Tempcover: Staying Safe in an Age of Rapidly Advancing Fintech


Although innovation in fintech is an exciting time, not everything that’s shiny should be seen as safe, and breakthroughs should be regarded with as much cybersecurity speculation as their predecessors. 

Marc Pell, CTO of TempcoverMarc Pell, CTO of Tempcover
Marc Pell

In light of this, here Marc Pell, CTO of Tempcover, discusses how steps forward by the industry still leave room for cybersecurity concerns to remain. Pell highlights the prevalence of these concerns, and how consumers might seek to better protect themselves.

Financial products and services are more readily available and easily accessible than ever before with the rapid advancement of fintech innovation. This undoubtedly benefits consumers with more personalised products, available within a faster turnaround time, and at a more competitive price. But there are always two sides to every coin, and when innovative new technology is created to benefit the end-user, it can also be used to exploit them.

Looking at the world of insurance, InsurTech has made great strides in making policies more flexible to suit the needs of the customer. Take temporary car insurance for example, where customers can take out comprehensive policies lasting anywhere from one hour to 28 days – with full cover available within 90 seconds following a few clicks online. But as the demand for hassle-free insurance policies rises among consumers, it presents an opportunity for fraudsters to take advantage.

‘Ghost Broking’ is a growing scam that involves fraudsters posing as brokers who target young and new drivers on social media platforms to entice them with bogus deals that are too good to be true. In fact, the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) received over 21,000 reports of fraudulent motor insurance policies in the past 12 months which could be linked to ghost broking.

According to the IFB, its percentage of investigations into ghost broking have doubled in recent years, warning that tens of thousands of motorists could unwittingly be driving with fraudulent cover and will face serious consequences if caught by the police.

The best form of defence against being exploited is education and a healthy attitude of doubt. Users should be checking provenance in the form of publicly available information such as user reviews, FCA registration status and performing a good old-fashioned Google search to look for any news articles that might inform as to the company’s prior misdeeds.

As an industry, we can only eliminate the scourge of predatory fraudsters by working together to educate potential customers on the perils of unrealistically cheap policies through clear product guides, a transparent quote and buy process, and easily-digestible policy terms and conditions.

The growing threat of cybercrime

According to the UK National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review, it handled an unprecedented 777 incidents in the last year – a rise from 723 in 2020. It also received 5.4 million reports of malicious content to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service over the last 12 months – leading to the removal of more than 53,000 scams and 96,500 URLs.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to UK business tech leaders – almost two thirds (66 per cent) expect the threat from cyber criminals to increase over the next 12 months, a PwC report has shown. Another 64 per cent expect a jump in attacks on their cloud services over the next year, while a similar number (63 per cent) are increasing their cyber security budgets over the coming year.

The report went on to add that there is also now the added threat of ‘ransomware as a service’ in which ransomware developers lease out their malware in exchange for a share of the criminal profits. With that in mind, there is little wonder that fintech businesses, in particular, are investing more time and resources into building security in a more convenient, UX-friendly manner.

A common method of securing fintech apps is to build mobile-friendly authentication into the process by utilising techniques such as SMS authentication codes and biometrics. Facial recognition is a prime example of a security feature that is used equally as a security and convenience play, thus incentivising security in users. In the InsurTech sector, we have witnessed first-hand the benefit such techniques can have, not only on keeping user accounts secure but also on the speed and completion rate of registration and authentication of app use.

Empowered consumers will identify the best fintech solutions for their personal needs

It goes without saying that the onus lies with fintech businesses to ensure that the highest levels of security are maintained across all of their products and user journeys. But a certain element of responsibility also lies with consumers, who must ensure that they protect their personal information by doing due diligence when looking for a new fintech product or service.

Personal security is an ever-moving target in a world of rapid-paced progression of technology, and the use of fintech is no exception. In terms of red flags to look out for, the answer is not always a simple one. Beyond the obvious research, there are common-sense processes to look out for and avoid. Having your password repeated back to you in plain text in customer communications or leakage of data without what feels like a sensible security check during customer service interactions are both examples of obvious warning signs that security is not at the heart of the firm.

Ultimately, we all form a perspective on how much we trust companies with our data, finances, and insurance cover. Users should take a moment to ask themselves whether they have rushed into a registration process on the promise of a shiny new app or an introductory offer, ensuring they have built an acceptable level of trust in their decision-making process.

In a fintech world where choice is commonplace, taking this moment to form an opinion on which fintech’s security is sufficient could be the difference between accessing your new, fit-for-purpose financial account and being burnt.

  • 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.


Santander to Launch New AI-Powered Buy Now Pay Later Service


Santander is to launch a new buy now, pay later (BNPL) platform called Zinia, which supports artificial intelligence-based credit assessment technology.

Zinia’s BNPL service facilitates the opportunity for customers to pay for goods and services via interest-free instalments, either whilst shopping online or through physical points of sale. For partner merchants, Zinia allows them to offer customers a contemporary and secure payment option, improving the customer experience, increasing sales and business retention as a result.

The platform uses artificial intelligence-based credit assessment technology developed by Openbank to process real-time credit decisions with the standards expected from a regulated bank. That, combined with Santander Consumer Finance’s (SCF) scale, and long-standing relationships with merchants makes Zinia a unique offering.

SCF is a consumer finance bank with a presence in 16 European countries, USA and Canada offering products and services to more than 19 million customers and 130,000 points of sale.

The platform has been operating within the German market for the past year, acquiring more than two million customers in the process. This strong debut has catapulted Santander into being one of the leading players within Europe’s BNPL space by way of customer volumes.

The bank now plans to roll out the service across its other markets under the Zinia brand, starting first in the Netherlands, leveraging Santander’s existing position in Consumer finance, where it already supports 19 million customers through 63,000 affiliated merchants.

