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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Are We Now?

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

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

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

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

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

Factoring People Into the Equation

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

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

The Invisible Hand

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

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

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

The Next Frontier: Looming Market Commoditisation

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

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

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

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

Enterprise Architecture Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corporate Debt Makes the World Go Round

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

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

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

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

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

The Irony of Accommodative Monetary Policy

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

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

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

So, what’s the alternative?

Decentralised Finance is the Solution

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

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

● Economy: there is increased financial innovation;

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

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

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

It All Starts with Institutional Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launches and product updates

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

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

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

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

OpenOpen
Open’s co-founders
Partnerships

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

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

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

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

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

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

More partnerships

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

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

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

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

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

Even more partnerships

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

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

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

Job moves 

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

Funding and investments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, acquisitions and collaborations

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

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

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

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

Company updates

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

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

AlviereAlviere
The Alviere platform

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

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

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

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

The Climate Change Conundrum Part 1: Insurers’ Maneuvers

https://dailyfintech.com/2021/11/25/the-climate-change-conundrum-part-1-insurers-maneuvers/

A study of insured losses over the last half century reveals that weather-related events have significantly escalated compared to non-climate perils. Between 2010 and 2019, global insured losses from wildfires increased by 500%. On the other hand, the humanitarian aid deficit grew from a little under a billion dollars two decades ago, to $4 billion a decade ago and is now estimated to exceed $20 billion. As much as $1.5 trillion of total pension fund capital would need to be deployed in (re)insurance to bridge this gap. In 2018, natural disasters decimated more than 10,000 people, leaving millions more homeless and caused economic losses to the tune of US$160 billion. The vast majority, 95% of the registered events were weather related.

Climate change has been rapidly rising up the public agenda, cascading into the insurance fora. While a major reason is that natural disaster insurance claims are rising, insurers are also recognizing that the mid- to long-term outlook on climate change carries major risks. Until recently, much of the focus was on the impact of rising global temperatures on insurance risk. Per the CRO Forum, near $12-$15 trillion in assets are at risk from coastal flooding alone. Not as much attention has been generally paid to how insurers are advancing efforts to address the climate challenge. But that is changing.

As the climate threat appears more poignantly, insurers are increasingly leaning towards action. A case in point is that carriers constitute 12 of the 26 members of the United Nations–convened Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance, a coalition of institutional investors with $4.6 trillion under management that are committed to making their portfolios carbon neutral by 2050.

Insurers are reassessing their risk models, especially their reliance on historical patterns, given the changing severity and frequency of climate-related events. A large portion of assets in certain industries are poised to enter “stranded” status and will no longer have value or produce income, particularly in countries adhering to the Paris Agreement, lowering premiums for carriers that had underwritten those assets.

Evidence is growing that insurers that incorporate climate and other ESG parameters into decision making are likely to benefit from improved investment performance. By leading the narrative on climate and integrating climate risk into investment processes, carriers will get an edge in winning third-party investment mandates, especially from institutional investors, such as pension funds.

In underwriting portfolios, insurers are encouraging climate progress by modifying the customer mix and changing the composition of product and service offerings. To align better with companies having lower carbon footprints, insurers are increasingly using exclusion to remove clients with high greenhouse gas emissions from portfolios. During the underwriting process, approaches are to adjust premiums or terms and conditions on the basis of a client’s climate action. Swiss Re, for instance, has used both exclusion and engagement in its underwriting. The company announced that, by 2023, it would stop providing (re)insurance to the world’s 10% most carbon-intensive oil and gas producers and work with the remaining 90% of producers to support their transitions toward greener energy.

Insurance brokers are similarly tweaking their offerings to reflect challenges created by climate change. Willis Towers Watson has created “Climate Quantified” to enable customers to manage their climate risk by fully integrating weather and climate analytical information with the latest thinking from academia.

Insurers would do well to uncover correlations between the climate record of companies and underwriting risks. ESG factors such as health and safety have been part of insurance company risk parameters. Companies that are successfully reducing their emissions may pose better underwriting risks, especially when it concerns policies with longer time horizons. Insurers that understand these correlations are better placed to lead the pricing dynamics.

In Part 2, novel approaches adopted by insurtechs for climate control will be the focus.

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https://dailyfintech.com/2021/11/25/the-climate-change-conundrum-part-1-insurers-maneuvers/

3 Ways Banks and Fintechs Are Embracing Social Change

https://finovate.com/3-ways-banks-and-fintechs-are-embracing-social-change/

Regardless of where you stand on the Revolut/Yoppie partnership “intention versus execution” debate, it is nevertheless remarkable how fintechs and financial institutions are reaching out beyond their traditional collaboration competencies to reach new markets and promote an ever-widening array of causes.

This week’s Finovate List Series looks at three ways that banks and fintechs are helping pave the way in terms of greater financial inclusion for underrepresented groups and deeper understanding of how everyday behaviors can have a significant impact on the environment.

Gender

The first digital banking platform in the U.S. dedicated to serving the LGBT+ community, Daylight, launched earlier this month. The platform is built to help LGBT+ financial services consumers to manage their finances and save for future expenses ranging from emergency funds to gender transition surgery and related medical expenses. The company notes that with an estimated 30 million people in the United States who identify as LGBT+, the community remains significantly underserved in financial services.

“This country is at a critical turning point where we have recognized companies and services have been performatively suporting the LGBT+ community versus serving its unique needs,” Daylight co-founder and CEO Rob Curtis told Retail Banker International earlier this month. “Despite our community’s combined $1 trillion in buying power, we are still ignored – roughly 20% of LGBT+ people are unbanked or underbanked.”

Daylight will offer Visa-branded cards in the customer’s preferred name, rather than the customer’s legal name, as well as financial tools to help prioritize spending decisions and meet financial goals. The platform will also provide expert financial advice and access to a network of financial management “coaches” that specialize in responding to the unique financial needs of those in the LGBT+ community. A member of Visa’s Fintech Fast Track program – and the program’s first LGBT+-based fintech – Daylight is also supported by card issuing platform and Finovate alum Marqeta.

