Nesta Launches £2.8 Million Rapid Recovery Challenge Seeking Fintech Solutions to Help Provide Jobs and Financial Support for Workers Affected by COVID-19.

Earlier this week innovation foundation Nesta announced the launch of a £2.8 million Rapid Recovery Challenge in partnership with the Money and Pensions Service and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, to help improve access to jobs and financial support for workers hit hardest by COVID-19, including those in low paid jobs, younger workers, and workers in insecure roles across the UK.

Fintech companies, as well as charities and other organisations, are encouraged to enter their innovative solutions for a chance to win up to £475,000 in the 12 month challenge that looks to identify the most promising solutions and back those that have the greatest to potential to help people access financial assistance more easily, manage their cashflow or access affordable credit.

“COVID-19 has created a huge economic shock,” said Ravi Gurumurthy, chief executive of Nesta. “Millions face severe threats to their job security and household finances, and we know that low-paid workers, people in insecure roles and those under 25 will be hit hardest. I’m looking forward to seeing the range of solutions innovators develop to address these issues and support those whose jobs and finances have been most impacted by the pandemic.”

To mark the launch of the Rapid Recovery Challenge, Nesta conducted research to reveal how COVID-19 is impacting those in low paid work, younger workers and those in insecure roles, such as gig workers or those on temporary contracts.

The research found that, since the pandemic started, vulnerable workers in these groups are twice as likely to be working fewer hours compared to people in more stable work (26% compared to 13%) and nearly a third (32%) say a second lockdown would send them over the edge financially.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, CEO of the Money and Pensions Service said “The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the money worries many people face, but particularly for young people and workers on lower incomes. It’s vital that those worst hit can now access the right support and start to find a way forward with their finances.

“We’re pleased to help fund this initiative, which supports the decade-long goals set out in our UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing to enable everyone – including those in vulnerable circumstances – to make the most of their money and pensions.”

Entries to the challenge are now open and close on 26 October 2020. Solutions submitted to the Rapid Recovery Challenge must already exist – at least in prototype form – and must have been piloted with a minimum of 1,000 users.

Two winning projects will be announced at the end of the programme in September 2021.

Women in Fintech: Sam Seaton from Moneyhub

As The Fintech Times celebrates Women in Fintech this September, we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading females in the industry. Here we meet Sam Seaton, CEO of data and intelligence platform Moneyhub. Australian Sam, who has lived in the UK since the mid-1990s, has the ethos ‘noise is easy to create, but making a real difference is much more difficult’.

Sam Seaton Moneyhub

Sam Seaton Moneyhub

Samantha Seaton has more than 25 years’ experience at tech and financial services companies. She started out at global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson before becoming CEO of financial forecasting firm Evalue.

Following this, Seaton became managing director of Momentum Global Investment Management Retail UK business, before taking on the role of CEO at Moneyhub in 2016.

Moneyhub is now the market-leading open finance data and intelligence platform, with clients including AON, KPMG, Lumio and Nationwide.

In addition, Seaton is also a digital advisory panel member at Newbury Building Society and a member of the Money and Pension Service’s Pension Dashboard Steering Group. Seaton was also recently appointed as non-executive director at CAF Bank – the bank for charities and non-profit organisation.

Despite carving out a successful career in the financial services industry, her fintech story could have been a very different one. Australian-born Seaton grew up dreaming of riding horses for a living, while also mulling over a career in nursing.

Her uncle talked her out of the latter, and instead, she went to university to study computer science. After completing her degree, Seaton moved to the UK to pursue her equestrian dream of representing Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympics by competing on the international circuit, but narrowly missed out on qualification.

How did you go from competing on horses to working in financial services and fintech?

I had an amazing time being part of the Australian Olympic squad and competed between 1996 and 2000 in the UK. I took part in all the major events across Europe, such as Badminton and Burghley, Boekelo in Holland and Punchestown in Ireland. But in the end, I didn’t quite get into the final five for the Olympics. So, it got to 2000 and I thought ‘what do I do now?’.

I had done some part-time work at consulting firm Towers Perrin [which later became Towers Watson] and had got quite close to them as a company. At that point, the company was coming off models and spreadsheets and wanting to get onto the internet for its client base because they all wanted everything on the internet. I kind of hit the time when there was a transition as a business here in the UK, probably worldwide, and started working with Tillinghast, its institutional financial services division. I helped with the projects that needed to be model-based and, as a result, got involved with financial services.

How have you found working in a traditionally male-dominated space?

From the start, I was one of very few women on my computer science degree course. I went from an all-girls school to nearly all boys overnight and there was a bit of a boys’ club, but I never felt unwelcome. Of course, I didn’t want to take part in their farting competitions, but I’d go out for fresh air sometimes and say, look can you stop so I can come back in?

It’s probably only in the last 10 years, where it became obvious to me that if we do not change that kind of behaviour, girls haven’t got hope. Perhaps in today’s era, I would probably be more confident to say, this is not acceptable. But at the time, I went along with many things, because you almost just had to, to fit in.

There was a very funny experience at one company, where I was told I had done an exceptionally good job, but they wanted someone else – a man –  to step into my role to see if they would have more success. I don’t think they were meaning to be sexist but that was more upsetting, that a person who was very senior couldn’t see their mistake. That’s when I think it started to dawn on me how far we’ve got to go as an industry, and probably more widely, as many attitudes in the world are ingrained.

What can be done to help more women succeed in the industry?

One of the main issues is the lack of flexibility in the workforce. There has to be more flexibility around the working female as I think that would make the biggest difference. It is certainly something that I hope I can influence my colleagues at other businesses where they’re perhaps not thinking quite as bravely.