CEO of Openbank and Santander Consumer Finance, Ezequiel SzafirCEO of Openbank and Santander Consumer Finance, Ezequiel Szafir
Ezequiel Szafir

According to the CEO of Openbank and Santander Consumer Finance, Ezequiel Szafir: “We’re launching a new platform that offers consumers a convenient and flexible payment option with the security and trust provided by a large financial group like Santander. We are delighted with Zinia’s early expansion and aim to become a leader in the buy now, pay later market.”

  • 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.


XBRL News about Arelle, Handelsregister and ontologies


Here are the three most relevant developments in the world of structured reporting we became aware of in the course of last week.

1  Workiva announces acquisition of the Arelle XBRL validation platform

2  The country needs a modern commercial register

The commercial register is a comprehensive database on the Swiss economy. Among other things, it lists all corporations with various information. At first glance, the commercial register would therefore be predestined to become a central point of information for any business interactions. But that’s not the case.

The country in question that this piece refers to in the original German (find your browser’s autotranslate button) is Switzerland, of course. The article advocates – without so many words – for bringing the commercial register from the 18th century, when it was founded, to the 21st, and for making it really useful in the digital age. We fully concur.

3 Ontology engineering and the love for modeling and analysis

Escher, the complexity of coffee, knowledge engineering with ontologies – all these are nodes of the semantic networks associate professor Maria Keet keeps and grows in her mind, openly sharing them on the Web. With plenty of curious intersections they live online, openly available, just as her textbook – An Introduction to Ontology Engineering. Having emerged from Maria’s research interests in knowledge engineering with ontologies, concept modeling and related natural language generation, this textbook is the first of its kind globally in this subfield, recently being recognized as outstanding by UCT Open Textbook Award.

This conversation with the author of said freely available ontology engineering textbook is quite academic, yet with a rather practical slant, as the future of structured data reporting will be ontological IMHO.


Christian Dreyer CFA is well known in Swiss Fintech circles as an expert in XBRL and financial reporting for investors.

 We have a self-imposed constraint of 3 news stories each week because we serve busy senior leaders in Fintech who need just enough information to get on with their job.

 For context on XBRL please read this introduction to our XBRL Week in 2016 and read articles tagged XBRL in our archives. 

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NordVPN Finds The Average Price of Stolen British Payment Card on Dark Web is £11


A new study by cybersecurity company NordVPN has analyzed information from 135K British payment cards sold on the dark web. According to this research, the average price of a British payment card is 11 pounds and 6 cents.

“British payment cards are pretty expensive (compared to the £9.7 world average) despite the country’s user-friendly payment card fraud-prevention policies. If a lost or stolen payment card is used in an illegal manner, the liability falls onto the bank. That is why many British banks have extra security measures in place to protect their customers. So even if the UK remains a potential target because of its high credit card penetration, the payment card fraud losses in the country are decreasing every year,” Marijus Briedis, CTO at NordVPN, said.

The prices of the discovered British payment cards varied from 1 to 20 pounds. Even though the vast majority (54,371) of payment cards cost £16, the average price of all the found cards was £11.06.

The most expensive cards could be found in Japan (average price £30), while the cheapest cards on the dark web belonged to Honduras (average price less than £1).

“Prices of cards depend mostly on demand. The greater the demand, the more money criminals can charge for certain data they try to sell. In this case, the demand directly correlates with how easy it is to steal money from a card and how much money could be stolen. That is why the most expensive cards come from countries with a higher quality of life or poorer bank security measures,” said Briedis.

134,607 payment cards found hacked belonged to Brits. It was the second most affected European country after France (154,016 cards hacked). Knowing that the United Kingdom has the 9th highest credit card penetration in the world, 135K is not an unexpected number. The UK still remains a popular target for criminals because of its big population and high quality of life However, the losses that Brits experience are falling every year because banks feel the pressure to take extra precautions to keep their clients safe.

Is it possible to prevent payment card fraud from happening?

“The most common way those payment cards end up for sale is brute-forcing. That means that criminals basically try to guess the card number and CVV. The first 6-8 numbers are the card issuer’s ID number. That leaves hackers with 7-9 numbers to guess, as the 16th digit is a checksum and is used only to determine whether any mistakes were made when entering the number,” Briedis explains.

To protect themselves, users are recommended to stay vigilant and review their monthly statements regularly to make sure no suspicious transactions have occurred. It is also important to choose a bank according to the security measures it has implemented.

“The British example shows that proper security measures in banks can help users to be safer. Banks can use tools like fraud detection to track payment attempts to weed out fraudulent attacks. Stronger password systems are also a huge step towards preventing card fraud, but fortunately, multi-factor authentication is becoming the minimum standard. So if your bank doesn’t offer it already, demand it or consider switching banks,” Briedis concludes.

  • 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.


Growth of Digital-Only Banking Customers Stalls for the First Time in Four Years


The number of people with a digital-only bank account has stalled for the first time in four years; new research from Finder shows.

In 2022, 27 per cent of the UK population, around 13.9 million people, say that they currently have an account with a digital-only bank; a figure that has remained unchanged from the previous year. This is the first time during four years of tracking digital banking adoption in the UK that Finder’s poll has shown the figure flatlining.

But the comparison site reports how growth appears to have been slowing for a while, with the number of digital-only banking users rising from nine per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2020 before a more modest rise last year, when it rose to 27 per cent.

The reasons behind traditional banks’ fightback

During a survey of 2000 UK adults, 31 per cent of respondents stated how they have no intention of opening a digital-only bank account in the future. The reasoning for this change was elaborated upon throughout their responses.

The top factor was that 55 per cent of respondents feel like they have always been treated well by their current bank. On a similar note, 16 per cent said their traditional bank had been helpful throughout the course of the pandemic.

As the turbulence of the pandemic slowly begins to settle, the data suggests how 35 per cent of customers prefer having the option of face-to-face communication with their bank; an area in which challenger banks severely lag behind.

What’s more, 25 per cent of respondents reported feeling a lack of trust towards challenger banks, a feeling that has prevented them from switching to their services.

It appears that the retention of traditional banking customers has been saved by the incumbents’ reputation for trust, transparency and superior communication.

