Searching for Mana: The Finance Community With One Million Subscribers | Max Rofagha, Finimize

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-finance-community-with-one-million-subscribers-max-rofagha-finimize/
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Finimize is building the world’s largest and most engaged finance community, with over one million subscribers across their app. Max Rofagha, its co-founder and CEO sits down with Stefan Ciecierski from Mana Search to outline how they help casual investors become smarter investors through bitesize content and engaged community. 

In this chat, Max tells us why neo-brokers democratising access to the stock market has opened a major opportunity to empower retail investors with new forms of information, and how Finimize is helping retail investors make informed investment decisions. Plus, he lays out how he attracts talent from top tier investment banks to work at Finimize full-time, and why it’s important that Finimize content is written by ex-Goldman Sachs or Fidelity analysts. 

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Episode Highlights

02:15: Empowering retail investors to make informed investment decisions

11:00: Max’s journey as an entrepreneur

14:30: The power of snowball effect and serendipity leading to Passion Capital’s investment

18:55: Lessons from being a founder

21:40: Why company culture and priorities matter?

27:45: Creating premium content from ex-Goldman Sachs or Fidelity analysts

42:13: New opportunities on the market

43:58: Max’s Mana

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-finance-community-with-one-million-subscribers-max-rofagha-finimize/

4-part series on Digital Identity. Part 2 = The bank says this is about CYA, KYC, KYT and CAC/LTV.

https://dailyfintech.com/2021/04/13/4-part-series-on-digital-identity-part-2-the-bank-says-this-is-about-cya-kyc-kyt-and-cac-ltv/
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Starting with the rude stuff, CYA = Cover Your Ass. Clean part of headline: KYC = Know Your Customer, KYT = Know Your Transaction, CAC = Customer Acquisition Cost, LTV = Life Time Value. Read on, all will be revealed.

For banks this is CYA because they need enough legal cover to minimise fines when they get caught. So, the identity verification compliance solutions have to be good enough to offer some protection when something goes wrong as in “we used one of the best identity verification compliance solutions in the market.”

“Good enough” includes technical functionality that is state of the art, that cover all the bases, which means KYC and KYT. KYC (Know Your Customer) is the core of identity verification. This person claims to be Josephine Bloggs, but is she really Josephine Bloggs?  That might sound conceptually simple, but it is actually a big complex technical problem. However KYC alone is not enough. Banks also need KYT (Know Your Transaction) and KYC and KYT need to be integrated. Occasionally the person who you thought was Josephine Bloggs is actually a criminal. But if Josephine Bloggs usually does transactions below $10K and now wants to do a transaction over $100K, alarm bells should ring.

Building a totally secure identity verification solution, with perfect KYC and KYT is possible – as long as you don’t care about having customers or revenue. This brings us onto CAC/LTV.

Banks are from Venus and Fintechs are from Mars, but both understand CAC/LTV (Customer Acquisition Cost/Life Time Value).

Both are complex in their own right, but it is the interaction between the two that is so often confusing or difficult. The business of banking and Fintech can be summed up in this formula.The story of banking in the 20th century can be summed up as high Life Time Value. We are statistically more likely to get divorced than change banks. Historically there was little point in changing banks, because the difference between banks was marginal. The Fintech disruption changes that. Now customers have more real choice and regulation is seeking to protect consumers from lock-in strategies that make it hard for them to switch and Fintech sell on low friction which applies to both on-boarding and off-boarding customers.

With Life Time Value a changing reality, reducing CAC is key. An identity verification compliance solution that offers both good KYC/KYT and a low CAC will do very well.

Customer traction (ie low CAC) is also what matters in the B2B part of the market where identity verification vendors sell to enterprise customers such as banks.

Customer traction IN B2B is a good proxy for technical competence and gets the attention of investors and media and traction with investors and media is enough to get a CYA tick in the box for enterprise customers/banks. Customers want to see a vendor make the normal lists – that signals enough CYA.

So I was keen to talk to Ricardo Amper, Founder & CEO of Incode. Incode does NOT appear in any of the normal lists of the top identity verification vendors, yet I could see they were getting traction with investors and customers. So I thought there must be an interesting story there.

What Ricardo claimed was that they have raised the bar by eliminating the need for humans in the process. According to Ricardo, the currently top ranked identity verification vendors use humans in contact centres to complete identity verification. If so, banks can reduce costs and increase accuracy (fewer false positives). More importantly banks can reduce their CAC. Ricardo claimed that  94% of people get validated automatically, which translates as more customers getting through this last stage of the customer acquisition funnel. Ricardo told me that conversion is between 40-60% is more normal. Lower conversion = losing customers = high CAC.

The key to consumer level CAC is the customer of course, people like us, the customers of the enterprises that buy identity verification solutions. That is our focus in Part 3 = next week entitled: JoQPublic says this is about the trade-off between privacy & convenience.

Click here for the first post in this 4-parter (with an index).

Some subjects are too complex for our short attention spans. For those subjects 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.

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/2021/04/13/4-part-series-on-digital-identity-part-2-the-bank-says-this-is-about-cya-kyc-kyt-and-cac-ltv/

Spotlight Asia: Lessons APAC Can Learn From UK Accountability Regulations

https://thefintechtimes.com/spotlight-asia-compliance-technology-asia-pacific-financial-industry/
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Technology can help the financial industry in Asia-Pacific prepare for the drive towards improving accountability from the top level of an organisation all the way down to the bottom says Gordon McKeown, head of audit, risk and compliance product (ARC) at software firm Ideagen. Here he explains how companies can manage and comply with new regulations.

Gordon McKeown, Head of ARC Product at Ideagen

Gordon McKeown, Head of ARC Product at IdeagenWith the IAC (Individual Accountability and Conduct) and MIC (Managers-in-Charge) regulations coming into effect this year for the financial sectors in Singapore and Hong-Kong respectively there has been a scramble to find a cost-effective system to manage the new compliance regulations.

Firstly, it must be understood that these new regulations are going to positively affect how businesses are run and managed by improving the working culture. The regulations coming into effect are much like the SMCR (Senior Managers and Certification Regime) which was implemented in the UK in 2016.

SMCR was introduced in response to enquiries after the 2008 financial crash. It is a set of regulations that was drafted up to tackle high profile banking scandals by creating a new culture in the sector that is centred around transparency and individual accountability.

This is done by encouraging financial service managers to be approved by regulators, involving checking all qualifications, competency and standards are met to ensure that those in these senior positions have the ability to do these jobs to the proper standard.

Taking responsibility

The aim of these regulations is to reduce potential harm to consumers whilst strengthening market integrity by producing a system that allows firms and regulators to hold people to account. It is intended to produce a working culture in the financial sector that will encourage staff to take personal responsibility for their actions, improve conduct at all levels and make sure firms and staff have a clear understanding of these areas of responsibility.

