tranch is also backed by Y Combinator and will join its next startup accelerator programme which comes with a $500,000 investment. More than 3600 companies have been through the YC programme since 2005, but only three per cent have come from the UK.

Pay with Tranch

Tranch enables companies to pay for expenses like SaaS, cloud hosting and professional fees, then spread the cost out over time. It says companies waste $20billion a year globally paying premium monthly fees for annual SaaS contracts that they could pay for upfront and in full if it wasn’t for cash flow constraints.

By offering a ‘Pay with Tranch’ payment method, suppliers can offer their end-customers a more flexible way to pay for contracts worth £10,000 to £250,000, while they themselves get paid upfront, faster. Businesses selecting Tranch to pay their large expenses can achieve greater control over their cash flow and boost their liquidity. Instead of settling invoices in full within a standard 30 to 90 day term, an end-customer that chooses ‘Pay with Tranch’ can spread the cost of their contracts over six to 12 months.

Philip Kelvin, co-founder & CEO of Tranch, says: “Tranch was born out of a frustration and desire to fix a broken model. My time as a scaleup CFO made me realise just how inflexible payment options can be for crucial SaaS tools and other business services, and how detrimental this lack of choice and payment ownership can be on thousands of companies.

“Pay with Tranch solves that huge and costly problem, by putting flexibility and choice at the heart of the payments process in a way that works simply and favourably for both suppliers and buyers.”

Following the investment, Yash Zaveri, partner & MD at Flash Ventures will join Tranch’s board. He adds: “B2B BNPL players so far have been largely focused on B2B e-commerce where ticket sizes are small and lenders rely on standard credit data to make limited credit decisions.

“We’re excited to see Tranch making B2B BNPL accessible to more complex lending demands involving larger volumes and longer durations, all of which creates a hugely scalable international market opportunity through their full lending tech stack.”

News & Views Podcast | Episode 79: Revolut, BNPL, Amex Partners with Google

On this weeks episode of News & Views, The Fintech Times Podcast team speak about how Revolut has reported an increase over 215% in the number of UK users aged between 55 and 74, BNPL and its reaction from GenZ and millennials & a clearer look into American Express’ partnership with Google.

Crypto Ecosystem Made Safer as Chainabuse Allows Users to Report Illicit Activity for Community

TRM Labs, the blockchain intelligence solutions provider, along with crypto industry leaders including Circle, Solana Foundation, The Aave Companies, Hedera, Binance.US and Civic, has announced the launch of a new community-powered scam reporting platform, Chainabuse, which empowers anyone in the crypto economy to warn others about scams, hacks or other fraudulent activity as they encounter it. The free tool enables crypto users, victims of financial crimes, and crypto businesses to take an active role in making the crypto ecosystem a safer place to operate.

Despite current volatility, the cryptocurrency industry has grown considerably over the last few years, peaking at a $3trillion market cap in 2021. But as adoption has increased, so too has the rate of hacks and scams targeting crypto users. Warnings of scams are often reported on social media sites such as Twitter or Discord, but these posts can be difficult to validate, consolidate or track over time.

Chainabuse is the first purpose-built platform of its kind – a multi-chain reporting tool that allows crypto users to report illicit activity to a public forum where others can upvote, downvote or leave comments to contribute additional information. Reports on the same addresses or entities are consolidated and housed in a searchable database, which anyone can use to proactively check addresses or projects before engaging with them.

“In numerous recent attacks and instances of malicious activity, we have already seen the crypto community’s potential to come together to root out bad actors and help protect each other, “ said Joe McGill, former US Secret Service and Postal Investigator, now part of the global investigations team at TRM and one of Chainabuse’s chief architects. “Chainabuse was designed to make it easier for more people to play an active role in advancing that culture and ensure that the spirit of community remains one of crypto’s most powerful attributes.”

The platform is powered by the crypto community and supported by leading crypto businesses, protocols, and foundations committed to making the crypto ecosystem a safe and trusted environment. Chainabuse provides partner crypto platform operators with a consolidated view of illicit activity reports from users, allowing them to identify prevalent, legitimate complaints and launch investigations more quickly.

“Chainabuse significantly enhances the depth and effectiveness of our compliance monitoring program by leveraging an aggregated view of the distributed efforts of the entire crypto community,” said Mandeep Walia, chief compliance and risk officer at Circle.

“The safety and security of web3 users is our top priority. Working with TRM Labs will enable us to reduce scams and hacks, which have cost people millions of dollars. Chainabuse will allow us to work together with industry partners to promote a better environment for the next million participants of DeFi and web3,” said Stani Kulechov, CEO of Aave.

“TRM Labs is the industry go-to for blockchain investigations, and Chainabuse fills a missing part of a more trusted ecosystem with much-needed resources for scam victims,” said Chris Hart, CEO of Civic. “We’re proud to forge a partnership with TRM Labs and build more intelligence into the investigative process together.”

“DLT and crypto requires a higher level of trust for more mainstream adoption, and tangible safety measures to protect consumers and users,” said Sam Brylski, regulatory counsel and chief compliance officer for Hedera. “We are pleased to work with other industry leaders to deliver a multi-chain, community-driven, and freely available platform that lets users report and be warned about hacks, scams, and fraudulent activity, raising transparency for all.”

“As the digital economy continues to scale, it is imperative we have solutions like Chainabuse that empower the crypto community to work with regulated exchanges and report abusive behavior and scams,” said Tammy Weinrib, chief compliance officer at Binance.US. “One of the main goals of regulated exchanges is to foster trust within the broader community, and we believe this is giant step forward towards continuing to fortify that trust.”

The platform launches publicly today with hundreds of reports available to search across seven blockchains – including over 100 scams related to Ukraine crypto fundraising campaigns and over 20 phishing domains and Twitter profiles targeting investors in a popular new gamified metaverse project.

“The latent fear of inadvertently investing in a rugpull – or being hacked – hampers mainstream crypto adoption and reinforces the call for industry-led solutions to consumer and investor protections,” said Esteban Castaño, co-founder and CEO of TRM Labs. “Chainabuse is the latest extension of TRM’s mission to build a safer and more trusted financial system for billions of people and we are proud to partner with leaders in the crypto industry to expand its impact and reach.”