Is there any hope for the future of digital-only banks?

According to the research, despite the slowdown in new recruits, digital-only banks can still look forward to welcoming 18 per cent of the population over the next five years. This includes 10 per cent of UK citizens who are forecast to open an account sometime within the next 12 months.

If these predictions came to fruition, 23.2 million people would have a digital-only bank account by 2027, equalling 44 per cent of the total population.

For the fourth year running, the top reason behind the shift to digital-only banking was the convenience of the service, a reason that was cited by 27 per cent of respondents. Linked to this, 24 per cent who sought to establish a new account thought that turning to a digital-only bank was the easiest option.

In light of convenience, 21 per cent stated how they wanted to be able to transfer money more easily, whilst 18 per cent regarded the apps associated with digital-only banks as superior to any other service.

On the other side of the coin to their incumbent counterparts, a lack of trust isn’t just a factor for those who prefer to utilise more traditional services, as 11 per cent of customers, or potential customers, of digital-only banks stated how they don’t trust the services of traditional alternatives.

Young generations continue to be the biggest market for digital-only banks

Digital banks are still most popular with younger generations, with 41 per cent of Gen Z respondents stating that they have a digital bank account, with a further 34 per cent intending to get one within the next five years. This would mean that by 2027, 75 per cent of Gen Z could have a digital bank account.

The silent generation (born between 1928 and 1948) remains the generation that is the least welcoming of digital-only banks, as a mere seven per cent reported utilising their services.

Michelle Stevens, Finder's banking specialistMichelle Stevens, Finder's banking specialist
Michelle Stevens

Commenting on the findings, Michelle Stevens, Finder’s banking specialist said: “This is the first year that our research hasn’t seen growth in the number of people using digital-only banks and it’s clear that traditional banks are adapting to an increasingly digital landscape. This seems to have played a significant role in the dropoff of new customers for digital-only banks as their first-mover advantage in the app space gets diminished.

“Traditional banks such as Halifax have also seen net gains after improving their digital products and offering switching incentives – including to existing customers – something that digital-only banks haven’t done yet. Halifax has just won Finder’s Banking Customer Satisfaction Awards for 2022, with some customers in our survey praising its app.

“It isn’t all about digital though as there’s also a significant number of Brits who value having a physical branch to visit and trust traditional banks more. While the digital-only banks may not be able to compete with having a presence on the ground, they will be concerned at the lack of trust some customers appear to have in them.”

  • 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.


As Insurtech valuations tumble, Hippo Insurance gears for growth


In the past year, technology stocks trailed on Wall Street, but insurtech stocks saw major declines. Lemonade fell to a market cap of $2.3B, more than 50% compared to its trading day price. Since its SPAC merger, Hippo’s market cap dropped to $1.5B from $5B. Root, a car insurance specialist went public in 2020 and lost nearly 90% within a year. Metromile, another American auto insurer that went the SPAC route, was no better and got acquired by Lemonade.

The subdued market performance is evidence of investors dismayed by the ability of insurtechs to shake up this giant industry. Disruptive companies like Uber and Airbnb waited nearly a decade before going public. Contrast with Lemonade that went public after five years and Hippo at six. Both were opportunistic in capitalizing on the Covid-19 pandemic when the market was hot.

Market analysts opine that insurtech companies perhaps went public before they could predict their growth well enough. Lemonade’s market cap was $10 billion at one point with valuations driven by generous multipliers, akin to the super-profitable software sector. Lemonade’s customer base initially grew at a frenzied rate of 294% in 2018 and 108% in 2019. But after that rapid growth, rates slowed down and investors intently scrutinized efficiency effects, where technology leadership would be most impactful.

Some analysts see Hippo as better positioned in this group based on lifetime-value to customer-acquisition-cost (LTV:CAC) and its ability to improve loss ratios. The company has managed high customer retention rate of over 80% and a five-fold LTV multiple from its omnichannel presence and high premiums per homeowner policy (~$1,200). The opportunity in homeowners is tremendous, with $105B in annual premiums and one player with 10%+ share.

Hippo has adopted a proactive approach to home insurance protection, with smart devices and real-time notifications. This curbs claims frequency and severity and presumably allows Hippo to offer lower premiums. Its Smart Home program is widely adopted in US home insurance, with kits that mitigate damage from water, fire and theft. The opt-in rate is 75% with 500K devices shipped. Customers maintain their homes, with thousands of home checkups and preventive actions delivered, yielding 4.5/5 on customer satisfaction scores.

Hippo believes that it has several competitive advantages, listing its moats as:

1)Technology + Insurance approach: Ability to draw on full-stack tech – Smart Home based ML algorithms – to deliver superior CX.

2)Vertically Integrated Insurance Capabilities: Offsetting risk profile by using carrier partners.

3)Diversified Distribution Strategy: Selling D2C, through insurance and non-insurance partners.

4)Smart Home Program: Making customer homes resilient to typical damages

5)Dedication to Hippo customers: Treating human touch as a very important aspect of building trust with its client base.

So far, technology approaches haven’t convincingly proven value in clearly quantifiable terms. Investors expect AI advantage to be reflected in lower claims frequency rate. Where the new insurtechs exhibit a technological edge, it tends to pale in relation to one significant disadvantage – their limited size. Hippo suffered from a particularly high loss ratio last year, at 161% in the second quarter due to large concentration of policyholders in Texas who suffered from extreme weather conditions, resulting in substantial damage claims. For bigger insurance companies, the effect on the loss ratio was much lesser due to the geographical spread.

In recent months, Hippo has added experienced executives from giants like AIG and Chubb, to help improve its underwriting process, adding more sources and variables to augment customer analysis. It is geographically diversifying. At the end of Q3, it had $850 million in cash reserves, allowing significant legroom to improve models, and move up on profitability. Though the capital market is currently ambivalent to the sector, the momentum is expected to shift for those that achieve exponential growth and have a path to profitability well laid out.

