Crypto Start Path Programme Launched by Mastercard for Businesses Across the Globe

As digital currencies continue to grow, companies revolving around these assets are too. To help engage these companies, Mastercard has announced a new Start Path programme, dedicated to supporting fast-growing digital assets, blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses. As a continuation of Mastercard’s digital assets work, seven startups have joined the program, including Singapore-based Mintable and STACS, GK8, Domain Money, SupraOracles, Taurus and Uphold which, together with Mastercard, seek to expand and accelerate innovation around digital asset technology and make it safer and easier for people and institutions to buy, spend and hold cryptocurrencies and digital assets.

Singapore Startups

Among the new programme participants is Mintable (Singapore), a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace where users can create, buy and sell digital and physical assets backed by the blockchain such as digital collectibles, avant-garde artwork and even music. The Mintable platform is packed with novel features such as gasless minting and credit card purchasing that are designed to empower the everyday person to get involved with NFTs without any prior knowledge in crypto or coding. STACS (Singapore) provides a blockchain infrastructure for the financial industry to unlock massive value and enable effective sustainable financing. Its clients and partners include global banks, national stock exchanges, and asset managers.

Sandeep Malhotra, Executive Vice President, Products and Innovation, Asia Pacific, Mastercard, said:

“As a one-stop-shop for all things payments, Mastercard has always worked to give people and businesses more choice in how they pay and get paid. Looking to increase the potential of what our network can deliver in the future, we’ve expanded these options to include cryptocurrency, distributed ledger and digital assets, gradually building one of the payments industry’s biggest blockchain patent portfolios which spans Mastercard’s entire business ecosystem. But we cannot do it alone.

“That’s why Mastercard is constantly looking at how we can set the stage for new players – like this incredible cohort of crypto startups – to join us. Through this new Start Path Crypto program, we will partner with the world’s most promising startups to co-create and build new products that address a host of unique industry needs while providing these young companies with Mastercard’s decades of expertise and global network to help them scale and grow quickly. It’s a two-way street.”

With 45% of consumers in the Asia Pacific region saying that they are likely to consider using cryptocurrency this year – a huge jump over the 12% that already used it last year – this announcement comes at a when time enthusiasm for a broader range of payment technologies has accelerated in the Asia Pacific region as a result of the pandemic. What’s more, consumers are increasingly showing interest in being able to spend crypto assets for everyday purchases, according to recent findings from the Mastercard New Payments Index.

Other participating startups and fast-growing digital asset and blockchain companies that have been selected to join the inaugural track of the Start Path program include:

  1. GK8 (Israel) is a self-managed end-to-end institutional crypto custody platform that offers a true air-gapped cold vault. This means that the platform is capable of creating, signing and sending secure blockchain transactions without receiving input from the internet, eliminating any potential cyberattack vectors.
  2. Domain Money (USA) looks to build a next generation investment platform, bridging the gap between digital assets and traditional finance for retail investors.
  3. Uphold (USA) is a crypto-native, multi-asset digital money platform offering investment and payment services to consumers and businesses worldwide. Uphold’s unique ‘Anything- to-Anything’ trading experience enables customers to trade directly between asset classes with embedded payments facilitating a future where everyone has access to financial services.
  4. SupraOracles (Switzerland) is a powerful blockchain oracle that helps businesses bridge real-world data to both public and private chains, enabling interoperable smart contracts to automate, simplify and secure the future of financial markets.
  5. Taurus (Switzerland) delivers enterprise-grade infrastructure to manage any digital asset with one single platform, including crypto assets, digital currencies and tokenised assets covering issuance, custody, asset servicing and trading.

Founders of the digital asset and blockchain companies participating in the new Start Path program aim to address a host of pain points including asset tokenisation, data accuracy, digital security and seamless access between the traditional and digital economy.

Jess Turner, Executive Vice President of New Digital Infrastructure and Fintech, Mastercard, commented: “Mastercard has been engaging with the digital currency ecosystem since 2015. As a leading technology player, we believe we can play a key role in digital assets, helping to shape the industry, and provide consumer protections and security. Part of our role is to forge the future of cryptocurrency, and we’re doing that by bridging mainstream financial principles with digital assets innovations.”

Digital Assets and Fintech Innovation 

Supporting the startup ecosystem is a core part of Mastercard’s ethos, and more than 250 startups have participated in the Start Path program since 2014. With the expansion of Start Path to include fast-growing crypto, blockchain and digital assets startups, Mastercard is providing access to its latest tools and solutions to help these companies scale their innovations and cutting-edge technologies. These startups use the program to connect with our ecosystem of banks, merchants, partners and digital players across the globe to deliver new solutions.

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

Huawei Consumer Business Group: Will Convenience be King?

China’s thriving mobile market shows no signs of slowing. Now accountable for over half of global consumer spending on smartphones, China’s innovation within the fintech industry has shown the potential of mobile banking in driving consumer convenience.

Michael Lowers, Global Director, Finance Vertical Eco-development & Partnerships at Huawei Consumer Business Group, shares how the rapid adoption of payments in China can lend insight into where the future of finance could be headed here in Europe. He discusses how technology companies not banks– are the ones leading a continental shift towards mobile banking services.

Michael Lowers, Global Director, Finance Vertical Eco-development & Partnerships at Huawei Consumer Business Group

Described as a country that ‘skipped the desktop’, many attributed the flourishing mobile adoption in China to the sharp rise in smartphones and online shopping. Unlike Europe, China’s consumer habits saw the country move straight to smartphones to provide consumers with a seamless, connected solution to financial health.

Naturally, this pivoted to the development of a fully connected landscape, with record-breaking figures in online shopping sales compared to Europe. This is illustrated by the striking comparisons between the two largest online retailers during their biggest sale events. While Amazon Prime Day’s sale typically makes $10 billion globally, it pales in comparison to Alibaba’s biggest annual shopping event, ‘Singles Day’ or ‘Double 11’ sale event, which grossed a staggering $74 billion in China (over 70% more than Amazon) last year alone.

So, what does this mean for the financial landscape? With a smartphone-driven connected environment, we have the perfect solution to the tale as old as time challenge of a lack of financial inclusion and accessibility to basic products and services currently posed by traditional banks.

Open Banking as an enabler for financial inclusion

China has illustrated that a mobile-first society provides the ideal conditions for consumer-driven fintech innovation and digital transformation. Open Banking can be a key enabler for financial inclusion amongst consumers. If we only rely on traditional banks, we risk cutting off a huge number of consumers and isolating those without a deeper understanding of the financial industry.

I have personally experienced the challenges posed by traditional banking systems first-hand. When it comes to my savings for example, legacy systems have often struggled to provide the convenience of accessibility, while also lacking the benefits that newer fintechs, such as Plum, can offer – such as advisory services which make everyday challenges like saving money more simplified and achievable.

While this is a personal experience, it’s also a reflection of how a huge population of individuals still feel – both the banked and unbanked – and who desperately need more accessible financial services and knowledge. This is where fintech innovation comes in. Without it, we risk leaving legacy systems in place and customer needs unmet.

The play for Fintechs and mobile banking

In China, it’s the technology companies – not the banks – who have been the ones to adapt and address these unmet customer needs by bringing payment solutions to smartphones. The combination of a rapid rise in smartphone adoption, tech companies’ fintech innovation, and Chinese consumers’ willingness to adopt new services, is resulting in mobile lead players quickly owning the entire ecosystem across both the financial and non-financial spaces.

You can see this with the high adoption rate of AliPay and WeChat. 92% of the population now use them in major Chinese cities, which translates to over 1 billion users across the country. Not only that, but fintech innovations such as AliPay’s simple payment QR codes have rapidly gained traction amongst consumers. Initially invented as a way for car manufacturers to track the manufacturing process, it has now become a way of life for Chinese consumers, with QR codes accounting for over 83% of all payments in the country! Now the dominant payment method, QR codes are used by consumers and retailers alike, due to their simplicity and requirement of no speciality equipment.