I do have many male colleagues in this industry that I talk to a lot about this, and I make sure that they really think it through a bit more. It is important to make the maternity and paternity leave equal. Help make it a choice between the parents as to who takes the time out and for how long.

At Moneyhub, we give six weeks for maternity or paternity as standard.

Can you tell us about the Open51 initiative?

I am a founding member of Open51, an organisation that promotes the role of women developing open finance and the new data economy.

It is all about making sure the 51 per cent of the population who are women are represented correctly in the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

This is key as I worry what we have done in the past will make its way into the algorithms that are going to apply more and more in the future. I’d like to do my bit to stop that happening and make it fair and equal.

Which women in the industry do you admire?

I love some of my fellow fintech community, who I have a lot of time and respect for. Such as Felicia Meyerowitz Singh at AkoniHub, Jayne-Anne Gadhia at Snoop and Romi Savova at PensionBee.

And, I really like people that make a difference. I also have on my advisory board my former mentor Margaret Snowden OBE, who is an expert in pensions. She’s just one of those amazing people who gets on and gets things done. I’m also a big fan of Dame Helena Morrisey – she’s had nine children and achieved so much.

Noise is easy to create, but making a real difference is much more difficult. These women have got a lot of tenacity and they also care about the people in their businesses and the community that they are servicing.

The Ecosystem Rush – Why Its Such A Rage Part 2

The future of several service industries may be headed towards ecosystems. Or so, a McKinsey study would make one believe. As per their research, as many as 12 large ecosystems yielding 30% of global revenues could become a reality in the next 5 years.

In Part 1 of this article, examples of ecosystems in insurance were presented along with few compelling reasons for heightened industry-wide interest to initiate or join ecosystems. In this concluding part, pathways to ecosystems with enabling and inhibiting factors are discussed.

Not all carriers need to build ecosystems. There would be ample room for those that thrive as leaders in low-cost underwriting, efficient policy administration and flawless claims experience. They compete on price and as part of ecosystems, might serve as suppliers of white label products, where customer acquisition and experience would be controlled by dominant players.

It is a widely considered view that generalist mid-sized carriers would be hit particularly hard, if they lack agility in adapting to new market realities. They would either get acquired by ecosystem leaders or struggle to maintain growth and margins. We already see examples of leaders from adjacent markets active in M&A. In Asia, Navi’s acquisition of DHFL GI and PayTm’s acquisition of Raheja QBE insurance are two recent examples.

Senior leaders are cognizant of this threat and many are indeed actively preparing to tackle the challenge. Two thirds say they expect ecosystems will help their organization grow revenue by 11-25% in the next 2 years.  However, as focus detracts and bias tends towards incremental operational improvements, it can spawn missed opportunities. The path forward requires new business models to match dynamic ecosystem demands and reshape customer perceptions. Products correspondingly need redesign to allow bundling and unbundling. The GAFA challengers with their insurance plays are signs of a coming shakeup. 

The choice of business model depends on the role carriers play in the ecosystem. They can opt to be producers or bundlers or owners. Producers provide white label products to fit into many ecosystems. Bundlers have more complete knowledge of customers and operate as omni-channel businesses with integrated value chains. Owners use relationship and data insights to match customer needs with offerings sourced from third party providers with plug-and-play products.

A successful example of an owner is Bayer subsidiary, The Climate Corp, which grew its digital agriculture platform by 20X to more than 95 million paid subscription acres in 4 years. In the process, it curated services from close to 65 partners on satellite imaging, soil assessment and drone mapping.

Some of the enabling factors for success stories have been:

  • Differentiated Value (From trusted brands, superior customer experience)
  • Optimized Operating Models (From revamped partnership processes in Procurement, QA and Legal)
  • Open Systems (From sharing and scaling via APIs)
  • Curation Strengths (From a range of domains and partners).

While these factors are important to the success of an ecosystem, a foundational element is trust. Trust can make or break an ecosystem. A trust incident involving one player can erode substantial value.

Ecosystems enable rapid digital business growth using non-linear models that embrace network effects. In the coming years, the industry is expected to witness consolidation. A small number of very big players and several niche specialists will come to dot the landscape.  As ecosystems proliferate, attendant benefits of new risk categories, exposures and insurance opportunities will begin to emerge. Insurance companies will be key to these networks due to their risk expertise and ability to work with regulators, data protection and privacy issues.

Those in insurance ecosystems can prepare to reap high returns by putting their digital houses in order so their propositions can seamlessly bundle with complementary offerings and by carefully choosing partners with shared goals.

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FinovateFall Digital Day 3: Building Consumer Trust and Creating a More Open Ecosystem

Finovate came back strong this morning, with excellent keynotes and a solid round of fintech demos.

Sarika Sangwan, Global Head of Strategy and Marketing- Financial Services at Pinterest kicked things off with her keynote on building consumer trust in the age of doubt. She illustrated that the best way to build trust is with intentionality and purpose. Sangwan encouraged banks to put the customer first and allow that to drive every decision they make.

The next keynote of the morning featured Tom Feher, Banking Industry Executive of U.S. Financial Services at Microsoft, who spoke on coming together to respond, recover, and reimagine during COVID-19. Feher showcased a range of solutions to help firms return to in-person operations in the midst of the pandemic. He pointed out that low code and no code solutions can not only help organizations respond to issues faster, but also reduce costs.

Today’s final keynote speaker was Paul Rohan, Head of Business Strategy- Finance at Google Cloud on how open banking is 21st century branch banking. Rohan’s discussion combined technology, sociology, and history to consider how banks can change their belief systems (as well as their computer systems) to move into a more open approach that embraces third parties.

