Russian Central Bank proposes a ban on cryptocurrencies

https://www.linklaters.com/en/insights/blogs/fintechlinks/2022/january/russian-central-bank-proposes-a-ban-on-cryptocurrencies
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As Spain, Singapore and the UK have been taking steps to regulate the rules around advertising cryptoassets (read more), last week the Russian Central Bank took a step further, publishing a consultation paper which proposes a ban on the issuance, use and mining of cryptocurrencies in Russia.

According to the consultation paper, the value of Russian citizens’ transactions with cryptocurrencies has reached $5 billion per year, and Russian individuals have become active users of international online cryptocurrency trading platforms. Following the ban on crypto mining in China, Russia has become one of the global leaders by mining capacity so the proposal has serious implications for the fintech sector.

However, even if the Central Bank manages to push through its position and finally comes up with a draft law addressing all the suggested bans, the Russian legislative process is a rather long and complex one and the results may be quite unpredictable.

The story so far

Russian law officially recognised cryptocurrencies as a legitimate asset on 1 January 2021. It legalised the use of cryptocurrency as an investment tool or a payment method, but at the same time expressly banned Russian legal entities and individuals from advertising and using cryptocurrency as a means of payment inside Russia.

An implementing law which would set out procedures for the issuance and circulation of cryptocurrency in Russia was also expected last year, but its adoption was delayed, largely due to the ongoing debate between various state authorities as to the optimal approach to the regulation (read more in the Russia section of our Fintech Global Year to Come 2022, Year in Review 2021).

What bans are proposed?

In its consultation paper, the Central Bank proposes:

  • to prohibit the issue and/or circulation of cryptocurrency inside Russia (including through cryptocurrency exchanges and the like);
  • to prohibit Russian financial institutions, financial intermediaries and the country’s financial infrastructure from trading cryptocurrencies and creating related financial instruments;
  • to prohibit cryptocurrency mining in Russia; and
  • to establish liability for the violation of the existing restriction on paying with cryptocurrency between Russian nationals inside Russia and of the new proposed bans.

There is currently no plan to ban Russian citizens from holding cryptocurrencies or from trading cryptocurrencies abroad through their offshore accounts, as Elizaveta Danilova, the head of the Central Bank’s Financial Stability Department, said in a briefing. However, the system of regular monitoring of cryptocurrency transactions is likely to be enhanced, including via cooperation with foreign regulators, in order to obtain information about Russian citizens’ operations in foreign cryptocurrency markets.

Key reasoning

The key reasons cited by the Central Bank for introducing these bans are perceived threats to citizens’ wellbeing, financial stability, monetary policy sovereignty and risks of widening of the illegal activities (money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorist financing, etc.) as a result of the growing use of cryptocurrencies. In the regulator’s  opinion, cryptocurrencies show signs of a financial pyramid and their use may eventually lead to the formation of a bubble in the market.

As for cryptocurrency mining, the Central Bank’s view is that it creates unproductive consumption of electric power which threatens the social infrastructure and the implementation of Russian environmental agenda.

The Central Bank also believes that the global trend for growing popularity of cryptocurrencies will soon be reversed against the backdrop of swiftly developing faster payments systems and emergence of central bank digital currencies – from the regulator’s perspective these may represent a better  alternative to the cryptocurrencies as they have many similar advantages such as high speed, convenience, blockchain protection and relatively low cost.

What’s next?

The  proposal represents a view of just one, albeit the key, regulator in the area. The Central Bank position could still face some resistance among other state authorities and lawmakers. For instance, during the last few months there have been quite a few statements by a number of high-ranking Russian officials in the press in support of legalising crypto mining activities which would allow to introduce the respective taxation regime and thereby boost the Russian economy.

Currently the Central Bank proposal is at a very early stage, we have only seen a consultation paper which is aimed at fueling a discussion in the market. We will be following developments closely.

The report says cryptocurrencies are volatile and widely used in illegal activities such as fraud. By offering an outlet for people to take their money out of the national economy, they risk undermining it and making the regulator’s job of maintaining optimal monetary policies harder the report said. The bank, therefore, said Russia needs new laws and regulations to effectively ban crypto-related activities. (CoinDesk)

https://www.linklaters.com/en/insights/blogs/fintechlinks/2022/january/russian-central-bank-proposes-a-ban-on-cryptocurrencies

UK Fintech News Round-up: The Latest Stories 26/01

https://thefintechtimes.com/uk-fintech-news-round-up-the-latest-stories-26-01/
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Each week we take a look at the latest news from the UK fintech scene. This week, half of Brits want urgent help managing their cash and challenger card Keebo announces their beta launch

EVERYTHING raises €2M to Re-Invent Premium Bonds in the UK

EVERYTHING, a UK based fintech company on a mission to build the next social finance experience for Gen Z & young millennials, announced that they have raised €2m from a group of high profile angel investors and entrepreneurs. 

EVERYTHING, which is free to join and use, will be launching a debit Mastercard in the UK that will be targeting Gen-Zs and young millennials, where users can win instant cash rewards every time they tap, spend or save money. It is an evolution of the UK’s most popular savings method, Premium Bonds, with a social twist. To increase the chance of winning, people can also invite their friends and family to their own “SQUADS” and have a chance to win every time they tap or save too.

“Premium Bonds are the UK’s biggest and probably most loved savings product. Premium Bonds haven’t evolved for decades but remain popular across age groups, often gifted across generations. We want to reinvent Premium Bonds to make them more accessible for younger generations and inject the excitement of winning into everyday finances like spending and saving without the risk of losing,” said Michael Wilkinson, co-founder and COO at EVERYTHING.

New poll finds Half of Brits want urgent help managing their cash

Nearly half of UK adults (44%) want urgent help in managing their own money, according to a new opinion poll highlighting the dire state of the personal finances of millions of people, commissioned by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), and credit management company Lowell. They said that if they were better taught how to manage their household budgets and bills they would be in much better shape financially.

Problems are particularly acute among young people with two thirds (68%) saying a lack of money management skills is a key factor in driving them into debt.

The CSJ and Lowell are joining forces to reduce levels of financial illiteracy and improve the support for people on low incomes facing a rapidly changing financial market and cost of living crisis. They have launched the Financial Education Initiative: a research and policy programme that will gather data about the changing financial landscape, examine levels of financial literacy, review the current financial education offer and make recommendations on where action can be taken.

Modulr granted Dutch EMI licence in mission to enable next-generation payments for European businesses

Storm2: Amsterdam - The Heartbeat of European Fintech

Storm2: Amsterdam - The Heartbeat of European Fintech

UK payments platform for digital businesses, Modulr is now licensed as an Electronic Money Institution by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), marking a major milestone for the platform’s local European ambitions.

The fintech will offer the full spectrum of payment services across the European Economic Area (EEA), bringing fast, reliable and embeddable payment solutions to European businesses, to enable them to overcome inefficiencies and friction in existing payment processes as well as building payment products and experiences into their technology platforms.

Marca Wosoba, General Manager of Modulr Netherlands, comments, “This is a huge milestone in making global embedded payments delivered – not by banks but – by API as default a reality.

“With our Dutch licence we can give European businesses a real competitive advantage with smooth payment flows at either end of the rail and a proven real-time payments engine that can significantly scale. We’re looking forward to welcoming talented individuals as we grow our Dutch and broader European teams throughout 2022.”

Keebo announces their beta launch to bring financial inclusion to credit invisibles

corporate cards

corporate cardsKeebo, the new challenger credit card that helps people unlock the power of credit, has announced its beta launch with Mastercard. With a focus on tackling financial exclusion, Keebo is the UK’s first credit card company to use open banking data to improve access to credit by understanding a customer’s broader financial behaviour, including spending habits, income frequency, and savings.

The beta launch will allow people to download the app and apply for the new credit card. Those who are interested in signing up will be able to get started on the Keebo website.

Michael Vanaselja, CEO and Co-founder comments “We are thrilled to be launching the Keebo beta with Mastercard! With a large number of rejected applications made by people with limited or no UK credit histories, we share the goal to open up credit and bring financial inclusion to those who have experienced unfair difficulty with the current model such as freelancers and content creators through the use of our new underwriting technology. We look forward to using Mastercard’s partner program and expanding our service to more users in 2022.”

Gen Z’s seeking Financial Ombudsman support for loans and credit cards rises by 200% in five years

Student Finance

Student FinanceThe number of 16-24-year-olds contacting the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for help with loans, credit cards and debt services has increased by more than 200%1 over the last five years, new figures show.

2,858 enquiries were made to the FOS last year about loans from Gen Z’s, up from only 947 in 2016/17 – a 213% increase. The figures were obtained by London-based financial app W1TTY via a Freedom of Information request.

Complaints about credit services including credit cards rose by 210% during the same period, increasing 42% year-on-year on average. Meanwhile, the number of young people seeking help for debt services, including current accounts, increased a further 205%.

Ammar Kutait, CEO and Founder of W1TTY, a smart finance app aimed at Gen Z’s, said: “This upward trend in young people seeking FOS support is worrying and reflects the rise in young people turning to loans, credit cards and other credit facilities to support their finances.

“It is important young people have access to the tools and advice to make the right choices when it comes to managing their finances. Providing financial education on how to spend and invest sensibly is key if we’re to avoid Gen Z’s becoming a generation of debt.”

Information Commissioner’s Office issue over £2.2 million in penalties for regulation breaches

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued £2.2 million in fines for privacy regulation breaches in 2020-21, whilst also pushing to improve regulations for businesses with a number of new initiatives.

The data, analysed by the Parliament Street think tank, was uncovered in the Government’s recently published Better Regulation Annual Report  2020-21 which detailed the fines and penalties for the reporting period alongside actions taken to assist businesses.

The Information Commissioner’s Office fines totalled £2.2 million for various breaches, the largest of which being £2.1 million of penalties for privacy and electronic communications breaches.

The ICO issued £98,800 worth of fines to non-public sector organisations for not registering with the ICO, and a further £25,000 for “other” data protection breaches.

Monese Launches New Credit Builder

Monese is expanding its offering with the launch of a new Credit Builder service for its customers in the UK. Having opened a waitlist in 2021, Credit Builder is now available and being used by selected customers in an early access programme ahead of being made generally available to UK customers over the coming months.

Monese’s Credit Builder will enable customers to build their credit history and improve their reputation with the three main UK credit agencies and lenders. With a better credit history, customers will be also able to access better value borrowing deals.

Garrett Cassidy, VP Credit at Monese, said: “Customer feedback has made it clear that access to credit is a persistent and real challenge in the UK. After the pandemic hit, we asked our customers what features they needed the most from an account. Access to credit always came out on top. The problem is that many of them are locked out of credit because they are credit invisible, so we can say with some confidence that our customers need Monese’s Credit Builder.”

