ProdPerfect: Fintech Challenges and The Growing Need For Quality Assurance

As fintech has gained popularity across the UK, the financial landscape presents certain challenges to software development and quality assurance when creating these booming fintech apps.

Erik Fogg is a Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at ProdPerfect, an autonomous E2E regression testing solution that leverages live user behaviour data. Here he shares his thoughts on fintech challenges and the growing need for quality assurance. 

Within the last decade, fintech has become an embedded part of people’s daily lives; this is especially true in the UK, which has a higher consumer adoption rate for fintech apps than the global average. Fintech apps have exploded in popularity in recent years and cover everything from banking services to investments, asset trading, cryptocurrencies, and more. The financial landscape presents some unique challenges to software development and quality assurance that go beyond what is typically encountered in general software QA.

The Fintech Revolution & the Need for Quality Assurance

A report by Capgemini and LinkedIn found that over 90% of fintech firms considered agility and providing an enhanced customer experience as key reasons for their competitive success. Being able to move quickly to fill market niches and to meet and exceed customer expectations is crucial for many fintech companies, but this speed must be met with impeccable QA to prevent errors from making it into production code. Failures in areas such as data integrity, the protection of personal information, data confidentiality, and security breaches can all immediately kill a fintech app. With the stakes as high as they are, the need for solid QA in fintech cannot be understated.

Main Challenges in Developing Fintech Applications

Fintech application development and testing require having developers and testers who have an in-depth understanding of the fintech landscape. Beyond traditional app development, fintech applications must also adhere to various compliance guidelines and regulatory requirements that differ from market to market. This kind of specialised knowledge can be difficult to acquire, so some companies may choose to outsource parts of their development or QA processes to companies with more experience and expertise in these fields.

Beyond these regulatory requirements, there is a heavy emphasis on cybersecurity and the protection of private customer data. Fintech applications deal with sensitive financial information. Data integrity and data security are absolutely vital because a customer that believes they have lost money (regardless of whether they actually have) will quickly abandon an app if it is seen in any way to be insecure or compromised.

The quick and correct processing of data presents another challenge to fintech applications. Very often, a fintech application interacts with numerous external APIs and other microservices that must all be handled correctly and gracefully handle exceptions. This can be difficult to do when using in-house microservices but becomes even more difficult with the addition of third-party libraries and microservices, which may return unexpected data that must always be handled gracefully. All of this data processing must be handled in high volumes in real-time, so any issue that is not caught during QA has the potential to have a disastrous cascading effect in a production environment.

The Role of QA in Fintech Software Development

The defining characteristics of QA in fintech can be broken down into several key areas: data protection, data security, regulatory compliance, usability, and functionality. Testers must have an understanding of the demands of the fintech industry and the rapidity of development in fintech. Fintech is an industry particularly suitable to the ‘shift-left’ approach to testing. Test suites should be broken up into many different areas – such as compliance testing, load testing, data integrity, etc. These parcels of tests can then be run at different stages of development and in parallel to each other. A monolith testing suite can take a long time to run, which can negatively impact the time it takes to push updates in a fast-paced development environment.

Performance testing and load testing is typically conducted towards the end of the software development life cycle (SDLC), but a shift-left approach to this kind of testing is necessary for fintech, an industry that frequently deals with very heavy traffic loads and rapidly changing data. Testing must be thorough, and tools like service virtualisation are necessary to provide a realistic environment for the application under test. Service virtualisation helps provide assurance as to how well the app performs under different kinds of loads and environments, which closely mimic real-world situations.

Simulating the kind of loads and environments fintech applications are likely to run under typically requires testing on the cloud, but fintech apps must be careful with the kinds of data they expose to the cloud. There are guidelines and regulations that may limit or forbid the kinds of data that can be uploaded to the cloud (or they require additional levels of data protection and handling that testing environments may not account for). However, any sensitive data must still be mocked and run at scale to provide assurance as to how well a fintech app works under stress. The test data and the volume of test data need to closely match what an app will realistically be subject to, which can be a challenge for many in-house testing departments. This is where an experienced end to end (E2E) testing partner can really demonstrate their value.

Why fintech software testing must be done differently

Testing in fintech requires a much more thorough and voluminous test suite than many other types of software. What is ‘good enough’ for many apps is simply not enough for a fintech app. A higher testing standard requires much more testing; more unit tests, more API tests, more E2E tests. However, it’s not enough to simply have more tests. These tests must provide value; it’s not enough to simply write ‘more’. Low-value tests will lead to test suite bloat and crush deployment speed, so each test (especially each E2E test) must be chosen rigorously and deliberately with a core purpose in mind  – to fulfil user requirements, comply with regulations, prove a module is correct, and demonstrate graceful handling of data when a component malfunctions.

This is balanced by the need to move fast. One can consider software testing vs. software development as a game of tug of war. Developers and executives want to move fast and penetrate new markets, while fintech testing demands a level of thoroughness over and above other kinds of apps. Writing these apps and conducting these tests takes a lot of time, which is why the fintech industry has been so keen to adopt automation tests and adopt AI and ML-based toolsets and services to improve prioritisation, runtime, and maintenance efficacy of their E2E test suites.

Benefits of Great QA Testing for Fintech Applications

The benefits of a well-considered and implemented QA testing process are numerous. First and foremost is the improved user experience and the overall quality of the app. Combined with a quicker time to market, this means that fintech apps with rock-solid QA can actually be more profitable than those without. Particularly considering how laborious QA testing can be, a great QA testing platform can actually help a fintech app save time and money. Intelligently identifying what needs testing and appropriately breaking down test suites into different categories, which can be run at different times and frequencies during the SDLC, can provide all the benefits of thorough testing without slowing down testing runtime or app development. This results in a more stable app with a faster time to market while still meeting the demands of the large and ever-evolving financial market.