When SMCR came into effect in the UK there were some concerns about how the financial sector was going to be able to swiftly and legitimately comply with the new regulations. There were questions about how organisations were going to competently and clearly present evidence that the firms and employees were complying with the new standards, creating anxiety within the sector.

Auditing through spreadsheets was quickly seen as a time and cost draining solution not to mention that it required companies to hire new employees to maintain the system and it was error prone. These errors and discrepancies are something organisations in the Asia-Pacific region can learn from.

Technological support

There are innovative solutions available that make sure rule breaches due to poorly managed and maintained records systems are not an issue. This is where new system management software has really changed the tide in this struggle to easily manage an organisation’s compliance information.

One solution trusted in the UK financial sector is the Pentana Compliance software, created by the team here at Ideagen, one of the world’s fastest growing software firms. It is an automated compliance and accountability software which provides a user friendly and pinpoint alternative to more traditional ways of auditing compliance information on firms and employees.

Software, such at this, can easily map a whole organisation, providing a fluid, transparent and reliable system to maintain compliance with existing and upcoming regulations, including SMCR, IAC, BEAR (Banking Executive Accountability Regime) in Australia and MIC.

Tools like this can help organisations to identify senior managers’ responsibilities within the organisation and the qualification standards they need to fulfil their roles. What this means for organisations is that they have the ability to continuously monitor compliance from the top level of the organisation all the way down to the bottom, allowing a clear and concise overview of where responsibility is in each level of the firm.

This removes both the lost time and money that would be needed when using standard spreadsheet methods of recording compliance data, as well as removing the risk of failing to identify areas of compliance needed when new regulations come into force.

Moving forward

Innovative technology can help companies in the Asia-Pacific region manage and comply with new regulations quickly and accurately, especially financial services that are finding more traditional compliance auditing methods costly and tedious.

Moving forward, the pathway for the financial sector in the Asia-Pacific region is a positive one. The implementation of these regulatory measures should be seen as a way to step up productivity, become more ethical, improve competency, conduct and accountability throughout the organisation.

https://thefintechtimes.com/spotlight-asia-compliance-technology-asia-pacific-financial-industry/

Strategic Gaming and Silicon Valley Partners Join The Sandbox’s NFT Metaverse

https://thefintechtimes.com/strategic-gaming-and-silicon-valley-partners-join-the-sandboxs-nft-metaverse/
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The decentralised social metaverse platform The Sandbox, a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, has recently announced the addition of multiple members from the Non-Fungible Token (NFT), investment, and music industries to its growing list of partners. As with previous partners, the new entrants have joined The Sandbox’s virtual real estate by acquiring LAND NFTs in the open metaverse, and are committed to building experiences within it.

The partners who acquired LAND in The Sandbox’s metaverse include crypto projects such as Nifty Gateway, 21x, and Gemini, as well as renowned Silicon Valley based VCs and investment partners including Galaxy Interactive (Global gaming VC and investors in over 50 companies across the interactive landscape, including RTFKT, Bitski, Mythical Games, Immutable, and WHALE), Bill Lee (Co-Founder of Craft Ventures, former Board Director of Big Fish Games, and early investor in Cloud9, Coinbase, Opensea, and Tesla), Ken Howery (Co-Founder and former managing partner at Founders Fund, Co-Founder of PayPal), Sundeep Madra (Serial entrepreneur and investor), Gemini Frontier Fund (Founded by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss), Chris Ye (CEO of Uken Games and creator of top-grossing mobile games Bingo Pop, Ava’s Manor, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), Alex Reece (Early investor in Unity, Draft Kings and Lyft), Michael Witz (Founder of Redemption Games and creator of top-grossing mobile games Cookie Jam and Sweet Escapes), Edward Saatchi (Founder of Virtual Beings company Fable) and Patricio Fuks (Serial Entrepreneur & Investor), and heavy metal band, Avenged Sevenfold.

Sebastien Borget, COO & Co-Founder, The SandboxSebastien Borget, COO & Co-Founder, The Sandbox
Sebastien Borget, COO & Co-Founder, The Sandbox

“As a vibrant, growing NFT-based gaming metaverse, The Sandbox is attracting strong and diverse new partners each day, from gaming studios to IP brands to artists to celebrities to visionary entrepreneurs to technology companies,” said Sebastien Borget, COO & Co-Founder of The Sandbox. “We’re shaping our virtual world to be an experience-rich place where partners can plant a flag with virtual destination experiences on their LANDS in a powerful new entertainment community where creators, players, and brands can build and grow alongside each other.”

The recent involvement of the latest round of partners follows the beta launch of The Sandbox’s NFT marketplace, which gives anyone the opportunity to earn SAND – The Sandbox’s utility token – by monetising voxel-based NFT creations created with the dedicated software VoxEdit. Each NFT can be used inside the game platform in the future or used to build custom game experiences. LAND NFTs are the main gateway to publishing games in The Sandbox, as the platform prepares for opening its first public beta for players later this year. The Sandbox was also recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and CNBC, highlighted in both as a pioneer in the space.

The Sandbox is becoming a prime entertainment destination where brands, IPs, and celebrities can engage with their fans and offer virtual experiences including games, live performances, and social experiences. Brands will coexist through neighbouring lands, able to function as digital concert arenas, theme parks, or malls that users of The Sandbox can visit and experience by themselves or with friends.

Reflecting on this potential, partner VCs, investors, and celebrity brands share their thoughts below on what attracted them to The Sandbox:

“We have been tracking the progress of The Sandbox ecosystem from its earliest days, and have been impressed by the founding team’s consistent execution towards their mission of developing a community-owned sandbox of creativity and fun. We are delighted to do our part to develop the community through the land we’ve acquired, directly and through our portfolio companies, and cannot wait to witness how the broader ecosystem evolves,” said Richard Kim, GP at Galaxy Interactive.

“Gaming is a killer use case for the metaverse, and The Sandbox is the only metaverse tuned for high-quality games with a decentralised monetisation ecosystem for developers, asset makers, and passionate gamers,” said Bill Lee, Co-Founder of Craft Ventures. “21x will be developing all of our parcels into the premier gaming destinations across any metaverse — stay tuned!“

“The Sandbox is revolutionising gaming by empowering users to build, own, and monetise their gaming experiences in a virtual world that is decentralised,” said Tyler Winklevoss, Co-Founder of Gemini Exchange. “We plan to extend our existing platforms into The Sandbox and develop unique experiences on our properties that advance our mission of empowering the individual through crypto.”

“We have officially purchased LAND in The Sandbox and are excited to build out a virtual space for our friends to explore,” said heavy metal band, Avenged Sevenfold. “Digital ownership and the metaverse have become increasingly interesting to us and The Sandbox felt like the right fit to enter this new world.”

Upcoming LAND Sale

The Sandbox’s upcoming LAND sale event, which will take place on April 14th 2021, will offer additional premium LAND located near that of the partners announced. Each purchasable LAND will include exclusive premium NFTs and have the possibility to host events, gaming experiences, or social hubs when the game is released later in 2021. The Sandbox has already sold 45% of its 166,464 LAND NFTs, releasing them in successive waves that usually sell out in seconds. Existing LAND owners include Binance, CoinCheck, Metakovan, Pranksy, Socios, and CoinMarketCap among others.