Daylight has announced that it will begin operations in the middle of next month, starting with an invite-only, beta period involving “a few hundred people.” The company will focus first on markets in California and New York.

Ethnicity

In the wake of the George Floyd-inspired, Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, a spotlight has been shown on the rising number of financial institutions catering to African Americans.

Among the newer entries to this cohort is Adelphi Bank, which announced earlier this month that it has filed paperwork with the FDIC to become the first black-owned, depository institution in Ohio.

“We know that African Americans typically don’t have access to financial institutions to the degree that the majority community has,” former Fifth Third Central Ohio president and CEO Jordan Miller said to The Columbus Dispatch. “We know that our financial situations are not as strong in most cases. And so we want to make a difference in the community across Franklin County, to give those underserved a voice and financial services,” Miller, one of Adelphi Bank’s proposed incorporators, added.

The bank would be located in the King-Lincoln/Bronzeville neighborhood, and its backers stated that they plan to raise $20 million in equity capital upon earning FDIC approval to open. The institution takes its name from the city’s first black-owned bank, Adelphi Loan & Savings Company, which was launched in the early 1920s. The new bank will be part of a $25 million development called Adelphi Quarter, which will feature both housing and ground-floor businesses. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the original facade of Adelphi Loan & Savings has been incorporated into the new structure.

Sustainability

This week we reported on the partnership between Tink and ecolytiq to give banks, financial institutions, and fintechs the ability to offer environmental impact data to their customers. These kind of solutions, which include options like carbon footprint calculators, have been among the chief ways that many innovative companies have sought to bring their sustainability technology to the world of financial services.

Today we learn that micro-investing platform Wombat has added a new option to its impact investment offerings: a sustainable food ETF (exchange-traded fund) that enables investors to get exposure to dozens of companies that are involved in developing sustainable food production systems and products. These companies include new, but well-known brands such as plant-based food company Beyond Meat, oatmilk company Oatly, and farm-to-table business Tattooed Chef.

The fund, called The Future of Food, is the fifth impact investment offering on Wombat’s platform. The ETF was created via a partnership between thematic ETF issuer Rize and thematic research company Tematica Research. It will trade on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker “FOOD LN.”

“At Wombat we have found that some of our most popular thematic funds are those that offer impact investment opportunities, such as our Medical Cannabis and Green Machine ETFs,” Wombat co-founder and CEO Kane Harrison said. “We think this new sustainable food fund is a great addition to that range and it means we now offer a very competitive choice of impact investments when compared with other micro-investing platforms.”

Founded in 2019, Wombat currently has more than 190,000 users.


Photo by Guduru Ajay bhargav from Pexels

https://finovate.com/3-ways-banks-and-fintechs-are-embracing-social-change/

Column Tax’s New Product Offers Americans Early Access to Tax Refunds

https://finovate.com/column-taxs-new-product-offers-americans-early-access-to-tax-refunds/

Column Tax, a company that offers tax features as a service, unveiled a new tax product today along with its announcement that it raised $5.1 million in seed funding.

The investment, which marks Column Tax’s first funding round, was led by Bain Capital Ventures with participation from South Park Commons, Core Innovation Capital, and Operator Partners. The company will use the money to expand client adoption of Tax Filing, an income tax filing API, and Tax Refund Unlock, the tool it is launching today.

Tax Refund Unlock is a product that allows banks and fintechs to offer their users advance access to their tax refunds in monthly payments. Column Tax CEO Gavin Nachbar explained that the new product will help Americans to access their refunds year-round, so that they can “save, invest, pay off debt, and meet ongoing obligations throughout the year, all with greater peace of mind.”

Column Tax is launching the new offering in partnership with Atomic FI, a fintech that offers APIs to drive consumer engagement; and Klover, a fintech that offers free cash advances and financial tools in exchange for customers’ data. With the Klover app, users can unlock access to their future tax refunds.

“Americans should be able to access their money when they need to. Increasing your paycheck by a couple hundred dollars can be life changing for millions of people,” said Klover CEO Brian Mandelbaum. “At Klover, we want to level the playing field by helping consumers get access to fair financial services. We already offer free access to your paycheck, real-time price comparisons, money management and saving tools, and a lot more. This is the next logical step in doing right by our consumers.”

Column Tax is headquartered in California and was founded by Gavin Nachbar, Michael R. Bock, and Shehan Chandrasekera.


Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

https://finovate.com/column-taxs-new-product-offers-americans-early-access-to-tax-refunds/

Brankas To Facilitate the Launch of the Open Banking Exchange Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight: Industry Reacts to Amazon’s Visa Credit Card Ban

https://thefintechtimes.com/spotlight-industry-reacts-to-amazons-visa-credit-card-ban/

Visa and Mastercard have been around for over half a decade and have dominated the payments space. However, an announcement from the global retail giant, Amazon, could change this, as it announced it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards as a form of payment from the 19th of January 2022. See below as experts discuss if this is a knock-on effect of Brexit or a shifting attitude in the payments landscape. 

Credit card fees make it hard to offer competitively low prices

The January deadline has been decided after Amazon claimed Visa was charging an extremely high fee for processing credit card transactions. Amazon will still be accepting Visa debit cards, so many have asked why this is such a big deal? Items bought using a credit card had protection from Section 75. Section 75 is an important UK consumer protection law made in the 1970s that means your credit provider must take the same responsibility as the retailer if things go wrong with a purchase that was over £100 and up to £30,000. Not allowed to use a credit card? No Section 75 protection.

AmazonAmazon
Amazon bans UK customers from using credit cards from January 19th 2022

The UK announcement comes two months after Amazon informed its Australian consumers that it would prefer it if they did not use a Visa credit card to make purchases. From November 1st, Australian consumers have had to pay a 0.5% surcharge fee each time they have used their credit cards.

“The cost of accepting card payments continues to be an obstacle to providing the best prices for customers,” an Amazon spokesperson told ZDNet. “These costs should be going down over time with innovation and technological advancements, which allows merchants to reinvest savings into low prices and shopping enhancements for customers. Yet, despite these advancements, some cards’ cost of payments continue to stay high or even rise.”