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MAS To Introduce Stringent New Measures to Curb the Rise of Internet Banking Fraud


In light of the recent spate of SMS-phishing scams targeting bank customers, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) are set to introduce additional measures to bolster the security of digital banking.

MAS expects all financial institutions to have in place robust measures to prevent and detect scams as well as effective incident handling and customer service in the event of a scam. The growing threat of online phishing scams calls for immediate steps to strengthen controls, while longer-term preventive measures are being evaluated for implementation in the coming months.

Banks in Singapore, in consultation with MAS, will work to put in place more stringent measures within the next two weeks, including:

  1. The removal of clickable links in emails or text messages sent to retail customers;
  2. The threshold for funds transfers transaction notifications to customers to be set by default at $100 or lower;
  3. Delay of at least 12 hours before activation of a new soft token on a mobile device;
  4. Notifying a customer through an existing mobile number or email address whenever a request to change a customer’s details is put forward;
  5. Additional safeguards, such as a cooling-off period before implementation of requests for key account changes such as in a customer’s key contact details;
  6. Dedicated and well-resourced customer assistance teams to deal with feedback on potential fraud cases on a priority basis;
  7. More frequent scam education alerts.

These measures being imposed by MAS are aimed at lengthening the time taken to process certain online banking transactions that may be possibly fraudulent but will provide an additional layer of security to protect customers’ funds in return.

At a time when cyberattacks are being more prevalent and more sophisticated, a good level of customer vigilance remains of paramount importance. And as quick as scammers are to target unsuspecting consumers with new techniques, banks must aim to be quicker.

MAS has put forward some advice for customers who wish to avoid falling for online banking scams, including:

  1. Never click on links provided in SMS or emails;
  2. Never divulge internet banking credentials or passwords to anyone;
  3. Verify the origin of all contact received from a bank by calling contacting them directly on its official hotline;
  4. Verify the bank’s official website before making any transactions, or transact exclusively through the bank’s official mobile application;
  5. Closely monitor transaction notifications so that any unauthorised payments are reported as soon as possible. This will increase the chances of recovery.

Banks in Singapore are due to continue their close work with MAS, the Singapore Police Force, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to tackle the rise of more sophisticated scams. This is set to include the development of more permanent solutions to combat SMS spoofing, including the adoption of the SMS Sender ID registry by all relevant stakeholders. MAS is also reportedly intensifying its scrutiny of major financial institutions’ fraud surveillance mechanisms in a bid to ensure that they’re adequately equipped to deal with the growing threat of online scams.

Wee Ee Cheong, Chairman of ABSWee Ee Cheong, Chairman of ABS
Wee Ee Cheong

“As an industry, we have always focused on the need to ensure robust security measures while meeting customers’ expectations for convenient and swift services,” comments Wee Ee Cheong, Chairman of ABS. “Together with the MAS and ecosystem players, the banking industry will continue to strengthen consumer protection measures. We also ask that the public stay vigilant given that scams continue to evolve and are executed quickly. We remain committed to upholding the confidence with which customers can transact online safely, while still maintaining a high level of service.”

Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MASRavi Menon, Managing Director of MAS
Ravi Menon

Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS, added to this with: “MAS is deeply concerned about the recent spate of scams and the financial losses suffered by victims. The threat of scams will not go away, but we can reduce our vulnerabilities. This requires a multi-pronged response across the ecosystem. MAS, together with the Police, IMDA and other relevant government agencies, is working closely with the financial industry, the telco industry, consumer groups, and other stakeholders to strengthen our collective resilience against scam attacks. We will ensure that digital banking remains secure, efficient, and trusted.”

  • 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.


How to transition staff to a digital-only bank culture


When Quontic Bank shuttered its brick-and-mortar presence in August 2021 to become fully digital, the shift opened the door for broader business, and required a larger staff who thrives in a remote environment. As a result, the $1 billion bank grew from a staff of 130 in April 2020 based mostly in New York State […]


Issue #348 – Understanding FinTech: From The Elon Effect To Klarna’s Physical Card


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First Internet Bank partners with Synctera for fintech matchmaking


First Internet Bank has joined forces with Synctera, a banking technology platform that provides digital services and partners banks and financial institutions with fintechs. The move bolsters banking-as-a-service (BaaS) offerings for the $4.3 billion bank’s partnered fintechs, including account opening, know your customer (KYC) procedures, anti-money laundering (AML) checks and card account management. Synctera will […]


Brex Teams Up with 1Password to Enhance Online Payment Security


San Francisco, California-based finech Brex, which offers enterprise solutions from business accounts and credit cards to spend management tools, is partnering with password manager 1Password to streamline and better secure online payments.

Courtesy of the new integration, consumers will be able to complete online payments faster and more securely by automatically syncing customer data stored in their Brex vaults with 1Password. This will ensure users have access to the most up-do-date version of their Brex virtual cards, enable them to immediately delete their cards from both Brex and 1Password in the event of a security breach, as well as allow them to create single-use cards that mitigate against the possibility of online card theft altogether.

1Password CEO Jeff Shiner called the integration between his company and Brex “the first of its kind in financial services.” He said that the partnership would “give customers peace of mind over their business spend while promoting a culture of security within their organizations.” Cosmin Nicolaescu, Chief Technology Officer at Brex, added that the partnership was “an excellent example of how the Brex API can help customers with custom workflows to create efficient and time-saving practices.”

Other features of the integration include spending caps and card controls, auto-population of card details into online payment forms, unlimited virtual cards, and visibility into virtual card activity via a single dashboard. The integration will also enable Brex card details to be securely stored within 1Password, and allow Brex virtual credit cards to be viewed, managed, and controlled from within 1Password.

Brex’s integration announcement with 1Password comes just a few weeks after the company announced an additional $300 million raised as part of its Series D-2 round – and the appointment of new Chief Product Officer, Karandeep Anand. The investment round was led by Greenoaks Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures and takes the company’s total capital raised to $1.2 billion. Brex’s valuation currently stands at $12.3 billion.

