New opportunities have emerged for both African companies and foreign investors in the wake of the continent’s developing contactless economy.
Africa’s emerging contactless economy is growing rapidly in the Covid-era; creating new growth opportunities that African and foreign companies and investors can capitalise on. This was the main takeaway from comments made by industry experts during Wednesday’s Global Business Forum (GBF) Africa 2021 in Dubai.
Centred around the theme ‘Transformation Through Trade’, the two-day Global Business Forum is being held at the Dubai Exhibition Centre on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai, under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
A session titled ‘Tech-celebration: The Contactless Economy’ brought together Lacina Koné, Director General of the Smart Africa Secretariat from Côte d’Ivoire; and Innocent Muhizi, CEO of the Rwanda Information Society Authority; who each shared their thoughts on what this new turn towards payment technology could mean for businesses and investors in Africa.
“When we talk about technology in the developed world, we talk about it disruption, about new players threatening the field,” Moderator Goolam Ballim noted. “This is in contrast to what we see in Africa, where technology is seen as more developmental than disruptive. It allows new players to enter into the market – a market that is often uncharted.”
Lacina Koné spoke about Smart Africa’s vision to transform Africa into a single digital market by 2030. “The strategy consists of five main points: putting ICT at the heart of national development plans; improving access to ICT especially for banks; ensuring transparency, accountability, and openness through ICT; putting the private sector first in the ecosystem; and using ICT to promote sustainable development,” he said.
“Looking at the registered mobile money market share, Africa owns 50%, we also own 70% of mobile money transactions globally. Africa by nature is a mobile continent and we are leading the world in that sector,” Koné added. “Intertrade in Africa is only around 18%. The African Continental Free Trade Area aims to promote more integration and Smart Africa is working to facilitate that with smart identity and e-payment solutions.”
For his part, Innocent Muhizi underlined the importance of digital solutions noting that: “If another pandemic hits, we have no resort but digital. You have to automate certain services. For example, during the pandemic alone, mobile transactions grew by 400%.”
Muhizi went on to list three important factors to focus on to promote digital technologies: Affordable connectivity, affordable devices, and digital skills. “You have to offer incentives to digital service providers. These include bringing down the cost of transactions, creating an enabling environment for service providers, and upgrading some of the services.”
What are some of the Middle East and Africa (MEA)’s principal financial centres?
The following is based on the thirtieth edition of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 30). Published on 24 September 2021, the GFCI 30 provides evaluations of future competitiveness and rankings for 116 financial centres around the world. The following, a part one of two, showcases those from the MEA region that made the list:
Tehran is the capital and the largest city of Iran. It is one of the largest cities in the world with an urban area population of at least 14 million people. The city, fun fact, houses around a fifth of the country’s firms. The current political situation and sanctions have affected the country which has impacted its economy and across various sectors which include the likes of financial services. In the GFCI ranking globally it was 109th.
Kuwait City is the capital and the largest city of the State of Kuwait. In the Middle East and particularly in the Gulf region, Kuwait has been a historical regional hub for the financial services industry. Even today, Kuwait’s financial system comprises four sectors: banking, insurance, other financial institutions and investment funds. There’s more than 100 financial institutions offering financial products and services in the country. According to the GFCI ranking globally Kuwait was 108th.
Nigeria’s largest city and financial hub is Lagos, which houses more than 20 million people alone, according to the National Population Commission of Nigeria. Lagos is home to a large financial services sector and banks, such as First Bank of Nigeria, Access Bank, Ecobank and First City Monument Bank(FCMB). In addition, in terms of the wider tech ecosystem Lagos is home to various startup incubators. From the GFCI ranking Lagos was in 102nd place.
Saudi Arabia is home to Riyadh, its capital and largest city that aspires to be one of the top 10 largest economies – announced this year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. As a whole, Saudi Arabia is home to over a quarter of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) total banking assets, and well as the region’s second-largest banking industry in terms of assets and the largest in terms of market capitalisation. As part of its wider Saudi Vision 2030 national economic development diversification, there have been various projects happening throughout the Kingdom. In terms of that and the growth of Riyadh, a key one has been the new King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). Globally, Riyadh ranked 101st globally.
Kenya, in particular its commercial and financial hub of Nairobi, is a major player generally from an economic point of view not just in East Africa but the African continent as a whole. Dubbed ‘Silicon Savannah’, Nairobi has a strong fintech and wider tech and financial services ecosystem and is also the capital and largest city of the country. Overall, Kenya’s financial sector is the third-largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and it makes a significant contribution to economic growth and job creation. Via the GFCI ranking Nairobi ranked in 98th place globally.
Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda and also its main commercial and financial hub. As a whole, the banking sector according to the Rwanda Development Board continues to be the main engine in the financial system with banks representing nearly two-thirds (66.1 per cent), examples of some of the banks in Rwanda include Access Bank Rwanda, Bank of Kigali, Commercial Bank of Rwanda and Banque Populaire du Rwanda SA (BPR). The Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC) is a major vision for Kigali, and Rwanda as a nation, to further economically diversify and expand. KIFC is a government initiative that aims to position Rwanda as a major business and financial hub in Africa which among other things involves reforming the financial services. 94th place was the global ranking of Kigali.
Mauritius has transformed itself to be an uppermiddle income economy boasting one of the highest GDP per capitas (second after Seychelles) in the African continent. Located in the Indian Ocean and acting as a gateway between the rest of Africa and South Asia, its economic development transformation continues with its Mauritius Vision 2030. Over past decades, the country has provided stable regulatory and financial environment for foreign investors. This has shown the country to be a leading attractor for those looking to do business in the African continent as a whole. The capital and largest city of the small nation is Port Louis. Mauritius received a global ranking of 73rd.
Global Processing Services (“GPS”), the global payment technology platform, has announced it has raised over $300million from Advent International (“Advent”) and Viking Global Investors (“Viking”), who will co-control the company. The investment by Advent will be funded through Advent Tech and Sunley House Capital, an affiliate of Advent.
GPS’ API-first payment technology platform enables innovative card programmes for the world’s leading fintechs, digital challenger banks and embedded finance providers. Its platform has helped scale multiple unicorns and powers a vast array of prominent fintechs across Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East, including Revolut, Curve, StarlingBank, Zilch, WeLab Bank and Paidy. Through a single unified code base, GPS enables its customers and partners to launch and scale card programmes across 48 countries, supported by integrations with over 95 issuers. To date, it has issued over 190 million physical and virtual cards, and last year processed more than 1.3 billion transactions on its cloud-based platform.
“GPS provides key payments technology infrastructure, enabling the global fintech revolution. Their agile, resilient and modern cloud platform drives some of the most innovative use cases and allows fintechs to globalise through a single API,” commented Peter James, Director at Advent International.
“Through their customer-centric innovation, GPS has quietly established a leading position in key markets around the world with an attractive, diversified and global customer base. Together with Viking, we look forward to supporting GPS’ leadership team to expand the business’ product offering and accelerate its international reach.”
“We are delighted to partner with Advent and Viking, with their deep experience and track record in payments and fintech, and, who share our bold vision for the next generation of global payments,” said Joanne Dewar, Chief Executive Officer at GPS.
“GPS has been at the heart of the global fintech explosion, simplifying access to the global rails of the new digital payments era. This investment will allow us to turbo charge our geographic footprint and product expansion plans as we drive the payments ecosystem in the key verticals of today and tomorrow, including digital banking, Buy Now Pay Later, B2B virtual cards, financial empowerment, and much more.”
Advent has a strong track record in the growth of businesses across the payment and software industries, including a recent investment in Planet, the global integrated payments leader, and Dock, the Latin American financial technology infrastructure provider where Advent’s affiliate, Sunley House Capital, co-invested alongside Viking. Worldwide since 2008, Advent has invested ~$5billion across 12 payments platform companies.
Viking has a long history investing in payments and software, across both the private and public markets. Viking is investing in GPS out of its private equity vehicles, which currently manage over $17billion. Recent payments investments include Dock, the Latin American financial technology infrastructure provider where it co-invested alongside Advent, and Clip, the Mexican digital payments and commerce platform.
Human interaction is out, and digital banking is in; finds new opinion data from Glassbox.
New data from Glassbox finds that customers prefer seamless digital banking experiences over human interaction.
In an effort to better understand customer preferences in an increasingly digital and hybrid banking landscape, Glassbox polled over 2,000 individuals in the United States and the United Kingdom between July and August 2021. The survey exposed consumers’ expectations for online banking, security, must-have features, and incentives for loyalty.
In an ever-changing digital space, the survey unveiled some interesting differences between how Americans and U.K. residents prefer to bank. 54% of U.K.-based consumers are twice as likely to choose mobile apps over desktop computers when conducting digital banking transactions, in contrast to 26% of U.S.-based respondents.