Following the announcement, Visa slammed Amazon for making the clash public whilst the companies were amidst negotiations. According to the BBC, Visa said in a statement it was “very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future. When consumer choice is limited, nobody wins.”

It said it had “a long-standing relationship with Amazon” and that it was trying to resolve the situation so customers would be able to use Visa credit cards with Amazon UK.

“Whether or not this is about fees, or a smokescreen for something else, generally an Amazon customer won’t see much change”, Kevin Peachy, a personal finance correspondent told the BBC. “They just know they may have to change the way they pay on Amazon.”

Joel Kalili of TechRadar points out that some experts believe the public announcement could be a bargaining chip in ongoing negotiations.

visa or mastercardvisa or mastercard
Visa or Mastercard?

Rise in Mastercard and alternative payments

Previously, both Visa and Mastercard have come under fire for charging excessive fees on credit card use with the BBC noting that retailers could be forced to pass on the extra costs to consumers, with credit card bills rising by another £40 a year in 2020. Despite this, Mastercard’s search soared by 16 times the average volume in one day according to Casionsites.org. The data also revealed that searches for ‘cancel Visa’ skyrocketed to over 700% on the 17th of November – nine times the average volume in one day.

Amazon has its own credit card, issued by Mastercard. In addition to incurring no surcharges, payments made using Amazon cards also earn customers rewards and money back on future purchases. There have been suggestions that Amazon’s Visa ban could be a move to drive its own card’s adoption.

Brexit meant that both Visa and Mastercard no longer had to adhere to the 0.3% interchange fee limit. As such, The Financial Times reported earlier this year that Visa planned to increase its cross border interchange fees from 0.3% to 1.5%.

City A.M. included comments from GlobalData payment analyst Chris Dinga, who noted that Amazon’s decision to only ban one of these companies “seems odd,” as both Visa and Mastercard look to increase fees. Dinga then points out that this starts to make more sense when “you remember that Mastercard is Amazon’s credit card issuing partner… This represents a unique opportunity for both Amazon and Mastercard, as they can take advantage of the situation to promote the Amazon credit card to customers.”

However, Amazon has firmly denied the Visa ban has anything to do with its own payment offerings as when approached by City A.M., an Amazon spokesman said: “Visa is a service provider to Amazon, not a competitor, and this action is entirely unrelated to our own payment offerings.”

Industry’s response

Petru Metzger, Head of Payments Delivery at EndavaPetru Metzger, Head of Payments Delivery at Endava
Petru Metzger, Head of Payments Delivery at Endava

Petru Metzger, Head of Payments Delivery at Endava said:

“Businesses have long been held over a barrel by traditional credit card issuers, with few alternatives on offer. Amazon’s move to restrict the use of Visa credits cards is likely a negotiation tactic following Visa’s move to increase fees post-Brexit, however, it does underline the need for businesses large and small to transition to embedded, digital-first payment options rather than relying solely on the services of traditional credit or debit cardsWe are hearing the willingness to do something similar from a number of large merchants so this could create a tsunami of changes in the market.

“Solutions driven by open banking and the connectivity it provides can be an effective and cost-efficient alternative for businesses, not only allowing instant transactions between retailers and consumers, but also allowing customers to take greater control of managing their finances. API integration, marketplace solutions, and better use of data is driving payments innovation in an industry that has been slower than others to bring about digital acceleration, and with it businesses can enhance real-time payments and tackle the dominance of traditional card providers.”

Karl MacGregor, CEO of VyneKarl MacGregor, CEO of Vyne
Karl MacGregor, CEO of Vyne

The idea of the traditional payments system being possibly replaced was echoed by Karl MacGregor, co-founder and CEO at Vyne:

“Amazon’s decision to no longer accept Visa credit cards in the UK is further evidence – if any was needed – that existing payments are broken and stacked against the merchants that rely on them.

“What makes this news particularly striking is that this is one of the biggest brands in the world recognising that merchants on its platform truly are at the mercy of payment giants. These businesses already fork out thousands of pounds per annum only to be greeted with mid-contract price hikes, which are more often than not imparted on the consumer.

“Fuelled by post-Brexit price hikes this will be the first of many big business clashes with a payments giant. But online retailers should be reminded that there are other options out there and accelerate their efforts to offer new methods, such as account-to-account payments, that bypass the traditional card schemes altogether, saving money and time for both the merchant and consumer.”

Jovi Overo, Managing Director of BaaS at UnlimitJovi Overo, Managing Director of BaaS at Unlimit
Jovi Overo, Managing Director of BaaS at Unlimit

Jovi Overo, Managing Director of BaaS at Unlimit also agreed Amazon’s announcement was a negotiation move:

“I think Amazon’s strategy by bringing this to the public domain is probably a negotiation tactic. That’s how Amazon gets good press and free media coverage (at a time when all the recent news about Amazon are either associated with employee scandals or their CEO flying to space while climate change remains a very concerning issue). As Don Draper always says…’If you don’t like what is being said, change the conservation.’ Amazon is now being championed as the protector of customers’ purchase power vs. the ‘big bad’ card schemes. Amazon continues to play chess while everyone else plays checkers. I anticipate Amazon will soon be launching their own BNPL product. This would be an instant hit, have huge adoption, and add would bring in additional revenue. Will this be good for customers. Yes, but at what cost?”

John Mitchell, CEO, Episode SixJohn Mitchell, CEO, Episode Six
John Mitchell, CEO at Episode Six

Episode Six‘s co-founder and CEO, John Mitchell said:

“The trend we’ve seen this year has been to provide consumers with more opportunity to make purchases. Just look at the explosion of buy now, pay later, as one example. This move will likely incentivise certain cardholders to expand their digital wallets if they haven’t already. And while it’s too early to tell if other companies will follow suit, Amazon certainly pulls a lot of weight — arguably more so than other companies that may not want to prevent payment choice while they battle to manage network fees. From an issuing bank perspective, as we look to the future, these institutions will increasingly be propelled to add more payment options, even beyond fiat currency.”