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/uk-fintech-news-round-up-the-latest-stories-26-01/

Cybersecurity: Facial Recognition and Fingerprints – Foolish or Fool Proof?

https://thefintechtimes.com/cybersecurity-facial-recognition-and-fingerprints-foolish-or-fool-proof/
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Throughout the entire month of January, The Fintech Times will be exploring every dimension of one of the industry’s most pressing topics: cybersecurity.

As previously discussed, cybersecurity has come a long way since the days of a simple password being the sole line of defence to protect your data. Innovations in the field have led many companies to investigate how feasible and useful biometric protection really is, leading many to question: is biometric technology the future of cybersecurity?

Creating a new target for hackers

Ted Wagner, CISO, at SAP NS2Ted Wagner, CISO, at SAP NS2
Ted Wagner, CISO, at SAP NS2

In theory, fingerprint security is very secure, as should someone find your lost phone, they won’t be able to access it due to the security measures in place. However, when looking at the bigger picture, a hacker is more likely to breach the storage facility of this data, rather than targeting one individual user. A fingerprint or face scan cannot be changed, so should one of these features be compromised by a bad actor, there could be serious consequences. Ted Wagner, CISO, at SAP NS2, comments, “Biometric authentication methods can use two methods to uniquely identify a person – morphological or behavioural traits. Common morphological techniques include fingerprints, retina scans, or facial mapping/recognition. Behavioural traits include a written signature or a combination of keystrokes.

“Morphological techniques tend to be more secure than behavioural traits. However, there can be privacy concerns when fingerprints, retina scans and facial mapping data are stored centrally. A database where these attributes are stored is a very attractive target for bad actors. Unlike more common credentials, like usernames and passwords, which can be reset, the loss of a fingerprint or unique trait of a person, which can never be reset, can have serious ramifications if stolen by a bad actor.”

Pure and simple inconvenience 

Michael Crompton, Founder and CEO of ForghettiMichael Crompton, Founder and CEO of Forghetti
Michael Crompton, Founder and CEO of Forghetti

There are many ways we can criticise biometric authentication, especially when looking at the intricacies of how the data is protected from hackers. But on a much simpler level, biometric authentication only works if an exact copy of what is registered is shown. Michael Crompton, Founder and CEO of Forghetti, explains:

“Biometrics have certainly made it much quicker and easier for us to all login to our phones, services etc… the security behind these is brilliant and enables users to login to systems, verify their identity without entering any information. The problem occurs when the biometrics do not work… for example when a fingerprint is corrupted because of peeling skin or a blister, or indeed wearing a face mask blocks facial recognition.

“The reason this causes a weakness is that the fall back solution to our biometrics is, on the whole, a four or six digit PIN number. We then fall back into the trap of human behaviour. Our PIN numbers are dates of birth, dates of anniversaries etc. So therefore predictable and thereby vulnerable.”

The whole purpose of biometric authentication is to make users feel more secure, but if they are unable to use this, the added protection is made void.

Deepfakes

Andersen Cheng, CEO of Nomidio and Post-Quantum took a different approach to biometric authentication. Looking past its accessibility, and how data is stored, the technology itself is not immune to attacks. Spoofs and hackers can still imitate users to access data:

“Biometrics have been the cornerstone of progress in identity management and stronger cybersecurity in recent years – there’s no escaping the fact that we are more secure now than when using password-only identity systems. However, as when any new technology is widely adopted, so does the intent to ‘break’ it and new cybersecurity challenges arise.

“For example, a key issue gaining momentum is deepfake technology. A few years ago criminals impersonated a chief executive’s voice and demanded a fraudulent transfer of €220,000. This was just an early warning sign, with other security firms reporting seeing an uptick in attempts to defraud using the technology in the last few years.

“Although the technology is in its infancy, we shouldn’t be surprised to see criminals using deepfake tech shifting their focus to the biometric systems that we’re becoming so reliant on, particularly in high security industries like banking and government. Some government agencies today are using voice recognition for proof of identity, while banks use voice and facial recognition to register new users and facilitate online banking. A good quality deepfake will likely become the primary way that criminals can develop the fake biometric identifiers needed to bypass biometric-based fraud prevention solutions that are supposed to enhance our cybersecurity posture.

“Although a long way off in being able to do this systematically in real time, this threat is coming as the technologies used to create deepfakes are becoming more prevalent and easier to use. Using a traditional multi-factor authentication (MFA) method definitely helps, and it can be further enhanced by introducing multi-factor biometric (MFB) authentication. In other words, rather than just using one biometric identifier, we urge our customers to ensure they use a combination of voice biometrics, speech recognition, context-dependent data, and even behavioural analysis in a single authentication system.

“Finally, there is also the security vs. privacy trade-off. While the use of biometric technology is not intended to be malicious or used for the invasion of privacy, the way our biometric data is now so easily captured, stored, analysed and compared raises questions around the blurring of privacy and security. We really need a wholesale review of how biometric data is being captured, stored, governed and regulated. One food for thought is to segregate the biometric custody and verification process from the merchants, who in most cases only need to attest the validity of the person logging in rather than knowing each customer’s biometric data. This will go a long way to alleviate a user’s concern that some companies have a complete record of their identity profile.”

Companies collect more data than we’re aware of

Dr Christopher D McDermott, a lecturer in Human-centred Security and Privacy at Robert Gordon UniversityDr Christopher D McDermott, a lecturer in Human-centred Security and Privacy at Robert Gordon University
Dr Christopher D McDermott, a lecturer in Human-centred Security and Privacy at Robert Gordon University

The final viewpoint comes from Dr Christopher D McDermott, a lecturer in Human-centred Security and Privacy at Robert Gordon University. He weighs up both sides of the argument in whether biometric authentication is foolproof or just prolonging the inevitable. Looking at it from an ethical point of view, he explains how some do not like the extent that their data is being collected, and how this unchangeable data, can be cloned if it falls into the wrong hands:

“A conflict exists between an individual’s right to privacy and control of their biometric data and the moral responsibility to protect the security of society. Privacy advocates are quick to highlight unethical uses of facial recognition for identification and social scoring, arguing that in many cases personal data is collected and used without the consent or knowledge of the target. Sceptics also point to the challenges biometric systems face and the ease by which they can be tricked. For example, fingerprints were shown to be cloneable at a Black Hat cybersecurity conference. Also, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrated how facial recognition systems can be potentially evaded using 3D models of a face constructed from photographs taken from an individual’s social media account.”

McDermott summarises the views of the above concluding that, “In the end, the question of whether biometric use within the fintech industry is foolish or foolproof may depend on which side of the fence you are looking from. In reality, biometric use within the industry will continue to grow and when used as part of a two-factor authentication strategy offers some of the strongest security available today.”

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/cybersecurity-facial-recognition-and-fingerprints-foolish-or-fool-proof/

Stablecoin News for the week ending Wednesday 26th January.

https://dailyfintech.com/2022/01/26/stablecoin-news-for-the-week-ending-wednesday-26th-january/
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Here is our pick of the 3 most important Stablecoin news stories during the week.

Here comes the Fed!

Well not really, but this week we got a lot more insight into what the Fed’s is thinking with the release of a discussion paper that examines the pros and cons of a potential U.S. CBDC.  

Federal Reserve Board – Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

The Fed – Frequently Asked Questions (federalreserve.gov)

This analysis of the announcement from the Cato Institute is spot on.  

For a 40‐​page document, the findings were actually rather thin. It seems the Fed is still undecided, but it is leaning towards launching a CBDC that would protect privacy without permitting anonymous use, be intermediated (or hosted) by private banks, and be easily transferable. In other words, it would be much like what already exists.”

The Fed Finally Announced Its CBDC Ideas | Cato at Liberty Blog

Separately, Jerome Powell, the recently re-confirmed chair of the Federal Reserve, has reaffirmed his belief that a digital dollar should not drive private stablecoins out of the market.

Fed chair Powell doubles down on continued survival of private stablecoins — as long as they are better regulated (theblockcrypto.com)

But the week began with a rallying cry from the Central Bankers, Central Bank, the Bank of International Settlements or BIS, declaring that only Central Bankers can make and manage real money.

According to the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, Agustín Carstens, sound money should not be based on trustless, permissionless, and anonymous ledgers, but on trust, and more specifically—trust in central banks.

“My main message today is simple: the soul of money belongs neither to a big tech nor to an anonymous ledger. The soul of money is trust. And central banks have been and continue to be the institutions best placed to provide trust in the digital age.”

BIS Chief Urges Trust in Central Banks – Crypto Briefing

So in summary, this week the two major money regulators, the Fed and BIS, both gave us some more insight into their thinking.  The Fed has left the door open to privately issued stablecoins and if they build a CBDC it would operate much like cash does today, while the BIS has claimed that only Central Bankers can provide the “soul of money”.  

We will see.  But in this game talk is cheap, if consumers like an innovative new product, they will grab it and there are plenty of choices now out there and soon coming.  

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

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

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

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

https://dailyfintech.com/2022/01/26/stablecoin-news-for-the-week-ending-wednesday-26th-january/

Serviceware SE: Swimming or Sinking in Today’s Digital Economy

https://thefintechtimes.com/serviceware-se-swimming-or-sinking-in-todays-digital-economy/
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In times of crisis, it’s easy for organisations to default to old habits – but those are often the times in which new approaches are most valuable. In order to be successful, businesses must consider all angles and use their resources wisely.

Dirk Martin, CEO and Founder of Serviceware SEDirk Martin, CEO and Founder of Serviceware SE
Dirk Martin

With that in mind, Dirk Martin, CEO and Founder of Serviceware SE, discusses how AI and sharp data management can help businesses within the service industry thrive while also balancing costs.

Dirk Martin studied Business Engineering at the University of Darmstadt, Germany and founded Serviceware SE in 1998 together with Harald Popp, today’s CFO. He is also a lecturer for sales at the University of Innsbruck and Darmstadt and is a board member of the Association of German Family Businesses.

Whilst certainly disruptive, the pandemic provided a unique opportunity for organisations to reassess current business models and accelerate digital transformation efforts. Change became a necessity rather than something you could kick further down the to-do list, and businesses were forced to make rapid decisions that would determine their future.

At the same time, many service models had to be revised or reinvented, since value chains came to a standstill or had to be radically redesigned when the offices, factories or stores were abandoned. It also became clear, that the profitability and thus the costs of every digital service (regardless of new, existing or adjusted) had to be recalculated and examined in detail in terms of its economic viability. After all, today only literally safe and pleasant processes convince an increasingly critical and demanding clientele.