The Sandbox has secured over 60 partnerships, including The Smurfs, Care Bears, Atari, CryptoKitties, and Shaun the Sheep, to build a fun, creative “play-to-earn” platform that offers virtual worlds and game experiences owned and created by players. The play-to-earn model gives players true ownership of anything they collect in the game, allowing them to trade it to other players (including outside the game on other websites), transfer it to other players, or even resell it.

The Sandbox is scheduled to launch its full Alpha for players in Q2 2021, enabling anyone to experience the social hub, and gain the power to build a fantastic collection of fantasy and role-playing adventures that can be traded as NFTs with other players, creators, and artists on the platform.

  • 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/strategic-gaming-and-silicon-valley-partners-join-the-sandboxs-nft-metaverse/

Better.com Lands $500 Million in Funding After Record Year

https://finovate.com/better-com-lands-500-million-in-funding-after-record-year/
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Mortgagetech innovator Better.com recently landed a $500 million investment from Japan-based Softbank, bringing the company’s total funding to over $900 million.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, Softbank is buying shares from existing Better investors, a list which includes Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Kleiner Perkins.

With the new round, experts estimate Better’s valuation to be around $6 billion. This is a significant jump from the company’s most recent valuation, which sat at around $4 billion after Better closed a funding round in November of last year.

Better was founded with the goal of reengineering the mortgage process. The company streamlines mortgage originations by taking the entire process online. Better also offers Better Real Estate, which matches buyers with real estate agents; Better Settlement Services, which offers title insurance; and Better Cover, a home insurance marketplace.

The new investment comes at a time of significant growth for Better. Inspired by low interest rates, more consumers have been refinancing their properties. The Wall Street Journal reports that because of this increase in demand, Better lent out $25 billion in loans in 2020 and has extended $14 billion in loans the first quarter of this year.

Better saw $800 million in revenue last year and is expected to go public by the end of 2021. Founded in 2014, the company is headquartered in New York City. Vishal Garg is CEO.


Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

https://finovate.com/better-com-lands-500-million-in-funding-after-record-year/

Coast Capital leverages nCino platform to automate on a national scale

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/lending/coast-capital-leverages-ncino-platform-to-automate-on-a-national-scale/
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Coast Capital, one of Canada’s largest credit unions, has partnered with digital lending solution nCino to automate its lending processes on a national scale with a cloud-based solution, and is now kicking off the second part of its three-phase automation plan to support its expansion. The $19.4 billion credit union has 593,000 members, making it […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/lending/coast-capital-leverages-ncino-platform-to-automate-on-a-national-scale/

Crypto Climate Accord Launches to Decarbonise Crypto Industry by 2030

https://thefintechtimes.com/crypto-climate-accord-launches-to-decarbonise-crypto-industry-by-2030/
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Energy Web, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the Alliance for Innovative Regulation (AIR) has announced the launch of the Crypto Climate Accord – a private sector-led initiative committed to making the cryptocurrency industry 100% renewable. Inspired by the Paris Climate Agreement, the Accord brings together the crypto and financial technology (fintech) industry to build a sustainable future for global finance with support from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Climate Champions.

Surging demand for crypto and accelerating adoption of blockchain-based solutions among businesses and individuals have highlighted a critical issue: the impact of the technology’s growing energy consumption on our climate. As cryptocurrencies become increasingly mainstream, it’s imperative to shift toward a renewable energy future now. The Accord intends to achieve this by working collaboratively with the cryptocurrency industry—including all blockchains—to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2025 or sooner. While many organisations are individually taking steps to decarbonise their operations, the Accord recognises that an industry-wide coalition and scalable solutions can quickly multiply impact.

The Accord will employ a “big tent” approach and act as a coordinating framework to decarbonise all aspects of the industry. Energy Web, AIR, and RMI have developed three high-level objectives for the Accord, to be finalised with supporters in advance of the United Nations’ COP 26 Climate Conference later this year:

  • Enable all of the world’s blockchains to be powered by 100% renewables by the 2025 UNFCCC COP Conference
  • Develop an open-source accounting standard for measuring emissions from the cryptocurrency industry
  • Achieve net-zero emissions for the entire crypto industry, including all business operations beyond blockchains and elimination of historical emissions, by 2040

“I’m proud to support the Crypto Climate Accord and to collaborate with other like-minded players that believe this technology can lead to a renewable energy revolution through collective action,” said Meltem Demirors, CSO of CoinShares. “It’s vital that we correct misinformation that has persisted about bitcoin’s energy use and sources. Our industry has always been focused on pushing the bleeding edge of innovation and taking action to accelerate change instead of waiting for systemic change, which takes decades and often never materialises.”

To help launch the Accord, Energy Web will bring to bear open-source software and sector expertise to help crypto market participants take near-term action and begin decarbonising the industry. “We have the technical solutions required to decarbonise blockchains. What the industry doesn’t yet have—and needs—is a concerted effort,” said Walter Kok, CEO of Energy Web. “The Accord marries the right tools and public structure needed to achieve our goals, and we hope recognition from our global supporters inspires others to join in shaping our renewable energy future.”

AIR will lead the engagement of key policymakers and regulators globally as the renewed focus on sustainability presents a clear opportunity to develop and implement pragmatic and effective energy sector-related policies. JoAnn Barefoot, CEO and founder of AIR, said: “As cryptocurrencies grow in popularity, so too does their role in the global financial system. Our goal in working with policymakers and regulators is to advance the conversation about energy use so all sectors can contribute to addressing the growing challenges associated with climate change—including crypto and global finance, more broadly.”

“In addition to urgently eliminating future emissions, this industry is uniquely placed to address its historical emissions debt. The very nature of blockchains enables historical system-wide transparency, making crypto’s emissions debt a ripe target for carbon dioxide removal solutions. This is a unique chance to publicly clean up the past, reject future emissions, and push the boundaries of climate leadership,” said Nigel Topping, High-Level Champion for Climate Action at the United Nations’ COP26.

If successful, the Crypto Climate Accord will create wins for both the planet and the global economy. For climate advocates, it can eliminate emissions from a fast-growing source of electric load. For the cleantech industry, it can onboard an entirely new class of customers with significant demand for energy. For the crypto industry, it can help support the widespread adoption of crypto by making a more sustainable and scalable industry.

  • 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/crypto-climate-accord-launches-to-decarbonise-crypto-industry-by-2030/

Microsoft acquires Nuance Communications for $16B

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/automation/microsoft-acquires-nuance-communications-for-16b/
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Software giant Microsoft announced today that it has acquired Nuance Communications in a $16 billion deal. Microsoft will acquire Nuance for $56 per share, denoting a 23% premium to the closing price of Nuance on Friday, in an all-cash transaction valued at $19.7 billion, inclusive of Nuance’s net debt. Nuance provides tools powered by artificial […]

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/automation/microsoft-acquires-nuance-communications-for-16b/

FinTech Updates – Weekly Summary by Nik Milanović

https://gomedici.com/fintech-updates-weekly-summary-by-nik-milanovic
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This article has been published in partnership with Nik Milanović (bio at the end of the article) and taken from This Week in Fintech, his weekly newsletter.