Rob Keeve, CEO of Flow jumped to Visa’s defence saying:

“Many merchants on the eComm side don’t pass on the expensive fees, they simply eat it. If merchants were here talking today, they would say, ‘it’s painful having high fees on some payment methods, but we’d rather have the sale than not.’ It could be that the margin is 1% lower on those transactions, but losing that transaction entirely is a 99% loss, not a 1% loss.”

However, Peter Kimpton, a Financial expert and Chief Operating Officer at Family Money defended Amazon’s announcement saying:

“Due to Visa’s high credit card transaction fees, it’s no wonder Amazon is stopping their use on site. Although a market leader, Amazon needs to be able to remain competitive with their many online competitors, as well as small businesses that people are trying to support more and more, especially after the pandemic.

“With this in mind, they need to be able to charge the lowest prices possible and still make profit, so it makes sense that the first thing to try and make cuts on is transaction fees.

“Visa have responded by criticising Amazon for restricting consumer choice, however, I don’t feel this will be a problem, with many consumers opting to have more than one credit card as well as multiple debit cards. I predict Amazon will see no decrease in sales due to this change, and we might even see other large retailers following suit.”

James Booth, VP and Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPROJames Booth, VP and Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO
James Booth, VP and Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO

James Booth, VP and Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO, concluded the general view towards the announcement by saying:

“The move from Amazon to ban UK issued Visa credit cards is less so a direct result of Brexit and more to do with the wider sentiment in the payments space. Card fees are high, businesses are struggling to keep up and are being forced to pass down the cost to the consumer. This ban signals a move away from cards towards a more diversified payment ecosystem, that offers businesses and consumers greater choice and lower costs.

“77% of global online purchases are not made with an international credit card, but with a local payment method, be it wallets or bank transfers. In the UK, 52% of all payments are card-based, with Visa having an 82% market share of that, according to PPRO research. But this is changing rapidly as new payment methods are picking up pace.

“Offering a wider, global range of payment options is a good way for businesses to stand out from the competitive eCommerce landscape. But, even more importantly, it can lead to significant cost savings for these businesses.”

One of Visa’s largest defences against Amazon’s claim is that this will limit customer spending choices, however, by enforcing this change, if it really is more than a negotiation tactic, consumers will look to new avenues of payment, sparking the embracement of open banking and cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/spotlight-industry-reacts-to-amazons-visa-credit-card-ban/

Small African Businesses To Be Supported Through Ovamba Solutions and Cyber Alliance’s Partnership

https://thefintechtimes.com/small-african-businesses-to-be-supported-through-ovamba-solutions-and-cyber-alliances-partnership/

Looking to grow African SMEs, Ovamba Solutions, Inc. and Cyber Alliance have announced a new partnership. With the combined leadership teams’ expertise in digital trade innovations and cybersecurity regulations and solutions spanning across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, India, and Europe, the partnership aims to generate more profit and create more capital for African businesses by combining alternative finance, alternative trade, data security and privacy.

“The partnership with Ovamba was a perfect opportunity to work with a preeminent player in Africa’s financial ecosystem. Our partnership provides the opportunity for small and medium sized businesses to gain access to capital and protect resulting profits through securing their cyber space,” says Kendrall Felder, Cyber Alliance CEO and Co-Founder.

As innovators and experts in their respective domains, the partnership combines FinTech and cybersecurity solutions to resolve some of Africa’s biggest problems in the sectors of banking, alternative data, cybersecurity and financial inclusion. “We have developed a successful alternative trade and finance business. We see small business success as fundamental to a healthy economy”, says Viola Llewellyn, Co-Founder of Ovamba. She further added, “partnering with Cyber Alliance is a natural fit to our digital innovations and market expertise. How data is collected, stored, protected, analysed, and moved will play a pivotal role in Africa’s success building businesses for local and global economies. This will change the game for Africa’s trade and light manufacturing industries.”

The Cyber Alliance Data Privacy by Design programs that will be deployed in partnership with Ovamba were developed to support continental African and international trade by ensuring data security and protection is integrated throughout all phases of business innovation.

“We are always looking for unique collaborations to accelerate digitalisation in tech and non-tech industries. Through this partnership we are excited to help small businesses in Africa increase trade across the continent of Africa and the world by creating continental and global Cyber Trust”, says Larry Yon, Cyber Alliance President and Co-Founder.

The 4th Industrial Revolution will see Africa’s youth population become the world’s largest population group.  Data will be considered perhaps even more valuable than oil for global economies. Cyber Alliance’s approach to protecting Africa’s data respects the African context whilst applying global tech perspectives and expertise to business verticals. Integrating Cyber Alliance’s approach, with Ovamba’s tried and tested method of providing transactional capital to small businesses, is creating excitement amongst African banks and global lenders who are searching for data to drive financial inclusion and extend even more asset-backed, traditional and alternative lending.

“This joint venture with Cyber Alliance strengthens Ovamba’s ability to ensure that small businesses in Africa receive capital for their operations and generate more profit from being able to buy and sell more inventory”, says Llewellyn.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/small-african-businesses-to-be-supported-through-ovamba-solutions-and-cyber-alliances-partnership/

Money 20/20 USA Meetups: Trulioo, ThetaRay, Coinflip and Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions

https://thefintechtimes.com/money-20-20-usa-meetups-trulioo-thetaray-coinflip-and-lexis-nexis-risk-solutions/

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

Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions

Kim Sutherland, VP, Fraud and Identity at Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions speaks to Adam Snyder of The Fintech Times about the challenges the company is facing at the moment.

Trulioo

Rutherford Wilson, VP of Product, Trulioo shares with Raf De Kimpe what the past 18 months has looked like for them.

ThetaRay

Idan Keret, Chief Customer Officer, ThetaRay sits down with Raf de Kimpe about the transformative year they have had.

Coinflip

Kris Dayrit, President of Coinflip discusses the companies focus moving forward.