Connecting the dots, China’s solution to tie-in Fintech payment services comes in the form of Superapp. With Superapps, daily services such as shopping, delivery, private hires, or event insurance, are all housed within the same app, with the same payment solution embedded across all services. The convenience of tying these essential services together – connected by a simple payment service – allows for greater accessibility for consumers and increases the value of using Fintech payment methods as the primary payment service.

Even when it comes to handling savings, Fintechs such as Plum, Revolut and Starling promote accessibility and an improved experience for everyone. The ability to access these services anytime, anywhere, means that daily challenges like saving money are now simplified and much more convenient for users.

AppGallery’s expertise in China helps developers around the world to become a part of the solution

There is a strong demand for mobile banking solutions – in 2021 we saw a 31% growth in banking apps in Europe, so although we are behind, we’re very much on the same path.

In the meantime, we can look to China to see the potential of where the finance industry is heading, with the proliferation of things like QR code payments, Superapps and richer shopping experiences that are yet to reach European shores. Fintech innovation has proven that reaching out to the unbanked can be achieved, provided that smartphone connectivity and usage are prevalent as the basic requirement among consumers.

Huawei has expertise within the Chinese market, with local experts across Europe to help our partners prepare and make the most of future technology trends that are already prolific in Asia. AppGallery is committed to providing developers in the fintech sector with the technological capabilities, full-spectrum support, and commercial opportunities that they need to succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive environment. This includes full-cycle operation management across the full development cycle, full-spectrum developer support through AppGallery Connect, overseas support, as well as marketing support. Through AppGallery, Huawei is set up to help fintech developers stay at the forefront of digital growth.

Huawei has been an integral part of the mobile market for over 30 years, with over 540 million active users on AppGallery every single month. fintech and banks in Europe can partner with Huawei to leverage the technology and industry expertise it brings, allowing them to offer their customers better solutions

  • 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.

The Fintech Landscape of South Africa

South Africa has a fintech sector that is playing a strong role not only for the country but the African continent as a whole. The country is historically a major trade and investment commercial hub for the African continent to do business globally. It is unique in that it has two global cities – Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The Fintech Times’s Fintech: Middle East & Africa 2021 Report highlighted the importance of South Africa in the wider Middle East & Africa (MEA) landscape. The country was ranked as an emerging fintech hub (tier-2) in the middle category. The only other African countries in the Tier-2 category were Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Mauritius, Ghana and Tunisia – with Rwanda, Morocco and Uganda as “countries to watch” ranking high in the tier-3 early stage fintech hub category. Why does South Africa have an emerging fintech hub?

First, South Africa – alongside Brazil, Russia, India, and China – are known as the BRICS. All five have large populations and emerging economies. Despite current economic challenges with some of them, the five nations do still represent large populations and emerging markets and opportunities.

Despite any recent challenges, South Africa has a relatively established ecosystem that not only includes its financial services industry but also a large market. For instance, the largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg, is home to some of Africa’s leading banks and financial institutions such as Standard Bank Group, FirstRand, Absa Group, Nedbank Group and Investec, making it a potential fintech magnet for Africa. In fact, in terms of the top ten largest banks in the African continent by asset, many on the list are in fact South African.

Banks across the continent have been partnering with fintechs. For instance, Nedbank has also recently partnered with fintech Xero, to give small businesses and their advisors financial data through a fully digital API-enabled bank feed. The new feed will be available to Nedbank small business clients with a Xero account, at no additional cost. Once live, small businesses will be able to connect the feed from their Xero account.

South Africa’s second largest city – known for its beautiful landscape and tourism – is also a big player in the tech industry. The majority of the industry, or some 47% of tech start-ups, is based in the Western Cape, where Cape Town is located, with Gauteng, where Johannesburg is, in second place at 44%. In addition, Cape Town accounts for 75% of the country’s venture capital deals. Of the more than 500 entrepreneurial companies in Cape Town’s tech sector, around 20 percent are in ecommerce and SaaS while 15 percent are in fintech. The city is also home to Africa’s oldest tech incubator, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), according to its website. Cape Town has ana international pool of talent, growing ecosystem of support, and a relatively low cost of living, helping promote not just fintech but tech in general.

South Africa compared to its fellow African nations actually has a pretty high banked population as well as one that is insured. For the former the majority of South Africans (at least 67 per cent) have a bank account. With regards to insurance, South Africa, according to a report from McKinsey, has over 80 per cent of premiums from the entire African continent.

This is where fintech comes in. It is highlighted that South Africa has the highest penetration of fintech in the African continent, where around 94 per cent of the population having regular access to the internet and a mobile phone penetration of over 100 for every 100 people.

There have been recent initiatives to help further foster the fintech ecosystem in the country. For example, the Fintech Times report highlighted that the South Africa Reserve Bank has overseen several initiatives that have included ProjectKhoka and the InterGovernmental Fintech Working Group. Johannesburg with respect to fintech, in particular, is fast becoming a magnet for banking for low-income customers, financial inclusion fintech and insurance. The city last year had more than 220 programmes offering support to startups. Amongst the estimated 450 startups in the city, around 30 percent of those are in the fintech space.

South Africa generally has fintech-friendly rules, where the South African Reserve Bank established the Financial Technology Programme, which aims to assess the emergence of fintech and take into consideration its regulatory implications. The Financial Intelligence Centre, Financial Sector Conduct Authority, National Treasury, South African Revenue Service and the South African Reserve Bank even have released a paper on crypto assets.

The country, despite its potential has its own challenges. First, as in much of the rest of the world, it has seen better days and COVID-19 didn’t help. In addition, much of the best and brightest across the African continent, including South Africa, often leave for greener pastures such as to America or Europe.

In addition, the country – amongst others that are learning to control, handle and co-exist with the rise of cryptocurrencies – has also tried to pass its own rules and legislation around that. A recent paper by the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group called for the regulation of the nation’s current cryptocurrency system.

Despite those challenges, growing collaborations such as those mentioned earlier with banks and fintechs can also see benefits even with African nations working together. For instance, the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) could see South Africa and its other neighbours potentially benefit from international trade and investment and wider economic development, especially in the digital space.

To note, the country has not only produced some of fintechs most innovative solutions for South Africa but that it has even been exported throughout Africa and beyond globally. Some examples of fintechs that were born in South Africa include Jumo, Yoco, Retail Capital, The Sun Exchange, Naked Insurance, Wealth Migrate, TymeBank – to name a few.

South Africa historically has played a strong role in the African continent and this, despite any current challenges, can hopefully continue to see the innovations and talent that the country has produced in the future – both fintech and with the wider economic development of the global economy.

Chilean Fintechs Secure Millions; EBANX and Amazon Forge Payments Partnership

Fintech companies from Chile made headlines this week, taking their rightful place alongside the innovators in neighboring countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, which have tended to dominate conversations about the surge in financial technology in Latin America in recent years.

Xepelin, a Chilean company that offers a financial services platform designed especially for small businesses, raised $30 million in equity along with another $200 million in debt facilities. The equity financing was led by Kaszek Ventures, a Latin American VC fund, and featured participation from DST Global and a number of angel investors. The company’s debt facility were provided by asset managers and hedge funds based in Latin America as well as the U.S.

Xepelin focuses on enabling small businesses to secure organize their financial data in real time, as well as apply for – and receive – short-term financing easily and quickly. The company says that SMEs can apply for working capital loans “with three clicks” and receive their funding “in a matter of hours.”

With a monthly growth rate of 30%, Xepelin said it has more than 4,000 clients in Mexico and Chile, and has loaned more than $400 million to small businesses in those countries. The company said that the new capital will help it ensure that all small businesses in Latin America will have access to both financial services and financial capital. Xepelin also noted that it is looking to expand beyond the B2B space to provide a broader range of services to small businesses and companies in the region.

Helping employers improve the financial health of workers is the mission of Quansa, another Chilean fintech that raised $3.6 million in new capital this week. Quansa combines financial education with financial management tools to give companies in Chile the ability to offer their employees a more holistic benefits package. Quansa’s platform provides personalized financial guidance, access to flexible salaries, and debt management resources to more than 2,000 workers currently.