Anand comes to Brex after tenures as Head of Business Products at Meta (formerly Facebook) and as Partner Director of Product Management at Microsoft. At Brex, he will lead the company’s product portfolio expansion. “Brex is a market disruptor, and the opportunity to create economic opportunity for millions of people and businesses globally through innovation in financial products is incredibly exciting,” Anand said in a statement.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based 1Password was founded in 2005. The company earned a valuation of $6.8 billion after securing $620 million in funding earlier this month. With a total capital raised of more than $920 million, 1Password has 100,000+ companies using its technology, including firms like Slack and IBM. The company has approximately 570 employees, with plans to double that number this year, CEO Shiner said.

Photo by Davyd Bortnik from Pexels


Johnny Depp Launches NFT Collection… and ‘Crashes Discord’


Actor Johnny Depp has launched an NFT collection – called Never Fear Truth – on the Ethereum blockchain featuring portraits of his friends, heroes and family. Twenty-five per cent of the sales will be donated to charities. 

Depp, who portrayed Captain Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean films, is distributing 11,111 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with 10,000 available for purchase. The remaining 1,111 will be distributed ‘at his discretion’ to ‘those fans who have supported him most’ as well as his team.

According to the Never Fear Truth website, the actor created the project to share his art as well as establish a creative community of fans and friends through ownership on the Ethereum blockchain.

Elizabeth Taylor, Tim Burton, Heath Ledger and Hunter S. Thompson are among those whose portraits have been turned into animated artwork by Depp and ‘energised with his characteristic freehand flourishes’.

Within minutes of launching the collection, Depp’s Never Fear Truth Discord server appeared to crash due to high demand with his official Twitter account for the Collection stating: ‘we knew you would love The Truth, but we didn’t think it would crash the whole of Discord..!!’ with 10,000 members joining within hours. Meanwhile, Discord has reported a ‘widespread API outage’.

The community on Discord has been billed as an ‘intimate environment for Johnny to express his creativity through; and provide access to unique works, experiences and future projects in art, music and film’.

The Never Fear Truth NFTs will be distributed via a raffle conducted up to a maximum of three times before any NFTs not redeemed will be deployed into public sale. All artworks will be generated randomly and revealed after the final sale.

Twenty-five percent of all proceeds from the sales will be donated to charities, including the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.


CUBE: London Can Lead the Way in Financial Regulation by Creating a Global Standard


Financial regulation is needed within every area of the market. However, these regulations change based on the geographical location you’re in. This makes international deals and trading complicated as regulations can massively vary, but what if there was a global standard?

Ben Richmond, CEO of CUBE, aims to tackle this, explaining that the UK has all the means and capabilities to set a global standard when it comes to compliance.  

Ben Richmond, CEO and Founder of regulatory intelligence provider CUBE.Ben Richmond, CEO and Founder of regulatory intelligence provider CUBE.
Ben Richmond, CEO and Founder of regulatory intelligence provider CUBE.

Worth hundreds of billions of pounds, the financial services sector is estimated to account for up to 25 per cent of the global economy. The fact that there is no one set of rules that govern the industry is a serious concern, and the costs are high.

Generally, somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of a financial institution’s operating costs are wrapped up in regulatory compliance. Big banks are slapped with expensive fines on a monthly, sometimes even weekly basis. Tens of billions of pounds – in addition to countless working hours – are lost to paying these penalties; a cost that could be avoided if the right checks and measures were in place.

However, there is an opportunity for the UK to lead in bringing together the regtech industry, by proposing a set of clear, global standards for financial compliance.

Drowning in regulation

At present, the system is complex and disconnected. Last year, more than 300 million pages of financial services regulation were produced, and disseminated via a confusing mix of different methods and media. It may have been created at national, state, or even municipal level, for example, and the information distributed via emails, website announcements, newsletter subscriptions, or through the issuing of physical documents.

Because there’s no global standard on how regulation is produced and shared, its volume and availability is impossibly immense. To expect a financial services institution that operates in multiple jurisdictions to keep up and comply with all the change is, frankly, unrealistic.

The financial services landscape has changed too. It started with the financial crisis and spurred on by covid-19. Financial services operate online more than ever before, however the regulatory framework remains almost untouched. Yes, the regulations now exist in a digital format, but as financial services transcend borders and jurisdictions, financial regulation remains constrained by geographic boundaries.

This is especially true of the current emerging trends for finance. Banks and regulators are currently racing against the clock to manage emerging risks posed by sustainability, cryptocurrencies and cybersecurity in particular. Regulators are attempting to develop new regulations and set parameters. The irony of it all, however, is that while climate-change related risks, cryptocurrency and cyber all transcend borders, they will inevitably be brought into the same, nationalistic regulatory system.

The only means of managing these emerging risks on a global scale is coordinated, regulatory standards across the regulatory landscape, with unity around how regulations are produced, consumed, and applied across the financial services industry.

Global standards are a way off. But, fortunately, an opportunity exists for significant simplification of the way in which regulatory information is produced and consumed.

Standardisation and automation 

The solution lies in an open, standards-based approach. One that’s driven by technology and data rather than by policy or law-making.

Automating this approach is also essential. Manually sifting through thousands of documents to determine what’s relevant for compliance is not only laborious, time-consuming, and an error-prone task but, regulations can change in an instant. Even after implementing a particular process, firms can quickly find they’re back at square one.

So, in addition to using standardised data models, schemas, and data interoperability to simplify the complexity; it’s important to introduce automation by starting to use machines rather than people, as we’ve done to date. Open and interoperable, this system should be available to the whole industry, enabling simplicity through standardisation.

This should begin with the creation of a market standard, to which a few big banks and regulators would opt in. From here a common model can be built with which every player in the industry can work. Then, as it grows, the approach will use technology to create consistent data models and data exchange formats to drive the adoption of a standards-based approach around the world.

Working together

Collaboration between financial institutions and regtechs is key. After all, every institution faces the same challenges when it comes to regulation – spending time and money on what is typically a duplication of work, while consistently inconsistent results. Rather than going it alone, it makes sense for these companies to work together – taking a collaborative approach toward understanding and navigating the complex work of financial regulation.