Following this was the last set of demos:

  • Authoriti showcased the Authoriti Network that helps create new ways of preventing identity theft, fraud, and misuse of data.
  • Cirrus Secure demoed its cloud-based collaboration hub that impacts a lender’s bottom-line by creating efficiency in place of document chaos.
  • KioWare presented its touchless kiosk environment that enables kiosks to be converted to touchless operation without expensive new hardware.
  • Cinchy showed off its real-time Data Collaboration Platform that helps financial service providers solve data integration, data access, data governance, and solutions-delivery challenges.
  • Lenderfit demoed how it helps lenders close more commercial loans faster.
  • Glia showcased its digital customer service platform that connects financial institutions to their customers using chat, voice, video, cobrowsing and AI.
  • Illuma Labs demoed passive voice authentication for call centers to help banks elevate the user experience, enhance security against fraudsters, and improve operational efficiency.
  • Envestnet |Yodlee presented its data aggregation and analytics platform that provides innovation and insights for financial service providers.
  • Microsoft showcased tools to help firms protect their workforce during each phase of the return to the workplace — and beyond.
  • Horizn demoed how it helps financial institutions dramatically accelerate digital adoption with customers and employees.

Wrapping up today’s show were the Mastercard Priceless Pitches, three-minute pitches from Mastercard’s Start Path participants, including:

  • Previse showed how it leverages AI to power B2B payments and make B2B commerce more efficient.
  • Doconomy presented how it helps consumers calculate the carbon footprint of every transaction they make and offset and reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Enveil showed how it protects data-in-use to enable secure and private data sharing, search, and analytics.
  • vCita presented how it powers small business by offering them tools to manage their money, time, and clients to grow their business.

Tomorrow we’ll kick off our discussion days with another conversation at our interactive networking session, Meet at the Cafe. Afterwards we’ll feature insightful keynote presentations and breakout panels. Stay tuned!

Ticketmaster partners with VenueNext for contactless, mobile payments

VenueNext and Ticketmaster are rolling out a new technology partnership that will enable fans to manage contactless payments, mobile orders and other in-venue experiences from their smart phones.

VenueNext point-of-sale and mobile commerce company entered into a multi-year partnership with Ticketmaster to deliver contactless solutions across Ticketmaster’s entire user base, which includes sporting events and concerts

The features will be made available at every venue around the world and enable guests to manage everything from venue access to in-seat ordering of concessions and merchandise purchases through their smartphones.

Ticketmaster already offered contactless mobile ticketing to its patrons, but this relationship with VenueNext expands its digital offerings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

80% of Americans don’t need a bank branch, Plaid data finds

Share Americans seem to have soured on branch banking, according to a report from the data aggregator Plaid. The report, “The rise of fintech during COVID-19,” found that 80% of Americans said they can now manage their money without using a branch. “People rely on fintech to help them manage a broad range of financial …Read More

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Moxtra and Subaio Earn Spots in Plug and Play’s Fintech Europe Program

A pair of recent Finovate alums have made the cut for the Fintech Europe Innovation Program sponsored by Plug and Play. Moxtra, most recently appearing on the Finovate stage in 2017, and Subaio, which made its Finovate debut earlier this year at FinovateEurope in Berlin, will join six other startups in the program’s sixth cohort since it was launched two years ago.

“Even though COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to the market, it has also given way to a wide range of opportunities,” Program Director of Plug and Play’s Fintech Europe program Fernando Zornig said. “Embracing innovation in finance is now more important than ever. We are seeing a lot of changes in Europe and I am confident that these solutions will help our corporate partners adapt to these changes faster.”

Companies participating in the program will engage with Plug and Play’s 13-member, financial institution partner community, which includes Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, and Raiffeisen Bank International. The startups will have the opportunity to pursue pilot projects as well as investment opportunities. Joining Moxtra and Subaio at the Frankfurt, Germany-based program are:

  • Delio
  • Envio Systems
  • SESAMm
  • Vizolution

Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Moxtra offers a OneStop Customer Portal that gives businesses a “digital branch” through which they can engage and collaborate with customers. Moxtra’s solution provides an all-in-one suite of services including secure chat and video meetings, document collaboration and task management, video conferencing and transactions, and more. This spring, the company was named to Fintech Global’s second annual Wealthech 100 roster.

Subaio provides a white-label, subscription management platform that enables users to get a complete overview of their existing subscriptions. The technology makes it easy for users to cancel subscriptions they no longer want and keep track of any changes in the subscription services they wish to keep. Headquartered in Denmark and founded in 2016, Subaio has a number of live bank integrations of its solution, including a just-announced partnership with ABN Amro.

Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, Plug and Play is a worldwide innovation platform that offers accelerator programs, corporate innovation services, and its own in-house venture capital team. More than 30,000 startups have benefitted from Plug and Play’s resources and support, with companies in its ecosystem raising $9+ billion in funding to date.

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

The Top Ten Largest Banks in Israel 2020

While Israel might not be a big country in terms of its size and population, (8.6 million people according to the UN) Tel Aviv, the country’s largest city is still a major financial centre. Its reputation as a startup hub, developing innovation is recognised globally. In terms of the financial ecosystem in Tel Aviv and wider Israel, the country has a strong sector which includes various banks.

The FinTech Times has compiled a list of the top ten largest banks in Israel and ranked them (based on asset). Combined, the top ten in this list would be valued at over $500 billion. This is impressive as this figure is very similar to a much larger country such as Turkey, which is around ten times as big in terms of population.