Nevertheless, the pandemic was not the trigger for the rapid digitisation of services; rather, it ruthlessly revealed the failures of the past years, in which much was said about digitisation and technology was introduced, but only a few business models were really consistently questioned and revolutionised. Covid just took the cloak off outdated processes and revealed the lack of flexibility in service planning and corresponding cost models.

Adapting to changing service demands

But, like many things in business, the service economy isn’t standing still. In fact, constantly evolving consumer demands and the rapid migration to digital continue to impact its success. To be able to continuously adapt a business model to meet these needs, different levels of consideration are needed that involve the entire enterprise. Questions need to be asked such as: which service chains or processes does my company need, in order to meet customer and partner requirements at all times? What conditions does my IT infrastructure have to fulfil to be able to deliver services quickly, securely and in compliance with guidelines?

And that’s all before considering the costs associated with meeting growing customer demands. Amid mounting inflation fears, recent figures suggest the rise in operating expenses among service sector firms is at its steepest due to an increase in staff wages, higher raw material prices and greater transportation charges. With finances stretched, businesses need to understand how they can create transparency in the primary and secondary processes driven by their IT teams, and how they can then reallocate the costs in order to understand their added value.

All of this will be underpinned by how short and medium-term turnover, cost and cash flow planning can be achieved in a way that meets the market situation and current demand, whilst also ensuring constant profitability.

The need for accurate and flexible enterprise service management

Ultimately, to be able to perform in today’s digital service economy, organisations need a high degree of strategic and operational excellence at all levels of service thinking, IT alignment and associated financial and P&L planning, typically referred to as Enterprise Service Management (ESM)

Among other ESM disciplines, organisations need effective knowledge management across all business units within the enterprise. Whether it’s equipping contact centre agents with the right insights so they can respond effectively to customers, providing up to date resourcing information for field services and facilities management, or ensuring IT and finance are aligned to invest in the latest digital offerings. With the right knowledge, employees operating across all areas of the organisation have the power to drive greater efficiency, effectiveness, and excellence when it comes to service management. But first, they must have access to the right information.

Unfortunately, whilst businesses are full of the knowledge needed to unlock this level of excellence, many companies lack the processes and structures to optimally conserve and make it usable and accessible to all. Data, for example, is often stored in various locations, on different servers and hidden behind different accounts and local hard drives. This can lead to several outcomes – all of which can be detrimental to success – a) time is wasted sourcing information that is hard to find, b) time is wasted duplicating information that already exists but is not accessible, or c) employees continue without the correct and necessary information leading to further inefficiencies and potentially unsatisfied customers.

Structured knowledge as the basis for outstanding customer service

Once knowledge is structured and organised, businesses need a unifying system that can help to consolidate enterprise service data, structure it and run those services on one integrated platform.

Customer care teams, for example, can leverage the knowledge to better serve their clients via standardised and automated IT-Service Management processes, which are based on current and correct information. This is essential as customers demand a response in real-time.

Whilst this is perhaps one of the most obvious cases in which this access to a consolidated view of data can be effective, in reality, it is needed across all areas of the enterprise which contribute to service delivery – IT, HR, finance, resourcing and more.

Accelerating operational excellence with AI

Whilst adopting effective enterprise service management software is a step in the right for businesses operating in today’s service economy – it will be integration with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that will truly unlock success. When supported and enhanced by AI algorithms, the impact of these tools can be accelerated dramatically, whilst relieving employees of mundane tasks associated with data entry and analysis. For example, AI integration can offer semantic analyses of content similarity, meaning that businesses can avoid creating duplicated content – not only reducing redundancies but also allowing for faster access to the right information.

By automating shared service management through effective and agile enterprise management software, businesses can equip themselves with the right knowledge to achieve their ambitions in a rapidly evolving digital service economy. Only through company-wide transparency, can organisations conduct better planning, monitoring and analysis of service performance and gain greater control over quality and costs.

Fortune doesn’t always just favour the brave – it also favours the prepared. Businesses that can achieve operational excellence through the effective use of enterprise data will be those that swim, rather than sink, in today’s service economy.

https://thefintechtimes.com/serviceware-se-swimming-or-sinking-in-todays-digital-economy/

Vault Hill Is Giving Away Free Pairs of HTC Vive Flow VR Glasses During VLAND Sale  

https://thefintechtimes.com/vault-hill-is-giving-away-free-pairs-of-htc-vive-flow-vr-glasses-during-vland-sale/
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The world’s first human-centric metaverse, Vault Hill, is reportedly giving out free HTC VIVE Flow VR glasses to anyone who purchases a plot of VLAND during the upcoming initial land offering (ILO) in March 2022.

Vault Hill’s Founder and CEO, Jimi Daodu. Vault Hill’s Founder and CEO, Jimi Daodu. 
Jimi Daodu

Giving away free HTC VIVE Flow glasses (RRP £499) is a strategic decision by Vault Hill to encourage landowners and other users of the metaverse to have a fully immersive metaverse experience. “If you realise the huge potential of our project and invest in buying VLAND in our metaverse, it is only right that we also provide you with the tools necessary to fully immerse and enhance your experience in the metaverse,” said Vault Hill’s Founder and CEO, Jimi Daodu.

More so, the synergy between Vault Hill’s vision to enhance the human experience, and HTC’s goal to improve users’ experience, especially as it relates to maintaining wellness and reducing the stress millions of people feel every day through its super portable, lightweight VIVE Flow makes the VR glass a great tool for users to explore the VHC with, as well as a great option for frequent usability.

During the land sale, only 573 parcels of VLAND will be sold out of the 10000 that has been created. Limited plots of VLAND has been created to ensure scarcity and adequate value creation for users and investors.

Having sold out its allocated native token, $VHC, there’s no doubt that owning land parcel(s) in Vault Hill City will be highly sought after. What’s more, landowners will reportedly be given a ‘NO CODE’ builder tool which will grant them with total creative freedom whilst building on their parcel (in line with urban planning guidelines) and with the ability to earn as other users interact with their creation.

The metaverse is also the first virtual world with urban planning and development benefits to ensure users build on the land respectfully.

VHC is a recognised industry platform for combining all aspects of users’ reality. Users will be able to design their own unique experiences, explore their fantasies, monetise their creation, explore the seven human instinct themed Districts in the metaverse whilst enjoying different activities such as interacting with other users, playing games and attending cultural events.

Although the metaverse is still being developed, Vault Hill has signed partnerships with various brands who will onboard their products and services and establish their virtual office in the metaverse, particularly in District Omega (vitality) and District Beta (play) which are the first two to launch.

So, an opportunity to own a piece of the virtual world presents itself by buying any of the four land types available in VHC – standard, premium, deluxe and exclusive, which will be owned as an NFT.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/vault-hill-is-giving-away-free-pairs-of-htc-vive-flow-vr-glasses-during-vland-sale/

Venture Capitalists Are Flocking to MENA; Latest MAGNiTT Report Finds

https://thefintechtimes.com/venture-capitalists-are-flocking-to-mena-latest-magnitt-report-finds/
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The inaugural edition of the MAGNiTT Emerging Venture Markets Report has highlighted the rush towards the emerging venture markets of the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Turkey by growth-hungry venture capitalists. 

Philip Bahoshy, CEO and Founder of MAGNiTTPhilip Bahoshy, CEO and Founder of MAGNiTT
Philip Bahoshy

“2021 has in fact been more than just a record-breaking year for VCs, rather it has been a defining year,” comments Philip Bahoshy, CEO and Founder of MAGNiTT. “While the global pandemic posed great pressures on governments, private sectors, and startup ecosystems alike; the year 2021 marked the resurgence of VC activity tenfold.”

The report reveals unprecedented regional and global investor participation across markets and a new record of funding crossing $6billion in Emerging Venture Markets, as well as the fact that fintech is the leading industry amidst an exceptional growth of T&L and E-commerce.

The five EVMs 2021 key trends are:

  1. A record-high funding volume of $6.8billion was raised across 1,329 deals, marking a growth of 228 per cent in funding and 267 per cent in deals when compared to 2020.
  2. Record year for mega-deals with a total of 12 ($100million+) closed, more than all mega-deals combined between 2016 and 2020. These deals accounted for 42 per cent of all capital raised across Emerging Venture Markets in 2021.
  3. Turkey and UAE together accounted for 44 per cent of total venture capital invested. Investments in Turkey were driven by mega-deals closed by Getir and Dream Games, amounting to $1.1billion, while MENA saw one mega-deal each closed by a UAE, Egyptian and Saudi startup.
  4. Fintech was the leading industry across all EVMs and the industry of choice for VC investments, indicating increased innovation and digitalisation of the financial services sector. These represent 21 per cent of all deals closed and 31 per cent of total funding raised. The five mega-deals in Africa, for example, were all fintech deals. It was the only industry with 100+ deals in MENA.
  5. Exits across EVMs doubled between 2020 and 2021, indicating more liquidity events in the region, with 87 startups announcing exits in 2021, vs 41 startups in 2020.

MAGNiTT Emerging Venture Markets Report

MAGNiTT Emerging Venture Markets Report

“2021 has been an extraordinary year for the region’s venture capital industry. Between fundraising and deal-making, MENA’s ecosystem was in hyperdrive this year,” Basil Moftah, General Partner, Global Ventures commented. “Whether it is record-breaking amounts of funding, growing appetites for later-stage transactions, the rising occurrence of diversified deal types (from M&A to venture debt) or the increasing number of mega-rounds, the region is signalling maturity. Underpinning these quantitative metrics is a pool of increasingly sophisticated entrepreneurs building world-class tech solutions and proving, year in and year out, that some of the most exciting opportunities of tomorrow will originate from emerging markets.”

Bahoshy added: “It has become clearer than ever that the true potential for startups in Emerging Venture Markets lies in the cross-pollination across geographies. This scaling resulted in the creation of regional players which we’ve seen emerge organically through expansion or inorganically through cross-market acquisition. Success stories that highlight the latter include Nigerian HealthTech Helium Health acquiring Qatari Meddy, UAE-based Trukker acquiring Pakistan-based Trucksher, or UAE-based Fenix acquiring its Turkish counterpart Palm.

“Scale is the name of the game, and no doubt a big prediction for 2022 will be more companies in different areas expanding across geographical borders. In light of that, what we’re most excited about at MAGNiTT is ensuring the information transparency needed to break these silos and detail the landscapes of what were previously opaque markets,” he concluded.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/venture-capitalists-are-flocking-to-mena-latest-magnitt-report-finds/

How Can Fintech Secure Your Mortgage? PMS Offers Advisers Free Tech Through Acre

https://thefintechtimes.com/how-can-fintech-secure-your-mortgage-pms-offers-advisers-free-tech-through-acre/
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Acre, the new end-to-end mortgage intermediaries platform digitally transforming mortgage advice, has been selected by PMS, the UK’s leading mortgage club and part of Sesame Bankhall Group, to be a preferred technology partner for directly authorised advisers. More than 6,000 mortgage advisers placing business through PMS can have free access to Acre’s platform for a period up to 30 June 2024. 