Moreover, U.K. residents place a higher value on human interaction in online banking than their American counterparts. 51% of U.K. participants stated access to human interactions, such as live online chats and phone support, are important to them, whereas only 43% of American respondents placed value on human interaction. Likewise, 30% of Americans stated secure banking platforms are more likely to drive their loyalty, 7% more than U.K. respondents.
“Our findings highlight how with ample banking options on the market, a lack of an exceptional digital experience can affect financial institutions’ bottom line,” said Yaron Morgenstern, CEO, Glassbox. “More importantly, the results expound on how largely relevant it is for banks to adapt and transform their digital presence to keep up with consumers’ ever-changing digital needs. By tailoring digital tools and keeping an eye on region-specific needs, banks will be able to provide more powerful and impactful digital experiences to drive customer retention for generations to come.”
The survey also highlighted the general inclusivity of digital banking, with 79% of respondents stating that they prefer managing their finances through digital means, whilst 51% reported utilising digital banking once a week or more.
The importance of ample cybersecurity measures remained a top priority for consumers on both sides of the pond, with 40% of respondents reporting that security is the most important element of online banking.
The survey also found close ties between accessibility and customer loyalty, with 35% stating how easy online banking was the reason they remained committed to their bank; making it the third-highest response behind ‘length of relationship’ and ‘secure banking platform’.
In light of this, it comes as little surprise that technical issues drive customers away from their banks. 32% of respondents reported that if they encountered persistent technical issues when banking online, they are more likely to change banks.
The survey also exposed the relationship between mobile banking apps and their desktop counterparts, with 26% of consumers banking as frequently on mobile as they are on desktops. This considered, 48% of Millennials and Gen Z still rely on desktops for a seamless digital banking experience. More tech-savvy generations have yet to be convinced of the benefits associated with mobile banking.
New regulations for insurers have been outlined by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), with the first part of the regulations coming into effect on the 1st of October. All general insurance and pure protection firms – both insurers and intermediaries – were required to implement the new product governance rules contained in PS21/5 by 1st October, with new rules around pricing taking effect on 1st January 2022.
As part of the FCA’s ongoing work to ensure consumers receive fair value, the review looked at how firms designed, sold and reviewed their products to ensure they met the needs of their customers.
The findings showed that some firms had made good progress in meeting the FCA’s existing rules and guidance on product governance and value, issued in 2018 and 2019, as well as against temporary guidance on product value, issued in response to covid-19 last year.
However, too many firms were not fully meeting the FCA’s standards. In addition, many firms were likely to be unprepared to meet new enhanced rules on product governance, which came into force on the 1st of October 2021. These new rules are part of a wider package of remedies introduced by the FCA to tackle the loyalty penalty and ensure that firms focus on providing fair value to all their customers.
The review found weaknesses including:
Insufficient focus on customers, outcomes and product value, including when considering value in the context of covid-19.
Shortcomings in governance and oversight of products.
As an example, it was not always clear firms have adequate processes in place to assess whether intermediary remuneration (such as how much a broker is paid) bears reasonable relationship to the costs or workload to distribute the product as set out in previous guidance and required under the rules applicable from 1 October 2021.
When the new governance regulations were announced, Sheldon Mills, Executive Director for Supervision, Policy and Competition at the FCA, said, “We know some firms are doing the right thing but with the deadline for implementing our enhanced rules less than two months away, it’s worrying that some firms may not be ready.
“Where firms are not consistently meeting existing requirements and expectations, it risks harm through poor value products or products being sold to the wrong customers. These firms have significant work to do urgently to be able to comply with the enhanced product governance rules. Firms that fail to do that work risk regulatory action.”
The FCA’s enhanced product governance rules were introduced following its General insurance pricing practices market study which found home and motor insurance markets were not working well for consumers, particularly loyal customers. The rules are designed to ensure that firms have processes in place to deliver products that offer fair value to customers (all non‑investment insurance contracts, not only home and motor insurance).
Patrick Mottram, senior director of risk, analytics and insurance at Precisely, advised that adopting data integrity practices would help insurers to price more accurately, in line with the new FCA regulations:
“With just three months left to prepare for the FCA’s new pricing regulations coming into effect on 1st January 2022, insurers have a limited time to ensure their pricing processes are accurate, as well as demonstrating that they are not penalising customer loyalty (a process known as “price walking”). This means that insurers need to know their customer (KYC) and be able to show that they are treating them fairly.
“KYC relies on having a single customer view that is both accurate and unique, relying on robust data quality processes that standardise, cleanse and match data – allowing insurers to see a complete profile of its relationship with each customer, from initial quote to any claims made. This allows insurers to more accurately position and price products based on customer demographics and geographic profiles.
“However, achieving this can be complicated to undertake, particularly for many insurers that are operating globally, or those that are dealing with key customer information that is limited, flawed, out of date, or held in different systems and formats.
“Adopting data integrity processes within the next three months will be critical to complying with these new pricing regulations coming into force. Ultimately, insurers will not only be able to provide a better service for customers, but this will also set them apart from their nearest competitors – a must-have in a large market that’s soon to be shaken up by the FCA.”
This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
We hear from Ximena Alemain, Gabi Slemer, Aparna Gupta, Sarah Clements, Jackie Ward and Tracy Monson as they share with us how they smashed the glass ceiling.
Gabi Slemer, founder at Finasana
“My dad was always a huge cheerleader for me and has encouraged me to believe that I can do whatever I put my mind to, no matter what other people say.
“When I was younger, he would constantly repeat the opening line of the Bee Movie: ‘According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyways. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.’
“So, I’ve always pictured myself as a little bee when I thought that things were impossible or out of reach for me. Also, resilience, tenacity, and never giving up played a big part, too!”
Aparna Gupta, professor in the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“Finding one’s home in academia and creating a plan to thrive is not straightforward for anyone, much less for women in academics. Finding homes is particularly hard today when disciplines are evolving and most pressing problems, such as, trusted computing, security threats, climate change, etc. necessitate multi-disciplinary approaches to ensure robust and meaningful solutions. Dearth of women role models to chart one’s path to successes in the academic profession, where disciplinary entrenchment remains deep despite today’s challenges demanding multi-disciplinary solutions, has posed a significant challenge and hurdles in my journey.
“I am trained as a mathematician, but I was always excited by how mathematical methods and analytical thinking can be used to solve compelling problems of the day. This has meant developing inter-disciplinary collaborations, where my specific interest has been to tackle problems of the financial markets and institutions, and how risk management techniques can address issues at the interface of finance and technology. I have immensely benefited from insights and support from my inter-disciplinary collaborators, which has helped set forth the path of creating the first-ever US National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) devoted to Financial Technologies.
“The Center for Research toward Advancing Financial Technologies (CRAFT) is the culmination of many years of groundwork and extensive outreach, from building a specialised Masters program devoted to training students with strong quantitative skills needed in the financial services sector to creating the Center for Financial Studies to strengthen ties with industry. In the past three years, my focused outreach was to solicit interest to create the first-ever multi-university industry-guided research centre for financial technologies advances and challenges. This endeavour has been challenging and rewarding in unprecedented ways, as much of the work of building the community to address the pressing challenges faced by the financial services sector was done under the constraints of covid-19.
“As a leader of the NSF IUCRC CRAFT centre, we are setting out to do groundbreaking work to support the research and innovations challenges of the financial services sector. The Center’s research agenda will range from utilisation of varieties of data and AI techniques, innovations supported by blockchains and in decentralized finance, advances in quantum computing for financial services, to developing novel techniques to assess threats and vulnerabilities of the financial system. The Center will also seek to develop holistic insights on ethics, policy, and societal implications of the financial technologies advances and innovations.”
Ximena Aleman, Cofounder & Co CEO at Prometeo
“I have founded a company in a sector specially and historically dominated by men, the financial and the technological. It may sound repetitive but for women to found a company and start the entrepreneurial journey is important to understand and practice real ways to take the stress out of it. It’s key to stay focused and ignore as much as you can, all the pressure that comes from the outside.”
Sarah Clements, Chief Delivery Officer, Delio
“During my career so far, I’ve learnt two important lessons that have helped me to smash the glass ceiling and that I’d share with any ambitious women working in fintech.
“Firstly, I’ve always had clearly defined ambitions for my career. For me, this has manifested itself in various ways; for example, knowing what type of business I wanted to be part of, choosing new roles based on long-term prospects rather than short-term gain, and understanding what I get the most satisfaction from on a professional level. Knowing what I wanted to achieve and by when meant that I could hold myself accountable and not become complacent. I also clearly articulated these plans to my managers, so that they understood what I was aiming to achieve and how they could support me.
“The second lesson is to listen to advice but never let it define your approach to your career. I quickly realised that leading a team is something I really enjoy doing. However, in one of my early roles, I was told that without any technical experience, I would never get to a leadership position. I think this attitude remains a fairly common misconception within the tech industry and beyond. In my opinion, being a good leader doesn’t mean you have to be a technical expert – some highly qualified engineers have masses of experience but don’t have the skills to motivate a team to deliver success. This was when I decided to look for a company that would give me the chance to develop my knowledge and experience ‘on the job’ without necessarily becoming a developer myself.