Innovate Finance Shows UK’s Reinforced Position as Europe’s Capital for Fintech Investment

Innovate Finance, the industry body representing UK fintech, has released investment figures for the global fintech sector in 2020 that reinforce the UK’s position as a global and European leader.

The UK fintech sector has retained its role as the top-ranking investment destination in Europe, with $4.1bn venture capital and growth private equity invested across a total of 408 deals. This represents a YoY drop of 9% – an expected shift given the global Covid-19 pandemic and the surrounding economic challenges. Globally, the UK ranks second only to the US in total capital raised.

Overall, global fintech investment for 2020 reached $44 billion across 3,052 deals. Total investment increased by 14% from 2019, highlighting another strong year for the sector worldwide, and showing resilience in the face of a challenging economic climate. The US attracted investment of $22 billion, up 29%, while Indonesia ranked third with $3.3 billion and India fourth with $2.6 billion.

The UK dominated European fintech investment, accounting for just under half of the total $9.3 billion, and with more deals and capital invested than Germany, Sweden, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.

Within Europe, Germany was second with $1.4bn of investment across 71 deals, up 50%. Sweden ranked third with $1.3bn of capital raised, with France ($522m) and Switzerland ($294m) closing out the top five.

Among global deals, the top three fintech investment rounds were secured by Gojek in Indonesia ($3bn; payments and ride-hailing platform), and Stripe ($850m; payments) and Chime ($700m; challenger bank) in the US.

The largest investments in Europe were secured by payments company Klarna in Sweden ($650m), and challenger banks Revolut in the UK ($580m) and N26 in Germany ($570m).

London-based firms attracted 91% of capital invested in UK fintech, receiving $3.8 billion across 310 deals. Among these, Revolut led the way with the largest UK deal ($580m), followed by Molo ($343m), and Monzo ($166m).

Investment backing for female founders in UK fintech grew to $720m in 2020, accounting for 17% of total investment – an increase from 11% of the total in 2019.

Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of Innovate Finance, said: “Given the tough and turbulent year we’ve experienced, it’s very encouraging to see strength and resilience in the global fintech sector’s ability to raise capital. Now more than ever, we should celebrate the strong position the UK has carved out at an international level. We are a world-leading fintech hub, and as the figures reveal, the epicentre of fintech in Europe – despite the many challenges thrown our way.

“The pandemic has created new barriers for many companies seeking funding, so it is all the more vital that we support our innovative companies to fuel their future success and growth. The upcoming fintech Strategic Review is a key step on that path that will help to ensure long-term, sustained investment.”

US Banks Account for 73% of $15 Billion Global Bank Fines

New data acquired from the Bank Fines Report 2020- by indicates a total of $15.13 billion (€12.79 billion) in aggregated bank fines last year. The bank fines covered the period of January 1st, 2020, to December 31st, 2020.

According to the findings, the United States accounts for the highest fines at $11.11 billion or 73.4% of the issued fines. The fines emanated from 12 cases. Australia ranks second with $981.06 million in fines from three cases.

The Netherlands is third with $916.83 million from one case, while Israel is fourth with $902.59 million bank fines also from a single case.

With two cases, Sweden had $539.66 million in fines to rank fifth, while Germany follows with $215.91 million from four cases.

The United Kingdom is seventh, with banks amassing $156.51 million in fines from four cases, followed by Canada at $127.39 million from a single case.

With seven cases, China saw authorities fine banks a total of $83.03 million while Iran ranks tenth with $37.03 million from one case.

The largest single fine was issued to Goldman Sachs at $3.90 billion. In total, the facility amassed $6.25 billion in fines. Wells Fargo had the second-highest from a single case at $3 billion. Goldman Sachs accounted for the third-highest fone from a single case at $2 billion. chief editor Oliver Scott said: “Fines on financial institutions are projected to grow in the coming years, as the US and other countries reforms existing regulations while increasing sanctions with anti-money laundering regulations remaining a key enforcement priority. However, banks are spending more on conforming to changing regulatory requirements. Overall, new and complex regulations are proving to be a challenge for the compliance departments of many lenders.”

Authorities from different countries issued the fines due to varying violations, but failure to adhere to anti-money laundering protocols was the leading violation.

The report includes fines higher than €500,000; the real numbers of violations can be drastically higher.

Read the full Bank Fines 2020 report here.

DeFi Liquidity Pool Platform KingSwap Unveils Visa Debit Card

KingSwap, a decentralised finance (DeFi) project based out of Singapore, has launched a limited edition Visa debit card. It uses a tier one bank and distributor Boundlesspay for payment processing and banking solutions.

The Visa launch marks KingSwap’s latest effort to make it easy for newcomers to enter the DeFi space. Cards are loaded with fiat rather than digital assets and all transactions are denominated in fiat currency.

The debit card entitles card holders to perks including high-yield rewards and users can purchase cryptocurrencies with low fees on the KingSwap platform. They’ll also gain access to benefits and products through KingSwap’s partnerships.

KingSwap’s Visa debit cards are limited in quantity, and available on a first-come, first-serve basis on completion of know your customer (KYC) verification and for those staking on the high-yield liquidity platform.

Four tiers of Visa debit cards will be released – firstly the King’s Royal Black Card, followed by the Queen Platinum Card, Royal Knight Gold Card and Blue Squire Card. To acquire a debit card in the King’s Card tier, users are required to stake a minimum of one King NFT, with an additional 1,000,000 $KING Tokens staked on the KingSwap decentralised exchange (DEX).

Queen Platinum Cards require a minimum stake of one Queen NFT and 100,000 $KING tokens. KingSwap’s Royal Knight Card and Blue Squire Card offer a lower entry point, allowing users to stake a small amount of $100-$500 and still see rewards, including one per cent back on all deposits.