The Top Ten Largest Banks in Israel 2020 by Richie Santosdiaz for The FinTech Times

The Top Ten Largest Banks in Israel 2020 by Richie Santosdiaz for The FinTech Times

The top ten largest banks in Israel SOURCE The FinTech Times August 2020

#10 – Bank Massad –  It was founded in 1929 as the Massad Mutual Loans and Savings Company by Israel’s teachers Trade Union, Histadrut HaMorim. At present, the bank is a subsidiary of First International Bank and jointly owned with Histadrut HaMorim.

#9 – Bank of Jerusalem –  The Bank of Jerusalum operates 16 branches throughout the country and has four main sectors of activities: Homeowners sector which includes three sub-sectors: housing loans, banking and financing and capital market activity.

#8 – Bank Yahav – Established in 1954, Bank Yahav specialises in financial services to the retail sector, households and employees in all industries. The bank is held by Mizrahi-Tefahot and by Culture & Economic Projects for State’s Employees, which is owned, by the State Employees Union and the State of Israel.

#7 – Union Bank of Israel – The bank attracts deposits and offers commercial banking services. Union Bank of Israel offers private banking services, mortgage loans, lease financing – amongst other services.

#6 – Bank Mercantile Discount Ltd– The bank was founded in 1971. Bank Mercantile Discount is a subsidiary of Israel Discount Bank.

#5 – First International Bank of Israel (FIBI) – FIBI was founded in 1972 through the merger of various banks. FIBI provides general and other premium banking services to businesses and households.

#4 – Israel Discount Bank– Israel Discount Bank, Ltd. is retail, commercial, private bank and financial services company headquartered in Tel Aviv with 112 branches throughout the country.

#3 – Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank– Mizrahi Tefahot Bank engages in the provision of banking and financial services, offering products and services including private banking, checking accounts – to name a few. The bank has around 140 locations across the country.

#2 – Bank Hapoalim – Bank Hapoalim is a leading financial group. The bank has over 260 full-service branches, eight regional business centres, and industry desks for major corporate customers. The full-service branches focus on households, professionals, small businesses, mortgage banking and pension advisory services.

#1 – Bank Leumi – Established in 1902, Leumi is Israel’s oldest banking corporation and one of the leading and largest corporations in the Middle East. The Leumi Group operates 268 branches throughout the country, as well as branches and offices located in key financial centres across the globe. Leumi provides a wide spectrum of high-quality banking services to all types of customers, starting with households, through small and middle-market businesses, and up to large corporations.

This article was produced by the editorial team at The Fintech Times, consisting of Richie Santosdiaz, Polly Jean Harrison and Mark Walker. It may be reproduced in full with credit attributed to The Fintech Times.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

Square Staves Off Competition with the Launch of Two New Payroll Features

Since its launch in 2009, Square has always catered to small business owners. The payment services company is best known for offering micro-to-medium sized merchants an easy way to accept payments and today Square is launching two services to make those business’ payrolls even more robust.

Explaining the problem, Square Payroll GM Caroline Hollis said, “The traditional payroll process is slow and rigid, creating cash flow constraints for employees and businesses alike. This is even more pronounced now given the current economic conditions.”

The new features include On-Demand Pay for employees and Instant Payments for employers. On-Demand Pay will allow employers to offer their workers early access to some of the wages they’ve earned, while Instant Payments helps businesses fund payroll faster than the typical time of three-to-four days.

There is a bit of a catch with these services, however. Both offerings hinge on Square’s Cash App, a mobile wallet that effectively serves as a checking account for P2P payments. With On-Demand Pay, employees can transfer up to $200 of their earned wages to Square’s Cash App for free. Transfering the funds to a third party debit card, however, incurs a 1% or $2 fee. As for Instant Payments, employees that elect to be paid via Square’s Cash App receive their pay within minutes, while those paid via direct deposit get paid “as soon as the next business day.”

The new features are not new to the fintech scene. They will, however, help Square compete with new offerings from other third party fintechs and serve as a way to help Square maintain its multi-million user base of sellers.

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

First Islamic Compliant Crypto Exchange Plans to Build Tezos Baking Infrastructure With Sustain.Exchange

SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE is the first Islamic compliant crypto ecosystem. They recently announced that it is building technology solutions and infrastructure on Tezos, a leading decentralised public blockchain.

In the short term, SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE plans to develop and enhance its Tezos baking infrastructure, which will allow it to participate in the Tezos protocol’s self-upgrading governance mechanism and engage with the broader Tezos ecosystem. SUSTAIN will also provide technical expertise and lend support to the ongoing development and improvement of the Tezos protocol.

SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE’s work on Tezos also includes the development of a primary issuance platform for digital securities integrated with the Tezos protocol, which will enable a pipeline of asset tokenisations on Tezos in the region, further cementing Tezos’ reputation as a leading protocol for high-value financial applications.

Tezos is a decentralised, public blockchain that evolves by upgrading itself. Stakeholders of the Tezos network vote on amendments to the protocol to reach social consensus on proposals, creating a secure and organic upgrading mechanism. The protocol’s on-chain governance system, Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm, and its ability to facilitate formal verification of smart contracts, make Tezos an ideal long-term solution for high-value financial applications.

SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE creates the necessary ecosystem for Muslims investment in the crypto market, their active participation in the market, and promoting the cooperation of Muslims with the rest of the world in the area of crypto-trading and crypto-investments. Creating sustainable competitive advantages in the Muslim world is impossible without an understanding of the specifics of the Islamic mentality and cultural values. Taking into account these factors, SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE  has developed a corporate strategy, as well as functional strategies on key aspects of the company’s operations.

SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE’s developers will also provide support to self-sovereign identity projects already underway on Tezos, along with spearheading the design and build of a Texas-based solution for Affipay, SUSTAIN’s payment and issuance product.

Through strategic engagement with the Tezos protocol and ecosystem, SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE is working to take its crypto trading ecosystem from the nascent status of an issuing-trading platform to a complex ecosystem that can help not only the cryptocurrency space but the whole business sector by encouraging easier digital adoption and faster money movement across platforms.

Sulaiman Al Fahim, the founder of SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE, said  “Our work on the Tezos protocol adds to the value we want to create on SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE  to help the 1.8 billion members of the Muslim community across the world to securely access and trade cryptocurrencies backed by state-of-the-art blockchain technology. Building on Tezos gives us access to a successful and technically experienced global ecosystem of builders and developers, and will help us strengthen our processes and achieve the milestones we have planned for SUSTAIN,” said

Hubertus Thonhauser, the Chairman of the Tezos Foundation Council, said commented, “We are thrilled to welcome SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE to the Tezos ecosystem given their status as a leader in digital innovation. The Tezos Foundation eagerly anticipates SUSTAIN’s contributions both to the protocol and to the growth of the Tezos ecosystem in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and beyond.”

SUSTAIN.EXCHANGE’s work on Tezos marks an important milestone for the adoption of blockchain technology solutions in the GCC region and the Islamic world more broadly.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

Dubai-based Private Equity Ken Investments and Others Invests $5.8 million in US-Based Salaryo

Salaryo is a pioneering fintech platform for US freelancers and startups. They recently announced it has raised a total of $5.8 million in funding from Dubai-based private equity fund KEN Investments, Variant Investments, Techstars Ventures and Michael Ullmann’s investment group, bringing its total funding to $12 million. The majority of the round was funded earlier this year and the company will use the funds to propel the growth of its small business lending activity and to launch new business banking products in 2021.

Salaryo provides fully digital business term loans and lines of credit for small businesses. The company has successfully provided financing to hundreds of businesses since its foundation in 2017. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company accelerated its growth by offering cash flow relief to small businesses in selected business categories, processing over $60 million in loan applications year to date.

“This investment round propels Salaryo’s evolution from a niche player, into a FinTech banking partner for small businesses, at a time that small business owners need us the most” said Yair Levy, CEO and co-founder of Salaryo. “This year we have expanded our offering with business term loans, providing cash flow flexibility and relief during COVID-19. Our next big step in the materialization of our vision to be the Bank of the Future of Work is planned for next year, when we launch a suite of digital banking products that are designed for cash flow volatility and income uncertainty.”

Mr. Levy also addressed the fact that for the first time, an Emirati fund participated in the funding round. Levy adds, “The announcement by the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Israel about a peace treaty being negotiated between the two countries, has helped to remove technical barriers that have so far delayed the completion of the investment transaction. This pioneer investment pairs Israeli technological innovation with the UAE’s financial expertise and international outreach. The combination of both has endless potential. I look forward to more transactions like this in the near future.”

Salaryo’s lending technology features a fully automated experience, featuring KYC (Know Your Client), financial and professional analysis, payment processing and e-signatures, to make a decision in minutes. Once approved, Salaryo sends funds to the business within 24 hours.

“It took both sides a while to close this investment.” said Kentaro Willam, CEO and manager of KEN Investments. “It is the first time we invest in Israeli technology, and Salaryo tackles a large, fast-growing market opportunity of US small businesses.”

“COVID-19 has accelerated the digitization of financial services. Fintechs such as Salaryo provide opportunities to generate alternative return streams in a dynamic environment.” said Curt Fintel, Principal at Variant Investments. “Salaryo’s team possesses financial acumen and advanced technology that give Variant an edge in getting exposure to unconventional income-generating assets in the specialty finance category.”

The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative effect on the small business sector, with public health regulations causing the temporary closure and steep reduction of activity for millions of small businesses across the U.S and worldwide. Since early March 2020, Salaryo has processed over $60 million in loan applications using its technological platform, offering relief to hundreds of U.S small business owners.

This financing round is composed of both debt and equity financing reaching a total of $5.8 million. US-based fund Variant Investments provided the debt financing, while Dubai-based KEN Investments and US-based Techstars Ventures participated in the equity.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

Driving App Monetisation for Developers in the Middle East and Africa With Huawei and TPAY MOBILE

It was recently announced that global giant Huawei is cooperating with TPAY MOBILE to make it easier and more convenient for developers in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region to monetise their apps on Huawei Mobile Services (HMS).

Leading digital merchant acquirer based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), TPAY MOBILE, enables payment acceptance from 54 mobile payment providers (DCB and wallets), which are connected to over 580 million consumers across 24 countries through a single integration. Its shareholders include Helios Investment Partners, the leading Africa-focused private investment firm, and A15, the Middle East’s leading tech-focused VC fund.

The first phase of the agreement will offer DCB services in 10 countries across MEA region, including all mobile subscribers. Huawei and TPAY MOBILE have been working closely as part of their ongoing commitment to support developers in the MEA region. This partnership will allow local and global developers to monetize their apps and services through HMS’ In-App-Purchases (IAP) kit across the region. TPAY MOBILE’s Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) service offers all Huawei’s HMS customers in the MEA region the ability to pay for their apps and services through their mobile phone number. This will make it more accessible for Huawei and HONOR device users to pay for online services and apps on HMS.

As a result, developers will get 100 percent DCB coverage in the MEA region including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar. TPAY MOBILE is the top alternative payments enabler in the MEA region and brings a wide range of capabilities to Huawei’s HMS platform.