“As I joined Delio as a business analyst, the senior management team was aware of my longer-term ambitions. They gave me opportunities to prove myself which allowed me to demonstrate my value to the business; within three years, I became Delio’s chief delivery officer.
“Having worked my way through the ranks to a senior leadership position, I would wholeheartedly emphasise that anyone can do it. However, it’s not a case of simply ‘turning up’; have your own plan, make sure others are aware of it, and make it impossible for people to ignore your achievements. Of course, you have to be part of the right organisation for everything to fall into place, but there’s a lot that you can do personally to make sure you’re ready to take advantage when they do.”
Jackie Ward, VP of Risk & Compliance, BSA and OFAC Officer, at Dwolla
“Tenacity. I’ve been around long enough to see the battle of the sexes, the push for diversity acknowledgment, I’ve argued about clothing requirements and fought for pictures on my desk. Plus I served during don’t ask/ don’t tell and never gave up, thanks to a very strong mother. She stepped up for me starting in grade school to let teachers know I didn’t have to wear a skirt and if I wanted to play soccer with the boys instead of the girls, that was ok (and was going to happen). She taught me to not give up, stand by what I believe and fight for what’s right, I have carried that through every aspect of my life and thank her for my determination to climb any and all ladders, literally or figuratively. I’ve never shied away from tough conversations at work, especially when it pushed me or others down or back in any way, shape or form.
“As for the glass ceiling, very early on I realised most people aren’t going to check all the boxes in a job description exactly as written. The key is to not let that keep you from applying and asking to have a discussion. Often there are skills that can’t be taught and if you have those skills you can learn the other areas. We all become salespeople at a certain point in our careers when it comes to selling our experience in addition to our potential. You have to make sure people understand all that you have accomplished plus all that you can accomplish. Talking about what you bring to the table is important, but don’t focus too much on why you deserve something; instead, focus on how you can help them accomplish their goals and what you bring that they may not even realise they need from that role. Don’t be intimidated once you get the opportunity for a discussion. You are there for a reason and as I learned in basic training, it is truly mind over matter in many situations. You must believe in yourself and project that confidence. Don’t be afraid to not have all the answers, but be clear that you will learn and grow so you can answer those questions and more very quickly.”
Tracy Monson, Senior Vice President, Product at Onbe
“When I consider women in Fintech, my current personal lens is motherhood and what mothers contribute to the workplace and the world. Motherhood is multi-dimensional, where wisdom, knowledge and creativity grow. It requires problem-solving, efficiency, humility, and the ability to anticipate. I had these skills before becoming a mother, but being a parent helped me identify, hone, and value them.
“When my career began, I didn’t think about the glass ceiling and was lucky to work in environments where my skills were recognised as leadership qualities. In my career, I’ve built and led teams across fintech Operations, Marketing and Product organisations at the highest levels.
“Over time, though, I began to understand the glass ceiling and its effects. I believe women can be enabled to do great work, grow their careers, and meet their financial goals when organisations:
Reward less visible work: I have formed strong relationships where our common bond was an ability to effectuate change without necessarily being formally empowered. These were (mostly) women who anticipated problems and cleared the path—critical work often overlooked and under-compensated because a clear path is less noticeable than a bumpy one. When businesses recognise, reward, and create leadership tracks for this less visible work, the glass cracks.
Recognise individual needs: After having kids, I became more aware of demands on my time, and I noticed burnout in colleagues—women and men. Fintech is fast-paced and can be thrilling, fulfilling, and financially rewarding. Yet intense careers can pull us away from meaningful relationships and experiences that make us better, smarter, happier. When businesses normalise employees having needs and competing priorities outside of work, and meet those needs in flexible, creative ways, a woman could adjust her schedule for school drop-off, and the glass cracks a little more.
Foster cooperation: I’ve seen hyper-competitive environments, where knowledge was hoarded or used for personal gain. Women are frequently pitted against each other to compete for roles and resources; while competition will always exist in a world of limits, the highest functioning teams share information freely, celebrate one another’s strengths and champion one another. When businesses create cultures of collaboration and support, the glass shatters.
“These large, systemic changes don’t happen overnight and aren’t the norm. However, I’ve seen what happens when teams and companies reward highly effective women, treat people as unique individuals and encourage cooperation. When we do these things… what glass ceiling?”
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.
Standard Chartered and Atome Financial have announced a 10-year multi-product strategic partnership, combining their strengths in finance and technology to deliver a wide range of financial services to consumers and merchants across key markets in Asia. Atome Financial is a business unit under Advance Intelligence Group, which recently closed a $400million+ Series D financing round from an investor consortium led by SoftBank VisionFund 2 and WarburgPincus, valuing the company at more than $2billion.
Standard Chartered is investing in Atome Financial, which operates Asia’s largest buy now pay later platform, Atome, as well as digital lending platform Kredit Pintar in Indonesia. This marks one of Standard Chartered’s largest strategic investments in a fintech to-date and supports its ambition to expand its reach and scale within the mass market segment via a digital-first approach, underpinned by digital acquisition and new partnership models.
The partnership will initially include buy now pay later services, targeting to roll out in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam in the next few months, and later expand to include digital lending products. Standard Chartered plans to provide financing of $500millon and is committed to supporting Atome Financial’s growth in the future. This funding will enable Atome Financial to grow and connect a wider ecosystem of merchants to a larger customer base, improving product access and financial inclusion for consumers across the region. At the same time, Atome Financial’s customers will gain access to more innovative financial services, easily accessed via their mobile devices.
This announcement kickstarts a 10-year multi-product strategic partnership to deliver personal banking solutions across Asia. Atome Financial brings extensive experience in consumer finance and a cost-efficient, scalable digital platform. Coupled with Standard Chartered’s extensive footprint and banking expertise, this strategic partnership aspires to reach over 16 million customers by 2025 and gain access to multiple financial ecosystems in order to capture a share of the digital lending market, valued at $92billion by 2025 in South East Asia alone.
Judy Hsu, CEO, Consumer, Private and Business Banking, Standard Chartered Bank, said, “Riding on our successful digital ventures and partnerships, we continue to be fearlessly innovative in disrupting ourselves to better serve our clients. This partnership with Atome Financial gives us the opportunity to be part of the rapidly growing digital consumer finance ecosystem and provides convenient and relevant digital financial products to complement and enrich clients’ digital lives. Our deep knowledge of Asia’s markets coupled with Atome Financial’s experience in digital consumer finance will allow us to reach even more customers and drive greater financial participation of those underserved and underbanked.”
Jefferson Chen, Co-Founder, Group Chairman and CEO of Advance Intelligence Group, and CEO of Atome Financial, said, “We are excited to have the support and partnership of Standard Chartered in building towards our mission of using technology to help people advance towards a better life. By providing consumers with easier, simpler, and more convenient access to a full suite of digital-first financial services, we can accelerate broader financial inclusion across both developed and emerging markets in Asia. At the same time, this partnership with Standard Chartered will allow us to expand our merchant network and help retailers increase their customer base and basket sizes, contributing to economic growth across the region.”
Banks this week announced deals to implement cloud-based services and core systems to unify and streamline services; meanwhile, investments in fintechs, including embedded payment systems providers, continue to spike. Frost Bank & Blend San Antonio-based Frost Bank is expanding its relationship with cloud banking process automation software provider Blend, whose list of some 300 customers […]
United and PayPal have announced a new way to make touch-free inflight purchases, even in areas without WiFi. United customers on select flights can simply show a flight attendant the PayPal QR Code in the PayPal app and use it to buy snacks, drinks and other inflight purchases while onboard.
United is the first airline to offer PayPal QR Codes, and this partnership is part of United’s easy-to-use, industry-leading suite of contactless payment tools. United was the first airline to give customers in economy cabins the option to pre-order snacks and beverages from the airline’s app and website, and also offers customers the ability to easily store payment information in a digital wallet.
PayPal QR Codes can be used on select flights departing from Chicago O’Hare International Airport in November and before the end of the year, will extend to all flights across the entire network where contactless payment is available.
“Our contactless payment offering is built on simplicity and choice and it’s another way we’re improving the overall experience of flying United,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. “PayPal is a terrific partner and this technology gives our customers another easy way to make purchases, even when they’re not online. We expect to introduce even more new and innovative options for our customers in the future through our collaboration with PayPal.”
“We’re excited to be partnering with United to introduce our new offline QR code functionality, adding more ways for customers to check out with PayPal in more places, especially in offline or low connectivity areas,” said FrankKeller, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Segment Solutions and Digital Commerce at PayPal. “Bringing PayPal QR Codes inflight reinforces our commitment to offering customers choice and provides a new level of touch-free convenience for consumers when making in-flight purchases, within the PayPal app they know and trust.”