This is where the opportunity lies. The UK’s regtech industry is leading the world, and the country would well and truly lay down its marker down as the world’s regtech capital if it were to pool its intellectual capital, and propose the world’s first global financial standard. And, what is more, it would constitute an important step towards a more financially compliant and safer financial system.


Effective automation requires high-quality data


Poor data quality costs organizations an average of over $15 million in losses each year. In mortgage lending, using bad data can result in inappropriate underwriting leading to the loss of good customers, ineffective risk pricing, or the taking on of less desirable accounts. In any of these circumstances, revenue can easily suffer.

Even when your processes are automated, your success as a profitable mortgage lender will only be as good as the data you feed into those systems. (You are what you eat, and robots are the data that they are fed.) If you take the steps to ensure that your data is clean and accurate, you’ll be able to improve your mortgage outcomes and your bottom line.

Why Data Quality Matters

For most businesses, data is a critical resource, and the mortgage industry is no exception. Data is important for targeting your message to the right people, staying in touch with your customers, and making effective underwriting decisions.

When it comes to underwriting, faulty data will lead to unsubstantiated decisions. For example, a fraudulent tax return or altered pay stub could lead underwriters to approve a mortgage that might actually be too risky. In another example, if you plan to bundle your mortgage loans to sell to a larger institution, data that is incomplete, inaccurate, or not in a standard format can risk or devalue the sale.

Poor quality data also requires underwriters to spend more time chasing the correct information, and potentially on unqualified prospects. With the current labor shortage, as well as the fluctuations of the mortgage department in general, the efficiency of your staff is crucial.

High-quality data is necessary to save time and avoid unnecessary costs. That means data that is:

  • Complete. The records include all necessary information.
  • Updated. The data is not old or outdated.
  • Unique. The records are not duplicated and occur only once in a set of data.
  • Formatted consistently. The data appears in a standard format in each record.
  • Accurate. The data is correct.
  • Timely. The data is available when it is needed.

How to Ensure Data Quality

Many organizations’ use data that is not high quality, and many of the errors occur when the data is first created. The most reliable way to ensure that data is high quality is to develop processes that foster the creation of accurate, complete data at the point of ingestion or creation. Additionally, organizations that have a process for tracking the origin of data will find it easier to correct mistakes.

Think about all the data to which your organization has access. Most likely, you only use a small portion of it on a regular basis. Focus on ensuring the quality of the data that you use regularly rather than overhauling all your data.

Let’s say a mortgage company is experiencing challenges with verifying applicant documents. In this example, the company should focus its efforts on cleaning up data extracted from the documents. Here are additional actions the company can take:

  • Educate staffers about how inaccurate or incomplete data will affect customers and the bottom line.
  • Encourage staffers to take ownership of the data quality.
  • Implement a system to ensure a consistent verification process for every applicant.
  • Use relational databases that can associate extracted data with the original unstructured source; for example, a link in the database to an image file of the document.

How Automation Can Help

High-quality data is important for automation to work well. At the same time, automation can help ensure data quality. The right automation software will extract accurate data from borrower documents, while also verifying those documents for accuracy. With modern intelligent document processing (IDP), your organization can avoid human error from manual data entry and confidently process documents more efficiently, and accurately than ever before.

Software with AI capabilities can identify suspicious patterns or altered documents and transactions, making it an ideal solution for cleaning up data. In addition to analyzing a significant amount of data rapidly and accurately, AI can also help underwriters make informed decisions about credit scoring and risk assessment.

Automation and AI can also ensure that unique or new forms of data are accurate and standardized. For example, many lenders are becoming more interested in making loans to college students or others who may have a limited credit history. In that case, AI can measure other data that can predict creditworthiness, such as mobile payment history.

High-quality data is a prerequisite for reliable automation. But the best automation tools can also help ensure the quality of your data. It’s a win-win.


Mastercard Pledges to Improve Gender Balance and Diversity in UAE with UAE Gender Balance Council


To improve gender balance and diversity in the UAE, Mastercard has signed an official pledge stating its intentions to make improvements in the region. The payments technology company is one of several private sector companies supporting the initiative, spearheaded by the UAE Gender Balance Council.

The signing ceremony took place in Dubai and was attended by UAE government leaders, as well as private sector business leaders, who agreed to collectively pursue ambitious targets to increase women’s representation in senior and middle management roles before 2025. As an enabler of Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality), this initiative is a partnership that will have a lasting impact on the public and private sectors in the UAE.

“An equal world is a more inclusive world, and Mastercard remains wholeheartedly committed to support the journey to gender balance with all our resources, technology, and the power of our network. Over the past decade, we have delivered on this commitment through various initiatives, and are proud of the public-private partnerships that enable us to accelerate this goal. No economy can ever truly reach its full potential for prosperity unless it activates the contributions of all its citizens, and while great progress has been made – it’s imperative that we continue our focus on achieving gender equity,” said Carys Richards, Senior Vice President, Human Resources EEMEA, Mastercard.

Gender equality is a key pillar of Mastercard’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, which it considers central to its success and organisational DNA. Globally, the company has already tied executive compensation to strategic ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) goals and priorities, including gender pay parity – as well as carbon neutrality and financial inclusion.

On a global stage, the organisation is leading the 30% Club and Financial Alliance for Women, and partnering to advance gender equality with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and USAID. Internally, Mastercard has grown an extensive women’s leadership network locally and globally and unified its parental leave. In 2021 Mastercard was listed among DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity and 2021 Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index.

Leading the efforts to attain gender balance in the technology sector and innovation industries, Mastercard also launched its Girls4Tech initiative in 2014. This award-winning program aims to give girls exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects, and therefore encourage young women to pursue studies in these fields, which ultimately builds a strong pipeline of women contributing their skills and perspectives. The program has reached almost two million girls in 45 countries, and in the UAE, a milestone of 2,020 girls in honour of Mastercard’s partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai, has been achieved.