Sahar Salama, the Founder and CEO of TPAY MOBILE said, “We are very excited to launch this strategic partnership with Huawei which will equip local and global developers with the tools they need to better monetise their services through In-App-Purchases capabilities. This agreement further extends the value of TPAY MOBILE for top global merchants who are aspiring to scale their businesses across our region. Developers and online merchants have now an unparalleled access and local know-how, coupled with a trusted, agile, resilient, and scalable payments platform that they can use to scale up their businesses. During the first phase, we aspire to roll out payments in around 10 countries.”

Adam Xiao, Managing Director, HMS and Consumer Cloud Service for Huawei Consumer Business Group MEA said: “We welcome the opportunity to partner with TPAY MOBILE and as a result provide our users with more payment options. By working with TPAY MOBILE we have been able to make it easier for local and global developers to monetize their apps and services to millions more people in the MEA region.”

The partnership will help with TPAY MOBILE’s fintech technology and familiarity being a homegrown Middle East innovation, complimenting with Huawei’s global presence. Huawei’s products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world’s population. Fourteen R&D centres have been set up in the United States, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. Huawei Consumer BG is one of Huawei’s three business units and covers smartphones, PC and tablets, wearables and cloud services, etc. Huawei’s global network is built on over 32 years of expertise in the telecom industry and is dedicated to delivering the latest technological advances to consumers around the world. Tpay Mobile’s services are currently available in Egypt, UAE, KSA, Palestine, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Tunisia, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Libya, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Company is headquartered in the UAE and its shareholders include Helios Investment Partners, the leading Africa-focused private investment firm, and A15, the Middle East’s leading tech-focused VC fund.

  • Richie Santosdiaz, Contributing Reporter for Middle East and Africa

Women In Crypto Power List: Meet the Judges

Wirex’s Rising Women in Crypto Power List is open – and nominees for the females driving the future of digital currencies are coming in thick and fast.

After entries close on September 30th, our expert panel of judges will examine each nominee in order to produce an outstanding shortlist of female talent.

So, who are these experts? Representing a range of disciplines and backgrounds, the Power List panel is made up of leaders and innovators in the field – who know a thing or two about crypto.

Let’s meet them.

Pavel Matveev

CEO and co-founder of Wirex

Pavel Matveev is the CEO and co-founder of Wirex – the industry-leading digital payments platform with a mission to make both fiat and cryptocurrencies equal and accessible to all. He co-founded Wirex with 15 years of software development and IT management under his belt, having previously worked at Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse.

Pavel and his co-founder Dmitry Lazarichev brought Wirex to life in 2014, as a solution to the then complex process of buying crypto. The company has since expanded globally and currently serves over 3 million users in 130 countries.

Pavel is a leading figure in the drive for the mass adoption of crypto and is well-respected in his role as an educator in the digital payment space. He has spoken at various blockchain and payments conferences around the world on cryptocurrency, fintech, business and the economy.

Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer

Fintech Global 50 Influencer and former Global Managing Director at Citi

Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer has been instrumental in shaping the future of finance during her impressive 19-year career. She operates at the nexus of finance, technology and regulation and is passionate about creating the digital financial ecosystem of the future.

Ruth is an influential female leader in tech, promoting the understanding, deployment and business models of our digital future across financial markets and processes. Her diverse career spans regulatory policy development, banking, fintech/regtech mentoring, investing and consulting.

After more than a decade at Citi, Ruth is now an independent Non-Executive Director on the boards of Permanent TSB and Digital Identity Net, as well as a Partner at Gauss Ventures. She also advises the ETPPA,, Coinfirm and is Founder and Partner of Sinonyx.

Ruth was named a Fintech Power 50 ‘Global Fintech Influencer’ in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Her views are widely sought after in the global press and have been published in Sifted, FT and Forbes.

Jason Williams

CEO of The Fintech Times and founder of the Fintech Power 50

 Prior to founding the Fintech Power 50 in 2018, Jason Williams spent 20 years working in B2B publishing, with a focus on financial, business and fintech publications.

Jason co-founded Fintech Finance and the Fintech Finance Magazine in 2014, building the brand and its titles into the widely recognised publications they are today.

He went on to establish the Fintech Power 50 – the annual guide to the most influential, innovative and powerful figures in fintech. It shines a spotlight on those transforming financial services and supports the global growth of fintech companies.

Jason is currently the CEO of the Fintech Times, the first and only dedicated fintech newspaper chronicling the latest developments in financial technologies.

Myrtle Ramos

Founder of Block Tides and Business Director of Asia Token Fund

Myrtle Ramos is renowned for empowering women and youths in the blockchain space. The founder of Block Tides, a blockchain-focused events, digital marketing and PR company based in the Philippines, she has helped numerous companies transform their businesses and communicate their stories effectively. Her clients include the digital finance tokenisation platform, Asia Token Fund.

Myrtle is a highly regarded speaker in her field, having completed over 20 successful roadshows across eight South East Asian countries since 2018. She also attended a tour of universities in the Philippines, where she spoke on the topic of empowering women and youth, and moderated a number of blockchain and tech panel discussions.

Her extensive experience and dedicated work ethic has gained Myrtle a positive reputation across the industry.

George Coxon

Chief Operating Officer at the Nano Foundation and Director of Appia

George Coxon is on a mission to make the global economy equal and open to all. The Chief Operating Officer at the Nano Foundation, George focuses on leveraging Nano’s fee-less, instant and sustainable qualities to create digital money solutions to real-world problems.