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/money-20-20-usa-meetups-trulioo-thetaray-coinflip-and-lexis-nexis-risk-solutions/

Travellers Have More Faith in Airlines To Handle FX Transactions Than Their Banks Finds Amadeus

https://thefintechtimes.com/travellers-have-more-faith-in-airlines-to-handle-fx-transactions-than-their-banks-finds-amadeus/

Hidden charges levied by financial intermediaries mean travellers often face high charges for the privilege of paying in a currency they understand. New research from Amadeus suggests travellers begin to abandon bookings when FX fees reach 5% of the cost of a flight 14% of travellers say they have paid more than 10% of a flight’s total cost in FX fees, often resulting from opaque fees levied by financial intermediaries

When booking flights, 89% of travellers would be more likely to choose one airline over another if given the option to pay in their preferred currency, highlighting the importance attached to transparent pricing. However, a new study from Amadeus reveals that hidden charges often levied by financial intermediaries mean travellers can face high charges for the privilege of paying in a currency they understand.

More than a third of respondents have paid between 3-10% of the total cost of a flight to make the payment in their own currency, with 14% having been charged more than 10% of the total flight cost. The vast majority of travellers (76%) reported unexpected FX charges when purchasing a flight.

Using a dummy airline website, Amadeus worked with psychological research firm Innovationbubble to study travellers’ conscious and subconscious reactions to different levels of FX fees. According to the research, travellers begin to notice FX fees when they reach 3% of the total ticket price, with ‘alarm bells’ beginning to ring as the fee approaches the psychologically important threshold of 5%. However, the overall cost of the flight still remains the most important factor for securing a booking.

Bart Tompkins, Managing Director, Payments, Amadeus said, “Travellers want a transparent shopping experience with flight prices displayed in their currency of choice. Today the industry largely outsources currency conversion to financial intermediaries and our research shows this can lead to high fees that often exceed the threshold travellers consider reasonable.”

He continued: “Airlines now have an opportunity to become fintechs, bringing FX services in-house so they can set reasonable fees and deliver an improved digital shopping experience, with the choice and transparency travellers demand.”

According to the research, the majority (59%) of travellers would prefer their airline to handle the currency conversion rather than a bank, with 43% stating that bank levied fees are too high. In addition, travellers confirmed that on average they now trust airlines more than banks to handle FX transactions on their behalf.

Jamie Halliday, Strategic Customer Insights Director, Innovationbubble added, “Whilst the overall flight price and product attributes remain paramount, our research demonstrates that getting FX wrong can be a real turn-off for travellers. When the rate reached the 4-5% threshold, people’s alarm bells went off and they began to actively seek alternative travel options.”

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/travellers-have-more-faith-in-airlines-to-handle-fx-transactions-than-their-banks-finds-amadeus/

Clearpay Opens UK Merchants to US Shoppers

https://thefintechtimes.com/clearpay-opens-uk-merchants-to-us-shoppers/

The buy-now-pay-later provider Clearpay has introduced cross-border trading for its UK merchant partners, allowing them to offer their products to buyers in the US market.

This latest addition to the platform will allow merchants based in the UK to reach more than 20 million shoppers across the pond in the United States.

In the UK, online shopping saw accelerated growth by the equivalent of ‘three to four years’ during the pandemic. In addition, it is estimated that ecommerce now represents a $4.89 trillion gross merchandise value (GMV) opportunity globally.

Once logged in to Clearpay (which is also known as Afterpay outside the UK and Europe), shoppers see the total basket amount in their local currency during checkout and will be charged this amount. They’ll also benefit from being able to pay via four instalments over time, without incurring interest or currency conversion fees.

Clearpay first introduced cross-border shopping in the markets of Australia and New Zealand back in March 2019, which was followed by a similar launch in the UK in mid-2020. Towards the end of 2020, Clearpay also enabled US merchants to sell to consumers abroad. As a result of this, global cross-border sales increased by approximately 120% between July 2020 and June 2021.

“With Clearpay’s new cross border offering, we’re delivering to our merchant partners new customers who are proven to convert from browsers to buyers at a much higher rate – bringing increased sales, without additional set-up costs or fees,” comments Clearpay’s UK Country Manager Richard Bayer. “I’m thrilled that merchants in the UK will now have an added opportunity to grow their business just in time for the busy holiday season.”

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/clearpay-opens-uk-merchants-to-us-shoppers/

Stablecoin News for the week ending Wednesday 24th November.

https://dailyfintech.com/2021/11/24/stablecoin-news-for-the-week-ending-wednesday-24th-november/

Disruption is scary – particularly if it is happening to you!

Here is our pick of the 3 most important Stablecoin news stories during the week.

Last week a number of Politicians and Regulators woke up to what the current financial marketplace disruption could mean.  We all like disruption as it brings us new goods and services and enhances our lives – except if it is our job which is impacted.

First, the ECB sounded the alarm and said this was not just a play thing anymore.

ECB Sounds Alarm Over Linkages Between Stablecoins and Conventional Financial Markets (coindesk.com)

Then the World Economic Forum (WEF) decided to take a closer look.  Spoiler alert, they don’t think stablecoins have a use case that is not already adequately covered by the current system.

WEF_Value_Proposition_of_Stablecoins_for_Financial_Inclusion_2021.pdf (weforum.org)

Finally an interesting article on disruption and just who would be the target of that disruption.

“The crypto market would offer some financial services, including fully collateralised lending. It would offer unregulated savings instruments. Fiat money won’t disappear, but it will lose its monopoly status. When that happens, central bankers will find that they are no longer in control.”

The article goes on to explain how grand projects like the Euro will be shrunken and less effective.

The great disruptor (eurointelligence.com)

So what could all this disruption mean for our Regulators and Politicians?  Hilary Clinton joined the dots for us Crypto Could Undermine the Dollar and Destabilize Nations: Hillary Clinton.  

Makes a change from the Military and Secret Service doing it for them!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alan Scott is an expert in the FX market and has been working in the domain of stablecoins for many years.  

We have a self imposed constraint of 3 news stories per week because we serve busy senior Fintech leaders who just want succinct and important information.