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

Drivers Behind Growing Digital Payment Explored by Axerve in New Whitepaper

Axerve, payment partner to grow, specialising in creating accessible and frictionless payment solutions for e-commerce and physical sales, announces the release of a new white paper, ‘New technologies and trends in digital payments in 2022′. The white paper explores the drivers behind growing digital payment forms worldwide and assesses the impact that the proliferation of new digital payment methods is having on merchants.

In the purchase process, payment is a delicate phase because it determines the transition from the purchase intention of the customer to the actual sale and the less friction there is at this juncture, the more pleasant the customer experience. Therefore, in order for merchants to maintain high customer experience and cart conversion, it is essential that payment is as frictionless and immediate as possible, while still being transparent and above all safe and compliant with relevant PSD2 regulations. In this context, solutions that manage the growing number of complex multi-channel payments for retailers while delivering hyper-personalised services – aka services that respond to the specific needs of the merchant, based on their target demographic habits and preferences and geographical regions – is important for customer experience.

This is increasingly a challenge for merchants as multiple digital payment types such as cryptocurrency, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), contactless in-store payments such as SoftPOS, and e-commerce tokenisation, that Axerve outlines in the white paper, are increasingly popular meaning that retailers must engage with multiple payment forms at checkout.

The technological response from the world of payments to the new forms of purchasing are platforms capable of satisfying increasingly complex and personalised needs, both from the point of view of the merchant and from that of the customers. A study by Accuity, a LexisNexis Risk Solutions company, estimated that failed payments, as a result in part of problems in the management of payment flows, have cost the global economy $118.5billion in fees, labour, and lost business in 2020.

Payment orchestration is a key tool for managing this increased complexity. Axerve’s Payment OrchestraTM manages the interoperability between all the transaction processes and types and simplifies payments configuration thanks to a new proprietary software architecture. Payment OrchestraTM can significantly cut the costs of multiple e-commerce integrations and allows independence from payment service providers (PSPs). Its multi-solution integration system gives businesses the possibility to automatically switch payments to the best-performing provider at the time of purchase, resulting in industry-leading quick reaction times.

Precisely with a goal of combining a complex series of features and thanks to the rise of digital, all players involved in payment processing have been investing for some time in the innovation of processes, legislations, and platforms. Regulation, alternative payments, fraud prevention, and value-added services are just some of the fields in which companies and institutions are working in to improve the shopping experience for consumers and collection experience for merchants.

Similarly, compliance with PSD2 and SCA requirements has added complexity for merchants. However, knowing how to seize the opportunities of PSD2 is a great opportunity for the merchant to prevent transactions from being rejected during authentication, improving the user experience offered to their customers by the overall conversion rate. Today, this is possible with risk analysis tools, like Axerve Advice, which take advantage of the opportunity to request an exemption from applying the regular flow of 3DS protocols. Axerve’s own payments data shows that by using Axerve Advice’s Transaction Risk Analysis 98.9 payments of the total transactions managed by Axerve were sent exempt to issuers, who did not apply two-factor authentication in 89 per cent of cases. Out of this 89 per cent, only 2.9 per cent received a soft decline from issuers (however out of this 2.9 per cent, 80.2 per cent were subsequently sent with the SCA request and in all cases the outcome was positive). Therefore, most of the transactions deemed potentially fraudulent by the issuer have actually turned out to be genuine, as reported by Axerve Advice. Axerve has found that a huge 99.9 per cent of the soft decline transactions subsequently passed the authentication phase. As a result, only a number of transactions as low as 0.08 per cent of the soft-decline transactions did not pass the authentication phase; demonstrating the efficacy of risk analysis methods.

Axerve is a part of the European fintech Fabrick’s open finance ecosystem, and beyond this, the company supports a diverse mix of institutions, international corporations, and retail chains by offering innovative technology and data security across global payment methods. Axerve helps its partners anticipate trends in the digital payments market. The Axerve payment platform processes more than 4 million requests every month, supporting customers in selecting the best solutions for their business and suggesting the most effective instruments to increase sales and boost loyalty.

Alessandro Bocca, CEO of Axerve, commented: “The release of Axerve’s white paper today underscores the significant innovation and growth in the digital payments space of recent years. In order for merchants to harness the benefits of diverse payment methods for their customers, it is vital that the new forms of purchasing experiences that are emerging are met with an omnichannel and fluid approach and platforms capable of simplifying multiple payments for merchants.

“This is an increasingly complex task meaning that retailers stand to benefit from an expert payment partner. Orchestration models such as Axerve’s Payment OrchestraTM offer consistency along the entire payment flow.”

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

Fintech YAP Gets Approval to Launch E-Money Wallet Service

Fintech YAP has been granted an in-principle approval (IPA) from the State Bank of Pakistan for an Electronic Money Institute (EMI) Licence.

After initially launching its digital banking platform in the UAE, YAP has identified Pakistan’s rapidly growing fintech landscape as the ideal market to expand its operations.

YAP Pakistan, a subsidiary of YAP, has a vision to become the leading digital banking platform in the country and to make banking ‘an effortless experience’ for every Pakistani citizen.

“We are dedicated towards expanding into the underserved Pakistani fintech arena to increase financial inclusion,” said Meharyab Niazi, CEO of YAP Pakistan. “To achieve this goal, we will be rolling out several products that are fine-tuned and curated for our Pakistani audience. We would like to thank the authorities for their trust and support in making this IPA possible.”

Anas Zaidan, founder and MD of YAP, adds: “We aim to provide agile and effortless remittance products to our users along with an exciting portfolio of products that cater to all segments of the Pakistani audience. With YAP launching nationwide we hope to accelerate financial innovation and accessibility.”

Future plans

The YAP Pakistan app offers a suite of features, such as analytics and budget tools, card controls, easy money transfers, real-time notifications of purchases, virtual cards and more. The app has been fully customised to support its local audience including an Urdu version of the app which is currently in development.