United’s New Buy-On-Board Menu
Customers can pay using PayPal QR Codes to enjoy one of many new food and beverage offerings United launched in June.
United also introduced brand-new meal offerings to customers seated in domestic premium cabins on flights over 1,500 miles and hub-to-hub flights over 800 miles.
United is more focused than ever on its commitment to customers and employees. In addition to today’s announcement, United has recently:
Launched an ambitious plan to transform the United customer experience by adding and upgrading hundreds of aircraft as well as investing in features like larger overhead bins, seatback entertainment in every seat and the industry’s fastest available WiFi.
Announced a goal to create 25,000 unionised jobs by 2026 that includes careers as pilots, flight attendants, agents, technicians, and dispatchers.
Announced that United will train at least 5,000 pilots by 2030 through the United Aviate Academy, with the plan of at least half being women and people of colour.
Required all US employees to receive a covid-19 vaccination.
Became the first airline to offer customers the ability to check their destination’s travel requirements, schedule covid-19 tests and more on its mobile app and website.
Invested in emerging technologies that are designed to decarbonise air travel, like an agreement to work with urban air mobility company Archer, an investment in aircraft startup Heart Aerospace and a purchase agreement with BoomSupersonic.
Committed to going 100% green by 2050 by reducing 100% of our greenhouse gas emissions without relying on traditional carbon offsets, including a recent agreement to purchase one and a half times the amount of all of the rest of the world’s airlines’ publicly announced Sustainable Aviation Fuel commitments combined.
Eliminated change fees for all economy and premium cabin tickets for travel within the US.
Bitcoin-to-the-moon traders are back with a vengeance as the cryptocurrency approaches its all-time high and demand jumps for bullish contracts across crypto exchanges.
The world’s largest digital token surged about 7.4% to $61,711 on Friday — taking this month’s rally to over 40% — after Bloomberg News reported the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission looks poised to allow the country’s first futures-based cryptocurrency ETF.
As institutional and retail demand grows for the more than $1 trillion asset, speculators are eying a return to April’s $64,869 record peak while premiums are rising for derivatives betting on higher prices.
“The U.S. was always the big prize and signals further regulatory validation and acceptance of cryptocurrencies,” said Antoni Trenchev, co-founder of crypto lender Nexo. “Momentum is clearly with Bitcoin right now and it’s only a matter of time before the April high is taken out.”
All month long, speculation of imminent ETF approval has driven up Bitcoin, helping it outperform smaller tokens to reclaim 46% of the crypto ecosystem’s total market value. An exchange-traded fund is expected to draw more interest from investors that prefer buying a familiar, regulated product over navigating digital-currency exchanges.
In a sign of rising animal spirits, the seven-day average funding rate on Bitcoin futures — the cost of keeping a bullish bet open — rose to 5% on the Binance platform. That compares with just 1.9% at the end of September in Bybt data compiled by The Block, a crypto information service. On FTX, another popular exchange, the premium over the past 24 hours has shot up to 23% from 7.6% over the past month.
The value of outstanding futures on crypto exchanges rebounded to $21.5 billion, compared with the $27 billion peak earlier this year, according to Bybt.
Similarly, the curve has steepened in CME futures, indicating an increasingly optimistic outlook for Bitcoin’s trajectory. The gap between December contracts and this month’s widened to 990 basis points, the most since April.
Ki Young Ju, chief executive officer at analytics firm CryptoQuant, said on Twitter prices have been driven by whales buying large amounts of the cryptocurrency through derivatives.
It all marks a shift from recent months, when Bitcoin bulls were left subdued after the May crash and attention turned to a host of other speculative manias like non-fungible tokens.
“With a well integrated ETF structure, crypto is poised to go mainstream,” said Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank. “This could push Bitcoin to the $60,000 handle due to expectation for broader investment adoption.”
— By Justina Lee with assistance from Anchalee Worrachate and Joanna Ossinger
Mastercard, the Official Payment Technology Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, has teamed up with the region’s largest network for women-owned businesses, Female Fusion, to unlock opportunities for women entrepreneurs at the world’s largest cultural gathering.
The collaboration will result in a host of knowledge-sharing, networking and mentoring events aimed at women-owned businesses that will aim to empower and educate them, grow and scale their businesses and include them in an evolving digital economy.
The series of activities, designed to accelerate women’s impact in creating a better world, will take place at the Women’s Pavilion by Expo 2020, in collaboration with Cartier. There will also be virtual workshops hosted during the six-month period.
The alliance will invite notable guests, including Sarah Beydoun, Founder and Creative Director of a social impact fashion business in Lebanon; IoannaAngelidaki, co-founder of Instashop; and MaureenHall, Founder, and CEO of a sunwear brand. The workshops will empower entrepreneurs with valuable skills to go digital and grow digital in their ventures.
According to the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index, 81% of the region’s women entrepreneurs have a digital presence for their businesses, compared to 68% of their male counterparts. In terms of the digital footprint of the region’s female entrepreneurs, social media (71%) leads the way, followed by a company website (57%).
“Mastercard continues to work towards breaking gender barriers across the world. Today, the largest economic opportunity globally is the untapped potential of women entrepreneurship, which can spur unprecedented levels of growth if unlocked,” comments Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships MEA, Mastercard. “Through our collaboration with Female Fusion, we want to take the opportunity to discuss topics relevant to women business owners on a global platform such as Expo 2020 Dubai and engage with this passionate group of women to help them in their journeys towards digital transformation.”
“Whether it’s making full use of social media, streamlining their businesses to operate more efficiently online, or even selling online, we believe there is an opportunity for women SMEs to learn how to do it better. Female Fusion is proud to partner with Mastercard in educating and empowering our network in maximizing their potential and paving the way to sustainable growth,” added Jennifer Blandos, Managing Partner, Female Fusion.
“The Women’s Pavilion by Expo 2020, in collaboration with Cartier, is designed to celebrate the positive impact women make on the world while understanding the challenges they still face. We welcome Mastercard, as one of our Premier Partners, in delivering these opportunities to a growing community of women business owners. When women thrive, all of humanity thrives,” comments Hind Alowais, Senior Vice President, Participants Management, Expo 2020 Dubai.
Female Fusion Network is the region’s largest and most engaged community for women in business, women business leaders, and women looking to set up their own business. With more than 20,000 members, Female Fusion supports its members through online learning, face-to-face events, networking, social media forums, and more.
New research from GoCardless, a global fintech in account-to-account payments, has revealed that the stigma attached to talking about money has left British small businesses vastly under- and unpaid. The findings indicate 29% of SME leaders feel uncomfortable asking customers for payment and nearly three-quarters (73%) are willing to forgo up to 10% of their annual turnover to avoid an awkward money conversation.
However, small business leaders recognise that ‘money muteness’ places a ceiling on their success: 73% agree that failing to talk about money openly would prevent their company from reaching its full potential. Indeed, SME decision makers are all too aware of what they could gain if they collected their receivables on time: 20% say they would have more time to think about their long-term strategy and growing their company, while 18% would invest in other parts of their business, such as in marketing or new software.
Female-led SMEs lose out most
Female business leaders are disproportionately affected by this taboo topic, with 32% indicating they feel awkward talking about money, compared to only 22% of male leaders. When dealing with customers over half (54%) of women say it’s because they don’t want to be seen as rude, in contrast to 40% of men.
GoCardless has partnered with Emma Gannon, award-winning author of The Multi-Hyphen Method and host of careers podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, to raise awareness of the issue and get small businesses talking more openly about money.
Gannon said, “Money is an emotional topic as it is, but add in the problem of late payments and it’s even more stressful. Chasing payments causes a huge expenditure of emotional and mental energy and has affected almost every single freelancer I know. Research tells us women worry more about being seen as rude or could sometimes feel intimidated, which means they’re at a greater disadvantage. Small business owners and solopreneurs deserve more respect, and they deserve to be able to do their work without having another job on top. Late payments are a massive problem, and it is a scandal how normalised they’ve become. I’m really excited to be working with GoCardless to raise awareness of this problem, but more importantly, to offer solutions.”
It’s not all bad news
Although many small business leaders dodge discussions about ‘the m-word’, it is often the consumer who is left red-faced: When informed about a late or failed payment, 42% of people feel embarrassed, 28% feel apologetic and 22% are grateful to have the opportunity to resolve it.
Technology has the potential to minimise awkwardness on both sides. 62% of consumers agree they would feel more comfortable getting chased for a late or failed payment by an automated message, for instance on email or text, rather than a call or notice from a human being.
Pranav Sood, VP Small Business at GoCardless, said, “You can’t fix a problem if you don’t talk about it. Getting paid is one of the biggest problems that SMEs face and an inability to talk about it is holding too many businesses back. At GoCardless, we are committed to breaking this taboo and tackling ‘money muteness’. The first step is to recognise that it’s normal to feel awkward when talking about money. But that isn’t enough – to solve this problem for good, SMEs will need to adopt technology and processes that automate the collection and eliminate late and failed payments.”