Brokers, who make up 75% of UK mortgage transactions, often have to re-key data, or work with disjointed technology that sees them unable to match the speed, price and end-user experience of newer, digital first entrants. Acre’s platform aims to deliver a seamless, simpler homebuying process that provides mortgage brokers with significant productivity gains and increased revenue growth.
PMS is committed to promote and partner with new, innovative technologies that improve the way members’ businesses operate. This new arrangement with Acre provides free access to a new tool for mortgage brokers.
Acre’s proprietary technology supports mortgage journeys in their entirety – from lead capture and fact finding to research, recommendation and application. Acre’s ability to pull data from 45 external sources allows it to create individual, unchangeable records that brokers use to better understand each client’s needs. By eliminating the need to re-key data and automating compliance, Acre facilitates one-click mortgages that accelerates the lending to qualified borrowers.
Richard Howells, Chief Operating Officer, Sesame Bankhall Group, said: “We support around 25% of mortgage advisers across the UK and are constantly championing their evolving needs. Acre’s technology is designed to transform the mortgage application process, drive business efficiency and create advice capacity to help serve more clients.”
Justus Brown, CEO/founder of Acre Software, added, “We are thrilled to have the recognition of PMS as we look to improve current broker processes and boost their deal conversion rates as the property market continues to thrive. This arrangement with PMS means we can provide brokers with innovative technology that reduces the time it takes for clients to get their dream home. It is a major milestone for Acre to be recognised by the UK’s leading mortgage club. Over the course of 2022, we will be significantly growing our presence in the market as we look to partner with key tech and mortgage players in the market, including PMS. With continued acceleration of the business, Acre’s ambition is to have 5% of UK home purchases to benefit from Acre’s platform by the end of 2022.”
  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

https://thefintechtimes.com/how-can-fintech-secure-your-mortgage-pms-offers-advisers-free-tech-through-acre/

4 automation trends for FIs in 2022

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/core-cloud/4-automation-trends-for-fis-in-2022/
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With automation on the rise at financial institutions (FIs), solutions are now being scaled as organizations see a demonstrable return on investment. Robotic process automation (RPA) company UiPath recently discussed FI automation trends, and what is changing in the tech approach banks are taking. The vendor late last year launched a container-based on-premise platform offering […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/core-cloud/4-automation-trends-for-fis-in-2022/

This Week in Fintech: TFT Bi-Weekly News Roundup 25/01

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The Fintech Times Bi-Weekly News Roundup this Tuesday sees untied and Lendlord launch integrated tax filings for landlords. While Capital.com appoints Joe Rundle as its chief of staff.

Launches and product updates

Open banking platform Tink has launched ‘Income Check’ in the UK – a service to streamline income verification via open banking. The product lets banks and lenders instantly verify a person’s income using secure real-time data from their bank account. This launch follows the rollout of Tink’s Income Check in seven other European countries.

Fintech platform Severus unveiled a limited edition NFT collection – African Hero – to commemorate Africans who have shaped history and to inspire young Africans to build a brighter future. The African Hero NFT collection launched on NFT marketplace OpenSea.

Fintech Acrisure unveils the formation of Acrisure Cyber Services. It joins insurance, reinsurance, real estate services and asset management as divisions powered by Acrisure’s technology capabilities and global distribution network. Acrisure Cyber Services offers businesses an all-in-one solution addressing the most critical risks posed by cyberattacks.

Ekata expands account opening solution to help online businesses assess risk at account creation. New capabilities enable e-commerce sites and marketplaces to create seamless onboarding experiences while fighting fraud. Ekata’s new capabilities expands its existing account opening solution for financial services and fintech companies.

Job moves

Fintech Baton Systems has appointed David Ornstein as the company’s first chief operating officer. Ornstein was previously chief operating officer of global markets at Barclays Investment Bank. Baton recently announced its blockchain-inspired Core-FX solution is now facilitating the world’s first interbank payment vs payment settlements outside of CLS.

Meanwhile, Jim Tate is named chair of payments disruptor mx51. His appointment builds on his other roles as chair of Westpac Foundation as well as director positions on the boards of New Payments Platform Australia (NPPA) and Ausiex Pty Limited. The news follows mx51 raising $25million last year, in a round led by Acorn Capital, Artesian, Commencer Capital and Mastercard.

WTW (Willis Towers Watson), a global advisory firm, has appointed Lou Smith to its insurance consulting and technology business. In her new role, Smith will lead the commercial lines data strategy and accelerate its digital trading capability. Smith most recently served as chief digital officer at Lloyd’s of London.

Encompass Corporation, a provider of anti-money laundering software, has appointed Doris Honold to its board. The news follows Encompass’ major US expansion as well as the promotion of Alex Ford to president, North America.

Encompass appoint banking industry vet, Doris Honold, to its boardEncompass appoint banking industry vet, Doris Honold, to its board
Encompass appoints Doris Honold to its board
Further job appointments

IT firm Azentio Software unveils Aliza Knox as a non-executive director to the board. Most recently, Knox was head of APAC for Cloudflare and previously was chief operating officer at Unlockd. Her mission is to accelerate Axentio’s core business initiatives and shape a ‘robust, sustainable growth path’.

Meanwhile, enterprise software firm R3 hires Dr. Alisa DiCaprio as its first-ever chief economist. Before joining R3 as head of research in 2017, she was a senior economist with the Asian Development Bank. She continues to be responsible for R3’s research programme as well as advising on topics of relevance to R3 and its wider ecosystem.

Capital.com, the trading and investing platform, has named Joe Rundle as its chief of staff. Rundle will oversee Capital.com’s expansion into new markets, as well as support the company’s diversification strategy with better products and solutions.

Finally, Network International has appointed Abdulaziz Al-Dahmash as managing director for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is tasked with driving Network’s business growth and increasing digital payments adoption in the Kingdom. Al-Dahmash was previously at Saudi Central Bank.

Funding and investments

UK-based fintech firm EVERYTHING has secured €2million in funding to launch the next social finance experience. The free to join debit card and app has been designed for the Gen Z and young millennial age group, rewarding their everyday transactions. The company plans to launch in the UK in the coming months with a waitlist for people to sign up.

Meanwhile, 365 Business Finance secures £55million funding. The London-based fintech is aiming to quadruple lending to SMEs in the next two years. The equity round saw Kendal Capital invest in the business, while the debt facility was concluded with Pollen Street Capital.

Saudi fintech Lean Technologies has raised a $33million Series A round led by Sequoia Capital India, with participation also from existing investors RAEDVentures, Outliers, Shorooq and JIMCO. Lean intends to use these proceeds to grow its team and further expand across the region.

Sayata, the marketplace for insurance brokers and carriers, adds $35million to the previous $17million raised just five months ago, for a total A round of $52milllion. The additional raise was led by Pitango Growth and Hanaco Ventures, with participation from previous investors Team8 Capital, Vertex Ventures, Elron Ventures and OurCrowd.

Fintech SavvyMoney announces $45million growth investment led by Spectrum Equity. TransUnion, an existing investor, also participated in the round. The company plans to invest in new product development and talent, including expanding operations, HR, sales, marketing and engineering teams.

Finally, M2P Solutions secures a $56million Series C1 raise led by Insight Partners with participation from MUFG Innovation Partners. The company has raised more than $100million in the past year. The investment lets M2P further build its technology and team, while accelerating its plans to expand internationally.

Mergers and acquisitions

Pluto Digital PLC acquired by NFT Investment plc for £96million in a reverse takeover. NFT will acquire 100 per cent of the issued share capital of Pluto. It gives NFT the opportunity to advance its investment in the non-fungible tokens sector and it lets Pluto scale up its NFT business as well as exploit opportunity in the decentralised finance and metaverse sectors for its software products.

Partnerships

Arab Financial Services (AFS), the payment provider, has become Bahrain’s first acquirer to enable a buy now, pay later solution for the Kingdom’s merchants. This is through its latest partnership with Dubai-based Spotii. This solution is available to all credit and debit cardholders in Bahrain and not limited to an individual bank.

Meanwhile, European identity verification company iDenfy becomes a partner of Placet Group to provide the company with its ID verification. Placet Group provides loans to businesses and private consumers.

Huawei has partnered with Curve, the financial super app, to launch Curve Pay to bring contactless payments to Huawei smartphones. The release of the Huawei P50 series will be the latest smartphone to benefit from Curve and Curve Pay. In addition to the P50 series, Curve Pay, will also work with the recently launched Nova 9, and other HMS smartphones across Europe.

nova 9 huawei

nova 9 huawei

Forghetti has announced an exclusive cybersecurity agreement with CSL Mobile Limited, Hong Kong’s mobile communications service provider, to equip csl and 1O1O customers with the Forghetti password management solution. This unique application will be made available free of charge to all csl and 1O1O customers subscribing to 5G service plans.

i2c Inc, a provider of digital payment and banking technology, has been selected to power payment programs across nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its clients include Banco Popular, Cornerstone Trust & Merchant Bank, Credijusto, Crypto.com and Facebank with several others to be named in the coming months.

Finally, untied, the UK personal tax app, reveals Lendlord has chosen it to power its tax capability for its landlord and property investor community. With untied’s technology, Lendlord users will be able to manage their taxes from the Lendlord platform. Lendlord has also joined untied’s Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self-Assessment early adopter programme.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/this-week-in-fintech-tft-bi-weekly-news-roundup-25-01/

Allí Me Planto: GoTo Global Joins Finaro To Cover the Earth in Great Green Trees

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The multimodal mobility services provider GoTo Global, has joined the cross-border payment provider Finaro, on Mastercard‘s Priceless Planet Coalition, to promote environmental conservation.

The Priceless Planet Coalition’s main activity is the restoration, over five years, of 100 million trees together with forestry experts from Conservation International and the World Resources Institute.

Trees are one of the critical pillars that sustain the planet. Current levels of carbon emissions, natural resource use and pollution, and uncontrolled use of natural resources are exceeding sustainable environmental limits.

Tree planting has been proven to be an effective mechanism against climate change. This is confirmed by data from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shows how limiting the average temperature increase to the critical target of 1.5°C by 2030 requires an additional billion hectares of trees. Because of this, GoTo and Finaro have joined Mastercard’s initiative and are working together to increase their share of corporate sustainability.