YAP Pakistan also aims to address the challenges consumers face in the foreign remittance market. Pakistan is ranked sixth in the top 10 recipient countries of workers remittances globally, and from July 2021 until February 2022, a total of $11.2billion were remitted from the GCC to Pakistan.

The company is also keen to introduce products for agri, households, and women, along with YAP Young, a feature for children.

National Digital Academy Launched in Ghana by SADA Following Launches in Rep. of Congo and Rwanda

Smart Africa’s capacity building arm, the Smart Africa Digital Academy (SADA) in partnership with Ghana’s Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation have launched a national digital academy in the country, marking the official kick-off of in-country implementation of the initiative.

The agreement is contained within a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Smart Africa Alliance and the Ghana’s Ministry Communications and Digitalisation. The launch in Ghana follows the roll out of national digital academies of SADA that took place in the Republic of Congo in February and in Rwanda in March.

As a pan-African dynamic learning ecosystem, SADA aims to improve digital skills qualifications, employability, and meet the emerging talent needs of African citizens. The national digital academy will support the uniquely identified digital skills priority needs at the national level. Furthermore, such national digital academies will soon be rolled out in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prior to this official launch, SADA implemented in April a federated cloud proof of value workshop in Accra where over 100 people from the public and private sector were trained. This workshop aimed to strengthen the countries’ data centers and cloud services ecosystem with the collaboration of our private sector partners, HPE and Intel. Additionally, this week, SADA held two other peer-learning workshops; one on digital payment and the other on artificial intelligence, during which more than 60 experts gathered to gain knowledge and exchange best practices on digital payment ecosystem, and in developing AI Frameworks in Ghana.

As part of the next steps, Smart Africa and the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation will continue to collaborate with the key stakeholders to successfully execute the defined priority initiatives under the SADA Ghana framework. These initiatives range from executive education in specialised topics to training of teachers and training of trainers in advanced computing. They will be implemented in collaboration with our development partners and private partners such as GIZ, World Bank, ITU, HPE, A4AI and more.

Commenting on the launch, Lacina Koné, the director general and CEO of Smart Africa said: “Ghana is one of the most active countries of the Smart Africa alliance and has been instrumental in advancing digital skills of its citizens. We are pleased to contribute positively to the nation capacity building through the launch of SADA in Ghana.

“At the heart of the digital transformation lies the need to bridge the digital skills gap of our continent’s future and present workforce. I would like to thank all our partners and the Republic of Ghana for officially onboarding the SADA journey” he added.

Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, minister of Communications and Digitalisation who graced the launch thanked Smart Africa and said “Today marks a proud moment for the people of Ghana and Africa at large in the area of digital skills and empowering African citizens in taking advantage of the digital transformation”

Since its start of operation in August 2020, focusing on the Capacity Building for Decision Makers (CBDM) module, SADA has trained over 2,000 policy and decision-makers across 26 countries in trending digital transformation topics including artificial intelligence use cases, 5G connectivity, data protection and privacy, rural broadband policies, security technologies, regulatory and innovative sandboxing environments, data centers and cloud, digital identity for underserved, e-payment, etc. The objective is to reach over 22,000 trained beneficiaries by 2023, supported by the SADA In-country implementation wave.

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

Dream Deal Days Promotion To Bring Klarna Customers Closer to Their Dream Purchases

Having reached a new user milestone, Klarna is to host a three-day event this month that’ll reward customers with their ‘dream purchase’.

‘Dream Deal Days’ is set to take place between 27 May and 29 May. Through its established relationship with various major retail brands, users will gain access to attractive deals and exclusive product releases for three days only.

The promotion will be available through Klarna’s main site, its associated app and via participating merchant websites.

The promotion coincides with the arrival of Klarna’s 150 millionth user, whilst the platform has now also drawn in its 400,000th merchant partner.

David Sandström, Klarna's chief marketing officer.David Sandström, Klarna's chief marketing officer.
David Sandström

“To have reached 150 million Klarna consumers is an amazing achievement and there is no better way to mark this than the launch of Dream Deal Days,” says Klarna’s chief marketing officer David Sandström.

Klarna’s recent survey of more than 19,000 consumers from 19 countries highlighted that approximately half currently have an item they would describe as ‘their ideal dream purchase’, while almost as many are planning to make a dream purchase for someone other than themselves.

And even though 37 per cent argue that it’s impossible to put a price tag on what should be considered a dream purchase, 62 per cent stated that they hadn’t made the purchase yet because the item they had in mind was too expensive.

Partnering with retailers from the fashion, electronics, beauty and homeware sectors, Klarna has used its users’ in-app wishlists to determine the direction and scope of what’s on offer, with the event poised to help consumers take advantage of deals on dream purchases.

“This event is Klarna’s opportunity to give back to our community, presenting our users with the chance to purchase exclusive deals at great prices however they choose to pay,” continues Sandström.

In addition, there is also the opportunity to win prizes by entering a competition that Klarna has organised to celebrate some of the milestones of its 17-year history. The competition entry form will be discoverable on from 20 May to 29 May.

“Seventeen years ago, Klarna set out on a journey to achieve one mission; to make payments simple, safe and smooth for millions of people across the globe,” concludes Sandström.

“Klarna has come a long way since we started out but we remain customer-obsessed and this is a further chance to repay our customers by helping them get closer to their dreams.”

This promotion has come shortly after the payments provider introduced a live chat and video call service on its platform in an attempt to better connect shoppers to the products and services they’re buying.

In similar developments, the platform also announced that it would start reporting its customer data to credit agencies, advising them who pays on time and who falls behind on their debt.

This was a central feature of a recent ‘News and Views’ podcast, hosted by The Fintech Times, which you can tune in to here.

  • 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.

Finastra Gets Its Indian Foothold Back on Its Feet With New Office Opening

Finastra has marked the opening of its newest office in Pune, India and the re-opening of its refurbished office space in Bangalore, India, with ribbon-cutting ceremonies led by its chief technology officer and India executive sponsor, Ravi Metta.

The offices will form a base for around 2700 of the financial software applications and marketplaces provider’s 9,000-plus employees. In total, approximately 30 per cent of Finastra’s global workforce – around 2,800 people – are based in India.