To save or to spend crypto? That is very much the question for many investors today. As they invest more, they are often forgoing other purchases – some of them essential. Many have even started to accumulate debt in order to buy more crypto or avoid selling it. In order to get to the bottom of what the cryptocurrency craze is really costing Americans, Gambler’s Pick spoke to 1,000 people on the topic.
Diamond hands are as expensive as they sound. On average, Americans reported currently holding $1,707 of cryptocurrency each but often admitted that they wouldn’t touch that money even if a necessary bill or critical payment came up. More than 1 in 10 stopped saving for an emergency to buy crypto, while the same amount said they had skipped out on a purchase that would have genuinely improved their life.
Millennials were the most likely to skip saving for their retirement or miss credit card payments to hold onto their existing crypto stashes. That said, the majority of credit card debt is currently held by Generation X, so perhaps millennials have slightly more wiggle room here. Baby boomers, though unlikely to take on debt for cryptocurrency, also had the highest average value already saved up.
Affording More Cryptocurrency
So how exactly did Americans come to own their roughly $1,700 worth of cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency may well be one of the reasons that many Americans have credit card debt in the first place: one in four respondents said they purchased cryptocurrency with credit instead of cash. And, in spite of holding only $1,707 worth of crypto, respondents had borrowed nearly $500 more than that to afford it, whether from the bank or from friends and family. 21% of respondents planned on accumulating consumer debt in the future to afford more cryptocurrency.
The investment gender gap also appears to continue over from traditional investments into cryptocurrency. Men were planning to invest an average of $1,988 into cryptocurrency this upcoming year – $878 more than women. Men were also more likely to borrow in order to add more crypto to their personal rosters. However, while men were more likely to borrow in general, generational breakdowns show that Gen X and Baby boomer women had borrowed more on average than men of the same age.
Reasons for Holding
People taking on debt or avoiding critical purchases may ultimately have the last laugh: Three-quarters of people holding on to cryptocurrency said they believed it has much more value to gain. About a third of respondents said they held on to their cryptocurrency simply to maintain a diverse portfolio.
Decisions on how and when to invest were made mostly after consulting Reddit, with over a third of crypto holders getting their information there. While not all information on the site is verified, the world has recently seen the power that Reddit can have over the financial industry. The only source more influential was a single individual – Elon Musk –whose tweets have been known to impact Bitcoin greatly. In one instance, a tweet from Musk plummeted the price of Bitcoin to below $30,000 – a low for this fluctuating currency.
On average, respondents planned on maintaining their crypto balances for another five years. That said, enormous increases in price would certainly sway a few to start selling. Overall, respondents agreed that a 61% price increase in bitcoin could cause them to sell. Baby boomers, however, had the highest threshold for selling: This generation wanted a 65% increase before they sold.
Respondents were highly unwilling to sell all of their crypto, even in exchange for some pretty valuable things. Only a third said they would sell all of their crypto in exchange for a new home. Considering that the average house price in the US is roughly $287,000, and the respondents Gambler’s Pick spoke to had fewer than $2,000 worth of crypto, this speaks to an incredibly high anticipated rate of return. Gen Z, however, had many respondents agreeing that they would get rid of all of their cryptocurrency if it would cover their student loan debt.
Respondents proved that there are more costs involved in investing in cryptocurrency than just the dollar amount. They were often investing in lieu of life-improving purchases, paying down credit card bills, or even covering medical expenses. Men and baby boomers were the most likely to borrow in order to continue financing crypto.
In the future, most anticipated doubling down on aggressive decisions like these. Few would sell everything even for a new home or being able to quit their jobs. Of course, they felt their decisions were the right ones, as three-fourths said their primary motivation was an anticipation of a solid return on investment. For most, a 61% price increase would cause them to sell what they had. For others, diamond hands were the most valuable asset of all.
Joe Mercurio, a project manager at Gambler’s Pick told The Fintech Times, “As people continue to find ways to grow their finances, cryptocurrencies and NFTs aren’t usually the first things to come to mind. Some even feel that borrowing money and going into debt to grow their crypto is a worthwhile investment. Nearly 1 in 6 millennials have skipped credit card payments to grow their cryptocurrency holdings and 3 in 4 crypto holders believe their crypto still has much more value to gain.”
“Since the value of cryptocurrencies fluctuates daily, we found investors are hesitant to cash out their investments, even if the money was needed to pay an outstanding bill or payment. Surprisingly, 1 in 3 investors would not cash out their crypto investments to make critical payments, such as bills or emergencies.”
A recently launched app by Virgin Money is set to help businesses be more sustainable by measuring, tracking, and offering guidance on improving their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) credentials.
The app, entitled ‘the Sustainable Business Coach’ has been developed in collaboration with eco non-profit organisation Future-Fit Foundation. The app will offer assistance to businesses in the UK to help them manage their sustainability goals.
Virgin Money is also offering Sustainability-Linked Loans to businesses that meet the eligibility criteria generated by the outputs from the tool.
The tool identifies the high-priority goals a business should consider and provides an objective assessment of the positive and negative ESG impacts of its activities. As well as giving a score and actionable guidance, it has been designed to be updated periodically, encouraging businesses to track their progress over time.
Once completed, if eligible, businesses can apply for a Sustainability-Linked Loan, whichreduces the cost of finance for companies whose core activities enable consumers and other businesses to operate in a more economically and environmentally sustainable way.
Virgin Money has become the first bank in Europe to offer such loans in commercial banking that utilise an objective science-based methodology. For customers borrowing at least £250,000, with a sufficiently strong ESG assessment, the lending has no arrangement fee.
Smart Metering Systems is one of the first UK businesses to have a Sustainability-Linked Loan agreed. Installing, owning, operating, and maintaining metering assets on behalf of the UK’s energy companies, the finance is part of a revolving credit facility across a six-bank club. This will allow Smart Metering Systems to fully fund the installation of another 2.75 million meters and invest in new carbon reduction assets, including grid-scale battery storage technology.
Graeme Sands, Interim Head of Business Banking, at Virgin Money, said: “We are committed to working with businesses to help them grow and thrive, and one area where many need support is on their ESG strategy. Businesses recognise the importance of sustainability to their long-term success but many, especially smaller firms, can face challenges getting started, setting targets, and making positive progress.
“We designed the Sustainable Business Coach to help businesses with this process, giving them the information and guidance they need to operate more sustainably. It can be completed periodically, so becomes an effective benchmark to track progress over time. We have made the app available to any UK business, not just our customers, as work in the ESG space should be about collaboration and sharing best practice – we must all play our part in becoming more sustainable.”
Martin Rich, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Future-Fit Foundation, said: “Every business must play its part to create a future in which people and planet can thrive. We are pleased to be partnering with a bank which is using its balance sheet to encourage its customers to start on that journey, and providing practical, tailored guidance in the form of the Virgin Money Sustainable Business Coach.”
To help create this app, Virgin Money engaged fintech data expert company, Life Moments, a provider of platforms and tools to improve customer experience and generate data insight. Virgin Money and Life Moments have worked together since early 2020, initially developing and launching the bank’s Home Buying Coach app, which is designed to simplify the home purchase process and help first-time buyers onto the property ladder.
Ben Leonard, Co-Founder and CEO of Life Moments, said: “This was an exciting opportunity to apply our platform technology to help businesses embed sustainability into their business models. As a Profit and Purpose firm ourselves, working with Virgin Money and Future-Fit Foundation on this exciting project ticked all the right boxes.”
This support tool comes at a pivotal time as businesses assess their ESG efforts to support net-zero goals. Results from a recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighted that global emissions need to be halved and targets met in the next decade to stop temperatures rising above critical levels.
Research by Virgin Money also highlights that becoming more sustainable is important to the majority (85%) of UK SMEs, but less than half (43%) of SMEs are managing to implement clear ESG targets. The Virgin Money Sustainable Business Coach aims to help SMEs overcome this challenge, and the app is available to any UK business, not just customers of Virgin Money.
As part of its ESG strategy, Virgin Money has also committed that 5% of all its business loans will be to firms driving environmental and social change by September 2022, as judged by the tool.
This week our experts brought you the following insights based on their experience as investors, entrepreneurs & executives.
MondayIlias 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 Bitcoin stronger than ever
Bitcoin hit $55,000 for the first time since mid-May, as cryptocurrency prices continue to rise in October. Bitcoin exceeded $55,833 according to Coinmarketcap on Friday.
The last time it moved at similar levels was in May before it collapsed after Elon Mush tweeted that Tesla would stop accepting bitcoin for car purchases due to environmental concerns.
Editor note: Bitcoin is a fortunate pawn in the geopolitical Cold War between America and China. If China bans crypto, America will embrace the wealth producing capability of crypto.
A much heralded part of Ethereum 2.0 is the transition to Proof Of Stake. It may happen during 2021 or 2022.