The seed funding round was led by Valor Capital Group and featured participation from Pear VC, Norte, Magma Partners, Sequoia Scouts, as well as a number of angel investors.

Quansa co-founder Mafalda Barros pointed to the challenge of debt that many Chilean workers struggle with, and noted that 70% of workers say that they feel as if they have little control over their finances. “It’s just as important to understand how to manage your money as it is to have access to these services,” Barrros said. “We teach users how to organize and manage their bills, use financial tools, start saving and, of course, to spend better.”

Not all big fintech headlines out of Latin America were related to funding and venture capital. EBANX, a payments solution provider based in Brazil, and Amazon have teamed up to enable Amazon Prime Video customers in Peru to subscribe to the service and make payments in local currency rather than in U.S. dollars.

“Localized solutions deeply improve the online purchasing experience for Peruvians and all Latin Americans, helping them to access the best services around the world – in addition to broadening the total addressable market of companies in the LatAm region,” EBANX co-founder and CEO João Del Valle said. “And this two-way street of access is precisely what we work for everyday at EBANX. That is why we are very excited about this collaboration with Amazon Prime Video in Peru.”

Founded in 2012, EBANX is among the leading payment platforms in Latin America. The company offers more than 100 local payment methods and brought access to financial products and services to more than 70 million Latin Americans. Last month, the company secured $430 million in funding from Advent International. This spring, EBANX launched operations in Central America, expanding its total reach to 15 countries. The company has said it plans to offer shares to the public via IPO “in the coming months.”

Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean


Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

Photo by Alisha Lubben from Pexels

US Filipinos Empowered as BayaniPay Enables Cross-Boarder Payments

BayaniPay, a fintech company with the mission of enabling borderless banking, has launched a web app to empower global professionals working abroad to take care of their families and communities back in their home countries.

BayaniPay was designed to meet the specific requirements of Asian American global professionals, who make up over 25% of the foreign-born labour force in the United States. Most of these global professionals currently rely on brick-and-mortar remittance centres to send money to their loved ones. This laborious and time-consuming approach is accompanied by high transaction fees, complicated processes, and limited access to other crucial financial services such as loans, savings, and investments.

BayaniPay takes its name from “bayani,” the Filipino word for “hero”—a term often used to describe global professionals in their home countries. Born out of a partnership between inclusiontech venture studio Talino Venture Labs and leading Asian American multimedia publisher The Asian Journal, BayaniPay received funding from Wavemaker Partners, a cross-border venture capital firm investing in early-stage startups in the United States and Southeast Asia.

“With BayaniPay, we are delivering accessible, affordable, and secure financial services to global professionals, starting with more convenient and fairer-priced remittances. We will initially serve the Filipino-American community in the US, and we look forward to extending our borderless banking services to the broader Asian American community,” said Winston Damarillo, CEO of BayaniPay.

BayaniPay’s remittance partner in the Philippines is BDO Unibank, the largest bank in the Philippines. Remittances sent via BayaniPay can be claimed at over 1,400 branches and more than 4,400 ATMs of BDO Unibank nationwide, as well as at 8,000+ BDO Cash Agad outlets, which are mostly located in rural areas. These include sari-sari stores (neighbourhood convenience stores), grocery and hardware stores, and gas stations.

BayaniPay is also partnering with Seafood City, the leading Filipino supermarket chain in North America with 32 locations. A cornerstone of Filipino communities, Seafood City serves as an anchor to Filipino businesses and essential services such as immigration offices. Under the partnership, the two companies are conducting joint marketing, in-store promotions and co-branded loyalty programs, which will be fully launched later in the summer.

How it Works

BayaniPay simplifies the remittance process by enabling its users to send money to their friends and families through an easy-to-use app. Transfers can be done by linking the subscriber’s US bank account to BayaniPay, with the recipient receiving the money in as little as one day. True to its goal of providing accessible and affordable remittance, BayaniPay offers the lowest fees in the market and competitive foreign exchange rates. In addition, BayaniPay will soon roll out BayaniPay Prime, a yearly subscription service that waives all transaction fees, and offers exclusive partner discounts and other perks that lower the cost and add greater value for frequent remitters.

BayaniPay is currently available to residents of California sending money to the Philippines. The company plans to roll out its service to several other states, as well as partner with leading financial establishments serving other Asian countries, in order to extend its service to as many global professionals as possible.

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

Movers and Shakers: Finastra hires new payments lead, Credit Suisse onboards tech chief

Banking core provider Finastra, Credit Suisse and Automation Anywhere announced new senior executive hires this month. Bank Automation News offers a wrap-up of some recent industry staffing shuffles. Finastra taps Marmur to lead payments division Financial technology and enterprise software provider Finastra has hired Oren Marmur as general manager of payments. Based in Israel, Marmur’s […]

Listen: How the FDIC and Duke University drive bank innovation

In a strategic partnership to support technological innovation in the banking and financial services sectors, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering recently announced an agreement to collaborate on artificial intelligence, risk management, quantitative research and cybersecurity at the FDIC and U.S. banks. In this episode of “The Buzz” […]

Bittrex Global on How Blockchain and Crypto Can Help Solve Financial Inclusion

The Fintech Times sat down with Stephen Stonberg, the CEO of Bittrex Global, a US-based blockchain digital asset trading platform, to learn more about the implications of crypto and blockchain on financial inclusion.

Tell me about your role within the company? 

I used to work in traditional finance, so in big banks or hedge funds, with a much more leveraged model of people running global financial service products but with a small team. Now, my day to day job includes dealing with regulators, as an example we obtained another license during the pandemic. Right now it’s an interesting window and as business has boomed it’s got more challenging to manage the regulation.

What was the purpose of Bittrex Global when it was created? 

So the three founders, who still own the whole company, came from a very regulated tech based background, places like Amazon and Microsoft. What that meant was they brought a very mature team with them all with strong technology backgrounds. 

We started off as a US company in 2014 highly focused on security. What changed was that US regulation lagged behind the rest of the world. The EU is well ahead with a more competitive advantage. For the US, there are rules but its unclear, and most of our clients at Bittrex are based out of the US, so our offices are all over the country and we’re growing to meet the needs of clients. 

Bittrex was one of the first crypto exchanges to provide real trading with Alt coins in the early days. It got eclipsed by other exchanges, but these haven’t been as focused on regulation, perhaps they haven’t understood the regulation like we do. It meant that we stopped growing and were more inwardly focussed, looking specifically at the regulation. Competitors now seem to be retreating, regulators will always catch up with you so we made the right call. 

In the current way we do business, what types of communities do you believe are underserved? 

One out of three people are unbanked according to World Bank. That’s a huge number. Financial inclusion is a global problem too, and is even home-grown with 22% of Americans being underserved. 

How does crypto and blockchain play into this you may ask? We wanted to create an institutional grade platform as we knew they were coming in the future, but also to provide retail and liquidity to clients. Though mobile phone access, we have clients all over the world now trading on a very safe exchange like ours which you couldn’t do before. The combination of the technology and not having to go through banks that can charge large fees have changed the landscape. And for those who are underserved thats really empowering.

In what ways can we increase financial inclusion? 

At Bittrex we have huge benefits that are helping financial inclusion. For example, far more people have phones than bank accounts. To set up a traditional account you have to physically go to a bank, limited to that country and go through all the paperwork etc. We do all digital onboarding that you can complete from home, and that isn’t compromising security either, our digital onboarding is better than some of the traditional banks.  

We also have no limits, You can have 0.01 bitcoin or a similar percentage. Buying fractional amounts opens up the market to so many more people – you don’t have to have a lot of money to invest, you can start with 10 dollars.

I see blockchain as the Amazon moment of financial services. The internet changed the front end but not the back office when it comes to banking. Why does it take 3 days to send a bank wire? And why do banks charge such huge fees? There is no reason why they should, and crypto and blockchain as a use case for this scenario is really going to change things 

What do you think is a good example of financial services infrastructure? 