“After being delayed by Covid, it was a great pleasure to officially mark the opening of our newest office in Pune and the re-opening of our reinvigorated office in Bangalore,” said Metta at the ceremony.

“I’m always so impressed by the engineering and product excellence that thrives in India and these investments are a testament to its position as a strategic growth location for Finastra. To fuel our ambitious goals in India we are tapping into the country’s strong talent pool to fill roles across the whole product development lifecycle.”

Finastra has offices in Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Trivandrum, which are all centres responsible for producing fintech solutions that are used by 90 of the world’s top 100 banks.

Mehjabeen Poonawala FinastraMehjabeen Poonawala Finastra
Mehjabeen Poonawala

Mehjabeen Poonawala, the company’s country head of India, said: “Our investment in modern new collaborative workspaces in Pune and Bangalore is just one of the reasons Finastra has been awarded Great Place to Work certification for three years running.

“Additionally, initiatives like extending insurance benefits to LGBTQ partners and offering extra career support for female employees are helping us to create an inclusive workplace culture that is key to building a high-trust, high-performance environment.

“We are also focused on finding and nurturing fresh talent and have partnered with several universities, which has helped us to hire hundreds of graduates to date.”

Finastra has introduced several measures to help it attract the best talent in India. In response to the pandemic, Finastra established its ‘Employee Welfare Trust’, which has enabled its staff to make Finastra-matched donations to support Indian colleagues and their families who have been impacted by the effects of the pandemic since 2020.

Finastra was also one of India’s early leaders in the adoption of hybrid working. After listening to colleagues’ feedback, Finastra responded with ‘OPENworking’, a hybrid working model that allows its staff to work two-plus days a week in the office and two-plus days from home.

This meant enabling physical and work regimes and providing the best digital tools to help its people be as agile, collaborative and focused as possible, ensuring they are able to get the best of both worlds.

As part of its OPENworking strategy, Finastra has also rolled out an uncapped vacation policy across its offices in India. As of January 2022, the company’s ‘Flexible Vacation’ policy has been encouraging a healthy work-life balance for its staff, enabling them to take vacation days as and when they need.

  • 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.

Brazilian Regulated Institutions Have Access to Open Finance Data With Belvo’s New Product Launch

Belvo, the open finance API platform in Latin America, is launching its official open finance solution for financial institutions and other regulated players in Brazil to simplify the connection to end-users information through an optimised and compliant user experience.

Through Belvo’s new open finance product, which is compliant with the guidelines from Banco Central do Brasil (BACEN), financial innovators now have a secure way to access end-user data according to present and future guidelines and regulations.

By connecting through Belvo’s new solution, open finance regulated institutions don’t need to dedicate resources to developing their own technology in order to communicate with other institutions’ APIs. Instead, regulated players can now access always updated and standardised customer information through a single and easy-to-integrate interface with the highest levels of safety and conversion rates.

Through Belvo, companies will also be able to consume data from institutions that are not yet under the scope of the open finance schema. All through a single interface that companies will be able to customise depending on which financial institutions they need to connect to.

This is made possible through a first-class user journey built by Belvo following open finance official guidelines. Companies just need to embed Belvo’s widget in their product to allow their end-users to easily consent to share their information. End-users will be redirected through a seamless process and have the option to consent to share selected information with the institution of their choice.

“A solution like this has tremendous value for financial institutions, who won’t have to go through the laborious processes of developing and maintaining the connection to hundreds of open finance APIs. These and other strenuous tasks, like normalising data from different banks, extracting insights from raw data through advanced analytics, and keeping up with regulatory demands, are Belvo’s core expertise. Now we want our clients to benefit from it so they can save precious time when consuming Open Finance data and focus on building new and improved products for their customers”, says Albert Morales, Belvo’s general manager in Brazil.

“Open finance is already a game-changer for financial innovators in Brazil, like PSD2 in Europe and open banking in the UK have been for both fintechs and traditional institutions, and has huge potential for growth. We are excited to facilitate this transformation to create more access to financial services in the country, with more sophisticated and custom products to better serve Brazilian people and businesses”, says Pablo Viguera, co-founder and co-CEO at Belvo.

Enrichment capabilities on top of open finance data

Companies using Belvo’s open finance solution will receive consumer data in a consistent and standardised format, and can additionally benefit from Belvo’s existing categorisation, enrichment, and data science engines.

With access to enriched data, banks can build stronger risk models to create personalised credit offerings and consolidate all customers’ financial account data in one single platform in order to better understand spending habits and build more sophisticated personal financial management features.

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

How Regtech Needs To Change for Paytech, With Monite, SimplyPayMe and HelpSystems

Like brakes to a bicycle, fintech must exist within the realms of regulation if it is to ditch its ‘wild west’ persona. Indeed, the adoption of various elements of the industry, like cryptocurrency, has ultimately suffered due to the lack of regulation that surrounds and supports them. Throughout the entire month of May, The Fintech Times will be dedicating its focus to highlighting the most current developments in this ever-perplexing and constantly-changing foundation of regtech.

Having taken this week to explore the areas where regtech is falling short, including where it’s not meeting the mark, and how it could be improved for wealth management, today The Fintech Times discusses how regtech needs to change for paytech with three industry experts active in the field.

Ivan Maryasin, CEO and co-founder of Monite, explores how the next generation of infrastructure as code will facilitate the most forward-thinking form of paytech in the industry today; embedded finance:

Ivan Maryasin, CEO and co-founder of MoniteIvan Maryasin, CEO and co-founder of Monite
Ivan Maryasin

“Embedded finance does not get built in a vacuum. There are complex international regulations that need to be observed. Especially in the context of global digital platforms (offering accountancy stack apps). Infrastructure as Code (IaC) creates a regtech highway to compliance for embedded finance users.

“IaC is currently conceived as a fast, low-cost, low-resource way to deploy tech. This is low-level IaC. But there also is a new, high-level approach to IaC that codes for compliance as well. Given that most fintechs will need to meet regulatory requirements somewhere in the world, this is the regtech highway to compliance.