With Proof Of Stake, users validate transactions based on the number of coins they hold. For example, the more ETH a user has, the more power they possess. This is not mining, it is more like voting shares. Voting eliminates the energy needed for mining and should be faster, so that transactions can be done in under 3 seconds (ie “human real time”, short enough to impact consumer behaviour, as in “did you get my payment”, “wait, OK I see it, thanks”).
Proof Of Stake (POS) appeals to the financial establishment for 4 reasons.
Editor note: Some subjects are too complex for our short attention spans, so we do 4 posts one week apart, each one short enough not to lose your attention but in aggregate doing justice to the complexity of the subject. Stay tuned by subscribing.
Life insurance ownership has seen a decline in the recent past. There was an estimated $25 trillion gap between coverage purchased and needed in the event of a loved one’s death in 2016, in the US alone. Suboptimal processes might have contributed to this shortfall. Consider something as basic as getting a physical examination, often required to buy a policy. Research found that half of respondents were more likely to purchase if this invasive step was removed.
Editor note: Of course life insurers need to know our health to estimate our longevity but the physical exam is a) only a snapshot in time and b) a huge hurdle to adoption.
This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Neha Mittal, Francesca Hodgeson, Kristy Kim, Priti Rathi Gupta, Laura Spiekerman and Colleen Wilson as they share with us how they smashed the glass ceiling.
Neha Mittal, CEO of Divido
“Whilst the glass ceiling offers occasional windows of opportunity to some, there is so much more work to be done to open up a space based on equality. But we must be careful not to lose sight of our own individuality, the positive value we as individuals bring to the workplace, as we create that space.
“For me, that learning started right at the beginning with my family, in particular my mum, herself a stay-at-home parent who encouraged me to focus on my education and my career as a means of being independent and spurning the traditional gender roles forced on so many women across the globe.
“This encouragement not only served as a driver throughout my academic career at university; earning my degree in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology and achieving my MBA at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, but also pushed me to become the resilient person I am today who is not afraid of failure but actively embraces it as a way to learn and apply to move forward.
“And as I became a mother myself, a journey that for me, personally, like so many others, was not a smooth path, I now feel like I can conquer anything in the world. Additionally, being a mother has made me a better leader, bringing out a more empathetic, efficient, and focussed side to me that I now apply to both my professional and personal lives.
“Where we come from does shape who we are, but it shouldn’t confine us to idle inertia beneath glass ceilings or to fixate on what’s beyond them. Instead, we should focus on our own strengths and dismantle the glass ceiling altogether to rebuild more open structures – after all, glass panes are easily replaced.”
Francesca Hodgson, Co-Founder and MD at Goodbox
“Well, I just ignored it! Just like if I had physically smashed a glass ceiling, I have a few scars, but the learning, journey and connections has been incredible. I’ve also learned to build up resilience from a young age and that certainly helps.”
Kristy Kim, CEO and Co-Founder, TomoCredit
“As an immigrant founder from South Korea, the ability to trust myself and have faith in my vision has allowed me to achieve my goals. When I first came to the U.S., I was alone. I had to figure things out on my own. My parents could not give me any good advice as they were not familiar with American school or work life. I had to figure it out and make decisions on my own. I was scared but also excited about the fact that I got to design my life the way I wanted and pursued my American dreams.
“However, I soon faced multiple rejections. After studying at UC Berkeley, I got a job as an investment banker in SF. I needed an apartment and a car. Unfortunately, I was rejected by landlords and also from multiple auto loans. They told me that “I am not creditworthy due to my lack of credit score” This gave me the idea for TomoCredit and increasing financial inclusion for all, but it was only the beginning of my journey hearing the word “no” many times.
“Over the past few years, I have come across naysayers and doubters. People who say there’s no way this could work to where the market is going to be. Still, I knew, deep down, that this was a product that needed to come to the marketplace, which is why TomoCredit was first to market.
“As we built and brought our card to market, people saw the need not as a theoretical idea, but as a practical solution that could help millions. Suddenly I had investors, consumers, technology companies, and fintech peers coming up to me to endorse the need for this product to exist. And the proof of this is in the most recent series A raise of $10 million announced in September.
“Looking back on this journey from having a seed of an idea, to now having a product that can help millions of people, I keep thinking about how I had faith in myself. There are so many young female founders and immigrants who undoubtedly have these ideas but don’t know where to turn. As long as you have the vision, you have supporters, and you tune out the naysayers you will find people to help you grow.
“So going back to the initial question. The way I’ve smashed the glass ceiling as a female founder is by being true to myself. Being true to my vision. Being motivated to find the support needed to keep moving, because I knew that this was an essential product for the over 40 million people who are on the outside of the credit system looking in.”
Priti Rathi Gupta, founder of LXME
“When I got married at 19, I parked my dreams at a young age, only to chase them later on. I went back to college, got to working full time, and have never looked back. I believe there is no stopping a person who wishes to aspire for greater things even later in life.
“While setting up the commodities business, I went to markets where people refused to acknowledge me and preferred to talk to my male colleague instead. Those were the challenging times that made me stronger. From making my way to the male-dominated industry forums, to now setting up LXME, I’ve come a long way in the financial services industry – an industry that has always been dominated by men.
“When I started LXME, nobody was taking up the challenge of providing the right financial education to encourage women to invest even though India has no shortage of financial advisors. Essentially advisories, they constitute nothing that helps women in end-to-end financial planning. I wanted to create something easy yet aspirational. A platform that not only makes it very easy for women to start their journey of investing but also liberate them to aspire to do what every smart woman does.
“We live in a society that perpetuates money myths such as women are not interested in how money works. However, more women than men are graduating with degrees today. More women are in full-time employment. They are earning more and have greater disposable income to spend, save, and invest. Women entrepreneurs are building new companies, creating new markets, and fast becoming prominent wealth creators.
“So the question is: to what extent do the products and services provided by the financial services industry take into account the life trajectory of women and how does the industry check for and eliminate gender bias which can have a direct impact on women’s financial returns?
“That is my driving force behind having a financial planning platform specially designed for women. With LXME I can now bridge the gap between women and finance and inspire a wave of financially fearless women actively managing their money and achieving their dreams.
“As a woman in business, I’ve had my fair share of challenges, but a good support system has helped me deal with most of them. That, and letting go of things that are not meant to be. It’s important to keep your focus on a solution rather than waste energy on thinking about what could have been or what will be. To stay rational and logical is essential during trying times.
Laura Spiekerman, co-founder and CRO at Alloy
“It’s tough to ever truly consider the glass ceiling “smashed, particularly in financial services, but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to build a company from the ground up focused on leveling the playing field from day one. If you start with more women in the business, more women want to join as you scale.
“I started my fintech career as the first employee at Kenya-based Kopo Kopo, helping the two co-founders build out their software system which enables small businesses to leverage M-PESA/mobile payments. After joining a payments startup and seeing firsthand some of the issues facing fintech firms, I helped launch Alloy in 2015 alongside our CEO Tommy Nicholas and CTO Charles Hearn. Not to downplay my own part, but I always acknowledge my co-founders for wholeheartedly supporting my vision to build an equitable financial services company. In the early days of fundraising, I certainly received less scrutiny from VCs having two white male co-founders compared to solo female founders or full female-led teams. I also have the considerable advantage that I’m white – not just having male cofounders. Women of colour have a much, much harder time raising.
“Currently servicing over 200 customers, Alloy is an API-based SaaS platform that helps financial services navigate the regulatory compliance process of identifying their customers when onboarding and monitoring their transactions to combat fraud. In six short years, Alloy has gone through extensive growth that I’ve been able to play a major role in. This past year alone, ARR more than tripled and headcount increased by 140%. Perhaps most exciting of all, this past month we raised $100M in Series C funding, bringing our valuation to $1.35B.
“Particularly in tech and even more so in fintech, there’s the dynamic of being the ‘token female’ in the room, which can lead to some great opportunities but also be an exhausting role to be put in. As the “female founder”, you’re always expected to be the one championing for equality — of course it’s a job I’ll do gladly, but it’s important to have male counterparts doing the same work, something I’m lucky to have. There is a lot that goes into this, and it’s important to never feel like the work is done, consistently acknowledge our judgments or subconscious biases and figure out how to work around them, whether that’s in recruiting, fundraising, or networking in order to allow women to rise in this ecosystem.”
Colleen Wilson, VP of Product at MANTL
“When I started my career, my goal was always to hone my craft. I wanted to be a great product leader. The “glass ceiling” was not something I fixated on early in my career and I recognise that, as an educated white woman, that stems from a place of privilege. Part of my career success can be attributed to a willingness to “go first” and embrace new first experiences at every opportunity. “Go first” has been a motto throughout my career because it’s a personal challenge: you must be willing to be what you do not yet see in an effort to get somewhere you have not gotten to before.
“As a product leader, a huge part of my job is navigating the abyss and solving problems that have not been solved before or have been solved inadequately. In these situations, going first can be scary. There is a risk in being the first to try something new and sometimes it does not always work out. But you have to keep asking new questions, proposing new solutions and learning from mistakes.