KingSwap was founded by a team of experienced leaders in banking, finance, and crypto, including Dr. Anish Mohammed, who has advised and worked for companies including HSBC, Lloyds, and Zurich, and was an early advisor to Ripple and Ocean Protocol. Others on board include Dunstan Teo, chief architect of the Fido Protocol and president of Sanctum Pte Ltd, and Ho Chin Shin, who previously worked as a director at Standard Chartered Bank and Japanese invesment bank Nomura.

Prior to its public launch in October 2020, venture capital firms and cryptocurrency investors participated in a private fundraising round, raising more than $20million in funding and liquidity support. KingSwap’s backers include Plutus VC, Hashstreet VC, Alpha Sigma Capital, Tradecraft Capital and 7CC.

Financial Platform Tide Announces Launch in India This Quarter

Tide, the UK’s leading business financial platform has announced its first steps to expand internationally, with a launch in India in the first quarter of 2021. An initial limited test launch of the platform will be followed by a gradual roll-out of the service later in the year.

Having gained significant traction in the UK and developed the right approach and mix of services to meet the diverse and changing needs of small businesses, Tide believes this is the right time to expand.

Tide’s platform model acts as the financial operating system for a small business and is ripe for international expansion. The basic needs of small businesses are universal. Tide’s agile structure and globally unified single code technology means that its business financial platform can be adapted and integrated with local product service partners to suit the specific needs of companies in each market.

Tide selected India as its first international market due to the considerable commercial opportunities available. Tide has a long-term ambition to operate in markets accounting for 25 per cent of global SMEs. With more than 63 million SMEs in India – nearly one in 10 of all SMEs in the world – these digitally savvy companies are vital to the Indian economy but are underserved by the banks. Fintech has been thriving in India due to the combination of the Government’s digitisation efforts and high smartphone penetration.

Tide’s India business will be led by newly appointed CEO, Gurjodhpal Singh, formerly of Indian payment service provider, PayU.

Starting with an Alpha test product, based on Tide’s global technology stack, Tide India is set to go live in the first quarter of 2021. The company already operates a technology centre in Hyderabad, India, and has a team just shy of 100 people, predominantly software developers, working in the country.

Singh will work to expand this team to deliver the launch, supported by Tide CEO, Oliver Prill and CTO, Guy Duncan, who have both run international businesses with significant experience in India. Tide will adapt the structure of its senior leadership to accommodate this international expansion.

Laurence Krieger, who has been integral to building Tide and is currently chief operating and product officer, will be stepping into the UK CEO role.

Oliver Prill, Tide CEO said: “India was selected as our first market outside the UK due to its vast SME population, and the entrepreneurial spirit that is so prevalent in the country. As an aspiring global business financial platform operating in the largest SME market is a must.

As a company, we already know India well and we are confident that Tide can adapt to make business banking better for Indian SMEs. With investment and the expertise Tide already has in the country, we can help underserved SMEs thrive. We are delighted to have Gurjodhpal Singh lead the business in India. His considerable experience in supporting Indian SMEs over many years will be vital.

“Our move into India is another step in our strategy and builds on Tide’s established position. Despite the Covid-19 crisis, Tide continues to grow very strongly as we have always remained fully open for business and our digital-only experience is becoming ever more compelling for our customers.”

“With almost 300,000 members, processing £10billion in transactions, we now have over five per cent of the UK business banking market and our service is adding new functionality all the time. The UK market will remain a key focus for Tide, with a dedicated team building Tide India. As well as beginning our international journey, we expect 2021 to be another year of significant growth including and one that marks the beginning of our international journey.”

Finovate Alums and the History of Bitcoin Innovation

With bitcoin and cryptocurrencies enjoying renewed interest, it’s worth noting that many fintech fans encountered their first bitcoin-related businesses through Finovate conferences.

Here’s a look at some of the companies that have brought their bitcoin and crypto-powered innovations to the Finovate stage.

OpenCoinFinovateSpring 2013 – The company now well-known as Ripple was introduced to Finovate audiences back in 2013. At FinovateSpring that year, Chris Larsen – CEO of a startup called OpenCoin – introduced its virtual currency and distributed open source payment network. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, Ripple currently has more than 300 financial institutions who leverage its RippleNet blockchain network to power real-time payments.

KlickExFinovateAsia 2013 – New Zealand-based KlickEx unveiled its asset-backed and algorithmic cryptocurrency for institutional and retail users at FinovateAsia in 2013. The company, founded in 2009, recently announced a partnership with the National Reserve Bank of Tonga to launch a new national payment system.

CoinbaseFinovateSpring 2014 – Among the bigger names in bitcoin and cryptocurrency to have demonstrated their technology at Finovate conferences is San Francisco, California-based Coinbase. Debuting at Finovate with its Instant Exchange in 2014, Coinbase has grown into one of the biggest players in the cryptocurrency market with more than 35 million verified users and more than $320 billion in total volume traded on its platform.

AlphaPointFinovateEurope 2015 – With more than $350 million in monthly trading volume and 20 digital currency exchanges operating in 15 countries, AlphaPoint is a leading fintech exchange platform provider for digital currencies. The company demoed version two of its digital currency exchange platform at FinovateEurope in 2015.

CoinJarFinovateEurope 2015 – Australia’s largest and longest-operating bitcoin company, CoinJar demonstrated its platform at FinovateEurope 2015. The Best of Show-winning firm was the first in its market to offer a bitcoin debit card that enabled cardholders to use the cryptocurrency for everyday purchases.

BitbondFinovateEurope 2015 – Berlin, Germany’s Bitbond offers a global P2P bitcoin lending platform that enables anyone with an Internet connection to both get loans as well as invest their savings for interest. The company demonstrated its AutoInvest functionality, which facilitates and automates fund allocation in a portfolio, at FinovateEurope 2015.

itBitFinovateSpring 2015 – New York-based itBit demonstrated its bitcoin trading platform at FinovateSpring in 2015. The company’s technology enables both institutional and retail investors to buy and sell bitcoin. Rebranded as Paxos in the fall of 2016, the company has since highlighted its work in private blockchains and distributed ledger technology.