“There is an arms race right now across fintech. The most successful digital-native fintechs, such as Revolut and Square, are already engaged in a headlong rush to become ‘super apps’, where differentiation is achieved by the broadest range of capabilities. Instead of offering a single or limited number of services, the aim is to provide a one-stop-shop where users can potentially conduct any transaction or service they are likely to need.

“Embedded finance is the secret weapon in this arms race.

“Embedded finance is a massive shortcut to offering new capabilities, e.g. an accountancy stack. However, most financial sector platforms will be compelled to comply with regulations at least somewhere in the world. Applying high-level financial IaC regtech massively reduces the costs of having the capability while increasing the quality through compliance.”

Gary Prince, Chief Strategy Officer at SimplyPayMeGary Prince, Chief Strategy Officer at SimplyPayMe
Gary Prince

According to Gary Prince, chief strategy officer at SimplyPayMe, “regtech needs to change for the paytech industry by enabling real-time decisioning and access to more online real-time information.”

He continues: “Open access, banking, and finance means the propensity for more fraud, as the bad actors will see this as a way to access money (customer funds) even easier. However, if loans can be processed within minutes, then consumer identity theft and account takeover become even more valuable to the criminal fraternity as they look to gain access to ‘quick fund’.

“Regtech needs to keep pace with (and try to get ahead) of fraudsters and scammers, as they will not go away from the sector, as it is too lucrative. So regtech needs to change for paytech to make payments safer for customers as well as businesses from those trying to access their information.”

Donnie MacColl, director of EMEA technical services at HelpSystemsDonnie MacColl, director of EMEA technical services at HelpSystems
Donnie MacColl

Donnie MacColl, director of EMEA technical services at HelpSystems, considers upcoming updates to the payment card industry (PCI) data security standard (DSS), and worries about the speed of their arrival:

“PCI DSS compliance is critical for organisations handling card payments, and forms a part of regtech services for fintech companies. However, the new PCI DSS V4.0 update that is expected to roll out in March 2024 sets too long a deadline which fails to create a sense of urgency and highlights some ‘casual updates’ that many businesses should already have in place.

“For instance, ‘8.3.6 Minimum level of complexity for passwords when used as an authentication factor’ or ‘5.4.1 Mechanisms are in place to detect and protect personnel against phishing attacks’ are listed as ‘non-urgent updates to implement in 36 months’. Considering today’s high-level cyberthreats, these recommendations won’t come fast enough to raise the level of cyber protection needed for financial institutions and retail businesses, posing a real threat to customer data and privacy.

“Instead, the update should require these changes to be implemented over multiple stages, setting out conditions that need to be met within a 12, 24 and 36-month timeframe. Businesses that fail to comply with PCI DSS should also be met with stricter fines and their abilities to offer credit card payment methods revoked, however we are not seeing those threats come to fruition.

“Without this enforcement, I fear businesses will postpone implementing these changes for the next 36 months. The PCI DSS update is good, but not good enough, and regtech businesses need to look beyond this advice and look to implement industry best practices as soon as possible.”

  • 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.

Mastercard and OPay To Bring Digital Financial Inclusion to the Middle East and Africa

Marking a significant boost for wider financial inclusion and economic prosperity, Mastercard has formed a partnership with the fintech OPay to open up digital commerce to millions of people across the Middle East and Africa.

The partnership will allow OPay customers to pay on online platforms via Mastercard’s virtual payment solution, which is to be linked to the OPay e-wallet.

The collaboration enables OPay consumers and merchants in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa and the UAE to engage with brands and businesses anywhere across the globe.

Since its operations started in 2018, OPay’s active users have grown to 15 million in dozens of markets in which it operates.

In Nigeria for example, where OPay has a major foothold, users have increasingly leveraged credit-linked savings accounts from their mobile wallets and small loans from lenders that use its platform.

With its Mastercard partnership now brought to fruition, OPay’s consumers are to be granted a better digital experience for multiple lifestyle services with numerous digital commerce opportunities, regardless of whether they have a bank account or not. It also allows small business owners to purchase from suppliers abroad and pay with the secure virtual payment solution.

In addition to digital commerce enablement, the two parties will jointly develop solutions to position OPay at the leading edge of financial services within the markets it operates.

Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President Market Development, Mastercard, MEAAmnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President Market Development, Mastercard, MEA
Amnah Ajmal

Amnah Ajmal, executive VP for market development at Mastercard EEMEA, said: “At Mastercard, our innovation strategy is rooted in partnerships to support inclusion at scale.

“Our partnership with OPay demonstrates our commitment to supporting payments providers across the world to create an interconnected global payments ecosystem that benefits an array of consumers with unique needs.”

Reports indicate that there are currently plans in place to launch OPay services in other markets within the next five years, significantly driving the growth of digital inclusion and digital commerce, while at the same time widening OPay customer inclusion into the global economy.

  • 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.

Open Banking and the Rise of Variable Recurring Payments

Variable Recurring Payments (VRP) are further realised by the financial industry as a wave of implementation sweeps across fintech. The open banking initiative is now seeing wider adoption between payment initiation service providers (PISP), merchants and customers, with the process and parameters of recurring payments being fully reimagined. 

VRP allows a customer to connect their bank account to a PISP, authorising them to make a series of continuous but controlled payments. Customers are able to decide the amount, scope and expiry date of the VRP, through a process that advocates wider transparency and control when compared to traditional alternatives.

The relationship of processing payments between businesses and customers will be familiar with direct debit or continuous payment authority (CPA). These are both well-established means of taking payment and have typically relied on the details of the credit or debit card.

To understand why this relationship is now shifting at increasing speed over to VRP, we must first analyse the pros and cons of each process to businesses for making and receiving payments.

Direct debit

Of the three, direct debit suffers the most from a lack of transparency, with the view being limited to the last amount processed and the mandate itself. In order for direct debits to be initiated between both parties, the account number and the associated sort code must be shared in what is usually an unsecured environment.

As might be expected, it is the slowest of the trio in terms of processing time. Although payments are regularly facilitated in a same-day transaction, delays in the banking system can result in payments being made on the next working day; so not ideal if you’re in a rush to make or receive a payment.