In 2020, Mastercard pledged to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs globally by 2025, to the technology, training, digital tools, insights and solutions that will enable them to grow their businesses. This is in support of the company’s goal of building a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy.

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


Planetly: What is ESG Reporting and Why is it Vital for Businesses  


The demand for transparency on sustainable and socially responsible practices is on the rise. From regulatory obligations or accountability towards different stakeholders, to even attracting new talent, ESG reporting remains to be a key focus for companies in the coming years.

Someone who knows all about this is Anna Alex, the founder and Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of Planetly. Planetly is a climate tech company that develops digital tools that help companies calculate, reduce and offset their CO2 emissions. Planetly’s declared goal is to make the business world “planet-positive”, i.e. climate-neutral. 

Anna AlexAnna Alex
Anna Alex, founder and Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of Planetly.

When we talk about investments, there is one thing that is greatly beneficial for your business. Something that is an investment not just in environmental sustainability, but also in the long-term viability of businesses. It is paying attention to your own ESG KPIs. And start reporting and acting on them.

The abbreviation ESG stands for environment, social and governance. The key pillars are evolving around climate change and carbon emissions, pollution and waste or biodiversity (environment), customer satisfaction, human rights, health and safety or community relations (social) and board diversity, business ethics, tax transparency, corruption and, for example, instability (governance). 

ESG reports disclose data and explain the impact and added value of a company in these areas, containing summaries of quantitative and qualitative information. The performance analysis provides stakeholders and investors with an insight into the goals, achievements and the impact of your business.

As I like to say, impact is an equation of purpose and scale. And following this equation, ESG reporting is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. More and more investors want their investments to have an environmental or social impact. In that sense, the ESG approach to business is vital.

According to a recent survey by the CFA Institute, 85% of investment managers across countries are increasingly incorporating ESG criteria into investment decisions. The volume of ESG-linked loans to companies in Europe has more than quadrupled from €27 billion in 2017 to €102 billion in 2019. That being said, the increased global interest in environmental and social topics, means the importance of ESG reporting has also risen and has become an indispensable part for businesses. 

Even though ESG reporting is not yet mandatory in all countries, an increasing number of companies disclose this information voluntarily since they’ve recognised the importance of communicating their business strategy and the impact their business has on our planet. In fact, from July 2020 about 90% of the companies in the S&P 500 have already created annual ESG reports and made it a standard. Acting even if the regulations are lagging behind gives you as a business a huge benefit for your customer brand, your employer brand and the efficiency of your internal processes and supply chain management. 

 And it’s only a matter of time until regulations are catching up. . From 2023 onwards, more companies will actually be obliged to publish sustainability information. In April 2021, the EU Commission presented a new proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which would be an EU sustainability reporting standard improving the existing requirements of the current Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD). Under this new directive, up to 50 000 large public-interest European companies, as well as all listed companies on EU regulated markets, will be required to report on ESG related factors. 

Illustrating the potential of ESG reporting, we can look at its importance in several directions. Investors and other stakeholders want better ESG disclosures to help them understand more about how a company performs, makes decisions and creates value and impact. A lack of transparency might lead to investors not actually considering you for investments. 

On the other hand, consumers also want to understand the impact their choices are having on the world. They are also willing to pay more for sustainable products. A survey from First Insight shows that customers, namely up to 62% of Gen Z would prefer to buy from a sustainable brand, and 73% of them would be willing to spend up to 10% more for sustainable products. 

And employees want to understand whether their company is driving more sustainable communities, greater equality, or better working conditionsSince there is a war for talent going on, especially tech talent, reporting on ESG issues can also make you more attractive as a brand and as an employer. The above mentioned survey also showed that 76% of millennials stated the sustainability agenda of an employer to be an essential factor.

At present, organisations are still quite flexible regarding the disclosure of ESG information which means that they might highlight or downplay different aspects. During the past years, a variety of ESG reporting guidelines have been developed, but all of them have different requirements, and are therefore difficult to compare. Thus, the calls for a unified standard are getting increasingly louder. 

In Europe, one of the most commonly used reporting standards stems from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), representing the global best practices regarding the disclosure of sustainability information. The new proposal for the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) by the European Commission, under which more companies will be required to report on ESG-related topics, will also be of high relevance to ESG reporting. 

As part of the EU action plan on Sustainable Finance, SFDR (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation) Level 2 will apply to all Financial Market Participants from January 2023 onwards. The main goal of this regulation is to promote transparency, liability and comparability in the world of sustainable investments. To do so, the regulation proposes a classification of financial products based on their degree of sustainability. Products that are categorised as sustainable will have to comply and face disclosure obligations in order to prevent greenwashing overall. 

Therefore, sustainable products and their entities will have to be transparent on their performance in regards to ESG, collect and aggregate the so-called quantitative PAI (Principal Adverse Impact) indicators from their assets. Investors will then be able to compare products not only from a financial perspective but also from a sustainable perspective.  

Knowing all of this, the next step is to implement ESG reporting in your business. And here are a few guidelines. Firstly, decide on the short-term and long-term goals of your sustainability strategy, make sure to inform all departments and constantly review this strategy over time. Then, get an overview of all ESG-related information that is available across different departments and stakeholders and decide which ones are most relevant for you. This is the so-called materiality assessment. Technology and software, like Planetly’s Climate Impact Manager and ESG Suite, can already simplify the data collection process immensely today and give you guidance in the jungle of reporting requirements. Then, decide on the reporting framework you want to use and ensure reliability and transparency in your reporting – that is the key. Lastly, communicate how your ESG report aligns with your business strategy, both to the public and the stakeholders.  

You cannot manage what you cannot measure. That is why ESG reporting is one of the crucial factors in the fight against climate change, the one that we are all fighting. Sustainability should be the new normal.


How Fintech is Helping Britain “Build Back Better”


In March 2021, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak presented his Build Back Better plan for growth to the Parliament, with fintech significantly present in the Chancellor’s plan to meet modern challenges and build a thriving economy.