Paloma Real, Country Manager at Mastercard Spain, comments: “We are proud to see that every day there are more and more companies that are aware of the need to care for the Planet and want to join our program. We have an incredible network of partners and GoTo membership in the Priceless Planet Coalition demonstrates its great concern and care for the planet”.

Marie Lindström, Country Manager of GoTo SpainMarie Lindström, Country Manager of GoTo Spain
Marie Lindström

Adding to this, Marie Lindström, Country Manager of GoTo Spain says: “As a multimodal mobility company, sustainability is part of our DNA. At GoTo we are convinced that a greener and more sustainable planet is possible, and we will do everything in our power to raise awareness that another mobility model is possible”.

David Jofre Tejada, Vice President Business Development and Sales, Iberia at Finaro, says: “As a provider of brilliantly simple cross-border payment solutions, we are aware that the world is evolving with every click, and we are proud to support this campaign, which encourages eCommerce and mobility’s evolution in a sustainable and safe way for the planet.”

To encourage sustainability, GoTo has developed a strategy to communicate and involve its customer base. Under the slogan “Allí me planto”, or, “I plant myself there”, GoTo with the support of Finaro, is encouraging its customers to “think local, act global.” The campaign’s objective is to bring the initiative closer to the city of Madrid so that users can easily visualise how their participation contributes to the reforestation every time they use a vehicle from GoTo’s electric fleet.

Thus, users are invited to imagine Madrid’s Retiro Park replanted in Sydney, a Madrid Mountain range recreated in the Amazon, or a Casa de Campo duplicated in Makueni. This way, they can understand the scale of the project and their role in it.

Luisana Zitzen, GoTo’s Marketing Director explains: “We wanted to offer our community of users references to the city of Madrid, so that they can see how their trip contributes to the project and the magnitude of the sustainability cause”.

The action has been amplified in social networks with an influencer marketing campaign, who are well-known as being linked to sustainability and environmental care.

All the communication materials used in the campaign such as flyers and in-vehicle hangers are made of recyclable and biodegradable seed paper.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/alli-me-planto-goto-global-joins-finaro-to-cover-the-earth-in-great-green-trees/

Part 4: Impact Investing for economic empowerment

https://dailyfintech.com/2022/01/25/part-4-impact-investing-for-economic-empowerment/
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There is a big difference between philanthropy/ charity and impact investing. Philanthropy/charity has no revenue model. Such pure giving is needed at the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where the donees have no capacity to pay anything.

The big problem with philanthropy/charity is the continuous need for fund raising.

However, impact ventures have a revenue model, so the ventures should be able to get off the fund raising treadmill. Although impact ventures have a revenue model, they are different from pure commercial ventures in that they serve two masters. They must show positive impact as well as profit.

The problem for impact ventures is that measuring impact is hard. Many pure profit ventures use the impact messaging but it is PR only and not real positive impact (for more, please read Part 2).

Impact investing for economic empowerment works best at what this site describes as “growth needs” as opposed to “deficiency needs”, which arise due to deprivation (once they are satisfied, you don’t need more). Growth needs don’t stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow and the motivation to get more drives our growth as a civilisation.

The big question is whether Fintech only serves big companies or whether it can be used by all of us? Is it Fintech4Us or Fintech4Big&Wealthy? Can the 99% use Fintech to better their lives? Is there a real level playing field?

The impact of economic empowerment is relatively simple to measure. An impact venture focused on economic empowerment has customers who vote with their wallet rather the donees served by philanthropy/ charity. If a lot of poor people use the services of an impact venture focused on economic empowerment, then it is having a positive impact. It is as simple as that.

Some subjects are too complex for our short attention spans, so we do 4 posts one week apart, each one short enough not to lose your attention but in aggregate doing justice to the complexity of the subject. Stay tuned by subscribing.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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

https://dailyfintech.com/2022/01/25/part-4-impact-investing-for-economic-empowerment/

Cybersecurity: How Passwords Are Being Broken

https://thefintechtimes.com/cybersecurity-how-passwords-are-being-broken/
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Throughout the entire month of January, The Fintech Times will be exploring every dimension of one of the industry’s most pressing topics: cybersecurity.

As we soirée into our final phase of cybersecurity coverage, this week we’ll be investigating the backbone of the practice itself – passwords.

Passwords form the base of everyday cybersecurity, and they’re the primary line of defence between personal, sensitive data and the claws of cybercriminals. In this week’s coverage of the topic, we’ll be taking a look at the relationship between biometrics and passwords, the future of the password industry and how you can better manage yours.

But before we move onto those intriguing topics, today we must start at the beginning, with how passwords are being broken.

How are passwords being broken?

Jason Dowzell, CEO and Co-Founder of the software development company Natural HRJason Dowzell, CEO and Co-Founder of the software development company Natural HR
Jason Dowzell

“Password attacks are a common form of a corporate and personal data breach, with hackers breaking passwords in order to gain access to systems, networks or physical locations, or for financial gain,” explains Jason Dowzell, CEO and Co-Founder of Natural HR. “Research has found that a staggering 81 per cent of data breaches in 2020 were due to compromised login credentials.”

Due to developing advancements in technology, the techniques used to infiltrate passwords are becoming increasingly sophisticated; keeping pace with the speed of cybersecurity innovation. And although the armoury being utilised by cybercriminals is becoming ever-more extensive, recent data has highlighted the prevalence of some techniques over others.

Therese Schachner, a Cybersecurity Consultant at VPN BrainsTherese Schachner, a Cybersecurity Consultant at VPN Brains
Therese Schachner

Namely, phishing attacks, which were experienced by 75 per cent of businesses at some point during 2020, which come in as a hot favourite. “Phishing is the use of deception in email or other electronic means to obtain private information, such as passwords, from users,” comments Therese Schachner, a Cybersecurity Consultant at VPN Brains. “An example of phishing is an attacker sending an email or creating a web page, impersonating a well-known brand and prompting users to log into their accounts, with an incentive such as a major sale. Unsuspecting users who enter their login information unknowingly send their passwords and other login credentials to the attacker.”

As one of the key byproducts of the pandemic, more and more consumers and businesses are developing a wider online footprint whilst embracing the daily use of technology. However, the downside of this advancement is that an increasing number of users are also becoming more vulnerable to these types of attacks; especially in regards to the prevalence of ever-remote corporate teams.

As Dowzell explains, dodgy emails open the door to cybercriminals, whilst also compromising password security: “Phishing usually takes the form of an email, perhaps from IT, a senior manager or your email provider, requesting that everyone reset their passwords and to click a link to do so. Often, these links will lead users to fake password reset pages in the hope that users will reveal their password voluntarily.”

Aside from off-the-hook email-based attacks, cybercriminals are also exploiting homegrown software to bypass and disrupt password stability. Known as malware, this form of attack can boast many differing facades. Viruses, worms, rootkits and ransomware are all commonplace within a malware attack, and as Schachner goes on to explain, so too is the use of keyloggers and trojans: “Attackers use keyloggers to covertly record and exfiltrate the keys users type on their keyboards, including the passwords that users type while logging into their accounts. Another type of malware is remote access trojans (RATs), which allow attackers to obtain clandestine remote access, with administrative privileges, to a computer. Using RATs, attackers can extract saved and cached passwords and take screenshots of login pages where users have entered their credentials.”

Schachner goes on to describe other techniques used to surpass passwords, including the use of cracking tools: “Cracking tools test large quantities of common passwords and passwords that have been leaked, as well as variations and combinations of them, until they guess the correct passwords. With these tools, attackers can make educated guesses about passwords in an efficient manner.

“An example of one of these tools is Hashcat, which computes the hash, or value that represents a sequence of characters, of each password the attacker guesses. Hashcat then compares each hash to the known hash of the correct password in order to determine whether the attempted password is correct.”

The Wider Issue

Although we’ve considered a handful of the malicious practices used to break passwords, the wider attitude around passwords and password management could also be contributing to their weaknesses. For anyone who’s ever used a password, the difficulty in remembering them will be a familiar sensation. Although many sites recommend the use of capitals and special characters to strengthen a password, this approach could also lend itself to their downfall. “Many businesses operate strict policies to change passwords every 30, 60 or 90 days, which, in fact, often leads to weaker security,” explains Dowzell. “Employees have countless passwords to remember and being forced to change these at regular intervals leads to poor security hygiene as they take to writing them down or making them as easy to remember as possible.

“As such, many rely on poor practices and use simple passwords like ‘123456’, ‘qwerty’ or even ‘password’ across multiple systems and accounts. Ultimately, this makes it easy for cybercriminals to crack passwords and access data or systems that they shouldn’t be.”

James Bore, Director, Bores ConsultancyJames Bore, Director, Bores Consultancy
James Bore

In light of this however, James Bore, Director of Bores Consultancy, points to a lack of host security as a catalyst towards password inefficiency: “Generally passwords are now broken through cases of password reuse and site compromises. If you use a password on a banking site, and on a small online shop, then if the online shop gets compromised (and has bad security practices) that password and the accompanying email address are now effectively public knowledge. Of course, there are also extensive dictionaries of common passwords used in brute force attacks, and rainbow tables are used to retrieve hashed passwords from compromised sites, but reuse is how the vast majority of passwords are broken.”

The Bottom Line

Although password management is an area that’s due to be explored a little later this week, it is still worth mentioning some of the remedies that could be put in place to prevent the progression of these malicious tactics.

As Dowzell explains, the best offence is a good defence, which could include the likes of public education, the use of extended caution online, and of course, the implementation of more complex passwords: “Employees should be encouraged to use caution, avoid clicking on any links from unknown senders and to question even a recognised sender if the email is suspicious. As a result, training employees on what constitutes a strong password, how to practice good password hygiene and how to identify security threats or phishing attempts is critical.

“Passwords should be created with length (the longer, the better!) in mind, rather than complexity (including upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters) to make them harder to crack.”

  • 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.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/cybersecurity-how-passwords-are-being-broken/

Accern: How AI is Transforming Finance – And What to Expect in 2022

https://thefintechtimes.com/accern-how-ai-is-transforming-finance-and-what-to-expect-in-2022/
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Increased digitisation has caused an immense uptake of new AI solutions within the workspace. The growing demand for no-code technology which does not encourage human bias was also a key factor for companies developing and implementing AI in 2021.

AI is undoubtedly changing finance, but what trends are we going to see in the new year? Anshul Pandey, co-founder and CTO, Accern, a company looking to improve AI workflows for enterprises with a no-code development platform, spoke to The Fintech Times to gives his views:

Anshul Pandey, co-founder and CTO, AccernAnshul Pandey, co-founder and CTO, Accern
Anshul Pandey, co-founder and CTO, Accern

As the world goes digital, AI has continued to infiltrate enterprise tech, notably within financial services. In fact, the global fintech market is projected to reach $46.8million between now and 2030 – compared to a mere $7.7million in 2020. Showing no signs of slowing down, AI will continue to take over the fintech and financial services industries in the months and years ahead.