In addition to this, if the date or amount of the direct debit is changed by the merchant, it’s required that the payee be notified in writing, although this can be waivered in the terms and conditions of the service.


In just as many ways as direct debit, CPA is hindered by an equally limited view of the transaction. Businesses can only see the transaction on the statement itself, but no additional details of the payee. This does shower the process in an air of anonymity, but can be restricting should anything go wrong with the order.

In terms of security, again very similar to direct debit, CPA requires all the information of the account and the card to be shared in order for the process to work. However, the process is also much more flexible, with a business being granted to retrieve funds on a more accessible basis.


VRP are the most transparent form of a standing order, with the details, date and parameters of the recurring payments being fully accessible and identifiable within the allocated banking app. Both the amount and the time frame of the process can be limited and controlled, which would lend itself to the added flexibility of the service.

Establishing a VRP requires a secure journey to authorisation, and is usually settled through the terms of the bank.

VRP isn’t suitable for every business, and there has historically been slight hesitation around its implementation due to concerns about how it would be adopted or welcomed by customers.

However, as open banking works its way further into everyday financial consciousness, the industry seems now more eager than ever to exploit the benefits of the service.

Implemented by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) upon the recommendation of the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) back in August, VRP could considerably disrupt the current system of billing and its relationship with paytech, as the OBIE’s implementation trustee Imran Gulamhuseinwala OBE, explains:

Imran Gulamhuseinwala OBE, Implementation Trustee, OBIEImran Gulamhuseinwala OBE, Implementation Trustee, OBIE
Imran Gulamhuseinwala

“The OBIE will now mandate variable recurring payments for the purpose of sweeping, which is the automatic movement of money between an account holder’s different accounts. We like to think of it as the smarter version of direct debit payments.

“This is a major step forward in payments, giving consumers more control over their money whilst also protecting them from incurring unwanted fees.

“It will, for example, allow surplus money to be automatically transferred from a current account to a savings account to help build a savings pot or to an overdraft or loan account to help the customer keep their borrowing costs to a minimum.”

What do the headlines say?

The personal finance app Nude announced its intention to leverage VRP earlier this month,  partnering with the online payment processing solution of GoCardless to power the payments for its users to save and invest for their first home deposit.

GoCardless has been active in the VRP space since 2019 when it took the first live transaction through a sandbox developed by the OBIE.

Duncan Barrigan, chief product officer and chief growth officer at GoCardlessDuncan Barrigan, chief product officer and chief growth officer at GoCardless
Duncan Barrigan

“With open banking payments now in the mix, users will be on the fast track to their first home,” said Duncan Barrigan, chief product officer and chief growth officer at GoCardless.

“We’ve long said that VRPs have the potential to improve the financial well-being of people up and down the country. Working with companies like Nude makes it all the more tangible.”

Earlier this month, NatWest announced it had signed an agreement with the company to provide VRPs as a new payment option for businesses and consumers. GoCardless is also reportedly developing a ‘non-sweeping’ VRP pilot, which is expected to launch sometime later this year.

Away from GoCardless however, and NatWest has been equally as busy in the VRP space of late. The group has signed agreements with two other PISPs, namely TrueLayer and Crezco, to offer VRP as a payment option for businesses and consumers.

NatWest has become the first UK bank to go beyond the requirement for banks to provide VRP in support of ‘sweeping’.

Daniel Globerson, head of bank of APIs at NatWest Group, commented: “VRP has huge potential for both consumers and businesses. As a relationship bank in a digital world, we’re proud to lead the industry by delivering a new payment option through VRP, which will make it easier for businesses and their customers to manage payments for a wide range of services.”

NatWest had already been leading the industry, having built its VRP API for sweeping last year – well ahead of other banks – and having made the first VRP transaction for sweeping in a live environment in December.

Offering VRP as a new payment method also marks a significant development in NatWest’s API commercialisation strategy, which is bringing an increasingly wide variety of the bank’s services to customers and partners in innovative and convenient ways.

Being one of the bank’s main partners in the space, TrueLayer announced further VRP developments this week, stating that its customer The Credit Thing had successfully implemented its recurring payments API to make the first consumer VRP transactions in the UK.

Colin Hollingsbee, CIO for The Credit Thing, commented: “Could this be the beginning of the end for direct debits? VRP is a real game-changer. We pride ourselves on providing great experiences and being at the cutting edge. That’s why we’re excited to be the first in the industry to do this with TrueLayer, reinforcing our philosophy to deliver on innovation.

“This isn’t innovation for the sake of it. It delivers meaningful benefits – consumers are firmly in control, the service is secure and user friendly, the cost of service is ultra-competitive, and regular payment approval rates are likely to be phenomenal.”

Michael Lane, VP of sales at TokenMichael Lane, VP of sales at Token
Michael Lane

Michael Lane, VP of sales at Token, offers his thoughts on the advancement of VRP and suggests what he believes could be the next steps for open banking: “In terms of delivering the best user experience, we need to move further beyond single, immediate payments. For A2A payments to capture a portion of cards’ share of checkout, they need to be moved behind ‘buy now’ buttons.

“As a consumer, once you’ve used that single-click checkout button, irrelevant of the payment mechanism behind it, you won’t want to go back to a checkout experience with the merest hint of friction.

“VRP capabilities can power this switch. From July 2022, the CMA will mandate sweeping services by the largest UK current account providers. But I’d like to see faster progress. We have to open up what’s allowed under VRPs from its current, somewhat limited, scope.

“We need all the banks to offer it. And we need all third party providers (TPPs) to offer it to their payment service users. We need to work out competitive pricing and agreements on who’s liable if something goes wrong. These are all things that card schemes worked out over decades, but we need to do this within the next 12 to 18 months.

“And then last, but by no means least: conversion. It’s important to all merchants, but especially to the largest e-tailers. A single fraction of a percentage of movement costs or benefits them to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds or euros. Once open banking payments have permeated checkouts and recurring payments are in place, conversion rates will naturally rise.

“The final pins are being knocked down, and the big e-tailers are starting to come to the party. Time to forget about use cases and let’s just talk payments!”

  • 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.