Quote of the Week

“Efforts to promote inclusion extend beyond hiring to include dramatic changes in the way meetings are conducted, the diversity metrics gathered and presented to the board, and even the use of software to ensure a gender-neutral language in job descriptions.”

– Miriam Cross, American Banker (Source)

Read of the Week

The Wall Street Journal this week runs an interesting profile of China’s central bank digital currency initiative (with an appropriate tie-in to China’s early move from hard to paper currency).

Apart from the political implications, the article does feature many interesting product aspects of this particular CBDC: it can be accessed and transacted offline. It allows the government to airdrop direct financial assistance to citizens. Spending can be restricted to particular merchants or categories (like EBT in the US); it can be given an expiration date to incentivize consumer spending in an era of negative interest rates. These benefits don’t come without drawbacks: a government digital currency erodes the anonymity of traditional cryptocurrencies and could give the CCP a direct view into users’ wallets. It will be interesting to see how other national experiments unfold.

Stat of the Week

Roughly 38% of teens are turning to YouTube and one-third look to TikTok, Greenlight found. One-quarter go to Instagram for personal finance and investing advice. (Source)

Financial Services & Banking

Product Launches

  • TSB Bank launched its Smart Agent chatbot in its mobile app.
  • Barclays launched FX products for its Barx trading platform.
  • Santander‘s consumer bank in Norway launched a new PFM app.
  • Mastercard released a request-to-pay framework. 

Other News

  • JP Morgan dedicated a lot of airtime to the risks to banks posed by FinTech in CEO Jamie Dimon’s annual shareholder letter, saying, “FinTech’s ability to merge social media, use data smartly, and integrate with other platforms rapidly (often without the disadvantages of being an actual bank) will help these companies win significant market share.”
  • The CFPB is warning banks and mortgage originators to prepare for a ‘tidal wave of distress’ when mortgage forbearance wears off and payments become due.
  • Credit Suisse and Instinet conducted the first trades on a real-time T+0 settlement system using the Paxos blockchain. Bank holding company State Street will provide tech for a cryptocurrency trading platform.
  • Contactless payments are surging in Europe, with “80% of in-store Visa payments now contactless.”
  •  Visa selected five startups—Brankas, Curlec, DigitSecure, ModusBox, and Open—across APAC for its first accelerator program.
  • Sweden’s Riksbank is testing a digital currency. Commerzbank will cut 1,700 jobs across Germany. Refinitiv had a five-hour outage.

(Source – Fintech Inside)

FinTech

Product Launches

  • Clubhouse partnered with Stripe to introduce payments for creators.
  • Dwolla released a real-time payments solution for banks in the US, in partnership with Cross River Bank.
  • OppFi, a credit provider to underbanked consumers, announced a new credit card in partnership with Mastercard, First Electronic Bank, and Deserve. Instacart is the latest company throwing its hat in the ring alongside Doordash to launch a credit card. Revolut launched a glow-in-the-dark debit card.
  • Apple Pay launched in South Africa. Payflex launched its buy-now-pay-later services in South Africa. South African FinTechs Ukheshe and Infobip also partnered to launch the country’s first WhatsApp payment gateway.
  • Elsewhere, secure messaging app Signal is also testing a payments feature using its currency from MobileCoin, and Facebook is working on in-person QR code payments.
  • Digital money provider Privat3 Money debuted its iOS and Android apps. UK currency provider Sokin rolled out its enterprise platform.
  • Japanese digital bank SBI Sumishin Net Bank launched a blockchain supply financing solution.
  • Business communications platform Podium released a connected card reader.
  • Zilch is adding a tap-and-pay buy-now-pay-later feature. Payments app Ziglu launched an interest-bearing bitcoin account.

Other News

  • Nubank opened a seed fund for black entrepreneurs and put $70 million into its Mexican subsidiary.
  • Drivewealth partnered with Plaid to enable frictionless account linking for trading. Canadian credit card issuer Brim partnered with Canadian Western Bank to launch a digital banking platform.
  • Crypto exchange Gemini partnered with Alloy to help KYC users of its new credit card. Core banking platform Advapay added KYC/AML functionality from iSpiral to its offering.
  • Self-checkout provider MishiPay partnered with Instore Solutions to expand into Germany. European mobile payments provider Settle partnered with Currencycloud to enable cross-border payments. Afterpay and Adyen partnered on British retailer payments.
  • Walmart filed for a trademark for its FinTech unit, which will be called Hazel by Walmart.
  • Stripe announced its entry into the Middle East with a UAE launch.
  • SIM swap fraud is fast becoming a concern for mobile banking customers in the UK.
  • Coinbase released annual revenue, and it was through the roof at $1.8 billion. The Financial Data Exchange released the results of its annual strategic survey.
  • Revolut will allow employees to work abroad 60 days a year. Petal recruited a CFPB vet as general counsel. Acorns for betting. StartNeoBank.Com.

(Source)

Policy

In collaboration with Ben White

  • Nigeria’s government shut down a wide swathe of FinTech startups overnight, including Bamboo and Trove, just for making foreign stocks available for Nigerians to invest in.
  • The Bank of International Settlements published a paper highlighting regulatory responses to BigTech’s entry into financial services.
  • Payments companies formed a new industry group, the Payments Leadership Council, set to focus on e-commerce and small business issues.
  • Fidelity, Square, and Coinbase launched the Council for Crypto Innovation, a new D.C. trade group lobbying for digital currencies. 
  • The Bank Policy Institute published a paper warning of the risks of a central bank digital currency, focusing on the impact on fractional reserve banking. 
  • The Federal Financial Institution Examinations Council published a Request for Information on the use of Artificial Intelligence in financial services. 
  • Former Financial Crimes Enforcement Network chief Kenneth Blanco departed for a role at Citibank. 
  • The Internal Revenue Service issued a summons to crypto provider Circle, seeking information on users who made more than $20k in transactions in a single year since 2016. 
  • The Council of the European Union backed a plan to unify Europe’s payment rails. 
  • Regulators in Latin America are launching FinTech sandboxes, intending to provide pathways for FinTech success in respective countries. 
  • The Governor of Illinois signed off on a law capping consumer loan rates at 36%.
  • Chinese regulators banned microlenders from providing consumer loans to students.

https://gomedici.com/fintech-updates-weekly-summary-by-nik-milanovic

Islamic Trade Finance In the New World Order

https://gomedici.com/islamic-trade-finance-in-the-new-world-order
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We cover more than 60+ sub-segments in FinTech – but we do not stop there; we also cover topics beyond FinTech, such as InsurTech, RegTech, PropTech, WealthTech, BankTech, AgriTech, and the enabling technologies enabling innovation such as AI, Blockchain, etc.

https://gomedici.com/islamic-trade-finance-in-the-new-world-order

Ant to be financial holding firm in overhaul forced by China

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Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. will drastically revamp its business, bowing to demands from Chinese authorities that want to rein in the country’s fast-growing Internet giants.