Blockchain really is a tsunami, There’s no stopping it. Millennials and millionaires have 25% of their assets in crypto, thats huge. And with blockchain, there are different business models that are allowing people with no money to have access to diverse portfolios and that is so empowering. 

It goes without saying that financial systems are very antiquated. And there seems to be no incentive to upgrade. This is where blockchain is just a better way of doing things, its really game-changing. Banks had the opportunity to take that on and they passed. Now that its getting more popular and proving to be more efficient, they’re now starting to dip their toes in but its too late. 

Where do you think 2021 and beyond will take us? Do you agree that 2021 is the Year of Crypto?

Absolutely. Right now, its the decade of blockchain. Like how the 90s was for the internet, now is absolutely the year of crypto. There’s a ton of disruption, a lot of new players entering the market as well consolidation and divergence. Everyone is excited about NFTs particularly–and really it comes down to will the banks buy the crypto or will crypto buy the banks?

  • 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.

State Street to offer crypto services to private-fund clients

State Street Corp. is set to offer cryptocurrency reporting, reconciliation and processing services to its private-fund clients in the latest sign that digital assets are gaining acceptance on Wall Street.

The firm is partnering with Lukka Inc., a provider of middle- and back-office crypto software, for the fund-administration services, State Street said in a statement Thursday. Lukka also will provide State Street’s private-fund clients with data to support valuation services, Lukka spokesman Brian Brown said. Boston-based State Street is one of the world’s largest custodians, with $42.6 trillion in assets either under custody or administration.

Wall Street began experimenting with blockchain about five years ago, with banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and the crypto unit of Fidelity Investments all offering clients various digital-asset services. Startup Paxos Trust Co. is using blockchain technology to settle some equity trades in near-real time, while Arca is offering digital shares in a U.S. Treasury fund, showing that distributed-ledger technology can help streamline finance.

As cryptocurrencies and decentralized finance gain mainstream acceptance, money has been pouring into the space to fund startups and new ways of conducting financial transactions. Last month, State Street created a new division, State Street Digital, led by Nadine Chakar, to expand the firm’s services for crypto, central bank digital currencies, blockchain and the tokenization of securities.

“The growth in popularity of digital assets is showing no signs of a slowdown and State Street Digital is committed to continuing to build out the necessary infrastructure to further develop our digital assets servicing models to help meet our clients’ growing demands,” Chakar said in the statement.

Building Blocks for UAE Data Economy Set Out by Technology Think Tank

A data industry think tank has called for a UAE national programme to develop the key skills required to help the country achieve its ambitions of becoming one of the world’s leading economies by 2030.

The action is one of 10 recommendations contained in an industry white paper entitled ‘Building a Data Economy’ published by Mashreq Bank, and MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) as part of its second UAE Technology Think Tank.

The report examined the best ways for the UAE to achieve its data economy ambitions – a key aspect of the country’s ambition to accelerate digital transformation, build its knowledge economy and become a global tech hub.

Significantly, the report has highlighted how as the use of comprehensive data continues to be an integral piece of economic innovation, businesses and government bodies alike face numerous challenges surrounding data quality and vulnerabilities in the overall digital ecosystem.

As day-to-day business becomes increasingly digital, one of the key challenges for firms is finding skilled workers that can succeed in the data economy. This issue is particularly prevalent amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who lack the capital resources to upskill or reskill. There also are rising concerns around data privacy and cybersecurity.

Hind Eisa Salim, Executive Vice-President and Head of Services and Manufacturing, Mashreq BankHind Eisa Salim, Executive Vice-President and Head of Services and Manufacturing, Mashreq Bank
Hind Eisa Salim, Executive Vice-President and Head of Services and Manufacturing, Mashreq Bank

Hind Eisa Salim, Executive Vice-President and Head of Services and Manufacturing at Mashreq Bank, said: “Transformative change was already underway in the UAE’s journey before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with milestones ranging from the launch of data centres by the likes of Microsoft, AWS and Oracle to commercial-scale rollout of 5G networks and blockchain-enabled public services. These investments in digital capabilities paid huge dividends amid the pandemic when the UAE’s digital prowess was tested like never before. ICT has proven itself to be a key enabler of post-pandemic economic recovery and a key determinant of how fast markets bounce back.”

She added, “As we look to the future, however, increasingly vast amounts of data will continue to be generated. With the increased reliance on digital tools, greater focus is needed to ensure trust in the digital environment.  The key to resolving all these challenges is a holistic policy framework that supports greater investment in technology innovation and deployment. Our report finds that through close collaboration, the government, private sector and educational sector will be able to develop data laws that enhance the data economy, build an agile and capable data environment, safeguard data and privacy as well as improve data democratisation.”

The recommendations identified by the report centre around the various stages of a “virtuous cycle” of data sharing, including greater confidence in the data economy, more data generated and captured, increased transparency and democratisation, and sharing insightful data within a company and between industries and government.

Among the opportunities for improvement in the report are:

  • Governance and Guidelines: As connectivity grows, so do the issues around security and transparency. Agile governance needs to underpin all aspects of the data economy, to make sure the most effective guidelines and standards are in place. The aim of such regulations should be to ensure data availability for all, maintain optimal data quality and safeguard the rights and privacy involved in the ecosystem.

    Among the recommendations highlighted in the report are the establishment of national standards, to ensure clarity on why and what data is gathered, the creation of a regulatory environment that encourages greater investment in digital infrastructure, and the establishment of a GCC-wide data protection agreement similar to the EU’s GDPR.

  • Building a Data Environment: To effectively and safely gather and utilise consumer data, the UAE needs to construct a capable data environment. To make this a reality, the country should aim to create optimal conditions to encourage investments in data infrastructure, not just in the physical sense, but also in terms of ease of conducting business. The report recommends a number of steps to address these challenges, including offering connectivity subsidies to data centres, reducing the cost of last-mile internet connectivity, as well as sustainable power subsidies to data centres and the use of IT and IoT sensors to improve energy usage by these systems.

    Additionally, local talent should be built by identifying missing skillsets, upskilling existing workers and creating centres of excellence with government, industry and academia to train workers.

  • Security and Privacy: Every day, enormous quantities of data linking to a user’s tastes, activities, location and decisions are being captured by a plethora of entities, sometimes even without the permission of users. At the same time, technology platforms are competing against one another to harvest, refine and analyse data to develop actionable insights that can be sold to other firms for targeted reach.

    This raises concerns surrounding the security of those that host the data and the privacy of those that provide this information. The report notes that the UAE would be well advised to build systems that prioritise data protection measures, the inclusion of strong data privacy as a key pillar of digital strategies, and a customer option to be able to opt-out of information sharing if needed.

  • Democratisation and Value: One of the biggest challenges in digital transformation is overcoming unequal access to data, within a group of individuals, an organisation or between nations. It is important to build a culture of trust, where the purpose and ownership of data is clearly defined beyond fine print at the bottom of a website.

    The report notes that doing so will require companies and governments to implement data democratisation goals, the allocation of funds to train employees, assess and upgrade existing systems, and investments in no-code tools and self-service analytics.

  • 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.

Tail: Why Do Consumer Card Propositions Get All of the Attention?

Cashback and loyalty schemes that target consumers using their debit cards are becoming more and more popular – so why isn’t this happening with corporate card programmes?

James Done, CEO of Tail, has over 10 years of experience in the financial sector. He takes an in-depth look at why businesses are not applying a rewards system to benefit spending from partnered merchants, and how revenue can be bolstered by adding some form of loyalty rewards system to one’s business card:

James Done, CEO of TailJames Done, CEO of Tail
James Done, CEO of Tail

Thinking back to the way many loyalty schemes used to work just a few years ago is like looking into another world. Clunky sign-up processes, usually done manually at the checkout. Yet another piece of cardboard or plastic for the customer to have to keep in their purse or wallet. It was such an analogue way of doing things. Often the boost in customer loyalty was outweighed by the inconvenience for both merchant and customer when it came to redeeming rewards.