Cyberattacks on Fintechs on The Rise, Reveals Arkose Labs Fraud Report

Fintech companies experienced 2.5 times more online attacks in Q1 of this year than the two years prior, according to a new report from Arkose Labs.

Seventy-five per cent of attacks against fintechs were account takeover (ATO) attempts, while 96 per cent were driven by bots, revealed the Arkose Labs 2022 Q2 State of Fraud and Account Security report.

The first quarter of 2022 has seen ‘consistently higher’ bot-oriented attacks than the average across 2021, driven by large-scale scraping and credential stuffing attempts. Bot attack signatures are also three times more complicated today than in years prior, creating greater detection complexity for businesses.

Ninety per cent of human attacks in 2022 have targeted communication channels in gaming, dating and tech. Top targeted companies can see up to 35 per cent of traffic coming from human fraudsters.

The financial services, technology and gaming industries represent 88 per cent of all attacks versus all other industries combined.

Cybercrime as a career

Since the pandemic, the cybercrime workforce has exploded, according to the report, elevating cybercriminal earnings to exponential levels. Fraudsters are increasingly moving into online crime, with the introduction of furlough policies and rise in unemployment during the pandemic.

Newbie fraudsters are taking home approximately £15,000 a month with some of the highest earning fraudsters known to be making around £6million a year. This compares to almost three times the amount that FTSE 100 chief executives were paid in 2020.

Brett Johnson, chief criminal officer at Arkose Labs (and a reformed cybercriminal who served seven years in jail), says: “The temptation for committing online fraud is higher than ever simply because the results yield thousands, if not millions of pounds, for even the newest and most junior cybercriminals in the chain.”

”Online criminals have a shopping list of opportunities available to them – everything from refund fraud to account takeover. They can almost pick and choose which type of fraud they want to commit. In particular, marketplace and messaging platforms have become vastly popularised in the fraud community where cybercriminals can promote their own personal fraud business, recommend attack tools and techniques, and offer free step-by-step guides for the rookie fraudster.”

Metaverse naiviety 

According to the report, too many businesses are wading into the metaverse without considering cybercrime implications. Attacks on metaverse companies increased 40 per cent since Q4 2021.

Unlike automated bot attacks, fraudsters are putting greater investment into metaverse attacks, requiring more human capital to execute phishing, spam and scams effectively.

Gaming companies have experienced 260 per cent more attacks, including a 85 per cent increase in fake account registrations, compared to Q4 2021. While technology companies were most impacted by fake accounts, attempting to monetise promotions and free trials.

Finally, the latest Arkose data found that one in every three cyberattacks is now coming from Europe. The UK alone saw 52.1 million attacks to online business in the first quarter of 2022.

Why Are Financial Institutions Jumping to Hybrid Cloud Models?

As the financial world continues to evolve, financial institutions must constantly be on the lookout to improve their security from fraudsters, while ensuring expenditure does not reach an all-time high as digitalisation across the market continues to boom.

One possible solution to this is the implementation of a hybrid cloud system – as the world accepts a remote working environment, a seamless transition must take place in order for businesses to remain operational while ensuring the safety of data.

But what is a hybrid cloud? Historically there have been two types of cloud technology: the public cloud and the private cloud. Each has had its perks: highly scalable compute solution through the public cloud allows enterprises to avoid the capital expense and resources of purchasing, installing and managing hardware, opting instead for a pay-as-you-go operational expense model; or the security ensured through the private cloud where data locality, data governance and low latency are business-critical. The hybrid cloud combines the two architectures, allowing businesses to choose the best solution at any given moment.

“Hybrid cloud is a combo of private, on premises and public cloud computing from external providers,” explains Jonathan G., an advisor at Dell Technologies, who created an analogy between a hybrid cloud model and a hybrid car. “In a similar way that a hybrid car uses various forms of power for an efficient ride, the hybrid cloud is the same. When you’re doing something that requires a lot of processing power, you have access to the public cloud. When you’re doing something more secure like storing confidential information, you can use the private cloud. This creates the optimal experience for the business’ needs.”

Why is hybrid cloud needed?

The hybrid cloud is a great asset for any company due to its seamless, inclusive nature. In a similar way that owning a smartphone with a singular, all inclusive app is easier to use than one with a variety of apps–each of which needs individual management–a hybrid cloud model enables businesses to operate every facet in one place. Jonathan G states, “Growing IT budget constraints as well as data capacity issues with smaller businesses have caused a huge problem for SMEs looking to expand.”

This is especially true as software intelligence platform Dynatrace found that on average, financial services organisations relied on seven different solutions to monitor their multi-cloud infrastructure, with 64 per cent stating the abundance of tools made it difficult to optimise their performances.

If it’s this difficult, you might be wondering why even bother with a multi-cloud model in the first place? It’s no longer a question of if you want to, but a question of when it is being implemented. A multi-cloud model is necessary as hybrid work establishes itself as a norm in society. Employees must be able to access secure data from home whilst ensuring they can complete the actions of their daily lives. This nature of work makes it impossible to efficiently run a business using a single cloud model.

Overcoming potential pitfalls

A hybrid cloud model is not perfect however. Despite it condensing the training that IT developers need to do, as the hybrid cloud provides an end-to-end solution, it can be further improved by the use of AI. A survey found that AI enables data to be better analysed, determining how cloud implementation could be best used. This is further supported by NVIDIA’s survey findings that cloud engineers believed a lack of AI was having a domino effect on efficient data usage.

Research from NVIDIA also showed that most AI projects and workloads in financial services don’t take place exclusively on the cloud. Only 23 per cent of these were done online whilst 36 per cent were done on premises, leaving the remaining majority to be done in a hybrid setting. One large reason for this is the cybersecurity concerns that can take place by using a single cloud architecture. Unsecured cloud infrastructure can lead to potential pitfalls for businesses. However, a solution like Dell’s APEX Hybrid Cloud, ensures that there are no leaks for hackers to exploit, as a workforce can be on site or remote and still have the security needed to ensure they can be most productive.