For context on stablecoins please read this introductory interview with Alan “How stablecoins will change our world” and read articles tagged stablecoin in our archives. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

New readers can read 3 free articles.  To  become a member with full access to all that Daily Fintech offers,  the cost is just US$143 a year (= $0.39 per day or $2.75 per week). For less than one cup of coffee you get a week full of caffeine for the mind.

https://dailyfintech.com/2021/11/24/stablecoin-news-for-the-week-ending-wednesday-24th-november/

MSU Financial Credit Union plans automation expansion through chatbot

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/retail/msu-financial-credit-union-plans-automation-expansion-through-chatbot/

The MSU Financial Credit Union (MSUFCU) launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered external chatbot this year, but already the $6.6 billion credit union is planning to expand its chatbot automations in 2022. MSUFCU continues to build its chatbots — Fran for customers and Gene for employees — but it will give them a boost with back-end […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/retail/msu-financial-credit-union-plans-automation-expansion-through-chatbot/

Cornerstone Bank and Credova Collaborate on New Outdoor Recreation-Based BNPL Offering

https://finovate.com/cornerstone-bank-and-credova-collaborate-on-new-outdoor-recreation-based-bnpl-offering/

A new partnership between North Dakota-based Cornerstone Bank and Buy Now Pay Later company Credova is the latest example of how bank-BNPL partnerships are becoming increasingly common in financial services. Per the agreement, Cornerstone Bank will do business as Noka and will provide loan origination for Credova, which specializes in BNPL solutions for the outdoor recreation, farm, home, and ranch markets.

“This is the next step in our company evolution, to partner with Cornerstone Bank, a pillar in the banking community,” Credova CEO Dusty Wunderlich said. “It’s not often you find a bank with a nearly 100-year history be so nimble and forward thinking, but that’s exactly what we’ve discovered in Cornerstone Bank.”

One of the ten largest financial institutions in North Dakota, Cornerstone Holding Company, the parent company of Cornerstone Bank, is a $1 billion financial institution with 11 locations in North and South Dakota. Headquartered in Fargo, Cornerstone offers its customers access to business and personal loans, deposits and cash management services, and both online and mobile banking.

“This exclusive agreement furthers our vision of being who people turn to when they are making important decisions about their money,” Cornerstone Bank chairman Gary Petersen said. “Cornerstone Bank and Credova share very similar cultures and approaches to doing business, making this relationship a great pairing. Both organizations will benefit from each other’s areas of expertise.”

Founded in 2018, Credova recently relocated its headquarters from Nevada to Bozeman, Montana. The move, according to Wunderlich, reflected a desire to base operations in “a location that echoed our values and allowed us to continue to lead an outdoor lifestyle.” The POS financing platform offers a virtual card and extended installment financing along with its “Pay in 4” BNPL program that will allow consumers to divide their purchases into four, zero-interest payments. Available as either an on-site or an in-store integration, Credova’s financing platform has enabled merchants to realize a more than 3x increase in AOV (average order value) compared to other payment methods, a more than 51% increase in overall sales volume, and a more than 72% increase in conversion rates. Credova includes 3H Tactical, Big Tex Outdoors, Broadheads and Bullets, and Cedar Pet Supply among its most recent brand partners.

https://finovate.com/cornerstone-bank-and-credova-collaborate-on-new-outdoor-recreation-based-bnpl-offering/

How businesses can use virtual cards to fight AP fraud and boost efficiency

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/payments/how-businesses-can-use-virtual-cards-to-fight-ap-fraud-and-boost-efficiency/

Why virtual cards matter: The cost of accounts payable (AP) fraud can be high for businesses. Nearly one in four companies report a payment fraud attack each year, according to Ardent Partners.  Alternative payment tools such as virtual cards — issued for one-time use, for specific invoice amounts that expire after 30 days — are one of the tools AP teams use […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/payments/how-businesses-can-use-virtual-cards-to-fight-ap-fraud-and-boost-efficiency/

Listen: Finastra’s head of cloud, core and digital talks banking strategy

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/center-of-excellence/listen-finastras-head-of-cloud-core-and-digital-talks-banking-strategy/

Banks should look to expand their product portfolios and incorporate more services such as payments while embracing new technology, including blockchain, to increase customer retention. In this week’s episode of “The Buzz” podcast, Anand Subbaraman, Finastra’s senior vice president and general manager of cloud, core and digital banking discusses with Bank Automation News three strategies […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/center-of-excellence/listen-finastras-head-of-cloud-core-and-digital-talks-banking-strategy/

Stripe Terminal Expands Across Europe

https://thefintechtimes.com/stripe-terminal-expands-across-europe/

Stripe, a technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the internet, has announced the expansion of Stripe Terminal to the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

As European consumers return to in-person shopping, Terminal extends Stripe’s payments infrastructure to the physical world. Global businesses like Shopify already use Terminal to build their own in-person checkout with flexible developer tools, pre-certified card readers, and cloud-based hardware management.

“For Shopify merchants, integrating their offline and online businesses is crucial, and that includes payments,” said Shimona Mehta, Managing Director, EMEA, Shopify. “We are seeing hybrid shopping take on greater importance for consumers this coming Black Friday Cyber Monday. The expansion of Stripe Terminal will mean that more of our merchants can manage in-person and online payments through Shopify, streamlining their workflows to provide a greater consumer experience.”

Before Stripe Terminal, internet businesses in Europe wanting to take in-person payments had to use an entirely different payments system. While selling online has become easier, extending sales offline has meant stitching together point-of-sale hardware and software, managing burdensome security and EMV certification processes, as well as complying with changing regulatory and hardware requirements. Stripe Terminal eliminates that complexity, providing a simple omnichannel payments offering, and now it does so across many of Europe’s largest economies.

Stripe Terminal for platforms and marketplaces

One in three European businesses uses a software platform to help sell goods online. Using Stripe Terminal and Stripe Connect, software platforms can provide these businesses with the capability to take in-person payments as well as online payments. Platforms can manage orders for Terminal hardware on behalf of their users, and Stripe handles all the shipping and logistics.

Cinemas in the UK can unify online ticket sales and real-world popcorn sales through a SaaS platform like Indy Cinema Group.