Things have since evolved – with the fintech revolution bringing loyalty schemes into the digital age. We have smartphone apps that make both signing up and the redemption of rewards very easy. Even better, merchants do not have to worry about capturing the data and issuing cards to their customers, as all that can be taken care of by a third party – the bank. With bank-driven loyalty schemes, the customer simply needs to use their existing debit or credit card to make their payment, and everything else happens behind the scenes. All merchants need to think about is how to market their offers and what kind of rewards will appeal to consumers without impacting too heavily on their bottom line.

The whole process has become so seamless and slick that the staff don’t even need to know that it’s happening – the reward is applied automatically when the card is used, and the money is credited to the customer’s account at the end of the week. It’s a big boon for not just the merchant but participating banks as well, allowing them to reap the rewards of a loyalty programme that gives customers something they’ll never turn down – more money in their pocket.

It seems logical, then, that banks could offer reward schemes for other types of customers and not just limit them to consumers. Indeed, many banks do have some type of reward programme for corporate clients. However, it’s rarely seen as a unique selling point. Rather than shouting about the reward element of their business accounts, many banks shove them to the very bottom of their list of benefits, as if they were a mere afterthought. It’s clear that they’re doing little more than replicating the consumer programme and bundling it in with their corporate offer. By doing so they are missing out on a great chance to really stand out from their competition.

Done right, it’s not hard to imagine a programme whereby business card users making purchases from participating merchants earned appropriate rewards both for the business and the cardholder being extremely popular. It’s certainly a great point of differentiation for banks looking to attract business and corporate clients. So how can they begin to build a loyalty programme that will really appeal to these customers?

Points-based reward systems are better than nothing, but lack imagination. If banks want to make a big deal of those programmes and really use them as a way of winning custom, they need to do much more than this. The incentives need to fit well with the business as a whole and the people who will be using the cards. Therefore, the merchant partnerships need to be relevant. They also need to be flexible.

During the covid-19 pandemic, business travel – something that accounts for a big chunk of corporate card spend – ground to a halt almost entirely. Banks providing corporate card schemes were put onto the back foot, struggling to encourage their clients to find ways of putting more spend through their cards to make up for these losses. This is when it can really pay off for banks that offer the right kind of incentives for businesses to start using cards for purchases in categories other than travel and hospitality.

For example, suppliers of office equipment saw an increase in sales during the pandemic as millions of people switched to home working. While a lot of these sales would have been made through purchase orders – which take time to trickle through to merchants – offering businesses an incentive for putting these purchases of chairs, desks, laptops, monitors and so on their corporate cards would have been a very effective way of boosting revenue for banks.

These schemes also open up a world of possibilities for businesses when it comes to generating data insights. Sure, corporate banking relationships have always enabled businesses to see where money is being spent, but with the reward element added in it has the potential to drive even greater efficiencies. It puts business in a position to evaluate existing supplier relationships, favouring those that offer rewards over those that don’t.

It makes sense to offer rewards programmes to business accounts. Business customers make repeated, regular purchases with specific outlets – such as airlines, hotel chains and restaurants, for instance. By partnering with the right merchants and actively targeting the corporate sector, banks can make the most of what is already a reliable revenue stream. It will require significant investment, but if they get the incentives right, they too will reap the rewards.

What doesn’t make sense is the seeming reluctance of many banks to use their rewards programmes as a selling point for business customers. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have any confidence in them because they haven’t invested enough in them. But there is a massive opportunity here for banks that are prepared to put their loyalty programmes front and centre of their push to engage with more corporate clients.

Klarna Shares How Open Banking can Take Consumer Credit to the Next Level

There is much in the current system that has not kept pace with the way many consumers want to use credit. As new and innovative credit products gain ground, data sharing under open banking rules can help transform the way consumers are assessed offering better decisions and greater protections.

Alex Marsh, Head of Klarna UKAlex Marsh, Head of Klarna UK
Alex Marsh, Head of Klarna UK

Alex Marsh is the head of Klarna UK, a global payments and shopping service and one of the world’s most highly valued private fintechs. Alex has extensive experience in banking, fintech, retail and finance, developing and executing strategies which deliver rapid and sustainable growth as well as working with regulators. Here he shares some of his thoughts as to how open banking can take consumer credit to the next level.

Whether dealing with an unexpected cost like replacing a broken washing machine, or simply wanting to ‘try before you buy’, there are plenty of times when people want or need to use credit. New options like buy now pay later (BNPL) are providing lower cost alternatives for consumers, who are increasingly turning their backs on traditional forms of credit.

Because Klarna’s BNPL payment options charge no fees and no interest, the consumer only ever pays the price of the product. This is arguably a more sustainable way to use credit, helping consumers avoid becoming trapped in debt by late fees and punitive interest charges. However, providing a no-cost alternative does not on its own prevent consumers from getting into difficulty. One of the key challenges for all credit providers is ensuring their products and services are offered responsibly. This is where robust assessments of eligibility must come in.

In the UK, the cornerstone of solving this challenge is provided primarily by three ‘credit reference agencies’ (CRAs) which credit lenders use to assess eligibility for their products, from car loans to mortgages. At Klarna we use the CRAs as a key part of the eligibility assessments we perform on every transaction.

They have, broadly, served the industry well. However, changing consumer preferences, and the emergence of new credit providers and products, are quickly exposing opportunities to improve the way that consumers’ creditworthiness is evaluated. Launching a review of the sector, the The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it had “identified concerns about the coverage and quality of credit information, the effectiveness of competition between credit reference agencies, and the extent of consumer engagement”.

Borrowers and credit products have changed

In short, the current system serves consumers of traditional products well but does not capture users of alternative products such as short-term, low value credit. This creates an unconscious bias generally towards older, wealthier people who are homeowners. People who have no history using a credit card or paying off a mortgage; people who have recently moved to the country; and people who have, until recently, been dependent on others for their financial lives, don’t get as good of a deal.

Indeed, an increasing number of consumers are turning to new forms of credit which do not fit naturally into the CRAs’ way of compiling information and scoring borrowers. Barely half of millennials own a credit card, and of those 93 per cent don’t plan to get one. Instead, for an increasing number of people today, taking out credit means borrowing small sums for short periods using products like BNPL. Klarna’s latest research shows that about a quarter of UK adults have used BNPL at some point.

Updating the system

Klarna has been working with the CRAs closely to help adapt to this new way of borrowing, and we are seeing progress. But we can go further. To do this, one of the most promising tools we have is ‘open banking’.

Open banking is mandated by both UK and EU regulators. It allows consumers to share their banking data instantly and securely with other financial services companies. With the right infrastructure in place, lenders can access consumers’ current account data to build a detailed and real-time profile of the applicant’s financial situation. This means even people with very limited credit history (‘thin files’) can access credit by demonstrating their financial health.

However, opening banking alone is not a panacea. One challenge is that people must opt-in to share their data – so the benefits must be made clear to them. When they do opt-in, consumers decide what accounts they share, meaning the lender might still not be getting the whole picture still. And current account data alone does not reveal the individual’s outstanding credit balances and whether or not they are keeping up with payments.

A hybrid solution

The solution is to combine this data with CRA data, to build an in-depth and up-to-the-minute profile of an applicant’s whole financial situation. This hybrid solution can enable better, more responsible lending and borrowing.

Klarna is already using this approach in Germany to augment the information in credit checks so it can reassess applicants refused credit on the basis of their credit score. Something we are looking to introduce in other markets, including the United Kingdom.

This is just the beginning. By incorporating open banking data we have the opportunity to improve access to credit, enabling new products to be brought to market based on the customer insights gained. One of the most exciting prospects is providing understandable and actionable information about creditworthiness and financial health. Having built a comprehensive understanding of the consumer from open banking’s feed of real-time data, we can use this to show them where they stand, whether or not they can afford a purchase, and what practical steps they can take to improve their situation.