A cost-effective cloud solution

It’s not only subject-matter experts that can benefit from a hybrid cloud model. The vast majority (91 per cent) of banks surveyed by Accenture reported that the cost to maintain mainframes has increased over the past few years. In addition to this, failover and disaster capabilities must be accounted for – another expense for financial organisations.

One solution is Dell Technologies Cloud with PowerEdge servers and NVIDIA GPUs. It provides consistent operations that eliminate silos and reduce operational costs with tools that provide a consistent management experience across all clouds; consistent infrastructure that reduces operational complexity and simplifies workload migration with end-to-end, cloud-enabled solutions for storage, servers, data protection, open networking, hyperconverged and cloud IT infrastructure; and consistent services that develop and execute cloud strategy with help from Dell Technologies experts who offer consulting, deployment, support, education and managed services.

By providing a single operational hub for a consistent management experience across all clouds, Dell Technologies Cloud reduces complexity and operational costs to help organisations achieve their goals with greater agility, efficiency and speed.

AI Is Superior to Humans at Analysing Conversations and Reading Emotions Finds Red Box

As private investment in AI is revealed to have more than doubled in the past year to $93.5billion, new research conducted by global voice data capture platform Red Box, reveals UK technology leaders now believe AI is superior to humans at analysing conversations and reading emotions.

Whilst AI is typically seen to be best applied to data analysis and problem-solving, nearly one in three (30 per cent) UK tech leaders believe AI can understand emotions and conversation sentiments better than humans.

Nine out of ten (88 per cent) say AI has, or will soon have, the ability to ‘listen like a human’, or interpret human conversations as effectively as people can. The results also give us an idea of the timeline; 52 per cent of respondents believe that a scalable business AI solution which can ‘listen’ in this way will become a reality in the next ten years, and almost a third (30 per cent) believe this is likely to come to fruition in the next five years.

The research looked at UK technology leaders’ perceptions of AI’s ability to understand and analyse human conversations. The findings show that many UK tech leaders believe AI to be superior at performing repetitive tasks (42 per cent) and problem-solving (33 per cent) as well as more typically humanistic tasks such as transcribing complex conversations (35 per cent) and understanding individual employees or customers (37 per cent).

Three other key findings of the research include:
  • Over a third (35 per cent) say the use of AI to analyse conversational data is already helping them improve customer experience and identify areas for internal improvement
  • Two fifths (40 per cent) believe AI will help improve retention, support flexible working, and provide great efficiency
  • Over a third (35 per cent) of those surveyed believe AI is superior at understanding regional dialects and accents as well as interpreting multiple languages

The timeframe within which those surveyed plan to introduce voice capture software into their businesses shows this technology is reaching something of an inflection point: the average planned adoption time for voice capture technology across back-office conversations, internal and external call centres and between different offices was just four and a half years.

Richard Stevenson, CEO of Red Box commented: “The incoming voice data revolution backed by UK technology leaders is now clear for all to see. There is a belief amongst the chief decision-makers working in UK businesses that those elements of human interactions that were thought to be beyond the reach of technology have been thrust into the grasp of AI – the productivity and efficiency gains this could bring are immense. It is now time for the industry to invest in conversational AI, unlock these benefits and utilise the vast swathes of data held within everyday conversations.”

This inflection point in the adoption and power of voice capture technology adds to the steady growth in the use of AI across UK businesses. Nearly half of those surveyed said they are already using voice capture technology in contact centres (47 per cent) and between global offices (42 per cent), with this adoption only set to increase.

What’s more, UK tech leaders already believe AI is playing a key role in the proliferation of remote or hybrid working. A third (33 per cent) of those surveyed said conversational data is already assisting compliance challenges which became a pressing issue for many businesses through successive lockdowns. A further 35 per cent of those surveyed believe AI is superior at understanding regional dialects and accents as well as interpreting multiple languages – crucial as workers and customers become increasingly remote from one another.

Aurelie Cnop, academic director of the master in digital transformation and leadership at ESCP Europe, says: “Today’s artificial intelligence is mainly based on machine learning that can be incredibly efficient in solving certain tasks that do not require true intelligence, where intelligence is defined as understanding. AI is known to look for patterns and understand what the consumer wants, but of course this will still have many limitations. Looking at developments in neural technology and data analytics, as well as increased computing power, it is clear now that AI will progressively augment and streamline many human activities in the next five years.”

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

Pinoy OFWs Can Now Use Netbank’s Netizen Mobile Banking App in Malaysia and Philippines

Bringing forth the inception of a new era in financial inclusivity, Netbank launches Netizen Mobile Banking App as a “One-Stop-Banking Solution” for Pinoy OFWs in Malaysia and the Philippines.

With an exemplified commitment to address solutions to OFWs’ unique banking transactions, Netizen is developed to be easy, fast, and low-cost to allow Filipinos to conduct their transactions safely sans the hefty fees. As a neobank, Netizen offers the fulfillment of various financial transactions – all in their well-designed and user-friendly platform.

As Young Paul Raneses, head of Netizen NeoBanking, commends it as a man-leading nuclear and white-labelled banking app, “Netizen is set to become a leading player solutioning the common pain points faced by OFWs. OFWs already face a lot of predicaments and banking shouldn’t be one of them. By recognising these, Netizen is compelled to solve the prevailing issues and concerns of our Kababayans that are related to their financial transactions.”

Being remittance partner-Wise, OFWs can directly remit to their Netizen Account without the high fees. Users can transfer funds to their family’s bank accounts and e-wallets in the Philippines. Pay their family bills including their government contribution. OFWs can conduct mobile top-ups too. For cash in and cash out options, Netizen has partnered with Ayannah to cater to families and relatives that don’t have bank accounts and these features will be available this June 2022. To grow savings, they also offer time deposit products.  With a dedication to helping OFWs secure their financial future, Netizen also stands as a support system for Filipinos abroad by providing financial literacy, advice, tips, and guidance.

Investment, and sending money via cardless withdrawal are set to be launched soon. Moreover, users can look forward to Netizen’s medical features such as Personal Accident and Life Insurance. Clients can download the app through Android OS and will be available on IOS this coming Q3 of 2022. The Mobile Banking app is available in the Philippines and Malaysia and is soon to be launched in other countries. 

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