Blockstack.ioFinovateFall 2015 – Best of Show winning offers a hosted and licensed enterprise blockchain platform that enables financial services companies and others to build applications on their own private blockchain. The San Francisco, California-based company, founded in 2015, was acquired by Digital Asset Holdings for an undisclosed sum before the end of the year.

ArcBitFinovateFall 2015 – With a pledge to leverage bitcoin and blockchain technology to bring banking to the underbanked, ArcBit, which made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall in 2015, offers a mobile wallet specifically designed to give bitcoin owners full control over their cryptoholdings.

CoinalyticsFinDEVr San Francisco 2015 – Our developers conference, FinDEVr is one way that many bitcoin and crytocurrency innovators were able to bring their innovations to the public. Coinanalytics, which offers an end-to-end intelligence platform for the bitcoin industry, is an example of the kind of company developing solutions to make bitcoin a better opportunity for payments, financial services, and IoT.

BlockCypherFinDEVr Silicon Valley 2015 – Another alum of our developer’s conference, BlockCypher offers companies a cloud-optimized, enterprise-grade blockchain platform that enables them to build reliable blockchain apps. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, the company was founded in 2014.

GemFinDEVr Silicon Valley 2015 – Founded in 2014 and based in Venice, California, Gem demonstrated its API which provides a comprehensive security solution for bitcoin apps – without taking control over funds. With a few lines of code, Gem enables developers to provide an interface to their bitcoin apps that gives users better funding options.

LedgerFinovateEurope 2016 – Headquartered in Paris, France and founded in 2015, Ledger designs trusted hardware solutions for bitcoin and blockchain apps. The company’s solutions, including the Nano X and Nano S, provide cryptocurrency owners with a secure, portable way to take and manage their digital assets wherever they are.

StratumnFinDEVr New York 2016 – Enterprise blockchain technology company Stratumn provides firms with the infrastructure and tools they need to to build, deploy, and run blockchain. The company presented the high performance, proof-of-existence engine of its development platform at our developer’s conference in 2016. Jerome Lefebvre took over as CEO of the company from co-founder Richard Caetano in the fall of 2019.

Plutus.itFinovateEurope 2018 – London-based Plutus demonstrated its Tap & Pay and Debit Card solutions that enable consumers to pay with bitcoin or Ethereum at any contactless point of sale. Founded in 2016, the company currently supports more than 26,000 Plutus accounts and credits its users for acquiring more than $100,000 in rewards via its Pluton Rewards program.

Amber LabsFinovate MiddleEast 2019 – Best of Show winner Amber Labs is a bitcoin exchange, wallet, and micro-investment app in one. Headquartered in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and founded in 2017, Amber Labs offers a mobile first, automated investment platform for retail customers looking to buy and sell bitcoin.

Photo by Thought Catalog from Pexels

PensionBee Launches Pension Product for Self-Employed Workers

Online pension provider PensionBee is making it easier for the non-traditional workforce to save for their later years. That’s because the U.K.-based company is launching a new product designed for self-employed users.

The product will enable new users to set up a new pension in minutes. The new offering also provides a flexible contributions plan so that savers can adjust their pension contribution amounts as their income fluctuates, with no minimum contribution required.

The self-employed pension product is available to sole traders and directors of companies without an existing workplace or private pension. Users have nine investment options, including the PensionBee’s Fossil Fuel Free Plan which completely excludes fossil fuel producers and persistent violators of the UN Global Compact.

One of PensionBee’s differentiating factors is its fee structure. Instead of charging users a range of fees, the company has a more simplified fee structure that charges just one annual fee. This “all-in” fee ranges from 0.50% to 0.95%, depending on the plan. And, to encourage higher balances, PensionBee offers users 50% off their fee for any portion of their savings that exceeds £100,000.

Prompting the release of the self-employed product is the increase in self-employed workers combined with a decline in consumer savings. According to a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the number of self-employed workers has grown over the past two decades while the proportion saving into a private pension has fallen from 48% in 1998 to 16% in 2018. Another study from Nest found that only 24% of self-employed workers are saving into a pension.

“Without the benefits of auto-enrollment, the self-employed are at a significant disadvantage and need access to simple and flexible products urgently if they are to avoid a shortfall in later life,” said PensionBee CEO Romi Savova. “In the absence of old workplace pensions to provide a head start, we know that the thought of saving from nothing can be daunting for many self-employed consumers, which is why we’ve made it as easy as possible for them to open a pension and put money aside whenever their business allows.”

“The self-employed currently make up 20% of the PensionBee customer base, so we know their needs well and are committed to helping many more self-employed consumers plan for a happy retirement and achieve better financial outcomes.”

Savova founded PensionBee in 2014 along with his co-founder, Jonathan Lister. The company has closed three rounds of funding; the amounts of each round are undisclosed.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

Bharat Bill Payment System – The ‘Hero’ Consolidating the Biller Market in India

While Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is the star of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), one product that has been spoken less about is Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS). In the Second Quarter Review of Monetary Policy 2012–13, the then RBI Governor announced a committee to study GIRO payment. Accordingly, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of G. Padmanabhan, Executive Director, RBI, to analyze the implementation. Among other conclusions, it was found that the existing system was incapable of fully addressing the needs of Indian consumers. Gaps such as the absence of an interoperable and accessible bill payment service (for customers) through a network of agents, multiple payment modes, and instant payment c …

Minna Technologies Raises More than $18 Million in Funding

Sweden-based Minna Technologies has secured more than $18 million (€15.5 million) in new funding to help bring its subscription management technology to more banks around the world. The Series B round was led by Element Ventures, and featured participation from MiddleGame Ventures, Nineyards Equity, and Visa. Minna Technologies now has raised more than $27 million (€23 million) in funding.