Particularly within the banking and insurance industries, AI has proven beneficial across multiple use cases. For example, banks now rely on AI to determine who qualifies for a loan, while insurance firms rely on AI to help clients make claims. One common theme across use cases is that AI has proven to reduce risk throughout financial services.

As business leaders and consumers grow accustomed to interacting with AI and developing trust in its recommendations, the most prominent trends for the year will consist of using AI to increase efficiency, save valuable resources, act on timely news and customise services for clients, among other purposes.

Four Ways AI is Transforming the Financial Services Industry

One major use case within the financial services industry is using AI to automate manual processes. More than 40 per cent of finance leaders report that demand for faster, higher-quality insights is the biggest factor in moving toward automation. In today’s data-driven world, it’s more important than ever to be able to capitalise on data as quickly as possible. AI provides a solution to automate manual tasks and provide faster insights as models can be trained to make informed decisions based on a specific set of rules.

Historically, tedious tasks like evaluating someone’s loan application or processing insurance claims have been manual. Now, data teams can use AI’s natural language processing benefits to find data quickly and train AI models to follow rules. Manual processes such as identifying fraud, finding information relevant to mortgage, loan, and insurance applications, and more can be executed with little or no human interaction. Saving valuable resources usually spent on manual processes, AI transforms how financial services firms work while providing more efficiency and savings on costs.

Not only can AI take time-consuming tasks off human’s hands, research shows that AI-powered hedge funds vastly outperform yield returns three times higher than the global industry average. Hedge funds that use AI reap the benefits of algorithmic trading by recognising patterns in historical data. Unlike trading that relies on human decision-making, often influenced by emotion or personal bias, algorithmic trading uses AI models to make better-informed and more fact-based trades. Over 60 per cent of trades over $10million in 2020 were conducted using algorithms, and the algorithmic trading market alone is expected to reach $19billion by 2024. Helping firms reduce risk and act quickly on current trends, algorithmic trading is significant, especially within hedge funds, and will remain a key trend in 2022.

Additionally, to stay competitive in today’s environment, it has become crucial for financial services firms to offer personalised services to their customers. By using AI, firms can segment customers into groups with similar interests, demographics, and needs to let professionals target different strategies and services for each. The data and insights gained are valuable in determining where firms should deploy their resources, leading to greater ROI and more relevant customer offerings. Some have found that firms could see a six per cent increase in revenue even with the most basic personalisation strategies. Throughout 2022, enhancing customer experience will continue to be a primary goal for financial services firms. AI will be a determining factor that can help firms engage better with their audience and reduce client turnover through greater personalisation.

Lastly, more companies in financial services are using AI to execute credit risk analysis, helping banks make informed credit decisions. AI provides real-time indicators of a potential borrower’s creditworthiness, such as their current income, employment opportunities, and earning potential. As such, banks can now use alternative data to help provide affordable credit without compromising on profitability. Alternative data makes this possible by analysing large amounts of data to detect hidden interactions and provide better insights, which generally wouldn’t be possible to consider through human efforts alone. Firms can offer clients more equitable solutions when using AI to make credit decisions. It also helps mitigate the bias common in human decision-making while still allowing banks to maintain their preferred risk exposure.

The advantages of AI within the financial services industry are clear. However, some of the biggest challenges facing AI adoption in the financial services industry are the lack of education and skilled subject matter experts. However, with the growth in digital data, digitisation, and changing consumer expectations, financial services firms will have to find ways to leverage the benefits of AI to remain competitive. In 2022, firms will find ways to implement AI across their operations with minimal disruptions in workflow.

A More Innovative Solution

Despite how advanced technology is, financial services firms do not have to hire experts or train employees to code to implement AI and machine learning into their operations. No-code AI solutions are an asset to companies in the financial services field, as they are an easy way to reap the benefits of AI without the technological complexity. Firms can process large amounts of data in less time, automate manual processes, build AI models, and more using no-code AI, leading to better and faster decision-making.

Financial teams can still capture valuable insights from AI without having the same training as data scientists. By allowing financial services firms of all sizes to extract recommendations from AI and find better solutions using alternative data, companies using no-code AI solutions in 2022 can reveal real-time trends and act on the most up-to-date data.

Because of the pandemic, 52 per cent of companies accelerated their AI adoption plans in 2021, 2022 will likely be another year of further AI integration into financial services firms. Utilising no-code AI will not only give companies the upper hand in their competitive advantage using the latest technology, but it will allow them to see better cost savings, more personalised services, and greater efficiency.

https://thefintechtimes.com/accern-how-ai-is-transforming-finance-and-what-to-expect-in-2022/

The digital euro is on the way

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Digitalization is affecting everything and is accelerated by the pandemic. One area unable to escape this accelerated trend is money. Money inventions have challenged and transformed the structure of the financial system throughout history. Time and again, innovations have sparked disputes about the dangers they represent and the benefits they provide, as well as the role of central banks in fostering financial trust. Not so long ago, cash was more or less the only way to make an immediate purchase. However, we have grown accustomed to using forms of private digital money such as online bank transfers, debit cards, and applications on our smartphones or smartwatches. As a fellow of the Digital Euro Association, a think tank specializing in crypto assets, stablecoins and central bank digital currencies (CBDC), we are working on contributing to the public and political discussion between policy-makers, technologists, and economists.

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the founder and CEO at Kryptonio wallet. Please participate in our Crypto Wallet Survey, we could use your help. It’s seven simple multiple-choice questions about crypto wallets and you should be done in 60 seconds. The survey is completely anonymous.

The rise of cryptocurrencies and stablecoins, like Facebook’s Diem (formerly Libra), is forcing governments to rethink national digital currencies. Central banks want to maintain control over money, but the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies has clearly shown that people no longer trust their national currencies, such as Venezuelans and Nigerians, and want to control their money.

At an international level, the digitalization of money and payments is being examined by the G7 and the G20. In Europe, it is frequently discussed by Finance Ministers in the Eurogroup.

Some fear that digitalization, if not properly governed could create instability and even threaten the monetary system. Central banks are considering whether they should innovate by offering digital money. Unlike bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, central bank digital currencies (CBDC) are government-issued, basically digital versions of existing national currencies.

Race for the future of money
Over the past two years, central banks around the world have been working on CBDCs. A survey in 2020 showed that 86% of all central banks are conducting research on CBDCs. The Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan global leadership organization, released a six-month update of its central bank digital currency tracker on December 13th. Today, 87 countries (representing over 90 percent of global GDP) are exploring a CBDC, 9 countries have now fully launched a digital currency and 14 countries, including China and South Korea, are now in the pilot stage with their CBDCs and preparing a possible full launch.

Sources: Atlantic Council Research, Bank of International Settlements, International Monetary Fund, John Kiff Database

China has been experimenting with the digital yuan since 2014. The digital yuan has already been used to process over $5 billion in transactions. Sweden recently launched a pilot of the e-Krona with a small number of real-life market participants. The “sand dollar,” in the Bahamas, is already in operation used as a means of payment. Nigeria is the latest country to launch a CBDC, the e-Naira.

Out of the big four central banks, including those of the EU, UK, and Japan, only the US has not progressed beyond research mode in central bank digital currencies. The Federal Reserve Board (FRB) released a whitepaper in January 2022, that looks into the pros and cons of creating a central bank digital currency for the United States.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia launched a bilateral CBDC pilot project called Project Aber in 2019, and concluded that DLT can successfully facilitate cross-border transactions. In February 2021, the United Arab Emirates joined China, Hong Kong, and Thailand in a joint CBDC cross-border test. This “Multiple Central Bank Digital Currency (m-CBDC) Bridge” will test the use of DLT for foreign currency payments. The latest cross-border payment test is Project Dunbar – a partnership between South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia.

Some countries are taking a completely different approach. In the fall, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to adopt bitcoin as a national currency. El Salvador’s citizens can use bitcoin to pay any business for its products and services.

Two or three years ago, few were talking about the digital euro. Now the European Central Bank (ECB) is planning to unveil the digital euro in the next five years. The rise of stablecoins to over $120 billion combined with the expansion of big tech companies into finance has brought the digital euro to the foreground.

European Central Bank
In October the ECB started an investigation phase for the possible introduction of a digital euro. The digital euro would still be a euro, only in digital form. Unlike cash, the digital euro will be used digitally and in a programmable way, but payments with a digital euro will not be as anonymous as a payment in cash.

The digital euro will be an attractive alternative to cash. It will function as a crypto asset that can be integrated into fully automated transactions, without the need for any human intervention. According to estimates, the internet of things will connect 24 billion devices by 2030, with 23% of the devices in the EU.

From a strategic standpoint, a digital euro accessible to foreign users would cut the cost of using the euros in cross-border payments, increase the international role of the euro, strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy, and lessen the global domination of the US dollar.

But, issuing a digital euro would affect society as a whole. Complex questions and difficult choices lie ahead about how to introduce the digital euro to the market. The right balance needs to be struck to make the digital euro robust and easy to operate.

In a truly digitalized economy, CBDCs are a natural next step. The financial infrastructure in any given country will play a key role in the speed and extent of adoption of CBDCs, stablecoins, or cryptocurrencies. The development of CBDCs is a response to the challenge cryptocurrencies and private stablecoins pose to the central banks. Digital national digital currencies like the digital euro are a positive step in our digital evolution, as we transition from fiat to sound money (that is not prone to sudden appreciation or depreciation in purchasing power over the long term),  like bitcoin. While it is too early to predict what will happen and what shape money in the future will take, in the end, people will decide whether to use cryptocurrencies or CBDCs,

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https://dailyfintech.com/2022/01/24/the-digital-euro-is-on-the-way/

News & Views Podcast | Episode 63: Amazon vs Visa, eCommerce Payments & Goodbox

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On this weeks episode of News & Views, The Fintech Times Podcast team speak on the recent news surrounding Amazon vs Visa, eCommerce Payments & Goodbox, the Fintech revolutionising how we give & donate.

https://thefintechtimes.com/news-views-podcast-episode-63-amazon-vs-visa-ecommerce-payments-goodbox/

VU: How Fintech Found Its Footing in the Digital ID Charge

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The pandemic’s catalysation of the digital world has led more people to need to prove their identities online. However, with many criminals aiming to imitate innocent users and access their data, ensuring a secure digital ID should be at the top of every company’s priority list. 