A degree in Evolutionary Anthropology amplified George’s natural fascination in the complexities behind social behaviour patterns and what makes people ‘tick’. She has since applied her learnings to further develop a wider understanding of how efficient, decentralised, digital money can empower and elevate the underbanked.

As a female leader within the nascent and challenging world that is digital money, George is committed to nurturing and championing female entrepreneurs, as they continue to succeed within the digital and technology sectors

WIREX Women crypto

WIREX Women crypto

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

Banks accelerate new branch strategies in increasingly digital post-COVID world

After the novel coronavirus forced banks to close their branch lobbies, Pittsburgh-based F.N.B. Corp. added an online tool allowing customers to make in-branch appointments with a banker for the first time. The customer response was swift and unexpected: The bank went from 21 appointments in January to more than 2,700 during April, according to CEO Vincent Delie.

F.N.B.’s experience is emblematic of how the pandemic is forcing consumers to rethink many behaviors — including the way they use physical bank branches. In the age of social distancing, even customers who long relied on their local branch are turning to digital options. And that is opening the door for banks to rethink their branch footprints.

“Every generation wants convenience,” said Mike Carter, executive vice president of advisory firm Strategic Resource Management. “What has happened now, people who didn’t understand how convenient digital banking is, they got a taste of it.”

Experts and bankers say physical locations will continue playing an important role in bank strategies, but the pandemic will change the way branches look and operate for good.

“In the future, the bank branch will be a lot like going to the dentist or seeing a doctor — you’ll make an appointment to go in and discuss something,” Carter said in an interview.

Download the full article here to learn more

Airwallex Announces Worldwide eCommerce Solution for UK and European Retailers

The global fintech Airwallex has launched its card payment acceptance solution in the United Kingdom and Europe allowing merchants to accept card payments around the world seamlessly and securely. The solution will initially support Visa and Mastercard card payments, with more payment methods planned.

In the UK alone, eCommerce sales are expected to grow by 17.6% compared to last year in light of COVID-19. Airwallex has seen double-digit revenue growth from its eCommerce customers in 2020, fuelled by the rapid acceleration of online spending globally. As businesses look further afield for growth opportunities, the importance of removing the unnecessary foreign exchange fees charged by banks and other payment providers has never been more critical. These fees are often hidden within inflated exchange rates, additional international payment fees, as well as auto-conversion by issuers and gateways at extremely poor rates.

Airwallex’s card payment acceptance solution enables merchants to receive funds from anywhere in the world Visa and Mastercard are accepted. Retailers can then hold these funds in Airwallex accounts in over 15 currencies, exchange currencies at the mid-market rate with a small transparent margin, and repatriate funds back to home markets with zero payment fees. This makes the process simpler, more cost-effective, and totally transparent for merchants.

This new offering is a key part of Airwallex’s mission to support business growth with an end-to-end financial services platform. Now, merchants in the UK and Europe can access payments, collections, FX, and virtual global accounts in a single platform, and without the high fees that traditionally come with operating overseas. By working seamlessly with Airwallex’s platform to enable efficient management of multiple currencies, the new solution eliminates the need to work with multiple providers or to open bank accounts in different markets. The new card payment acceptance solution is aimed to go live in other key markets such as Australia and Hong Kong later this year.

James Butland, VP of Global Banking said: “Ecommerce merchants today have access to many tech-driven eCommerce solutions that can help them easily set up and run their international operations. Existing cross-border financial services, which is a crucial part of this process, do not offer the same seamless experience. Merchants have to patch together different finance solutions to accept payments, repatriate funds from other markets and pay suppliers – these include payment gateways, business bank accounts in different markets, FX providers and remittance solutions. Managing these different solutions can be cumbersome and costly, and as a result, become a barrier to successful global expansion.”

“With the introduction of our new card payment acceptance product, Airwallex now offers everything a merchant needs to operate internationally in an end-to-end platform at the lowest cost. As eCommerce growth continues to accelerate Airwallex is committed to bringing products and services to market that help scale the digital economy and support businesses of all sizes in operating globally.”

This announcement follows the Airwallex’s recent record $160million Series D fundraising in April, the company also announced a plan to hire 50+ new talent in the region by 2021.

  • Gina is a FinTech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

Stablecoin News for the week ending Wednesday 16th September.

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

This week we have seen an interesting argument play out.  Who should be first to innovate at scale in Digital Currencies?  Should this be State (slow, considered, careful) or should the Private sector (with Regulatory cover) be allowed to move fast and maybe break a few things?

First, a recap of the current state of play. A new working paper by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) looks at the state of central bank digital currency (CBDC) projects around the world.

According to the study, as of mid-July 2020, at least 36 central banks had published retail or wholesale CBDC work.

At least three countries, namely Ecuador, Ukraine and Uruguay, had completed a retail CBDC pilot, and six retail CBDC pilots were ongoing in the Bahamas, Cambodia, China, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, South Korea, and Sweden, the research found.

Meanwhile, 18 central banks had published research on retail CBDCs, and another 13 had announced research or development work on a wholesale CBDC, the paper says.

New BIS Working Paper Looks at State of Central Bank Digital Currency Projects Around the World | Fintech Schweiz Digital Finance News

Staying in Switzerland (where the BIS is located) the private sector folks building the next generation of digital money understand the need to collaborate.