Photo by Bloomberg Mercury

Ant will now effectively be supervised more like a bank, a move with far-reaching implications for its growth and ability to press ahead with a landmark initial public offering that the government abruptly delayed late last year.

The overhaul announced by regulators and the company on Monday will see Ant transform itself into a financial holding company, with authorities also directing the firm to eliminate unfair competition in payments, increase oversight of how that business fuels it crucial consumer lending operations, and ramp up data protections. The firm will also need to cut the outstanding value of its money-market fund Yu’ebao.

The directives come as China’s regulators pledge to curb the “reckless” push of technology firms into finance and crack down on monopolies online. The twin pillars of Ma’s empire — Ant and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. — have been at the center of the increased scrutiny, sending a clear message to the country’s largest corporations and their leaders to fall in line with Beijing’s priorities.

Several government agencies, including the People’s Bank of China, and regulators overseeing the banking and securities sectors met with Ant to dictate the changes.

https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/comp-reg/ant-to-be-financial-holding-firm-in-overhaul-forced-by-china/

African Inter-University Hackathon Brings Students Together on Zindi for Data Science

https://thefintechtimes.com/african-inter-university-hackathon-brings-students-together-on-zindi-for-data-science/
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UmojaHack Africa 2021 was an unprecedented success, bringing more than 1000 students from 126 universities across Africa to compete on Zindi in a virtual machine learning hackathon on the weekend of 27-28 March. More than $10,000 in prizes were awarded to data science students from 9 African countries, and more than 8500 submissions were made to solve three real-world machine learning challenges on Zindi.

Students from 21 African countries joined the event, representing Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They participated in three different machine learning challenges: a financial resilience prediction challenge, a logistics challenge for African B2B service provider Sendy, and a computational biology challenge using the DeepChain platform developed by InstaDeep. The winning solutions developed by Zindi users will be shared with these organisations and deployed in real-world applications.

Winning words

In winning second place in the Sendy Delivery Rider Response Challenge, Tony Mipawa, a data science student from the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, epitomised the spirit of Zindi and of UmojaHack A year ago, Tony was a data science novice until he participated in Zindi’s first-ever Mentorship Programme in 2020. He has grown in leaps and bounds since then, as evidenced by his prize-winning submission in this hackathon, less than a year later.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” Tony said at the awards ceremony. “My advice is, whenever there is an opportunity to learn, you should take it. Learning is all about passion; whenever there is an opportunity to learn, put your whole effort into it, do it well. Try to learn from anyone you meet. I would like to thank Zindi for what that mentorship programme gave me.”

Global support

UmojaHack Africa 2021 was sponsored by some leading names in the global and African tech, AI and financial sectors, including InstaDeep, Standard Bank Group, Microsoft, DeepMind, NVIDIA, and Old Mutual. They were integral in making the event a success by offering financial and professional development prizes, contributing their expertise and excitement to the event, and supporting UmojaHack Africa 2021 through their own channels.

“We are incredibly excited about this event spanning over 100 African universities and helping thousands of African students leverage their data science and AI skills to solve African problems,” said Chris Lwanga, Principal Director for Software Partnerships at Microsoft. “At Microsoft, we believe in empowering every organisation and person to do more.”

“Standard Bank is deeply invested in funding and implementing critical data science skills development programmes, such as Zindi’s UmojaHack Africa 2021 hackathon, to position Africa as a serious competitor in the world’s rapidly emerging data-driven sector,” said Adrian Vermooten, Chief Innovation Officer, Standard Bank Group.

According to Celina Lee, CEO of Zindi, “UmojaHack Africa has proven to be a game-changing event, especially when so many young people have been impacted by the global pandemic. This is a chance for students from across the continent to come together to learn, compete, and have fun. UmojaHack is about building skills, creating new machine learning applications to solve problems that really matter while forging new connections among the students as well as with industry. We are incredibly excited to see what the students come up with in just one weekend.”

  • 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/african-inter-university-hackathon-brings-students-together-on-zindi-for-data-science/

Fintech Week London to Host First In-Person Fintech Event of 2021

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Fintech Week London is back, bigger and better than ever before, with a brand new team and event format. This July, senior decision-makers representing the most innovative companies in financial services will gather in the UK capital to discuss the position of London as a Fintech hub post-Brexit.

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease in the UK, the opportunity to network and share ideas face-to-face has been eagerly anticipated by the Fintech community.  Over the course of 5 days, Fintech Week London will welcome over 2,000 executives from high-street banks, digital challengers, technology giants, and new disruptors, who will come together to shine a light on ground-breaking developments in Financial Technology.

Raf De Kimpe, CEO of Fintech Week London, said: “We are excited and proud to be hosting the first UK event in the Fintech calendar that people can attend in person. Virtual conferences have served us well during the pandemic, but there’s nothing like being around fellow professionals and immersing yourself in face-to-face conversations.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation, paving the way for Fintech’s to take lead in the economic and social recovery process. We’ll be looking at the competition and collaboration – or, newly coined, ‘coopetition’- between Big Tech and Big Banks as they encourage customers to adopt an ever-expanding suite of integrated financial products, and how the implementation of Open Banking and Banking as a Service will transform customer relationships.”

A hybrid conference

At the centre of Fintech Week London is a 2-day hybrid conference which will bring together 1500+ delegates. These attendees will join either in-person or online for two days of networking and learning, with the virtual component extending the reach of the conference for those who are unable to participate in person.

The agenda for the conference is being curated by an independent content board comprising some of the industry’s most respected thought-leaders, such as Chris Skinner, Ghela Boskovich, Susanne Chishti, Theodora Lau, Dave Birch, and Imran Gulamhuseinwala.

“With a majority of the financial services workforce operating remotely during Covid-19, we have seen a corresponding increase in focus on issues surrounding cloud computing, digital identity, privacy and cybersecurity,” said Chris Skinner, chairperson of the content board. “This is the first event to cover all of these areas, as well as verticals like WealthTech, InsurTech and Green Finance. More than this, Fintech Week London shines the light squarely back on London, which still leads the world in these areas.”

Themes relating to post-pandemic recovery such as financial inclusion, sustainability, and digital identity will be discussed, as will the recently published Kalifa Review of UK Fintech. Deliberations on the review, which highlights opportunities to create skilled jobs, boost trade, and extend the UK’s competitive edge over other leading Fintech hubs, will be presented with keynotes from Ron Kalifa OBE himself.