Being able to take greater care of consumers like this brings considerable benefits for consumers and would lead to a safer and healthier credit environment for everyone, whether they use traditional forms of credit or prefer newer alternatives.

  • 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.

Pension Pots Puzzle Public; Penfold Survey Finds

For many UK residents, the exact details surrounding their pension pots, and how much is needed realistically to retire, remains yet to be fully understood. 

This lack of understanding became the centre point of recently released research from the digital pension provider Penfold.

Despite the figures showing that the general majority of respondents (54%) hold three or more pensions pots to their name, keeping track of how much money they actually have set aside for retirement continues to prove complex. With this, 58% admitted to having little to no idea how much exactly their pension pot was holding.

The study of 2,000 people found that 65% feel anxious, confused, overwhelmed, or stressed at the prospect of locating and accessing their pension pots as they near the age of retirement. Staggeringly, just 24% of over 55’s stated that they could pursue this task with confidence.

The data also revealed that 38% of consumers still have no idea about how much they need to comfortably retire. While it highlights that the average single person would need a pension pot of £192,000 for a comfortable retirement, 19% of the participants were way off the mark, believing they would only need up to £100,000 to retire comfortably.

Interestingly, however, just 28% of the 18 to 24 year olds in the survey thought that they could comfortably retire with just £50,000 in their pension pot. 46% of over 55’s had no idea how much they would need to comfortably retire.

The study also found that 39% of people were feeling concerned about not having enough money to live comfortably during their old age. A further 8% said they knew they would not have enough in their pension at retirement.

Pete Hykin, Co-Founder, PenfoldPete Hykin, Co-Founder, Penfold
Pete Hykin, Co-Founder, Penfold

Speaking on their recent findings, Pete Hykin, Co-Founder of Penfold, comments, “Our research has shown that people are still feeling in the dark about their retirement. This is probably a legacy of the days when you had to make a phone call or wait weeks for a letter to find out anything about your pension. When your information is available via your phone, accessible in a few taps as it is with the new generation of digital pension providers, there’s really no reason why pensions should be overwhelming or confusing.

“With there no longer being ‘a job for life’ and the introduction of the ‘auto-enrolment scheme’ many people now have multiple pension pots. This can make it tricky to keep track of where all your pensions are and how much is in each account. We believe it should be easy to see how much money you have in your pension pot – just like you can your bank account. The important thing about saving for a pension is to start as early as you can, no matter how small the amount. Being able to see how much you’re saving and how far away you are from your target retirement fund really helps people to establish a regular savings habit.”

This survey was undertaken by Penfold to collect data around the use of their services. The platform represents a digital alternative to traditional pension schemes, allowing users to establish, manage and track their pensions online or through their devices. Contributions can be paused, topped up with one-off payments, and users can also track down and combine multiple pension pots. Users can choose where their money is kept or invested and the dashboard explains how much they have saved and how far off they are from their ultimate end-goal.

Pete added, “Over two-thirds of people are worried in some way about locating and accessing their pension pots – this is probably caused by the thought of having to search through years of paperwork to find old pension details. It’s easy for our users to track down old pensions just using the company name – meaning that they have full visibility of their retirement fund in one place.”

  • 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.

This Week in Fintech ending 30 July 2021

This week our experts brought you the following insights based on their experience as investors, entrepreneurs & executives.

Monday Ilias Hatzis our Greece-based crypto entrepreneur (Founder & CEO at  Kryptonio a “keyless” non-custodial bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallet, that lets users manage bitcoin and crypto, without private keys or passwords and Weekly Columnist at Daily Fintech) @iliashatzis wrote Yield farming: High Rewards, High Risk?

The world’s largest cryptocurrency fell below the $30,000 threshold early last week, and many fear that  Aeolus’ bag of winds may have opened and we may see new lows. Cryptocurrencies have tumbled since mid-May, wiping some $1.3 trillion off their market value. All of the top ten most valuable cryptocurrencies are down by more than 50% since their recent highs. Bitcoin has faced a range of obstacles, including regulatory scrutiny in China, Europe, and the US and dropping hash rates. But in the last few days, the values of cryptocurrencies have all trended upward, indicating that the cryptocurrency market may be beginning to show signs of recovery. The reason behind the bounce back is Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and Cathie Wood speaking during a panel discussion about the future of Bitcoin. Yet, many crypto investors instead of just waiting for the value of their digital coins to grow, are now actively pursuing returns by lending out their crypto holdings or exploring other ways to earn yield and maximize their profits. “Yield farming” can result in interest rates in the double digits, which is far greater than the interest rates available in dollars.

Editor note: If Bitcoin is an asset it should earn something. The higher yields from Defi yield farming elicit two responses – positive (free market interest without central bank manipulation) and negative (this will be a honey pot for scammers).


Tuesday Bernard Lunn, CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy wrote: 4 part series on Lightning Network Part 4: Pooh Bear says disruptive change takes longer than expected but impact is bigger than expected

Pooh, exercising his role as moderator at the Pooh Corner Tech Debate, pointed out that most people in the audience are focussed on the supply issues around Lightning Network ie how it works, but that the bigger issues maybe around the demand issues ie who will use it.

“That is why I follow the honey” continued Pooh. “The El Salvador legal tender decision is all about remittances. Through Strike and Lightning Network, people can send/receive/spend money super fast and dirt cheap. This is real competition to using USD and Western Union.”

“Being a bear of little brain”, continued Pooh in his best humble brag voice, “I do NOT have all the answers but these are the three questions I am asking.

Editor note: The last post in our 4-parter on Lightning Network

Wednesday Alan Scott Managing Director EMEA at 24 Exchange @Alan_SmartMoney wrote his weekly roundup of Stablecoin news.



Rintu Patnaik, an Insurtech expert based in India, wrote: Catastrophe Models Are More Accessible, Insightful and Prevalent Than Ever

Five years ago, catastrophe(CAT) modelling was relatively unknown. Today, CAT modelling for hurricanes and earthquakes is fast becoming the norm in property underwriting. Catastrophes, natural or man-made, can obliterate otherwise stable businesses. Commercially available CAT models have emerged only in the last quarter century. Earlier, rudimentary methods were employed to estimate catastrophic losses as historical loss data was scarce for low frequency, high severity events and standard actuarial techniques inadequate.

Editor note: with news about wildfires in West of America/Canada and floods in Europe, this post is very timely

Christian Dreyer @x3er, the Swiss based CFA who focusses on how XBRL changes our world wrote his weekly roundup of XBRL news.


Friday Howard Tolman, a well-known banker, technologist and entrepreneur in London, wrote his weekly roundup of Alt Lending news.


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Linedata: Why We Need an AI Framework in Finance

The development of artificial intelligence has enabled many complicated, manual tasks to be fully automated. While this is a huge advancement in technology, AI does not have the capabilities to understand data like humans do. Though smarter in some cases, AI can misinterpret data, leading to biases being created and therefore ineffecient technology. An often-cited example of how biased data sets might affect outcomes in finance is in lending. If a credit applicant with all the necessary guarantees lives in an area where residents’ credit applications are often rejected – even if for legitimate reasons – a badly trained model using a biased dataset might interpret this statistical coincidence as a systematic rule. 

This is why creating a framework for ethical AI is essential – to ensure that these mistakes do not happen and everyone has equal opportunity. Timothée Raymond, Head of Innovation and Technology at Linedata, has over 10 years experience working in the financial sector. He discusses the important of ethical AI being implemented in all fields:

Timothée Raymond, Head of Innovation and Technology at LinedataTimothée Raymond, Head of Innovation and Technology at Linedata
Timothée Raymond, Head of Innovation and Technology at Linedata

Up until now, the lack of a legal framework for Artificial Intelligence in Europe has raised important questions about the trustworthiness, ethics and safety of the algorithms currently in use in various sectors, including financial services. Many algorithms work in black boxes and can’t be observed in action – making it difficult to be fully transparent about the processes involved to reach their results and conclusions. There is, however, an increasing desire to tackle this transparency issue, and to integrate ethical frameworks to ensure data sets have no innate bias that could result in discrimination during analysis. An often-cited example of how biased data sets might affect outcomes in finance is in lending. If a credit applicant with all the necessary guarantees lives in an area where residents’ credit applications are often rejected – even if for legitimate reasons – a badly trained model using a biased dataset might interpret this statistical coincidence as a systematic rule. The result is the application might be rejected without good reason, perpetuating a cycle of fiscal discrimination.