“I adopted a “go first” mindset early and learned a few significant career lessons as a result:
“Do not be afraid to ask for more. If you want more time, money, training, healthcare or policy support, flexibility, or experience in a certain area, ask for it. I started this early in my career by asking for more money but, over time, this has evolved into asking for a parental leave policy or other forms of support that I need to be successful. You can ask for anything as long as it comes from a place of thoughtfulness and respect. It is important to learn how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and how to advocate for yourself. Identify what support you need to be successful – because it will be different for everyone – and ask for it.
“Make problem-solving your secret weapon. In a prior role, I noticed a problem in alignment between a company’s five-year plan and a role that did not yet exist but was needed. I wrote the job description, met with the partner who oversaw the department and applied. I was originally told by a colleague “you can’t just go around creating jobs” but I did – and I have been doing so ever since. If you see a problem, create clarity around that problem, propose new paths forward, and offer to do the work. Strive to be someone who can be relied on to see around corners in a solutions-oriented way.
“Take chances. Be intentional with who you take career advice from and seek out people who have been where you want to go professionally and personally. But recognise that no one can give you all the answers and you must trust yourself. If I would have listened to everyone, I would have never taken the chances I have in my life and career, like leaving a secure job of 11 years and moving across the company, starting my business or navigating a new job. Have faith in your ability to rise to the occasion and trust yourself, your capabilities, and your ability to figure things out on your own versus following someone else’s playbook.
“Firsts are character building. They will teach you to be self-reliant, open, innovative and give others permission to be the same. This “go first” mindset has taken me incredibly far both professionally and personally. It is a mindset I will continue to embrace as I navigate my next frontier: a path to parenthood while managing a product team at one of the fastest-growing fintech companies today.
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 UK fintech scene is growing rapidly, and whilst most people think of London when they hear this, over the last few years other regions have bloomed into strong fintech hubs. Newcastle is one of these. With an appealing geographical location, sitting between London and Edinburgh, the fintech giants, and affordability, Newcastle’s appeal will only continue to grow.
Aaron Holmes is the CEO and Founder of Kani Payments. Established in 2018 in Newcastle, UK, Kani Payments is a reconciliation and reporting platform specifically designed to reduce complexity for financial services businesses. Speaking to The Fintech Times, Holmes explains what he believes Newcastle’s fintech future will look like:
When you think of UK fintech, your mind likely goes straight to London. But Newcastle, named as an emerging fintech hub in the 2021 Kalifa Review of UK Fintech, has put itself on the global fintech map, in particular for its strong specialism in operations.
I spoke to Dawn Dunn, Fintech Cluster Manager at the not-for-profit regional group, Dynamo North East, to find out why this is the case.
According to Dunn – who is one of over 150 Dynamo members working to promote the growth of the North East tech economy – there are several pull factors making the region an appealing location for financial services in general, and fintech in particular.
She explained: “We’ve got some key players here with long-standing strength in payments, including established names, such as Newcastle Building Society (NBS), Virgin Money (Northern Rock), and Sage. It’s an extensive family tree in the region, whose roots started many years ago.
“This historic financial services market helped to create what is now a thriving fintech ecosystem – drawing from a wide range of technology and data skills, professional services, and a strong support network.”
Not only driven by the lower cost of doing business; the convenient location between the existing financial hubs of London and Edinburgh; a diverse pool of talent; and an existing reputation for tech and data research, means the region is massively growing its roster of fintechs.
As Dunn said: “Companies are moving into the region for its affordability and being able to tap into the resources that are within the region itself, or at either end of the Edinburgh – Manchester corridor.
“The geography has a good track record for job ‘stickiness’, and part of that is because there is high quality, affordable housing stock, easy access to the beautiful coastline, and a fantastic rapid transport system. All of those things are important, and they paint a picture of why we have a very unique fintech offering here.”
The growth of the North East fintech hub is not majorly due to competition, but more by a spirit of collaboration for the benefit of all.
“We want to learn from other regions and other organisations, so working together, collaboratively is really important,” Dunn commented. “We’ve got a real opportunity to pull together. The future is decentralised, and there is sufficient opportunity for everybody. What’s more, the fintech scene is only going to accelerate – and we’re in a really strong position to be a key part of that”
Making dynamic inroads into big data
Define ‘Canny’ /’kani’/ Adjective
Someone who is careful or clever with money, a bit like our customers.
Northern Eastern English or Scottish Slang for a good, genuine person. Example: “She’s a canny lass”
Named with a nod and a wink towards the “canny” Newcastle term, Kani is a payments data ingestion and analytics tool, bringing automation to the manual finance processes, faced by fintechs globally. Based out of our North East HQ, we work with fintechs, challenger banks and payment companies all over the world to disrupt decades old data reconciliation processes.
I saw first-hand the increasing data complexities and compliance requirements within the industry, and also how payments technology or paytech could support this and enable new and existing fintech businesses to get their products and services to market faster. They must process their data correctly, ensure money is where it should be, and be able to evidence it on demand, but this can cause a huge headache and is very time consuming – especially when your expertise is not in the realm of payments data.
While data reconciliation had always been a bit of a problem and a very manual task without an adequate solution, in recent years the task has become astronomical and simply outpaced the technology designed to handle it.
Using our software services, BIN sponsors, challenger banks and other fintechs can complete weeks of transaction reporting and reconciliation work in under 30 seconds.
Growing our fintech roots in the North East
Kani knew and recognised Newcastle and the wider North East area’s fintech potential, but we’re not the only ones. The region has long been hotly tipped as a place to be for operational fintechs, thanks to Newcastle’s reputation as a UK Science City – which boasts four national centres of excellence specialising in big data, energy, ageing and marine, and two world-leading universities.
It is also the best represented region outside of London for Tech Nation’s Fintech Growth Programme initiative, with names such as insurtech start-up, honcho, and automated invoicing platform, Paid, joining Kani on the list.
Clearly, the North East has an incredibly bright future ahead, and it’s a real privilege to have established a base here right at the cusp of the region’s upward trajectory.
Essentially, alongside the fact that I’m Newcastle born and bred, that was the logic behind establishing Kani here. I don’t just want Kani to benefit from the incredibly supportive feel of living in such a vibrant fintech hub, but I want to give back to the area that has given so much to me by creating jobs and opportunities that stimulate further growth.
What’s next? The importance of fintech skills training
The North East’s many economic and social advantages are giving fresh incentives for organisations in the area to ramp up skills training relevant to fintech companies.
As Dunn said: “It’s extremely important to equip people with the right building blocks to go into fintech companies where they can hit the ground running. Local universities such as Northumbria University and Teesside University have started fintech courses, which will be a strong pull for people to the region, and we will shortly be able to announce a fintech bolt-on to an intensive data training course.”
There’s such a rich wealth of talent in this area that’s been up-and-coming for a long time. Now, it’s time for the people of the North East to really have their moment.
This move is being welcomed by all sides of the table, as the UK Government and HM Treasury – who finalised the decision – strongly believe that the increase will serve a major boost to the national economy.
So how will this new increase be translated by the UK’s most prominent banking institutions?
HSBC At the time of writing, HSBC customers will not be able to set their own preference for a contactless spending limit. However, the bank has ensured their customers that they will retain full control over the use of their card through the HSBC digital banking app; with the ability to block transactions or report a stolen card for example.Despite the lack of user control in regards to the spending limit, the bank has also stated that as an alternative, customers will be able to request a contactless-free card should they so wish, whilst also reminding customers that they are fully protected against any unauthorised card fraud.
Nationwide The bank has stated that its customers will be able to utilise the new £100 limit from 15th October, and that they will enjoy the ability to turn off the contactless functionality of their card if it is their preference. In addition to this, Nationwide has also made it known that customers will be able to set a daily spending limit for their contactless payments, after which a PIN will be required to resume its functionality.Despite reports that Nationwide is planning to let their customers set their own contactless limit within the £100 window, no official launch date for this initiative has been announced.
Barclays Barclays is also set to embrace the new £100 limit, however customers will not be able to customise the limit to suit their own needs. In light of this, the bank has stated this its card services do benefit from a high level of user control.Customers will be able to set daily spending limits, which includes the use of contactless, whilst also being able to set regulations in regards to internet transactions and ATM withdrawals. Barclays has also stated that their contactless cards are covered by the same anti-fraud technology as its chip and PIN transactions.
TSB Customers of TBS will also see the contactless ability of their cards being extended to the £100 limit as of 15th October, but still, customers will not benefit from the option of being able to set the limit for themselves.As an added layer of security, TSB has mentioned that customers will be ‘prompted’ to enter their PIN for user-verification measures; whilst they can also switch to a non-contactless card should they prefer.