Karen Sandhu, Head of Financial, Business Services and Technology at London & Partners, added: “Fintech Week London is a great opportunity for Fintech leaders and innovators to come together and discuss how London and the UK can maintain its position at the centre of global Fintech. London is a world-leading tech and financial centre and its Fintech companies have a pivotal role to play in building back better from the impacts of the global pandemic. We look forward to welcoming this important event to London in July.”

Registration for Fintech Week London is now open, and as a media partner for Fintech Week London, The Fintech Times are able to offer a 15% discount on ticket prices with the code ‘TFT15’’.

For more information on Fintech Week London, click here.

  • 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/fintech-week-london-to-host-first-in-person-fintech-event-of-2021/

FICO Survey Finds UK Banks Struggled With Covid-19 Financial Crime Surge

https://thefintechtimes.com/fico-survey-finds-uk-banks-struggled-with-covid-19-financial-crime-surge/
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 As cases of fraud and money laundering rose during the pandemic last year, banks in the UK faced unforeseen challenges. In a new study by global analytics software provider FICO and independent research firm OMDIA, 79 per cent of respondents from UK banks said that working from home had a high or major impact on the effectiveness of their financial crime prevention.

“Just as the pandemic put huge stresses on the health care system, it put huge stresses on fraud and financial crime management teams,” explained Toby Carlin, senior director for fraud consulting at FICO. “Teams that collaborate in person and work with large software systems that have restricted access found that working from home hurt their productivity. This was compounded as the volume of fraud attacks rose.”

Challenges with Technology

The impact of having multiple software systems for fraud management and financial crime compliance was also cited by UK respondents. This was the top technology challenge for 21 per cent of UK respondents, which puts it at the top of the challenges. Almost half – 49 per cent – of respondents ranked it first, second or third among their technology challenges, the most of any challenge.

“Banks are feeling the pain of having fragmented software for managing fraud and financial crime,” said Carlin. “Even though some 80 per cent of the functions between fraud prevention software and AML software are the same, the systems are nearly always separate, and the teams are usually separate too. In our survey, 64 per cent of UK respondents said these teams don’t even report to the same person at the bank. The latest systems, such as our FICO Falcon X, provide these technologies in a single platform, which can catalyze an integrated approach at a bank.”

The FICO study consisted of 110 interviews by OMDIA with senior executives driving, managing, or directly supporting financial crime, in the US, UK, Brazil, Germany, the Nordics and Canada. The survey included senior executives responsible for fraud management, financial crime compliance and security/technology. Respondents were roughly equal from medium-sized banks and large banks.

For full survey results, view the report here.

  • 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/fico-survey-finds-uk-banks-struggled-with-covid-19-financial-crime-surge/

Visa Processes One Billion Contactless Payments

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Visa has announced that it has processed one billion additional touch-free payments, where previously consumers would have needed to enter their PIN, as consumer confidence in contactless payments continues to grow. This milestone has been reached in less than a year since contactless payment limits were increased in 29 countries across Europe in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The growth of contactless payments has been a key trend during the pandemic, as touch-free payments have gone from being a convenience to a necessity for both consumers and retailers. Research from Visa shows that two-thirds (65%) of consumers globally would prefer to use contactless payments as much as, or more than, they are currently

Charlotte Hogg, Chief Executive Officer, Europe at Visa, commented: “The demand for touch-free payments indicates that contactless has become the norm for European consumers and retailers. Contactless payments are popular because they combine speed and convenience with security. Indeed, contactless cards experience among the lowest fraud rates of any payment type and in countries where contactless payments are widely used, fraud at the point of sale remains at historic lows.

“This milestone demonstrates how consumers and retailers now rely on digital solutions to make everyday payments. Enabling contactless payments will be key to Europe’s economic recovery and while raising contactless limits alone won’t revitalise the European economy, it is a step in the right direction, giving consumers the confidence to spend, and providing shops, restaurants and other retailers a boost just when they need it most.”

Growing demand for contactless transactions is evident across Europe, with over 80% of in-store Visa payments now contactless. In France and Germany, the number of contactless transactions has increased by two thirds and almost half respectively year-on-year. Of the one billion transactions, 400 million took place in the UK, and further growth can be expected given the announcement that the UK contactless limit will increase to £100 later this year.

The popularity of e-commerce is also surging across Europe, with over 15 countries experiencing a 40% or higher increase in e-commerce transactions in December 2020 versus the year before

With many businesses having to operate under restrictions and keep up with changing consumer behaviour, merchants are increasingly moving to online operations and embracing digital and contactless payments. Visa is working closely with its clients and partners to digitally enable over eight million small businesses across Europe, helping them adapt to enable customers to shop the way they want.

Contactless remains one of the most popular and secure payment methods for Visa customers and will be crucial to Europe’s economic recovery when restrictions lift and shops reopen.

  • 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/visa-processes-one-billion-contactless-payments/

Square Seek Irish SMEs To Test Early Access Programme Before Launch in Late 2021

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Square, a software, payments, and hardware solution for businesses of all sizes, has announced an Early Access Programme in Ireland, offering exclusive access to an integrated suite of tools to sell in-person and online. This limited-space programme is now seeking SMEs across Ireland who want access to Square’s comprehensive solution.

“Since starting with Square we have been able to unlock big improvements for our business, from e-commerce to payments,” said Chris Arnold, owner of Lennox Street Grocer, one of the first businesses to beta test Square in Ireland. “In addition to their fair, transparent pricing, we’ve been really impressed with the ability to have fractional quantities in our point of sale, and the increased transaction speed for tap payments – both make it easier for our buyers to check out both in-store and online, so we never miss a sale. Using the lockdown to switch to Square was a smart choice as we look to the future and post-pandemic growth.”

This marks the first time Square is available to Irish merchants. Used by millions of businesses around the world, Square offers all the tools sellers need to start, run, grow, or adapt, and enables them to set up online shops, take card payments in person, access earnings faster, manage inventory or a busy kitchen, and more. With a suite of products that fully integrate with each other, Square saves businesses time, offers solutions for a multitude of complex business needs all in one place and makes it easier to adapt and grow as needs evolve in future.

“We’re excited to bring Square’s remarkable solutions to Irish businesses,” said Jason Lalor, executive director for Square Europe. “We look forward to partnering with Ireland’s rich community of independent business owners to refine and perfect our products in advance of launch, ensuring that they offer the time and cost savings that will enable Irish businesses to grow and prosper both in-person and online.”

Space in Square’s Early Access Programme is limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.  Merchants who enroll in the Early Access Programme can get started with Square products in just days, with no long-term contracts or start-up fees, and qualify for free Square hardware. Square expects to launch its products for general availability in Ireland later in 2021.

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

https://thefintechtimes.com/square-seek-irish-smes-to-test-early-access-programme-before-launch-in-late-2021/

Report Finds Total Global Investment in Digital Banks Topped $3.7Billion in Q1 2021

https://thefintechtimes.com/report-finds-total-global-investment-in-digital-banks-topped-3-7billion-in-q1-2021/
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Challenger Insider has recently released The Global Digital Banking Investment Report and has found that the total amount of investments in digital banks globally within the first quarter of 2021 exceeded $3.7 billion over a total of 42 deals.