Ian Brown, CEO at Indy Cinema Group said: “As the point of sale operating system for independent cinemas, it was hard having to see our users manage separate, disconnected products in order to accept payments in the real world. With Stripe Terminal we can add more value and efficiency for our users, and our users can sidestep the drudgery of manually reconciling their online and in-person payments, leaving them to focus on their customers and growing their cinemas business.”

Stripe Terminal for modern retailers

Stripe Terminal can also enable Europe’s tech-forward retailers to bring online experiences into the real world. From online fashion retailers enabling real-world pop-ups, to music labels selling merchandise at live shows, Stripe Terminal can power omnichannel brand experiences for modern retailers.

Stripe Terminal consists of three components:

  1. A set of flexible SDKs and APIs for creating a fully custom checkout experience using web or mobile apps, allowing for a single integration to power payments globally.

  2. Pre-certified card readers that work seamlessly with Stripe Terminal’s APIs and SDKs, ready for EMV contact, EMV contactless, and mobile wallets (such as Apple Pay or Google Pay) out of the box, secured with end-to-end encryption

  3. Fleet management features for managing and monitoring hardware at scale across multiple locations or connected accounts—right from the Stripe Dashboard

Matt Henderson, EMEA Business Lead at Stripe, said: “Over the last decade it’s become much easier to accept in-person or online payments. But as soon as you want to do both, it would get complex and challenging. The expansion of Stripe Terminal means businesses in Europe around the world can easily unify their in-person and online payments experiences.”

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/stripe-terminal-expands-across-europe/

UK Fintech News Round up 24/11

https://thefintechtimes.com/uk-fintech-news-round-up-24-11/

Each week we take a look at some of the latest UK fintech news. With Black Friday on the horizon, this week we look at how UK retailers seek better payments and the Scottish SME community has grown.

Global merchants concerned about checkout outages for holiday shopping

In the countdown to Black Friday, many retail businesses are struggling to maximise revenue during the seasonal holiday boom in online shopping, according to the specialised payments platform Paysafe. Research commissioned by the company reveals that 36% of retailers regularly experience online checkout issues when they have large customer volumes, while 43% struggle to maintain their online checkout during the holidays.

Paulette Rowe, CEO of Integrated & Ecommerce Solutions at Paysafe, commented: “As merchants across sectors brace themselves for holiday shopping spikes, many are looking to their payments partners in order to maintain operations and increase their success. Looking at the ways that consumer behaviour is changing, it’s crucial for merchants with robust e-commerce activity to understand what consumers are expecting from their shopping experience and address these expectations proactively.”

Online Black Friday shoppers could plant 223 million trees with Kindred

Shoppers could earn £447 million in cash back on their online purchases this Black Friday weekend— enough to plant 223 million trees, reveals save-as-you-shop app Kindred. Some £9.42 billion is expected to be spent in Black Friday sales this weekend, with over half (£5.72 billion) of the total going on online purchases.

Consumers could earn 7.8% cashback on average for every purchase made, meaning that almost half a billion pounds of cashback is waiting to be claimed. Users could turn Black Friday into Green Friday by turning this cashback into 223 million trees — enough to cover an area the size of Greater Manchester.

Aaron Simpson, founder and executive chairman of Kindred, said: “We’re proud to be earning money for charity every time a user saves money, and we’re hoping to raise millions of pounds for good causes this Black Friday.”

UK retailers seek better payments as they brace for turbulent Christmas

Black Friday, which has come to herald the start of the UK’s festive shopping season, may not deliver its usual hype and spikes in 2021. But in the face of supply shortages and inflationary pressures, merchants may be smart to circumvent the usual fanfare.

In a bid to avoid a run on stock and to play down expectations of big sales without harming the bottom line this Black Friday, nearly half (47%) of UK merchants have invested in early marketing campaigns to engage shoppers sooner, according to a new study from global payment solutions provider Checkout.com.

The research also found that half (50%) of UK retailers have concerns about this year’s Black Friday weekend. Shipping costs, supply chain issues and inflation all play a part, with three in ten retailers (30%) fearing they won’t fulfil a spike in demand for goods and a quarter (25%) saying they will struggle to offer significant Black Friday discounts.

Moshe Winegarten, Retail Sector Lead at Checkout.com said: “The fact that 41% of UK retailers are bolstering their digital payments when the chips are down demonstrates the extent to which they recognise how much is at stake at the checkout and that payments are a strategic issue. By reducing downtime, increasing authorization rates, offering appropriate payments options, and more precisely managing fraud and chargebacks, the UK’s merchants can quietly protect billions of earnings, at a time where every transaction really counts.”

Scottish SME community has grown 

The Scottish fintech-focused small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has increased by more than 40 per cent during the past 12 months with the fintech sector contributing £568 million gross value (GVA) to the Scottish economy in that period. 

It is believed that the increase in demand for financial technologies is being driven by the challenges of the Covid crisis, increased consumer digital adoption which have propelled more and more of the economy and society to adapt to a digital environment, with 37 international fintech organisations now based in Scotland.

Lynne Darcey Quigley, Founder & CEO of Know-it, commented: “We have a mature fintech community and a wealth of talent available. The Scottish business ecosystem includes an established support network, however, organisations such as FinTech Scotland to help facilitate collaboration. This gives me the confidence to start to develop a business in Scotland as it is known as a fantastic environment for any fintech start-up. Yes, there are many challenges as a start-up, as there is for any business, however, I feel the welcoming attitude and support throughout the fintech community in Scotland, which is renowned worldwide, is reassuring and I am proud to be part of that”.

Bound backed by $6.5M in seed investment

Evolution Equity Partners Lead Cape Privacy's Series A Funding Round

Evolution Equity Partners Lead Cape Privacy's Series A Funding Round

Bound, the platform setting out to make currency hedging simple for SMEs, is being tipped by VCs to be one of Europe’s next major fintechs.

The company has already secured over $6.5M in seed capital from some of the founders and VCs behind Klarna, Stash, MX and Qonto to help it transform the UK’s SME forex market.

The space Bound is targeting is massively underserved. Currently, only 4%* of UK SMEs protect themselves from currency risk, compared to more than nine in 10 (94%) Fortune 500 companies.