It is no surprise then, that the banking sector’s approach to AI is a cautious one, staying away from the more complex and scalable autonomous systems associated with ‘non-consensual’ AI and generally using operational and automated algorithms. These merely simulate human intelligence and perform basic, repetitive tasks. But the desire to use AI to improve services and streamline operations is only growing. Gartner’s 2021 ArtificialIntelligence Heat Map for Banking and Investment Services showed that Machine Learning is the most widely adopted form of AI in banking and finance, driven by the need to improve customer service (43%), cost optimisation (24%) and risk management (19%).

Recognising the need to enable industries to adopt more advanced AI safely, on April 21st the European Commission proposed new rules aiming to transform Europe into a hub for trustworthy AI. If established, this would become the first ever international legal framework for AI, aiming to complement the development of advanced analytics models to ensure their applications are well defined – increasing user trust and understanding. It is an important development in the journey to equity and ensuring respect for fundamental human rights.

Ethical AI in Europe

Europe has chosen to base the degree of ethical requirement of an AI on the risk associated with it, meaning all algorithms are potentially concerned. It might seem obvious that military or medical AI would be particularly scrutinised, but in reality, many professionals use AI tools on a daily basis – and often in ways that can potentially have negative consequences on humans if they are not sufficiently supervised. In the HR sector, for example, Europe explicitly mentions algorithms used in candidate selection. In finance, the algorithms used to establish credit scores or to grant credit will have to be re-evaluated. The introduction of a framework will help professionals across all sectors make better data-driven decisions and will go some way to ensure the results from AI models are consistent and non-discriminatory.

It is also an important development for the future of the business operations of European companies. In order to innovate wisely and carefully plan where to invest capital, clarity on regulations and practices surrounding AI is critical, especially in the context of heightened global competition and the still opaque use of data. The regulation will encourage the modernisation of AI, bringing it closer to reality and thus accuracy, increasing the potential of more refined and individualised results. In retail banking, and lending specifically, it would be accessibility criteria that would be particularly in need of review. Instead of purely relying on permanent contracts the applicant is involved in, we can look for other ways to measure the sustainability and consistency of an individual’s income. This could include other types of contracts that can be weighted more fairly in the decision-making process. There are many other financial services that can be streamlined using other AI tools such as Natural Language Processing, including chatbots for customer service, or adding the possibility of analysing unstructured data to resolve complex financial problems. These tools, once backed by a solid framework, are ripe for innovation.

Across Europe, the number of initiatives to guarantee the best levels of requirement for AI use are rising. Companies are making daily commitments to ensure AI is trustworthy, such as setting up internal evaluation grids for AI solutions developed including various levels of measurement. This might include cross-checks, training requirements, codes used, and analysing best practices. Employees involved, from developers, to project and innovation managers, IT directors up to CISO’s, can integrate an ethical approach right from algorithm development, ensuring data sets are unbiased and models are properly constructed and trained.

The European Commission’s framework is an important step, and hopefully marks the beginnings of Europe becoming a global leader in the development of regulations that can both encourage and foster innovation, whilst crucially continuing to safeguard human rights.

Alt Lending week ending 30th July 2021

Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) takes another look at alleged LIBOR rigger Tom Hayes case.

Tom Hayes has been fighting to clear his name ever since 2017 and despite not knowing the case intimately I feel a certain amount of sympathy for him. Once powerful institutions have decided that you must take the rap then it is very difficult to wriggle free even if you are as clean as the driven snow. The CCRC has agreed to consider an independent and as yet unpublished  report produced by Raphael Yahalom  a researcher at MIT Sloan School of Management. He apparently argues that “ the grossly inadequate” processes and policies set up by the banks are to blame for the Libor rigging scandal than individuals such as the hapless and perhaps grievously wronged Mr. Hayes. I can’t wait to read it. I was involved in the syndicated loan business in the early 1970. In those days lead managing banks deliberately sought Japanese Banks to act as reference banks for rollover pricing. Japanese banks were at the time subject to a premium over other banks thanks to very high leverage and perceived  enhanced credit risk. This premium could be as high as 3/8%. Typically with three reference banks the borrower would pay an extra 1/8% over and above the agreed risk margin. The borrowers were not informed of this but the banks new full well what they were doing. It was unethical, dishonest and arguably fraudulent. I am still surprised that no class actions have been launched.

NatWest suffers because of the dead hand of government

Another very good piece by the Telegraphs Matthew Lynn about why the government should aim for a quick clean all at once break from NatWest. I agree with him. The drip drip strategy currently being pursued by the Clueless UK government might bring in a bit more money but in the meantime NatWest is left to suffer under the dead hand of government in a market that is fizzing with new technologies and ideas. Revolut a digital newcomer has a higher valuation than the tired and plodding residue of Fred the Shred’s RBS. Some years ago RBS markets alone were running nearly 400 disparate applications. Needless to say it never did work very well.

Starling’s Boden says Revolut’s new travel feature clutching at straws

There is obviously no love lost between digital challenger banks Starling, Revolut and Monzo. It is a shame because they all have a lot in common. They are all run by teckies rather than bankers, are great at managing deposits but not so good on the asset side of the balance sheet and they all lose money to a greater or lesser extent. Nevertheless Boden’s comment that ”banks are not the best people to book your holiday” was a somewhat arrogant and unprovable statement. On the face of it Revolut’s foray into travel has something going for it. Travel involves credit, payments money, foreign exchange, and a network of digital connections. Why not see if  there is an opportunity in vertically integrating. Personally I would not book a holiday through a bank but this is what digital banking is all about disrupting traditional suppliers. The Revolut app is undoubtedly a risk but probably not any worse than lending money when you don’t know much about it. You never know it might just work rather well.

Howard Tolman is a well-known banker, technologist and entrepreneur in London,

We have a self imposed constraint of 3 news stories per week because we serve busy senior Fintech leaders who just want succinct and important information.For context on Alt Lending please read the Interview with Howard Tolman about the future of Alt Lending and read articles tagged Alt Lending in our archives.

Daily Fintech’s original insight is made available to you for US$143 a year (which equates to $2.75 per week). $2.75 buys you a coffee (maybe), or the cost of a week’s subscription to the global Fintech blog – caffeine for the mind that could be worth $ millions.

UK Home-Grown Investors on the up as Financial Apps See 3.2 Million New Users

UK home-grown investors continue to blossom as the top 10 UK investment apps gain an estimated 1.6 million users since March 2020.

This is according to an analysis of the investment app market by the app analytics and marketing platform App Radar. The recorded increase brings the total number of UK users to at least 3.2 million. If similar increases were recorded in iOS users the total number of UK app investors could be as high as 6.4 million with half of those added since the start of the pandemic.

Investment App Downloads App Radar

Investment App Downloads App Radar

The insights team at the platform analysed Google Play Store data of 10 of the UK’s biggest financial investment, savings, and pension management apps – including traditional investment choices such as Hargreaves Lansdown, and fintechs Plum, Nutmeg, and Wealthify.

Plum was one of the biggest winners of the investment boom with 382,000 new users – an 80% increase. Freetrade was close behind with 319,500 new customers via the Play Store.

App Radar’s analysis also revealed that this growth in usership is currently showing no sign of slowing, with 140,000 new users added in May 2021 alone.

The growth in the UK tracks a general global surge in the investment app market with Robinhood and eToro leading the way with an estimated 8.2 million and 6.5 million new app users respectively.