Sebastián Stranieri, Founder and CEO VU, a cybersecurity company specialising in fraud prevention and identity protection. He spoke to The Fintech Times to explain how fintechs have managed to drive ahead of the competition; banks and other financial organisations must now collaborate with fintechs to protect their customers: 

Sebastián Stranieri, Founder and CEO VU,Sebastián Stranieri, Founder and CEO VU,
Sebastián Stranieri, Founder and CEO VU,

Digital identity was one of main talking points at last year’s Singapore Fintech Festival, with fintechs driving not only the conversation, but the action too. Whether launching their own tech or being the innovation backbone for government plans, fintechs are repeatedly making personal authentication more secure and streamlined in digital spaces.

For example, Mastercard recently announced its plan to supply the infrastructure for cross-border digital ID between Australia and Singapore. The Vice President of the financial services company specified that these kinds of fintech-driven “public foundation digital infrastructures will be critical for inclusive economic and social development.”

With more people having to prove their identity online on a daily basis (to pay bills and work remotely), private fintech companies best facilitate that step because they can implement solutions faster and on a bigger scale. Considering one billion people are unable to prove their identity online, fintech’s speed and agility gives more people access to digital IDs and thus basic necessities.

Here’s how fintech is leading the digital ID charge, and why it’s set to stay ahead in the race:

Building a more inclusive banking sphere

Digital IDs are standard practice in fintech. Biometrics like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition have long been used to authorise entry to digital wallets and fintech services like microloans, insurance providers, trading, and cryptocurrencies. There is also the more recent introduction of decentralised digital identities where documents like a driving license or password are stored on third-party blockchain platforms and used for validation with the user’s approval.

Currently, over 1.7 billion people worldwide (nearly a fourth of the population) don’t have a formal bank account, and yet 64 per cent of global consumers have used one or more fintech platforms. Part of the reason is people can more easily set up a digital ID online than go to an in-person bank appointment. Likewise, for people who live in rural areas or who don’t speak the local language, a digital ID is more attainable. Plus, digital IDs accommodate people who have limited mobility or cognitive disorders and can’t travel or remember their account details.

Protecting people’s data and path to wealth-building

People are increasingly placing their trust in technology over traditional banking – which is one of the most targeted groups for cyber attacks. And while attacks cost this industry billions per year, it’s everyday bank account holders who are at risk of losing their savings and personal information.

While fintech equally faces rising threats of cybercrime, digital IDs are effective at closing the entry points that criminals use for foul play. Digital IDs that pair with smart contracts, multiparty computing and lightning network infrastructure are especially robust.

Reassured with these secure IDs, more people can seize fintech services that provide alternative routes to wealth building. For example, fintech platforms that consolidate multiple bank accounts in one place give users a better overview of their finances. Some platforms also enable users to browse and switch to cheaper utility providers, saving account holders time and money. Even better, this improved financial management only requires one, singular digital ID.

In emerging economies – which are more frequently catching malicious players’ attention because of their tech growth but less developed cybersecurity – fintech digital IDs can be implemented from day one. That means that these markets can put one of the strongest cybersecurity shields at people’s fingertips earlier and at a greater scale.

Bringing new solutions to stagnant institutions

Fintech isn’t just championing digital IDs in its own silo, companies have been sharing the advantages of the tech with traditional banks. Take multinational Dutch bank ING, which paired with fintech Minna Technologies to allow customers to manage and swap subscription services directly in the banking app. Elsewhere, UK bank TSB teamed up with fintech ApTap to provide customers with a dashboard to oversee their bills across providers.

The innovation taking place in fintech companies is already why 81 per cent of banks believe fintech collaboration is key to their digital transformation. Fintechs have been able to build impressive digital identity systems that are interoperable between different entities (including banks), meaning people can have a seamless authentication experience whether they prefer traditional banking practices or fintech ones. Rather than compete with banks, digital IDs allow fintechs to integrate with them, and serve (and shield) a broader scope of people.

With fintech continuing to bring banking up to speed in the digital realm, there’s significant potential for it to do the same in government. For instance, in Argentina, where the population still faces challenges in financial literacy, the public and private sector has launched MODO, a digital wallet that consolidates people’s bank ID into a single app. Here, users can manage accounts, make QR payments, and transfer funds through WhatsApp.

Following in the footsteps of countries with digital identity schemes such as Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic, nations now need to take advantage of new technologies like Web 3.0 to better test and evolve citizens’ financial experiences.

Fintech’s familiarity with digital IDs doesn’t just empower the people who have already adopted fintech services, but the people who have previously been excluded by traditional banks too. Considering that the UN and World Bank have stressed the importance of citizens being able to prove their existence, these digital IDs ensure more people have a higher quality of life for good.

https://thefintechtimes.com/vu-how-fintech-found-its-footing-in-the-digital-id-charge/

Cybersecurity: Innovation in Business Security

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Throughout the entire month of January, The Fintech Times will be exploring every dimension of one of the industry’s most pressing topics: cybersecurity.

The cyber industry is ripe with innovation, working to keep up and provide solutions to new threats. Businesses, in particular, need to be particularly on guard, often due to the amount of customer data they hold. 

Here we spoke to several cybersecurity experts to find more about innovation in business security. 

EladElad
Elad, Global Head of Defence at Performanta

Elad Sherf, Global Head of Defence at Performanta believes compliance is key when considering business security.

He said: “Innovation in cybersecurity is always seen as a move away from regular compliance measures in favour of more stringent security practices. While security beyond compliance is important, compliance itself is still crucial.

“For business security, innovation needs to start with the training and education of staff. Awareness around cybersecurity needs to be absorbed like a culture within an organisation. Mastering this is at the very heart of innovating for business security.

“As leader, the responsibility is on you. Constantly ask how you can be creative for cybersecurity measures to work even better and invest in people and the right suppliers to lead the way. By building out a security function, your innovation lies in the robust security strategy you put in place.

“Ultimately, great detection and response to attacks is the main aim for business security. Any innovative strategy needs to have this in mind above all else.”

Digital Transformation

CEO & co-founder of Ondato, Liudas KanapienisCEO & co-founder of Ondato, Liudas Kanapienis
Liudas Kanapienis, CEO & co-founder of Ondato

For the CEO & co-founder of Ondato, Liudas Kanapienis, digital transformation is still a sticking point for many businesses.

“You might reasonably think most organisations have digital transformation done and dusted by now, he said. “But it seems old habits die hard – 82% of companies are still heavily dependent on old-fashioned paper-based processes.

“That’s because real digital transformation is actually pretty complex. It involves two different things: digitalisation of business services – to serve customers remotely – and digital transformation of the business – reworking current processes with current or emerging technologies.

“Think of it like this – if something goes wrong, does your customer still need to drive to the bank and fill out forms? If that’s a yes, transformation is still a work in progress.

“Reluctance to ditch the status quo is especially common in large financial institutions, where safety is the name of the game. If a system works, even if it’s outdated, they might prefer to cling to it rather than move forwards.

“There is no point innovating just because everyone else is doing it, but how can you tell if a change is needed? Here are five questions to find out whether digital transformation should still be on your agenda:

“Are your current processes inefficient? According to the Project Management Institute, global organisations waste approximately $3 million every minute due to poor project performance.

“Are you making best use of current technologies? Everyone agrees email is faster than fax. What about other areas?

“Do you look innovative to your customers? Look beyond your immediate competitors to see if anyone has already solved the challenges you’re experiencing.

“Are you leveraging data effectively? Use it and test whether you notice improvements. If you find something that works, scale-up.

“Are you still doing things other people do better? There are plenty of service providers offering fully-fledged suites that solve particular business problems that you might have.

“As these questions show, while digital transformation is more complex than just serving customers remotely, it’s not some far distant land that we can never reach. And the rewards justify the effort. Going digital makes your day-to-day processes more effective, and increased profits and revenue growth soon follow.

“There’s been major progress, of course. Many businesses were surprised to discover just how agile they could be, faced with the choice of stopping business operations altogether during the pandemic or finding ways to work digitally and remotely.

“To be clear, serving your customer remotely doesn‘t mean that you‘ve achieved digital transformation.”

The threat of ransomware

Sebastian Nölting, CEO of RNT Rausch, said “In October for the European Cybersecurity Month, the European Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) published its annual report on the state of the cybersecurity threat landscape. For 2020 and 2021, ransomware was determined as being the prime threat, particularly daunting as the average ransomware fee has doubled. I don´t think I am going out on a limb by saying 2022 will see this prolific threat manifesting and accelerating even more and companies should treat this as a question of when, not if, to prepare accordingly.

“There are many ways to build defences against ransomware, such as sensitisation and training of staff on phishing, firewalls and malware protection that build shields against ransomware. However, if these fail, and many times they do, your last line of defence is immutable storage. It is my conviction that the new imperative must be that immutable storage needs to be added to the storage and server portfolio of any company that values its data – and I know of no company that can function without access to its data.

“How you secure your data is a key factor on how much of an impact a security breach has on your business and valuable assets. Immutable means unchangeable: a hacker cannot modify, encrypt, or delete your backup files, even with full access to your backup server. If your data can’t be manipulated, it can’t be encrypted by ransomware, thereby neutralising the threat and equally reducing your downtime as a company.

“As one can imagine, securing data immutably is more expensive. However, in the case of ransomware, basing your decisions on a zero-trust policy, securing your backups on tape drives in air-gapped vaults or the immutable storage options offered by the main cloud providers (or some newer options which I won’t address here) can simply eliminate having to choose between paying a ransom or staying in business.”

No need for innovation?

James Bore, the Director of Bores Consultancy, believes that “innovation isn’t really what we need in cybersecurity for business.”

He continued: “The vast majority of incidents and attacks are a result of failures to apply principles and models which we have had at our fingertips for decades, such as least privilege, minimum function, asset management, and security by design. Adding shinier and shinier technology on top does nothing to fix the broken foundation sitting beneath it all, except to keep organisations distracted from fundamental problems.”

Edwin BartlettEdwin Bartlett
Edwin Bartlett, CEO of Hicomply

The CEO of Hicomply, Edwin Bartlett’s thoughts line up with this somewhat, as he thinks business security is often an afterthought. He said:

“The heavily regulated financial sector controlling the bulk of our economy’s asset base led to early and much-needed technology innovations such as contactless payments and online banking. However, the impact of this technology adoption on business security was often an afterthought and, in many cases, hasn’t caught up. 

“On top of this, the industry is becoming much more decentralised, so we’re in a position now where multiple challenger banks and payment gateways, such as Stripe, have opened up the market. Obviously, this is great for the industry and the consumer, but also creates many more touchpoints and more opportunities for business security issues to be exposed and exploited. This is where innovation in finance has actually created a challenge!