The report also found that the highest number of investments in digital banks in the first quarter of 2021 were made in the USA, UK and Mexico, respectively. In the first quarter, 12 digital banks from the US, 8 digital banks from the UK and 3 banks from Mexico managed to receive a new round of investments. In term of amount, and the most investment was realised in the UK with $655 million.

Other report highlights include:

  • The biggest investment in South America this quarter was Nubank, with $400million, increasing its total investment amount to $1.2billion.
  • Europe witnessed its biggest investment tour this quarter, with the BNPL service, Klarna, receiving an investment of $1 billion.
  • WeLab, one of Hong Kong’s virtual banks, collected the highest amount of investment from Asia this quarter, closing a $75 million Series C Investment.

The Global Digital Banking Investment Report will be available every quarter for free, giving a snapshot of the previous quarter, and publishing an expert analysis along with expectations for the future of digital banking. The report focuses on trends in digital banking investments at both national and regional levels. It aims to serve as a guide for this interested in the banking world, digital banks looking to invest and VCs who want to add digital banks to their portfolio.

Every issue of the report will include; the distribution of investments by months and quarters with a statistical view; all-digital bank investments, amounts and investors in the relevant quarter; analysis of the trends in digital banking in a regional and global overview; and in-depth analysis of quarterly investments in digital banking.

To find out more and to read the report in full, click here.

  • 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/report-finds-total-global-investment-in-digital-banks-topped-3-7billion-in-q1-2021/

Connected Data Utilises Data-Driven Analytics and AI To Prevent and Reduce Corporate Debt

https://thefintechtimes.com/connect-data-utilises-analytics-and-ai-to-prevent-and-reduce-corporate-debt/
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Driven by a vision to enable organisations to better understand and support their customers, Connected Data is a newly-formed company that will transform an organisation’s debt and customer management processes, significantly simplify the deployment of predictive data, and removing ‘data noise’.

The dashboard-orientated service has been established by a passionate team of debt analytics, business intelligence, and data enablement experts, who strongly believe that debt can be prevented and reduced across any organisation.

Connected Data blends business intelligence, analytics, and artificial intelligence capability with a wide range of predictive data solutions. Combining these with a highly secure and scalable AWS environment, deep debt analytics expertise, and a proprietary data fabric, Connected Data brings a powerful new approach that can be implemented easily whilst instantly elevating an organisation’s insight across its debt and customer management processes.

“In our experience working with hundreds of debt portfolios, we recognised that more effective treatment paths could have been applied to significant elements of those portfolios with more effective data enablement,” says Kirk Fletcher, CEO of Connected Data. “Connected Data delivers this data enablement for organisations with minimal impact on internal resources.”

Debt reduction, prevention, and the fair treatment of customers has never been more relevant than now, so Connected Data has partnered with eight of the UK’s leading data solutions providers, with further partnerships under development, to truly data enable debt management processes.

“Our partners have also been committed to addressing the issue of debt and we are excited about the impact our combined efforts will have on the ability to prevent and reduce debt. We’d like to thank them for their support over the last 12 months of development,” Kirk continues.

“Our work will enable organisations to reduce debt and ensure fairer, more appropriate treatments are put in place for their customers at the right time. They will be able to do this in a faster, easier, more effective approach than the market has seen before. We are already engaged with several key players in energy, water, and financial services, who are seeing significant business improvements. As such, we have exciting recruitment plans to support our growth this year and will be announcing these soon.”

  • 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/connect-data-utilises-analytics-and-ai-to-prevent-and-reduce-corporate-debt/

Experian Launches Loans from Not-For-Profit Community Lenders to Aid in Financial Inclusion

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Experian is offering customers access to not-for-profit community lenders, such as credit unions and community development finance institutions (CDFIs), directly through its comparison services.

Experian has found that around 25% of customers searching for loans through its comparison services are not eligible for lender offers from mainstream lenders currently.

People seeking credit who are not able to find an offer through mainstream providers may end up getting high-cost loans, for example from payday loan companies.

This is the first time they have been able to find out if they are eligible to access not-for-profit lenders through a major money comparison provider.

Providers signed up to the initiative include three community lenders: Manchester Credit Union, Scotwest and Scotcash. Experian is in discussions to bring more lenders on board soon, to provide more options for people and ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from this service.

With many people struggling financially following the Coronavirus outbreak, the initiative aims to provide financially excluded consumers with access to affordable credit from non-profit institutions. All rates offered by these community lenders will be much more favourable than high-cost alternatives such as illegal loan sharks.

Clive Lawson, Managing Director of Experian Consumer Services said: “The financial impact of Coronavirus is a worry for many of us and Experian is committed to supporting financial inclusion, especially during these challenging times. That’s why we are giving our customers another option if they are ineligible for credit offers from traditional providers.

“When a customer is unable to access mainstream credit from lenders, some feel as though they have no other option but to pursue other means such as payday loans or even illegal loan sharks. These products often have very high-interest rates and can be structured differently from mainstream offers, which can make it more difficult to calculate the cost of credit and increase the chances of customers spiralling into debt. This innovation with incuto to offer our customers credit options from not-for-profit community lenders provides a much-needed alternative.”

incuto, which is a technology supplier to credit unions, worked alongside Experian to integrate the participating community lenders onto Experian’s comparison platform.

Andrew Rabbitt, incuto CEO added: “incuto’s strategy has consistently focused on how our technology and partnerships enable credit unions and community banks to reach a wider audience. As our work with Experian shows, we will continue to build the channels needed to support this mission, part of which must ensure that ethical lenders are equally represented within loan comparisons. Now more than ever, it’s vital that credit unions have the technology to provide a seamless, digital experience to their members, and connect multiple lenders to aggregation sites, in a quicker and more cost-effective way.”

  • 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/experian-launches-loans-from-not-for-profit-community-lenders-to-aid-in-financial-inclusion/

Taking a dive into the bitcoin pool this week

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Scanning the news this weekend there were plenty of interesting stories and we’ll be discussing three: central bank digital currencies, privacy and payments. Checking the Coinbase mobile app yesterday, bitcoin broke the $60k mark, reaching on Saturday $60,658. This is going to be a big week for crypto. On Wednesday, April 14, Coinbase, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchange, will make its debut on Nasdaq. This is a major step to legitimacy, as Coinbase will be the first cryptocurrency company to be listed on the public markets. They also reported their first quarter results and while the results are preliminary and unaudited, they are impressive. In Q1 2021, their revenue jumped $1.8 billion from $190.6 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Net income grew to between $730 million and $800 million from $31.9 million a year ago. Coinbase said it has 56 million verified users. Speaking today a friend and ex-banker that is heavily invested in bitcoin, he told me that he was also planning on buying Coinbase shares. Coinbase is a great opportunity for anyone into crypto to further diversify their portfolio. Crypto has reached a tipping point that no one can afford to ignore. China has been testing the digital yuan and this month it will be expanding its tests. A lawyer in Argentina is suing the Central bank, trying to prevent it from acquiring data on crypto users. PayPal announced the next phase in its bitcoin rollout, giving users the option to pay vendors during checkout with crypto, instead of a card or other payment method.