As New Year’s resolutions go, the data suggests that UK consumers instigated 179,000 downloads of the top UK finance apps in the opening weeks of the year.

The January 2021 Gamestop short also benefited trading platforms, with the likes of Interactive Investors and Hagreaves Landsown experiencing a peak month for downloads between January and February 2021.

Thomas Kriebernegg, CEO and Co-Founder, App RadarThomas Kriebernegg, CEO and Co-Founder, App Radar
Thomas Kriebernegg, CEO and Co-Founder, App Radar

Speaking on the findings of the data, Thomas Kriebernegg, CEO & Co-Founder of App Radar, comments, “We are seeing a seismic shift in how people manage their money in the UK. Gone are the days where investing was for a select wealthy few. Now, because fintech companies have significantly lowered the bar to entry, more and more people are taking direct control of their finances.

“Undoubtedly the unique circumstances of the pandemic has helped to catalyse the app investment market, however, significantly, growth has shown no sign of letting up. With an estimated 12% of UK adults now investing via their smartphones, there’s a strong commercial incentive to create new app offerings and this is likely to drive even faster growth. It would not be a surprise to see the vast majority of UK adults using at least one investment app in the next five years.”

During the course of the pandemic, the fintech sector has seen multiple large funding rounds as investors look to back players in the space. This includes a £32 million Series B funding for Freetrade. In the US, the popular trading app Robinhood raised $460 million in Series G funding.

  • 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.

GTreasury Release Its 2021 Treasury Tech Report Looking at Modernisation Across Different Industries

GTreasury, a treasury and risk management platform provider, and Strategic Treasurer, which delivers consulting services for treasury management, security, technology, and compliance, have announced the release of the 2021 Treasury Technology Survey Report.

The comprehensive 50-question survey across myriad facets of treasury technology deployment, opinion, and planning drew responses from hundreds of treasurers, treasury analysts, and other treasury and finance professionals from around the world and across industries.

Highlights from the 2021 Treasury Technology Survey Report include:

  • Significant growth anticipated. Payment factories, treasury aggregators, and TMS solutions are expected to realise 35-45% growth over the next two years.
  • APIs are becoming must-have capabilities. 73% of corporate treasury groups indicated that APIs are critical to their current processes. Machine learning capabilities are also drawing outsized focus from treasurers further along in their modernisation initiatives.
  • The gap between cash forecasting importance and reality is high. While cash forecasting is very important to 84% of treasurers, only 38% indicate they are performing at a high rate of accuracy.
  • Fraud prevention gains a heightened focus. Thwarting fraud is a top focus for 77% when considering the application of new technology in product development. Treasurers also report high demand for incorporating automation into fraud prevention processes.
  • Resistance to formats remains. Comparing legacy formats to newer and more enriched formats like XML, treasurers showed surprisingly high levels of resistance to adoption.

“Across continents and industries, treasurers are grappling with how best to transform their treasury technology stack to make processes more efficient and effective, and to drive visible value within their organizations,” said Pete Srejovic, Chief Technology Officer, GTreasury. “This survey provides a unique window into what excites and frustrates treasurers right now, and how the industry is approaching transformation in a quickly-moving ecosystem. This is a must-read report for treasury and finance professionals.”

The 2021 Treasury Technology Survey Report collected responses from March through April 2021, with 50+ questions and 250+ respondents.

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

PandaCare Policy Announced by Insurtech Igloo To Protect Singapore’s foodpanda Delivery Riders

One of Singapore’s most popular food delivery platforms, foodpanda, has announced that it will be protecting its riders and their loved ones following a new partnership with Singapore-based insurtech, Igloo. Foodpanda’s delivery riders will be offered fuss-free, wallet-friendly personal accident cover that they can extend to immediate family members. This policy has been named PandaCare.

PandaCare, underwritten by MSIG Insurance, is specifically designed for gig economy workers and encompasses six benefits: Accidental Death, Accidental Medical Expenses, Accidental Mobile Phone Screen Damage, Daily Hospital Cash, Permanent Total/Partial, Disablement and Temporary Disablement. While most Personal Accident insurance plans charge on a per year basis, PandaCare can be purchased monthly – from as low S$9/month – with personal accident coverage of S$50,000. What’s more, riders can purchase PandaCare for their immediate family members.

With the covid-19 lockdown last year, the region has seen a rise in new food delivery consumers; 34% of digital consumers in SEA moved online for food delivery in 2020. Likewise, there has also been an increase in rider sign-ups as more individuals turn to freelance gigs. Becoming a delivery rider is fast becoming an attractive role for those who value flexibility – such as those who already have a full-time job, or students who are on vacation. As such, PandaCare seeks to provide delivery partners and their families with a peace of mind as they travel the roads to meet heightened demand from covid-19 dining restrictions.

Raunak Mehta, Chief Commercial Officer of Igloo said, “Food delivery services and delivery riders have played an essential role in our lives, particularly in the last year. This is highlighted once again as Singapore hunkers down with the recent safe distancing measures. As riders meet the surge in demand, it is important that they have access to affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage so they can do their jobs with peace of mind. Together with MSIG and foodpanda, we’ve customised an affordable, accessible product delivered through a simplified purchase and claims management journey for this very important segment.”

To purchase, foodpanda riders just need to access the PandaCare purchase page on desktop or mobile and answer three simple questions. Next, they choose from three plans: Lite, Basic or Premium, fill in their personal details and make a payment using a credit or debit card. Making claims is simple too, with riders able to log in to a claims management portal to submit and view their claims status.

Jorge Rubio, Operations Director, foodpanda Singapore, said, “Our riders’ safety has always been our priority. Since the pandemic outbreak, delivery riders have played a critical role in helping the community stay safe. By partnering Igloo to launch PandaCare, we hope to provide not only our riders, but their families as well, access to wallet-friendly, fuss-free option of protecting themselves so that they can have a peace of mind while they are on the road.”

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

How Fintech Teams Grow Engagement and Enhance Digital Outcomes

How do companies keep pace with rising consumer expectations in a post-COVID, digitally transformed world? What role do flexibility and adaptability play in explaining why some companies succeed in engaging their customers while other companies struggle to do so?

Our latest Finovate webinar tackled these issues and more in an hour-long conversation with a quartet of fintech and financial services professionals. Check out our panel discussion – Keep Your Friends Close and Your Data Closer – now available for free On Demand and learn how fintechs are successfully leveraging “people, process, and culture” to achieve their goals.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

“What’s interesting is that 60% of the marketing decision-makers say that their budgets will increase in the next six months, and this was during a time when many companies were still struggling with the previous wave of the pandemic. What’s even more interesting is that the top three areas that brands are intending to invest in are customer engagement, customer satisfaction measurement, and mobile optimization and apps.” Chye Yien, Senior Strategic Business Consultant, Braze

“We saw a major shift from people talking about things to actually doing things. And there have definitely been some very clear trends that we saw towards not only just getting an app out there – which a lot of people have done – but actually making sure that app works well. So when you talk about that dichotomy between the smaller players, the startups that are coming in, and the legacy players in fintech, what we really saw was the people that came from a digitally native position really had strong applications with greater users experiences.” Julio Bermudez, VP APAC and LATAM with Amplitude

“Brands and companies really need to kind of focus on trust and be forward-looking when it comes to permissions, which are only going to get stricter. Customers are only going to want to manage their data more and more. Personalization has been around forever, but I think it’s only getting more and more important; even if it’s in a soft advertising context like an in-app message or something like that, if it’s not relevant to you then why would you care?” Alex Bird, Product Manager, Openpay

“I think it’s very important for you to be able to marry everything together, everything sing(ing) in the same language, and that’s when the first part of collecting data gets done, that’s when you are able to get data in a clean, organized manner. The next part, which I feel is the challenging part, is taking that data into insights, that’s where the goldmine is, that’s where business or your product will be able to make or create an impact for your customers.” Alka Gupta, Director of Data & People, BukuWarung.

Listen to the full discussion for free On Demand today!

Photo by Akil Mazumder from Pexels