“There is currently a lot of innovation in banking governance, with tech such as blockchain being used to allow identity verification between two organisations. However, for business security, the next big opportunity for innovation should be internal and much more around the people, the processes and how they operate. Many organisations have yet to adopt a robust information security framework, as it’s seen as being costly and time-consuming. 

“Innovation in resolving this challenge has been rapid over the last twelve months, allowing a key step to be made around how businesses posture themselves and get their full organisations to buy into and enact their security processes, rather than a singular department or person responsible for the full organisation – a largely impossible task.

“For example, financial sector and fintech firms have many digital assets that need protecting, whether that’s IP, computers, networks, or customer personal data. Consider undertaking a thorough risk assessment of the business to identify whether these assets are secure and identify vulnerabilities and areas that need to be improved. It’s an area ripe for innovation in business security, where you can better predict and understand what’s likely to happen, using AI technology to predict those possible risks. 

“In line with this, AI can be used to understand what’s most likely to go wrong from a business security perspective. Doing so will allow organisations to predict and prevent security incidents using predictive risk assessment.”

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/cybersecurity-innovation-in-business-security/

EDF: How Can AI Help To Embed an Evidential Culture of Cyber Resilience for Insurers?

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Keeping up with cyber trends is vital for success in any industry, and is specifically prevalent in the insurance sector. Falling behind can lead to large payouts and companies losing money. So how can this be avoided? Well, one way is through understanding and constantly learning about cyber risks. Employees simply checking off a training module isn’t enough – the learning must be a continuous process.

Adrian Harvey, CEO at AI provider Elephants Don’t ForgetAdrian Harvey, CEO at AI provider Elephants Don’t Forget
Adrian Harvey, CEO at Elephants Don’t Forget

Following the Chartered Insurance Institute’s (CII) research regarding cyber insurance knowledge gaps within firms, Adrian Harvey, CEO at AI provider Elephants Don’t Forget – which supports the employee competency improvement of the UK’s top five general insurers – examines why behavioural science in the field of learning and development can support organisations to embed retention of critical subject matter and develop a positive and evidential culture of cyber resilience.

Harvey explained:

“With the CII recently highlighting that cyber insurance knowledge gaps could result in misselling and poor customer outcomes; it was concerning to read that almost six out of ten insurance professionals surveyed stated they had not received any training about cyber risks even though they were involved with pricing or underwriting policies related to them.

“On a positive note, with nine out of ten professionals actively stating that they want to learn more about cyber risks through their training, continual professional development is needed to ensure employee knowledge stays ahead of evolving risks.

“However, it is vitally important for firms to remain vigilant about the methodologies they deploy to ensure that their training is continually retained. It is also critical – from both a risk assurance and return on investment point of view – that the evidential outcome of their training actually improves the knowledge of their employees and provides firms with the ability to forecast where their greatest individual people-base risks are and rectify them quickly.”

Harvey contends that the methodologies requested by employees reported in the CII survey to help assimilate cyber awareness training may not provide the continual approach to learning which is needed to improve retention of critical subject matter and individual competency levels.

The CII’s survey noted that, whilst almost all the respondents wanted more training about emerging cyber risks, most of the training methodologies requested were in the form of ‘default’ techniques such as online courses, webinars, self-election e-guides and single point in time assessments.

Instead, Harvey urges firms to consider the shortcomings of these approaches and understand the benefits of applying behavioural science within their learning and development deployment to better support their employees.

Harvey outlined the principles of their technique which is deployed by leading organisations including Allianz, RSA, Direct Line Group, and Aviva; a technique which, in conjunction with Aviva and Aviva Canada, recently secured a cooperative gold award at the Brandon Hall Group Human Capital Management (HCM) Excellence Awards 2021 in the category of Best Advance in Machine Learning and AI.

Harvey continued:

“It has been theorised that many of the ‘default’ employee training and engagement methodologies can have a negative impact on improving employee competency, disenfranchise employees from engaging and retaining their training, and offer little in the way of evident quality assurance data to firms that their employees can effectively recall how to apply training in everyday practice.

“German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850 – 1909) hypothesised that training material is exponentially forgotten from the moment a learner consumes it unless efforts are made to preserve it. His study – now famously characterised by the ‘Forgetting Curve’ – demonstrated the decline of retention over time, concluding that we forget as much as 80 per cent of what we taught within the first 30 days when there is no attempt to retain it.

“The Forgetting Curve supports the notion of one of seven kind of memory failures: transience; the process of forgetting occurring with the passage of time. And, whilst the overall rate of forgetting differs little between individuals, the speed in which individuals forget can be impacted by the difficulty of the material, how meaningful it is, and how the material is provided for assimilation.

“Individual spaced learning, repetition and self-testing have since been cited by psychologists and learning professionals as highly effective learning techniques to increase memory recall. These are the fundamental principles behind our AI platform – Clever Nelly.

“And these principles have long been cited as invaluable to the insurers and financial firms we support to help ensure their employees are knowledgeable and competent in critical subject material that relates to compliance, process, policy, and product. All of which can be difficult for employees to continually assimilate during the process of onboarding and throughout their careers.

“So, instead of methodically and repetitively attending to what employees need to be most effective in their individual role, default training provisions – often characterised by employee engagement surveys, annual refresher training and single point in time competency assessments – run the risk of becoming perfunctory and offer little in the way of proactive indicators of genuine competency-related risks for firms.

“They can also result in a reduction of objective employee engagement, diminished retention of critical-subject matter, and highly erroneous Management Information (MI) that is needed to inform individual performance management conversations and strategic business decisions pertinent to people-based risk in real time.

“And, if you have ever wondered how competent your employees might be, it is of worthy note that we commissioned a three-year study to assess the baseline competency of employees – many of whom work within the financial sector – analysing the responses to over 72 million competency interactions between 2017-19. Our analysis found that the average level of tenured employee competency stood at just 52 per cent”.

With reports suggesting that if global multiline insurers fail to continually stay ahead of cyber trends potential claims may no longer be insurable in extreme scenarios, prevention – through efficient training deployment – is now being championed as a primary way for insurers to become more resilient to market risks.

And, with notable insurers – including Hiscox – leading a renewed charge on highlighting that ‘human error is still by far the biggest vulnerability when it comes to cyber attacks’ and that ‘staff forgetting the basics of their training’ continue to manifest increased cyber risks for insurers, Harvey poses an interesting question regarding the efficacy of traditional training methods for insurers and financial firms to consider.

Harvey concluded:

“Is eLearning, annual refresher training, self-election training guides – supplemented with ad hoc simulation training – enough to really ensure employees are continually cyber secure in terms of their knowledge?

“If the people inside your business are one of your biggest risks, shouldn’t insurers be focusing more on effectively analysing individual employee behavioural decision making in real-time and fixing the knowledge gaps as they appear, rather than simply delivering perfunctory single point in time training or being reliant on employees self-electing to upskill their own knowledge? Simply satisfying training delivery per se – without ensuring competency is achieved and, crucially, maintained – is a sub-optimal strategy to improve subject knowledge.

“Firms need to continually assess individual cyber understanding and, when critical gaps are identified, instantly repair them. It’s about consistency and reinforcement; training at onboarding, six months, and annually cannot provide employees with effective patterns of learning behaviour to retain and apply knowledge, especially as new risks appear.

“Combined this issue with the fact that many employees are being deprived of vital peer-to-peer learning and face-to-face training due to hybrid working practices, and organisations face a significant amount of behavioural employee risk-taking and governance issues if competency is not being proactively maintained, analysed, and improved in critical subject areas.

“Employee centric AI – like Clever Nelly – is supporting insurers to assess individual competency cost-effectively and continually; automatically repairing any gaps or knowledge fade. It takes less than one minute 30 seconds of an employees’ day and engages with employees in the flow of work, with no disruption to BAU.

“So, if employee knowledge gaps are continually manifesting issues, a renewed investment in the way firms ranks competency management not only offers increased protection for them, their brand, their markets, and consumers, but it also has the value addition of generating the greatest return on investment from human capital whilst improving employee engagement with subject training too.”

https://thefintechtimes.com/edf-how-can-ai-help-to-embed-an-evidential-culture-of-cyber-resilience-for-insurers/

Bolt Integrates With Rydoo To Drive Better Management of Travel Expenses

https://thefintechtimes.com/bolt-integrates-with-rydoo-to-drive-better-management-of-travel-expenses/
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Bolt has integrated the expense management solution of Rydoo into its system to allow companies that utilise its service as a business ride solution to automate expenses faster and more efficiently.

Rydoo, the SaaS software solution that allows for easier management of business travel and expense reports, has been integrated with the services of the vehicle hire company Bolt, helping customers manage business ride reimbursements through a connected and automated platform.

Rydoo’s ‘plug and play’ expense management solution aims to enhance the platform’s smart integration and connected platform by eliminating the manual work of end-users and finance departments needed to use both platforms.

In the past, companies that have Bolt as a business ride solution would have to download invoices and add them to their Rydoo app manually. This integration eliminates the demand on the end-user, giving finance teams full visibility on employee expenses and creating future budget forecasts.

When a client books a trip on Bolt, the connected platforms now give riders the option to auto-create an expense in the Rydoo app. Through automation, all the trip information will be automatically captured in the expenses and will appear in the user’s Rydoo account.

By syncing all bookings made in Bolt directly to the user’s Rydoo account, finance teams can manage rides reimbursements faster. The integration is intuitive which means that employees can easily sync their business email account with Bolt.

Global Director of Bolt Business Nick PowellGlobal Director of Bolt Business Nick Powell
Nick Powell

“At Bolt, we’re building a future in which people are no longer forced to buy a car to get around,” said Global Director of Bolt Business Nick Powell. “Where people have the freedom to use transportation on demand, choosing whatever vehicle is best for each occasion. Integrating our platform with Rydoo’s smart expense automation allows us to streamline the process of expense and reporting business travel costs, taking the next step in a seamless connected user experience.”

How does the integration work?

  1. First, the user goes to their business profile in the Bolt app and opens the side navigation and selects Payment.
  2. They are then given the option to add Rydoo as an expense provider to generate an automated expense receipt. The user must then verify the email.
  3. Next time the client has requested a ride with a business profile, the receipts will be sent automatically to a Rydoo account.

“The biggest pain points for customers have varied from the time it takes to upload the ride receipt manually, to lack of visibility with spending, along with minimised employee communication,” adds Julien Steel, VP Product Partnerships at Rydoo. “By combining our automated expense management with Bolt’s fast-developing mobility platform, we are helping customers develop seamless employee communication and faster expense management for millions of Bolt users globally. We are excited to take this next step in our collaboration with Bolt to deliver on our shared vision in enabling seamless travel experiences for people and businesses around the world.”

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/bolt-integrates-with-rydoo-to-drive-better-management-of-travel-expenses/