In response to this, Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at specialist tech-powered development finance lender Blend Network, argues that fintech, a permanent technological revolution that is changing the way we do finance, must be a core element and a key enabler of the Build Back Better plan for growth, and indeed financial technology is already quietly but consistently helping Britain building back better. 

Roxana Mohammadian-Molina,Roxana Mohammadian-Molina,
Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer, Blend Network

The pandemic has underscored the power of digital technology. Now, more than ever before is the time to grasp this historic opportunity and harness this power for inclusive growth so that we can fix the problems that have historically held back parts of the UK and empower communities across the country to thrive.

I am particularly talking about the housing market, where we know an enormous imbalance exists between supply and demand, and the historical north-south divide that has been deepening. Regarding the former issue, estimates have put the number of new homes needed in England at up to 345,000 per year, accounting for new household formation and a backlog of the existing needs for suitable housing.

Yet between April 2019 and March 2020, around 244,000 homes were built in England – the highest number since 1987 and around 1% higher than the previous year but is still lower than the estimated need. Funding, or rather the lack of it, is one of the key reasons for not building enough homes. Regarding the latter issue, according to a recent report, England’s north-south divide has continued to deepen.

Once again, the lack of available funding is one of the main constraints. fintech solutions such as platform financing have been demonstrated to be an effective solution helping SME property developers and small construction companies unlock funding to help build more homes and infrastructures. There is no doubt in my mind that fintech can play a central role in helping Britain build back better

How can fintech help?

The fintech sector is already quietly but consistently helping Britain building back better. The sector as a whole adds almost £11 billion to the UK economy and employs a workforce of almost 76,500. Many areas of fintech are thriving and many fintech solutions are actually supporting small businesses that have been badly impacted by the global response to the pandemic.

For example, digital payment platforms have eased a transition from offline to online transactions and their use has skyrocketed. But I am most passionate about the opportunities arising across the housing and infrastructure sectors to help Britain build back better and redress the UK’s historic underinvestment in these sectors. Even before the pandemic hit, government finances were already tight when it came to public funding available to build more affordable homes. The pandemic has put an even greater burden on government finances to deliver on the government’s housebuilding targets.

In this context, fintech solutions and platform financing is an effective and necessary solution, one that the government must take seriously if it is to tackle the housing crisis. We’ve already witnessed how equity crowdfunding and peer-to-peer financing platforms continued to meet and support the funding needs of small and medium enterprises (SME) throughout the pandemic.

Fintech in the post-pandemic post-Brexit world

I have been very vocal about how Brexit is the golden opportunity for UK fintech. I believe that fintech is an industry where opportunities abound and, if appropriate steps are taken to support the sector, the UK could become a powerhouse in the post-Brexit world. The Kalifa Review of fintech published in February 2021 also suggested that innovation in fintech has the potential to maintain the UK’s status as a world leader in finance post-Brexit. The review addressed a range of priorities for the sector and made recommendations on amendments to UK listing rules, improvement to tech visas, and a regulatory fintech ‘scalebox’.


TD plans to hire 2,000 tech workers amid battle for talent


Toronto-Dominion Bank plans to hire more than 2,000 technology workers this year, more than six times the number added last year, pitting the lender against fintech firms in the war for talent.

TD Plans to Hire 2,000 Tech Workers Amid Battle for Talent
Photo by Bloomberg Mercury

The hires come as the bank works to become more digitally focused, according to a statement Wednesday, and follow the 300-plus technology roles added in 2021. Toronto-Dominion declined to say how much it’s planning to spend on the hires.

The pandemic accelerated efforts by the Toronto-based company to shift to an operating model that’s more tech-centric so innovations can be quickly introduced to staff and customers, said Greg Keeley, senior executive vice president for platforms and technology. That’s increased the need for workers skilled in cloud-computing, artificial intelligence and agile project-management — and has put the bank in competition with tech giants, startups and fintechs for that talent, he said.

“We’ve recognized that, as the market evolves, as the expectations of our customers evolve, our capabilities need to evolve as well,” Keeley said in an interview.

The bank, which has operations across Canada and along the U.S. East Coast, is looking to add the workers throughout its geographic footprint, he said. The bank has partnerships with universities and organizations such as the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering and the Black Professionals in Tech Network to help with recruitment and ensure diversity in hiring, he said.

Toronto-Dominion also is working to train its current workers on the needed skills, and sees that emphasis on developing existing talent as part of its allure to recruits, Keeley said. He estimates that talent takes up about 30% of his time, and expects his division’s leaders to allocate the same amount of their time to the effort as well.

“It’s a war on talent, but we think we have a differentiating model,” Keeley said. “We’re not going after just the traditional players, we’re going after the modern talent too.”

The bank said in a separate statement that it’s starting a new Equity, Diversity & Inclusion platform to ensure different perspectives and experiences are reflected in the development of its products and services.

–By Kevin Orland (Bloomberg Mercury)


Podcast: How Payment Localization in LATAM Can Drive Success With PayRetailers


In this latest edition of The Fintech Times podcast, host Francis Bignell chats to Jose Marti, Head of Global Sales at PayRetailers, on the fintech opportunities currently present in Latin America.

The pair discuss what entrepreneurs should consider when acquiring a payment gateway, and how payment localization can drive success.

PayRetailers is a payment gateway designed to handle mass online payments in Latin America. The company combines local markets expertise with its flexible, next-generation payment technology enabling global merchants to successfully expand their business into emerging markets while eliminating the many operational complexities of managing cross-border payments.

Listen to the full podcast to find out more.


Transactions: A roundup of recent deals at financial institutions


Visa will partner with Pagaya, a global technology company that builds artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure for the financial ecosystem. The partnership will allow Visa’s network of merchant partners and issuing co-brand financial institutions to leverage Pagaya’s technology to expand customers’ access to financial products.  Pagaya provides a proprietary AI technology and infrastructure that enables banks, […]