This is because hedging, to the average SME, is confusing and complicated. Bound’s mission is to address this and show every SME trading internationally that hedging doesn’t need to be a headache.

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/uk-fintech-news-round-up-24-11/

How likely is a ‘Britcoin’? The UK’s Journey to a Central Bank Digital Currency

https://thefintechtimes.com/how-likely-is-a-britcoin-the-uks-journey-to-a-central-bank-digital-currency/

The Bank of England reports that around 95 per cent of the funds that people hold to make payments are now held as bank deposits rather than cash. This, combined with the increasing interest in digital assets like cryptocurrencies, means that surely now is as good a time as any to be thinking about the digital pound, and whether the UK will introduce a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in the near future. 

The story so far

Our story somewhat begins with the Kalifa Fintech Review released earlier this year. The hugely anticipated report was conducted by Ron Kalifa OBE, chairman of Network International and former Worldpay CEO, to identify priority areas to support the UK’s fintech sector as commissioned by the government. 

One of the key takeaways from the report is the recommendation to promote the digitisation of financial services, specifically in order to improve the environment for fintech, provide better services to consumers and drive efficiency in the financial sector.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “We’ve set out a roadmap to sharpen the UK’s competitive advantage and deliver a more open, green, and technologically advanced financial services sector. The UK is already known for being at the forefront of innovation, but we’re going further to support UK fintech by introducing new visa routes, enhancing our pioneering regulatory sandbox, reforming our listing rules and exploring a central bank digital currency.”

This, clearly, is where CBDCs come in, with the report advising that ‘the introduction of a central bank digital currency would be a significant development which could help support the development of new technologies’.

To that end, Chancellor Rishi Sunak followed the review by announcing ‘ambitious’ new plans to help fintechs scale, including the creation of a new joint task force from HM Treasury and the Bank of England to explore the possibilities of a UK CBDC.

 The task force will engage widely with stakeholders on the benefits, risks and practicalities of engaging in a CBDC, and will explore and evaluate opportunities and risks of a potential UK CBDC.

Opportunity or threat?

The benefits of a UK ‘digital sterling’ certainly have the appeal, at least to the typical consumer. For starters, it will come as no surprise to anyone that the number of cash transactions are dwindling. The majority of payments made in the UK are through cards or other digital means, and notes and coins are becoming more unloved. It is this irrelevance that has some people concerned. People seem to be turning to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to have a decision in how their money is spent.

However, these assets can be incredibly volatile as well as having some environmental concerns. Stablecoins are a great ‘middleman’, backed against something tangible like gold but not pegged to anything. Though there is very little evidence to suggest that people are turning to other digital currencies there is a fear that the costs of transactions in sterling could leave the currency vulnerable to stablecoins that could undermine financial stability in the UK. 

A CBDC would be automatically guaranteed by the state, exactly the same as cash reducing the risks involved. It’s also hoped that a CBDC would reduce the cost of payments as well as increase the inclusivity of digital payments, which are currently not accessible to everyone. 

New technologies

One of the biggest opportunities, however, is the potential a CBDC would have to support new emerging technologies. With the wave of digitalisation over the past few years that’s only gotten bigger with the Covid-19, there is still much of fintech yet to explore. 

Not only would a CBDC have application in fintech ideas, such as blockchain, it could also completely transform the payments industry as a whole. A CBDC would be an innovation in terms of both how money is provided to the public and also the infrastructure on which payments can be made. It would also increase transparency, allowing you to know exactly where your money had come from and help to eliminate financial scams, particularly when buying things like houses or stocks and shares. A CBDC would work alongside cash and bank deposits, but the clear decline in cash usage over the past 10 years makes it all the more enticing in order to tap into the potential of a new payments system and the fintech that could develop with it. 

Risky business? 

However, as with any new developments, there are also risks. And with CBDC’s, the main concerns revolve around the fact they are a centralised form of currency and may infringe on the privacy of citizens. 

Jasmine Mirtles, CEO of MoneyMagpie, is particularly concerned about this – she said: “My big concern about CBDCs is the total control that governments will have over our lives through the central bank. The idea of a CBDC is that all transactions and all money flow will go through the central bank and the central bank (government) will know everything about our earning and spending at all times. 

“They will know where we earn our money, how and when and will be able to tax us at source before we even get the money. They will then know where we spend it, how and when. They will also be able to ‘disappear’ our money at will, forcing us to spend it within a certain timeframe and on certain goods and services or simply switching the money flow off at the source. It will, essentially, destroy democracy and usher in a digital dictatorship. It cannot do otherwise.” 

Legal and regulatory concerns also arise when thinking about CBDCs, as currently it isn’t really known who will regulate them. There are many questions surrounding this, pertaining to know your customer (KYC), money laundering and other hot topics in the regulation field that currently people don’t have the answers to. In order for CBDCs to be accepted as well as do their job, compliance risks must be answered. 

CBDCs across the globe

While no country has officially launched a CBDC, yet, it’s not just the UK that are dipping their toes into the possibilities of the digital currency. As of July 2021, more than 80 countries were in various stages of exploring CBDCs, according to the Atlantic Council think tank, ranging from first inception to having actually been launched. 

It’s no secret that China is the big name in the game when it comes to CBDC and is currently trialling its own digital yuan that has been in development for years. There are hopes that the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DC/EP) will help accelerate the move to a cashless society and bring unbanked populations into the mainstream economy. 

The central banks of Canada, Uruguay, Thailand, Venezuela, Sweden and Singapore, to name a few, are all also looking into the possibility of introducing a CBDC and are at various stages in development.

The future is digital

Ultimately, a CBDC would function as a true fiat currency, providing the convenience and security of digital cryptocurrencies with the regulated reserve backed money of traditional banking. A best of both worlds scenario will in theory bring a number of benefits to any country implementing it. While the UK government is still undecided as to whether they are moving forward with it, the treasury have made it clear that a CBDC – or “Britcoin” is in our future. 

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/how-likely-is-a-britcoin-the-uks-journey-to-a-central-bank-digital-currency/