“Over the past four years, the subscription economy has exploded from Spotify and Netflix to even iPhones and cars,” Minna Technologies co-founder and CEO Joakim Sjöblom explained. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to keep track of the payments and harder for banks to handle inquiries to shut them down. Minna’s tech improves the procedure for banks by simplifying the process, as well as providing an in-demand digital product that consumers are starting to expect from their financial institutions.”

Minna Technologies enables banks to offer their customers a better way to manage what analysts say are an average of 11 monthly subscriptions valued at €333 a month for European consumers. Rather than having to deal with each vendor or merchant separately, users of Minna’s solution can manage subscriptions directly via their banking app. The technology will also notify subscribers when free trial offers are nearing expiration to help users avoid accidental overpayment. Minna said that its technology has helped retail banking customers at partners Swedbank and ING save more than €40 million.

The subscription economy – driven by demand for products and services like online streaming and on-demand shopping – has grown by more than 3.5x since 2012, the company noted. A growing number of companies in the pre-digital economy are also taking advantage of the subscription model. As one example, automaker Volvo introduced a subscription service in the U.K., Care by Volvo, last fall. The new offering includes servicing, road tax, and maintenance as part of its “genuine, flexible alternative” to car ownership.

Element Ventures partner Michael McFadgen praised Minna as a company that was “revolutionizing financial services” for consumers and highlighted the ability of fintech innovation to provide banks with potential additional revenue streams, as well. “This is a clear example of the liberating services Open Banking promised us and we’re excited to be part of this journey with Minna,” McFadgen said.

Founded in 2016, Minna Technologies demonstrated its technology at FinovateEurope 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Last summer, the company announced a partnership with ING Belgium, enabling the bank’s 1.8 million customers to manage their subscription commitments without leaving the bank portal.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson from Pexels

Greenlight Launches First Educational Investing Platform for Children

Greenlight Financial Technology, Inc. (Greenlight), the fintech company on a mission to help parents raise financially-smart kids, has announced Greenlight Max, the first educational investing platform designed for children.

In 2017, the company launched a parent-managed debit card and app for kids to teach money management skills. Greenlight serves more than 2 million parents and kids, who have collectively saved $90 million. With the launch of Greenlight Max, the company is now shining a light on the world of investing for parents and kids alike.

Investing is key to building long-term wealth, but it is not inclusive or accessible to many. There continues to be a widening wealth gap and divide in stock market participation — the wealthiest 10% of Americans own 87% of stocks and mutual funds. Many adults don’t know how to get started, and children are not learning these critical concepts in school, with only 16.4% of children required to take a personal finance class.

“At Greenlight, we know that financially-smart kids will have happier and healthier lives,” said Tim Sheehan, co-founder and CEO of Greenlight. “Investing is one of the most important pieces of the personal-finance puzzle. That’s why we launched Greenlight Max — so parents can lay the foundation for building generational wealth.”

Greenlight Max is the result of four years of customer feedback and expertise in family financial technology and education. Kids can research stocks with analysis powered by Morningstar, learn from a library of in-app educational content, propose investments with parental approval and track portfolio performance. The new Greenlight Max plan also includes upgraded safety features like cell phone, purchase and identity theft protection for extra peace of mind and the Greenlight Black Card, along with Greenlight’s suite of core financial tools for earning, saving, spending and giving.

Wells Fargo looks to increase vehicle loan automation

Wells Fargo Auto is hoping to increase automation within its loan approval process by investing in the company’s origination system and credit decision tools. Auto lenders are investing in technology as more customers view and buy cars online. Wells Fargo’s goal is to up decision automation to more than 70% by 2022, from 59% in […]

Welcome to Bank Automation News and the new era of banking technology

When Bank Innovation was launched back in 2009, our goal was to show banking executives how a digitized bank could make a traditional bank better, how a technology-driven strategy could transform satisfaction levels that had at the time – this was during the credit crisis – plunged to all-time lows.

We are proud to say that Bank Innovation not only showed banking the possibility of a technology revolution; we have witnessed it. The data validates the reality of digital banking all around us, as exemplified by the fact that 94% of consumers in a Federal Reserve survey said that they primarily used mobile banking over the past 12 months to check an account balance or recent transactions.

It is time for Bank Innovation to show banking the possibility of the next technology revolution.

And that revolution is automation.

Starting today, Bank Innovation will transition into Bank Automation News and will concentrate its news focus on the banking automation revolution that will transform financial services over the next 10 years.

There is no industry that is better suited for automation. Beyond the “relationship,” banking is but a business of numbers and data.

“Automation has become one of the main vehicles to assist the bank in maximizing revenue and minimizing costs,” said one respondent to the automation survey we conducted in the fall. “It has become somewhat of a priority for banks as customers are staying more at home and need to conduct business with as less friction as possible.”

This is not just talk. According to the survey, 64.5% of financial services executives say that “banking has embraced automation technology as a critical driver of operational excellence in the coming years.” Not one respondent to our survey on automation said that banks will reduce their investment in automation in the coming months – this despite a recession and an unemployment rate of 6.7%.

There is clear evidence that automation is already finding outsized success in product development. JP Morgan Chase & Co., for example, now offers Autosave, a new tool that automatically transfers funds to a Chase savings account, allowing customers to choose how much to save and how often to contribute to their savings goal. Total funds saved by users of the tool tripled year over year in 2020, and enrollment grew by 77% in November compared with the year prior, according to Chase.

Automation is also changing how mobile banking applications work. Green Dot is leveraging a partnership with Plaid to automatically integrate external payroll software within Green Dot’s new mobile app, called GO2bank. The integration will allow a customer to select their specific payroll provider on the GO2bank app, sign into their payroll account and click a button that allows them to move their direct deposit into the GO2bank account.