Santander As Santander has mentioned that their customers will be able to utilise the new £100 limit, the bank has also stated that they are developing technology that will allow customers to set the limit themselves; however any official launch date of this scheme is yet to be announced.Unfortunately however, currently only Santander Mastercard users will be able to halt the contactless functionality of their card through the digital banking app; although non-contactless card options will be made available upon request for both Santander Mastercard and Santander Visa users.
Lloyds Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland Customers of Lloyds Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland will perhaps enjoy the greatest level of control to their contactless payments in light of this new increase. The banks have reported that debit card customers will be able to activate and deactivate the contactless functionality of their cards, whilst also enjoying the ability to set their own contactless limit, between £30 and £95, in increments of £5.A similar scheme is set to be launched by the banks in the coming weeks that is set to serve credit card customers; including accounts with the bank MBNA.
NatWest and RBS Although NatWest and RBS banking customers will not be able to enjoy variation from the new £100 limit, the banks have stated that the contactless functionality of their cards will be able to be restricted and controlled through the use of their digital banking app. No non-contactless card options are currently available.In regards to security, customers will be required to enter their PIN once the total spending limit for contactless transactions has been met; however, the banks have not disclosed the exact figure at which this process would take place.
Monzo The new £100 limit will also be made available to customers of challenger banks like Monzo. As a relatively new and contemporary entrant to the British banking landscape, it’s unusual that Monzo are reportedly not offering a non-contactless alternative to its card offerings.In light of this however, Monzo has cited its strong digital banking stance as a protective measure against fraudulent payments. Customers will be alerted instantly to any transactions being made through their account – including both chip and PIN, and contactless – and that customers will be required to enter a PIN once they reach the value of £100 across multiple contactless transactions.
Starling Unlike other competing challenger banks, Starling sparked optimism from their customers when they announced that new card controls will be introduced in conjunction with the introduction of the new £100 contactless limit.Starling customers will be able to set the contactless limit themselves through the bank’s mobile app. The limit can be set anywhere between £0 and £100, in increments of £10, and they will be able to shut the function off completely should they so wish.
Steffen Vollert, Co-Founder and CTO of Volt said: “With at least 135 million contactless cards in circulation and the technology accounting for 9.6 billion payments a year, there’s no doubt that the new contactless limit brings new opportunities for many. Consumers will benefit from greater flexibility and convenience; merchants could see an increase in sales and operational efficiencies; payment service providers might experience an uptick in transaction volumes.
“However, concerns that the increased limit will make it easier for fraudsters to steal larger sums of money from cardholders are valid, and should not be disregarded. During the first six months of this year alone, contactless fraud – covering cards and mobile phones – totalled £7.6 million, according to UK Finance.
“Certainly, steps are being taken in the right direction to combat card fraud. After 14 March 2022, issuers in the UK will have a legal obligation to implement SCA on card transactions under the FCA’s PSD2 requirements, for example. But this doesn’t solve the issue of contactless transactions, or card fraud itself. As a result, the increased limit could accelerate the growing demand for an equally fast, but more secure payment method, which can be realised via open banking. Direct account-to-account payments in real-time eliminate card fraud altogether, whilst providing a single-click checkout experience for the consumer and substantially reduced fees for the merchant. It will take time for open banking payments to become mainstream. But could the increased contactless limit be the catalyst for a transition away from card payments? Only time will tell.”
Altay Ural, the Chief Product and Technology Officer for the UK fintech Modulr added: “Raising the contactless limit to £100 is a good move. We need to make spending in stores as easy as possible to get the economy back on its feet. This starts with taking the friction out of paying that comes with lower limits (£45) and replacing it with convenience for customers.
“And no, we can’t ignore the very real threat of fraud. But the truth is, the risk of this type of fraud is fairly small and consumers are well protected. With secure, in-built technologies like virtual cards (on smartphones) to customer controls like card freezing, as well as customer compensation like chargebacks.
“There is a real opportunity here to promote greater consumer spending across UK stores, especially in busy locations like supermarkets, petrol stations and DIY stores where you can easily spend more than £45 in one go.”
Late payments are threatening the survival of small businesses across the UK, according to findings from new QR-code payment and invoicing app, tomato pay.
tomato pay’s research has discovered that 84% of small businesses suffer from late payments. One in eight (12%) wait more than 60 days on average for an invoice to be paid, while one in 50 (2%) have to wait more than 90 days.
For 92% of small business owners, these late payments are having a negative impact on either their business, their personal life, or both, with more than a third saying it causes cash flow issues and stress and 16% saying they end up receiving late payment charges themselves.
As a result of their customers not paying on time, 33% of small business owners are forced to pay themselves late, or not at all, while 17% have to pay employees late.
When asked what would help discourage late payments, 54% of small business owners said they would be happy to offer their customers discounts for paying on time or early while 69% said they’d like an invoicing software solution that sends reminders to customers that payment is due.
tomato pay’s founder and CEO Nicholas Heller said: “On average, small businesses issue 122 invoices every month – that is a whole lot of admin. Then, when you consider the fact so many are paid late – which causes stress, cash flow issues and jeopardises the business’ survival – it is clear to see why the process of creating and issuing invoices can be so frustrating for small business owners. They just want to get paid on time – that shouldn’t be too much to ask.
“tomato pay has been designed to help mitigate all these issues by giving small business owners the ability to turn quotes directly into invoices, receive instant payments and offer discounts for those who pay early. It can also send reminders to customers that their invoice is due and can automatically create late payment charges for those who don’t pay on time.”
Almost half say creating invoices feels like ‘the wrong use of their time’ and resent how long they spend on it, with two thirds saying they wish they could spend less time on finances and more time running the business.
The majority (59%) say that if they could turn quotes directly into invoices it would save them time, rising to 72% for medium sized firms, while more than half (55%) think they’d be able to grow faster if they spent less time on the financial side of the business.
Heller concludes, “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities, with the majority of people wanting to support local businesses and sole traders over big brands. tomato pay gives people the ability to support local businesses in an easy, cashless way, and small businesses the tools they need to not only survive, but thrive.”
The tomato pay invoicing app is now available to download from the App Store on iPhones and Google Play on Android phones.
As part of its mission to support small businesses manage their finances, tomato pay, together with MarketFinance and untied, is currently bidding for Pool F of the Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) Capability and Innovation Fund. The fund was set up to distribute grants worth £12.5million to improve the financial products and services available to small businesses in the UK, as they deal with the impacts of covid-19 and Brexit.
The three companies are proposing ‘GROWTH’, an end-to-end embedded financing solution for small businesses to support their most important financial needs in one simple proposition, automating everything from quotes to tax. In addition, the product offers an Intelligent Repayments feature which automatically deducts lending repayments from invoice payments. This lowers credit risk and costs for businesses, investors, and lenders alike – and aims to support £600million in lending by the end of 2022 to allow small businesses to grow.
While the concept of BNPL (Buy now pay later loans) is as old as the hills the app based finance providers are not. The commentary in the cnbc piece is interesting as it exposes the fact that regulation takes some time to catch up with product development and consumer protection legislation differs widely from country to country. In fact this issue is not new at all. Regulation has always lagged behind market innovation but whereas in the past the vast majority of new products were emerging in wholesale markets and the bankers themselves were deemed to know what they were doing this does not necessarily apply to consumer finance. As usual the situation consumer protection is largely opaque. It is up to the borrower to know what their rights and protections are. Taking out a BNPL loan can effect such things as an individual’s credit score in ways which are not necessarily understood as well as complicating the relationship between buyer and seller. Caveat emptor indeed.
Chinese behemoth Evergrande is inevitably in the financial news more or less every day with deadlines and payments being missed with depressing regularity. What is truly astonishing about this is the sheer size and scope of its operations together with the geo political distribution of its liabilities. It’s quite clear that a potential default of this size, north of $ 300 billion, will have a significant impact on the world at large. We will presumably find out when and if it happens but the pessimistic comment coming from the financial press is disturbing. The old and widely quoted Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” is likely to show us all exactly what that means. The uncertainty is already making investors and lenders start to look very carefully at the opacity of the Chinese market and the possibility of a sectoral collapse in the property and construction area which has been running hot for years. Interesting indeed.
It’s official then. SME’s have taken on more debt during the pandemic. We know this because the Bank of England has told us. I suspect the same thing is happening all over the European continent and with the same baleful outcomes. Seriously though what did the government of the UK or other European countries think about businesses that were essentially stopped from doing any kind of businesses. Obviously the big names hit the headlines, Airline companies, hospitality, non essential (in who’s opinion/?) retail. The Uk government’s approach was to hose them down with money so they could bounce back! I don’t suppose that much thought was given to the fact that the world would have profoundly changed when the time came to repay this debt or that the banking system would not have been negatively affected. Payback time is rapidly approaching in the traditional and non traditional sense and I don’t think that it’s going to be pretty. We all know that the government is guaranteeing most of the COVID support loans but the devil will be in the detail of the arrangements between the treasury and the distributing banks and the resources that they are capable of deploying for debt collection. I’m afraid there will be a lot of blood on the carpet.