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the founder and CEO at Kryptonio wallet.
Participate in our crypto wallet survey. It will only take you a few minutes of your time and we will send you the results. Fill out the Kryptonio Crypto Wallet Survey

CBCD: China expands its testing of the digital yuan

China is forging ahead with its plans to launch its digital version of the yuan, called Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP). So far, China has tested its digital currency in several regions. China is now kicking off another round of testing in Shenzhen from April 10 to 23, enlarging the test population by 500,000 people.

China has leapfrogged just about everyone with the establishment of digital yuan and has taken the lead in this space, thanks to an early start. A digital yuan could give Beijing the power to track spending in real time and use money that isn’t linked to the dollar-dominated global financial system.

Beijing is testing all sorts of things, like expiration dates for the digital yuan to encourage people to spend within a certain time frame and support economic stimulus. As China uses hundreds of millions of facial recognition cameras to track and fine citizens, the digital yuan could add another level of control, allowing the state to automatically take money from people’s accounts for fines.

Central bank digital currencies are a growing source of interest around the world. In the BIS’s most recent survey of 65 central banks (representing 91% of global GDP), 60% disclosed they were engaged in CBDC experiments or proofs of concept in 2020 (up from 43% in 2019). The same survey reported a large number of central banks anticipate launching a CBDC within the next three years.

Russia’s central bank is planning to showcase a prototype for its ruble-backed digital currency later this year. The digital ruble will live in a hybrid technological platform combining distributed ledger technology and centralized control by the central bank.

The Swedish central bank is making steps towards modeling its e-krona pilot. According to Bloomberg, Riksbank just published the results of the first phase of a pilot project into what is essentially the most advanced exploration of a post-cash era to be undertaken by a major, western economy.

For now, the US Federal Reserve has taken a more deliberate approach to the issue and is unlikely to make any reactive moves to the developments in China or anyone else.

The US Dollar is still stable, reliable and used in 88% of foreign exchange trades, while the yuan is used in only 4%. Now that China is positioning the digital yuan for international use. It could potentially be a viable alternative for countries the US has sanctioned. Fortunately, the FED is beginning to understand this and last month, when asked about the digital dollar, Powell responded, “This is going to be an important year. This is going to be the year that we engage with the public pretty actively.”

Despite concerns about China’s development of a digital yuan, bitcoin rise is enhancing the dollar’s dominance. As I’ve written in the past, Bitcoin could be America’s greatest weapon: Bitcoin is America’s next Internet, an open, transparent microcosm of how a new decentralized, and automated financial system could work. The United States could retain its leadership in the global financial system, by investing in research, experimentation and development of open and transparent cryptocurrency technologies like Bitcoin. If it does, it will thrive in the new, emerging financial world.

Privacy: A lawyer sues the Argentinean Central Bank to stop it from collecting crypto users data

Argentina’s Central Bank has asked local banks to share information on users that trade cryptocurrencies. The idea of the Argentinean central bank asking local banks for information about customers that buy and sell cryptocurrencies is generating controversy in the country. A local lawyer has filed a complaint against the Central Bank, arguing that the request is illegal. The Central Bank has argued that it is common practice to request information from banks in the country.

Today, under Argentinean law, the only authority that can legally issue currency is the Central Bank. Strictly speaking, bitcoin is not legal currency, since it is not issued by the government Although bitcoin is not specifically regulated, it is increasingly being used in Argentina. The latest amendment to the Income tax law, says that profit that comes from sale of digital currency will be considered a taxable income.

The lawyer that filed the complaint claims that the ruling violates the privacy and human rights, which are constitutionally protected: “The BCRA does not have the power to compile a list of these characteristics, and if it does, that power does not allow it to avoid the obligations regarding the protection of personal data provided by Law 25,326 and Regulatory Decree 1558/2001.”

The Argentinean Central Bank is not the first government organization to act in a forceful way. Late last year, it was rumored that the outgoing US administration was going to pass legislation to require financial institutions to verify identities of recipients and senders for transactions involving self-hosted crypto wallets or wallets that are not provided by a financial institution or service.

One of the biggest questions that arise from allowing investments in cryptocurrencies is the issue of taxation.

The challenge governments face is how to categorize cryptocurrencies and the specific activities involving them for purposes of taxation. In the US, cryptos are treated as a hybrid asset class and are taxable. In Singapore, cryptocurrencies fall under the Payment Services Act and are treated as digital tokens. Since there is no long-term capital gains tax in Singapore, the capitals gains on bitcoins as a security token is tax free. Australia has made sure there is no double taxation. Germany regards Bitcoin as private money, as opposed to a currency, commodity, or stock. Portugal declared in 2019 that it will not tax cryptocurrency and that cryptocurrency trading is not considered investment income. In Switzerland all profits and losses from crypto transactions made by individuals are exempt from tax reporting.

Crypto needs to be taxed differently from other assets, uniformly across borders and not necessarily using a capital gains tax. An idea could be to impose some kind of “crypto energy tax” depending on the number of bitcoins you’re hodling. While no one likes taxes, crypto should be taxed and we have to figure out how.

Payments with Crypto: PayPal lets users pay in crypto

PayPal customers in the US can now pay millions of online merchants with bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash. The “Checkout with Crypto” feature converts users’ crypto holdings to fiat currency at checkout. The option automatically appears in the PayPal wallet at checkout for customers with sufficient cryptocurrency balance to cover an eligible purchase. Merchants don’t actually get paid in crypto and for now that’s safer for them, since crypto is volatile. In the coming months, PayPal plans to expand crypto checkout to 29 million merchants.

Paying with crypto, but not really. PayPal will convert your crypto into fiat and pay the merchant in dollars, just like bitcoin debit cards that let people make online or in-person purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs using bitcoin and automatically converting it to fiat at the time of the transaction.

PayPal’s launch came a week after Tesla said it would start accepting bitcoin payments for its cars. Tesla announced that it would accept bitcoin as a form of payment from customers and that those payments would be retained as bitcoin and not converted to fiat currency. Visa also announced that it will allow people to use the USDCoin (a US dollar-backed stablecoin) to settle payments. Crypto.com is the first company to test the new capability with its own Visa-branded cards.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies continue to be speculative instruments, rather than a means for payments. While this is only “sudo” crypto payments, it’s a big step in the right direction. It will add great value in bringing cryptocurrency to the masses. The use of digital assets for payments will only increase and tilt the scale of how we use crypto. While lawmakers are still trying to figure out a regulatory framework, crypto will continue to make deeper inroads into the legacy financial system.

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https://dailyfintech.com/2021/04/12/taking-a-dive-into-the-bitcoin-pool/