Finally, automation is fundamentally altering processes deep within banking organizations. TD Bank is working to improve integrations for its automated case-management system, which oversees security incident cases across the bank. The goal is to, through automation, change how TD shares data across different disciplines, including compliance, fraud prevention, or TD’s cybersecurity team, to yield better overall security results.

COVID has accelerated this shift to automation. The move to work-from-home has forced banks to seek out alternative automated solutions for various problems. Meanwhile, the urgency and scope of the Payroll Protection Program led many banks to look for automated processing options, beyond what they previously had deployed.

According to McKinsey, some 88% of finance and insurance executives and 76% of information and technology executives reported increased implementation of automation and artificial intelligence – automation’s enabler — since the outbreak. Further, among executives of companies that moved most of their employees to remote work during the pandemic, 80% said they had increased automation, while only 51% of executives from companies that adopted remote work for just a few employees said automation had grown.

We have little doubt that the 80% will drive the 51% to eventually seek out more automated solutions.

Beyond the numbers, there are common-sense reasons for our concentration on automation. Automation improves customer experience, execution and operational efficiency. It will also improve inter-company operations, making for faster AP and AR, reduced risk and greater product development possibilities. We are, without a doubt, entering an era of new possibilities for financial services, where service to a customer goes beyond want to need, even when that “need” is not even known to the customer. At that point, the financial institution goes beyond just basic banking services, to customer care of a deeper and lasting nature. And that, in turn, will ensure the viability of the banking industry for decades to come.

Practically, the new Bank Automation News will track down the new initiatives and ideas that are defining the automation revolution. Bank Automation News will offer breaking news coverage on automation initiatives. We will also include a Center of Excellence, in true automation form, that will share the “how” of automation, which will include strategy, automation resources, and sample processes. All three of the former Bank Innovation events will transition to automation, starting with the Bank Automation Ignite summit, on March 2-3, and at which attendees will discover new use cases and technologies that are accelerating automation in banking.

And that is just the start. Like true technologists, we will continuously look to enhance, improve and advance Bank Automation News as a crucial resource to your technology development. We look forward to charting this automation revolution and we invite to you explore the possibilities of banking automation with us. In short, welcome to Bank Automation News.

QR Code: It's cool again

John Minor is Chief Product Officer for PayNearMe. John shares his knowledge and expertise on QR code and why this formerly forgotten marketing tool has suddenly become on of the industry’s favorite ways to pay.

Let’s start with the obvious: QR code is not new. They turned heads as the “new hot thing” for a season in the early 2010s (around the day of the Palm Pilot and Blackberry— remember those?) before getting outshone by flashier technological advancements. And yet, somehow, QR code has come back better than ever, offering some practical solutions in this increasingly touchless and remote marketplace — including making bill payments easier, faster and more secure.

First, a little background: QR stands for quick response, and the coding was invented in Japan in the early ’90s as a fast way for automakers to track cars as they moved through the assembly line. By the turn of the century, QR code had expanded beyond manufacturing to retail spaces like grocery stores, department stores and pharmacies – even to business cards and billboards. Yet the technology failed to create a solid footing in consumer use in the U.S., perhaps because slow internet speeds and clunky scanning apps left most people unwilling to bother.

John Minor, Chief Product Officer PayNearMe

Fast forward to 2017, when Apple’s iOS 11 made it possible to read QR code using its standard camera app and Google added a QR scanning function to its Chrome search engine. Marketers jumped back on the bandwagon, using the technology to offer interesting, helpful and just-plain-fun offerings through QR code on products.

More recently, payment platforms like PayNearMe have begun using QR code on paper billing statements. Customers pay their bill easily by scanning the code and instantly accessing their payment account – no password or account numbers required.

How QR code works for remote pay

QR technology is fun and trendy, but it’s also extremely functional. Here are some reasons why:

● Information storage:Unlike a barcode, which uses only horizontal information, QR code can store information both horizontally and vertically. This 2-D coding allows them to carry 100 times more information than traditional bar codes. That’s ideal for purposes like remote payments. Just provide a code that’s unique to each customer the QR code guides them immediately to their pay screen without requiring additional information.

● Speed:QR code works quickly. When compared to the time it takes a customer to type in a URL, a password and additional security information the choice becomes obvious. It’s much easier to nudge customers toward electronic bill payment when it saves them so much time and hassle.

● Self-service: With COVID-19, we’re seeing even larger adoption of QR code due to the demand for remote payment options. Don’t touch that menu! Just scan a code and read the menu on a phone and leave the germs alone. Don’t go to the bank or local office! Just scan the QR cod on the bill to make a payment online.

This push toward contactless and remote options presents an opportunity for businesses to streamline operations in ways that save time and reduce costs. For instance, when a customer makes a payment over the phone or by mail, everyone incurs additional costs: the business pays through more staffing, the agent and customer pay through more time, and everyone pays through more friction in the exchange, including the risk for late or unpaid bills. Not so for remote payments which take place independently and quickly.

● Versatility: QR code offer a plethora of opportunities to promote a company’s brand and improve the customer experience. Because QR codes consist of pixilated dots in a square matrix they can be designed to incorporate a logo, color, message or background visual into a QR code. Codes can also deliver a personalized payment experience by showing the customer specific offers or ways to pay, and they can enhance the overall customer experience by letting them bypass the login and password screen for faster payment.

● Cost-efficiency: QR code have a low cost of entry. Businesses can purchase software to develop their own QR code or adapt their current hardware (e.g. ATM) to generate them. Current vendors may be able to help. For instance, many businesses and government agencies use QR code on their paper billing statements to make it easy for customers to pay their bills remotely.

Strategic payments

Given all these benefits, it makes sense to incorporate QR code into your business plan, and especially into your payment strategies. Here’s two strategies worth considering:

In-person touchless payment:Customers use their QR code scanner to read the code on a product and pay through PayPal, Apple Wallet, Google Wallet or another electronic payment system. The code records automatically in the business’ inventory system, so it can easily track when supplies run low.

Bill pay: Payment platforms generate individual QR code that can be printed on paper statements. Customers then can pay their bill by scanning the code and choosing their preferred method of payment without having to log into their account. It’s frictionless and fast.

Staying power

If you’re wondering whether this technology, with its history of boom and bust, is now here to stay, we think the answer is “yes.” Not only is QR code convenient, user-friendly, low cost and highly versatile, but they’ve become internationally ubiquitous. Consider these statistics:

● An estimated 11 million U.S. households will scan a QR code this year.

● In other areas of the world: Southeast Asia is estimated to scan 15 million QR codes in 2020; Europe 10.1 million; and India 8 million.

● Globally, mobile payments are projected to expand from $348 billion currently to $1.3 trillion by 2022.

Businesses will need to move with these fast-growing trends to retain customers, expand into new markets and provide the fast and frictionless services consumers desire. Not to mention, it’s always fun to see the underdog emerge as the leader, whether it’s in horse racing, romantic comedies, TV talent shows or that undervalued stock you just couldn’t resist. After three decades on the sidelines, QR code has finally emerged as a star player. Now make sure your business gets in the game.

ENACOMM and BLM Technologies partner

BLM Technologies and ENACOMM are partnering which will allow BLM Technologies to equip financial institution customers with ENACOMM’s Artificial Intelligence-powered conversational banking, intelligent interactive voice response and omnichannel fraud control module for combatting omnichannel attacks, according to a press release.

The partnership will also allow BLM customers to utilize ENAVOMM’s financial suite that offers a range of software tools including a customer relationship management tool and voice biometrics.

“BLM Technologies is dedicated to our customers, many of whom have trusted us for decades, by offering services and solutions that help them with the biggest business challenges. Working alongside ENACOMM will help us stay true to our commitment with customer self-service solutions that will empower our financial services industry customers to gain competitive edge,” John Tauer, vice president of sales at BLM Technologies said in the release.

Brazil fintech dLocal partners with lending platform Dinie

A cross-border payment platform, dLocal, that connects global merchants to emerging markets announced a new partnership deal with embedded lending platform Dinie. The new partnership allows global merchants to offer installment payments, or a pay later approach, to their customers in Brazil as a form of small business lending, according to a press release.

The Dinie pay later solution enables merchants to get paid up-front and in full, while their customers benefit from paying in three-to-nine-month installments. The merchant has no credit risk exposure, and SME customers are not required to have a credit card to pay, but can use their Dinie credit account while on the installment plan. Once a purchase is confirmed at the merchant’s checkout, the Dinie Pay option is presented and the SME customers can choose to split the payment into up to nine monthly installments.

“At dLocal, we are innovators at heart and our goal is to bridge the payments innovation gap between developed countries and emerging economies and Dinie shares that ambition with us. Dinie is complementing dLocal’s hyper local Brazilian payments solutions with capital accessibility to SMEs to pay for higher value business purchases and invest in their growth via improved technology and digital marketing. We enable global merchants to unlock new revenues and get paid upfront, frictionless and risk free,” Rodrigo Sanchez Prandi, VP Product at dLocal, said in the release.

WIZZIT Digital launches Tap2Pay

WIZZIT Digital has launched its Tap2Pay SoftPOS with PIN solution, which is due to go live in February with one of the largest Pan-African commercial banks.

The launch follows the certification of Tap2Pay by both Mastercard and Visa in regards to functional, security and branding requirements, according to a press release.

The solution is 100% software only, enabling either in-store or online merchants to accept PIN-secured “tap and go” transactions on any NFC enabled Android phone. No need separate card reader or PIN-entry device is needed. The PIN entry is enabled through WIZZIT Digital’s patented secure “soft” PIN pad.

“Simply put, WIZZIT Digital’s Tap2Pay solution transforms commercial off-the-shelf smartphones and tablets into secure contactless payment terminals that require no additional hardware, plug-ins, card-readers, or dongles to accept PIN protected card payments. The PIN protected feature of the solution means there is no limit to the payment amount a merchant can accept, unlike regular contactless payments that are not PIN protected,” Brian Richardson, CEO of WIZZIT Digital said in the release.

Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia Announces Banking Agreement With The Saudi Investment Bank

Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia has announced the signing of a strategic agent banking agreement with The Saudi Investment Bank (SAIB). The partnership aims to expand on banking services and products, enabling mobile financial services and has been endorsed by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) and under its related rules.

Virgin Mobile is the first entity to be awarded a banking agent license through its partner Saudi Investment Bank in Saudi Arabia and the partnership launches as part of Virgin Mobile’s ongoing strategy to provide innovative digital solutions for its customers across the Middle East, aimed at simplifying and enhancing everyday interactions.

Under the agreement, The Saudi Investment Bank and Virgin Mobile Saudi Consortium will use their combined capabilities and expertise to build, develop and commercially execute a unique value proposition and strategically positioned solutions for the end user. This builds on the strong joint digital infrastructure to provide electronic international remittance services through its strong distribution presence and network in the Kingdom, providing customers with easy, fast and more convenient digital financial services that enhances the mobile experience even further through Fintech. This follows the launch of mobile compatible life insurance plans launched in November 2019 by the FRiENDi brand in Oman.

Commenting on the partnership and strategic plans, Erik Dudman Nielsen, Group CEO, Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa said: “Providing an outstanding customer experience is at the heart of the Virgin Mobile brand promise and we are excited to enter our new strategy of expanding into mobile financial services through our partnership with The Saudi Investment Bank. The post-pandemic world has sharpened the customer’s digital expectations and we look forward to continuously expanding and innovating through enhanced digital capabilities that will not only meet our customer’s expectations, but also elevate Virgin Mobile’s position as a true global leader in digitalization.”

“Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa have already made a meaningful impact on the industry by launching the region’s first mobile virtual network operator with the FRiENDi brand in Oman, followed by the first fully digital mobile service with the Virgin Mobile brand in UAE and KSA, and we are excited to be part of yet another first for the region and pushing the boundaries of mobile services to deliver an exceptional product for the Middle East,” he continued.

The Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa group are expert in systems integration and have the agility to move quickly to address consumer trends. The group is able to bring new innovations and features to market faster, enabling it to complement operator offerings by developing service offerings that target sub-segments of the telecom market. Following a call for application in November 2019, the group have been awarded a license to launch both Virgin Mobile and FRiENDi mobile brands in Kuwait and will focus on expanding through a B-brand arrangement in the North African region.

Capital One fined $390M

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has enforced a $390 million civil penalty fine on Capital One for engaging in violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. The violations caused millions of dollars in suspicious transactions to go unreported at Capital One’s Check Cashing Group from at least 2008 through 2014 according to a report in Finextra

Capital One acknowledged its failings and has since shut down the network and undertaken substantial remediation efforts.

Plastiq Announces Payment Industries First Intuit QuickBooks Online Integration

Plastiq, a payment solutions provider for businesses, has announced it is the first company to fully integrate Intuit QuickBooks Online into its payments platform. The integration will help businesses save time and money with an even more seamless, automated way to reconcile payments, bills and invoices with their accounting system with no manual entry required.

The new integration will import invoices directly from QuickBooks, quickly identifying and populating all essential information such as vendor, amount due, invoice due date and more. Once the invoice has been paid through Plastiq, the platform will then export the payment information back into QuickBooks, including differentiating the portion of the payment applied to the invoice from Plastiq’s transaction fee. This separation of payments into proper classifications is immensely important for accurate record maintenance for monthly reporting, tax returns and audits.

“Time and again, we’ve heard from our customers how crucial QuickBooks is to their recordkeeping, but as a small business ourselves, we also recognise how time-consuming and error-prone it can be to manually maintain accurate QuickBooks records,” said Eliot Buchanan, CEO and co-founder of Plastiq. “By integrating QuickBooks into Plastiq, we’re giving businesses back vital time and resources while greatly reducing the chances of human error, enabling businesses to keep their eyes on innovating and propelling growth.”

Previously, businesses had to spend hours manually inputting all of their bill payments into QuickBooks each week in order to keep all of their financial records synchronised across platforms, a process which is tedious and takes a massive amount of resources. Although some partial QuickBooks integrations were previously available, incomplete integrations meant that accuracy often suffered, with import/export errors; the need to manually update records to correct classifications, add details or delete duplicates; and more. With Plastiq, businesses QuickBooks entries will be updated completely and accurately, eliminating costly errors to not only save time and money but also ensure accurate monthly reconciliations and reduce the risk of tax record errors.

Plastiq has revolutionised how its more than 1.5 million customers optimise working capital by providing an all-in-one solution that enables them to pay or accept payment for anything with cash or a credit card, even where credit cards or digital payments are not accepted. Thanks to strategic partnerships with companies including US Bank, Visa, Mastercard, Silicon Valley Bank and more, any business – from e-commerce companies and healthcare facilities to construction companies and restaurants – can use Plastiq to pay or get paid.

Qatar Fintech Hub Hosts first Incubator and Accelerator Open Day

Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH), co-founded by Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and established to support the growth of the fintech industry in Qatar, has announced that Demo Day for Wave 1 of its flagship Incubator and Accelerator Programs took place virtually on 18 January 2021.

The QFTH Demo Day, sponsored by Dukhan Bank, will be one of the biggest fintech events in the region hosting key players from the local financial services ecosystem, as well as investors, global startups, international fintech hubs, aspiring entrepreneurs and fintech enthusiasts.

Catering to fintech entrepreneurs and startups worldwide who are looking for a launchpad and a hub in the Middle East to accelerate their growth, the QFTH Programs comprise of an Incubator for early-stage startups and an Accelerator for mature fintechs. The programs have received tremendous traction during Wave 1 with over 750 applications from 72 countries.

Through the Incubator and Accelerator Programs, participating fintechs took part in more than 300 business development sessions with over 15 financial institutions and completed a series of high-level Masterclasses conducted by QFTH partners and renowned speakers from across the world.

Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Khalifa, Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Development Bank and Fintech Task Force Chairman said: “Through QFTH, we aim to develop fintech s and support entrepreneurs and innovators to make an impact in the region. Our efforts are built upon the robust and sturdy Qatari financial sector and powered by the support of our partners who play a great role in the success of the program.

“I look forward to welcoming the international community to our first virtual Demo Day to learn more about the graduates of Wave 1 of our Programs and about the dynamics of the Qatari market.”

QFTH aims to develop the fintech industry in Qatar, in accordance with the Qatar National Fintech Strategy created by Qatar Central Bank (QCB), and to contribute and reiterate Qatar’s position as a leading international fintech hub in the region, as outlined in Qatar’s National Vision 2030. The first wave of the Incubator and Accelerator Programs were focused on payments in alignment with the Qatar Fintech Strategy, and in synergy with QCB – Sandbox and upcoming regulations.

Khalid Al-Subeai, Chief Executive Officer of Dukhan Bank, said: “We at Dukhan Bank are committed to supporting the digital transformation of the financial sector in Qatar. This is an important platform to provide a dependable infrastructure that is capable of meeting Qatar’s ambitions and future vision. We are proud to be sponsors of the first-ever Demo Day for Qatar Fintech Hub and we look forward to welcoming all fintech enthusiasts and networks from around the world to join us for this event.”

As part of its commitment to offer world-class expertise to participating fintechs, QFTH is continuously collaborating with strategic stakeholders within the fintech ecosystem including financial institutions, technology providers, payment networks, global fintech hubs, academia, and regulators. Microsoft is participating as our program technology partner. Other recent partnerships include Amazon, Progress Soft, Vodafone, and Global Positioning System to name a few.