Stablecoins, digital tokens pegged one-to-one to the Swiss franc (CHF) in this case, are a prime example. SEBA Bank and Sygnum Bank, the two B2B players that hold banking licenses from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority and that specialize in digital assets, are both involved in stablecoin explorations, as is the country’s respected crypto conglomerate, Bitcoin Suisse.   “Within the Crypto Valley and here in Switzerland, there’s a very good collaboration going on, where everyone’s working together to try to design a Swiss franc stablecoin which has more or less the same definition or is fully interoperable,” said Matthew Alexander, SEBA Bank’s head of asset tokenization. 

The Crypto Firms Collaborating on a Swiss Franc Stablecoin

However, Politicians in the EU are getting very concerned about anyone from the Private sector stepping into their turf.  Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands called on the European Commission to draw up strict regulation for asset-backed cryptocurrencies such as stablecoins to protect consumers and preserve state sovereignty in monetary policy.

Stablecoins in regulatory crosshairs as EU states push for curbs

LONDON (Reuters) – A project involving 13 of the world’s largest banks and aimed at launching digital versions of major currencies in 2020 is no longer likely to get going this year, the company set up to run the effort said.

Technological development work on the previously named “Utility Settlement Coin” initiative has progressed, but it still needs regulatory approval, said Fnality International Chief Executive Rhomaios Ram. It hopes to receive that approval by the first quarter of 2021, “The technology is the least complicated part of this whole thing,” said Ram.

Major bank-led digital cash settlement project gets delayed

So in summary we have the Private sector slowing down, the state sector spreading up and the Politicians worrying about what all this could mean. 


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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BI Build: Stash products prioritize insights, automation

Share Automation and insights are driving the direction of new products at Stash, the investment platform turned banking fintech, said Chief Product Officer Sudev Balakrishnan at the Bank Innovation Build conference last week. Currently in testing with customers on a limited basis is an expansion of Stock-Back, a rewards program launched in mid-2019 that offers …Read More

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FinovateFall Digital Day 2: Delightful Experiences and Fair Deals for Consumers

With welcoming remarks from Finovate VP Greg Palmer, Day Two of FinovateFall Digital got underway on Tuesday with a pair of addresses that looked at ways that fintechs and financial services companies can make the most out of the current health and economic challenges.

In his opening keynote, HSBC Head of Innovation Jeremy Balkin emphasized that understanding how the current environment has changed customer behavior is critical for businesses looking to adapt to both those changing behaviors and the needs they represent. This has been underscored during this quarantine/lockdown/shelter-in-place era. But Balkin is quick to note that these behavioral changes have impacted not only consumers, but workers and employees, also.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about the customer experience. We need to think about the employee experience, as well,” he said.

He also talked about the historical tendency to think of partnerships and “borrowing technology” as an initiative of last resort. Balkin pointed out that successful companies have turned this idea on its head to put collaboration and partnership at the forefront of their efforts to better serve their current clients and engage new potential customers.

Our Mastermind Keynote featured Adam Dell, Head of Product for Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Dell discussed how the adoption of digital tools is accelerating and compared the current moment to other recent instances of rapid technology adoption by the public. He pointed to a “vibrant demand for digital banking services,” and said that the winners will be those that can offer a delightful digital experience, a fair deal for the consumer, and the lowest cost means of delivery.

“Individuals who sit in the value chain and don’t create value really risk being eliminated,” he said.

Dell also discussed the opportunities created by the convergence of banking services and PFM. This comes as Goldman Sachs announces that Marcus will now feature a suite of PFM tools to complement its digital banking functionalities. Marcus Insights, as the new offering has been dubbed, was spearheaded by Dell, founder of PFM innovator Clarity Money which was acquired by Goldman Sachs in 2018.

After our noon break for lunch and networking, we began the day’s round of technology demos.

Q2 demonstrated its partner marketplace and app store that solves the challenge of banks and fintechs working together.

Monit presented its mobile predictive cash flow and financial optimization solution that gives small business owners the personalized insights into and guidance on their finances they need to manage their business successfully.

payever demonstrated its solutions that help small businesses access and take advantage of the same technology that big companies do.

Obsecure showcased its technology that authenticates digital actions to ensure that digital experiences are as safe and simple as in-person interactions.

Mostly AI demonstrated its synthetic data platform that enables companies to take advantage of AI and Big Data while maintaining customer privacy protections.

The second round of demos slated for today– including Glia, Illuma Labs, Envestnet | Yodlee, Microsoft, and Horizn— have been rescheduled for tomorrow due to technical difficulties. Stay tuned for more details on timing.

We would be remiss not to mention that Day Two began with our new interactive, networking session, Meet at the Cafe. Sponsored by Google Cloud, our first edition Tuesday morning featured a spirited, interactive conversation on Klarna’s $650 million fundraising, the fate of challenger banks, and the impact of new customer behaviors in the age of COVID-19.

Meet at the Cafe returns Wednesday morning, with a special guest: David Andrzejek, Head of API Ecosystems with Google Cloud. So meet us at the cafe and join in the conversation!

Marcus and the Marriage of Banking and PFM

On the day that Goldman Sachs announced that its digital banking solution Marcus would now feature a suite of PFM tools, FinovateFall Digital attendees were busy listening to the architect of this new feature – Adam Dell, Head of Product at Marcus – making the case for, among other things, the union of digital banking and PFM.

Successful digital financial services offerings in the post-COVID era will have three main features, Dell said. They will have a low cost means of delivery, they will represent a fair deal for the consumer, and they will provide what he called “delightful digital experiences.”

The new PFM solution, known as Marcus Insights, is currently available on iOS and will be made available on Android platforms and on the web soon. Marcus Insights aggregates the user’s financial information in a single dashboard, and offers tools and trackers to provide an easy-to-understand overview of their finances. After linking their checking, savings, loans, and/or investment accounts, users can analyze their spending in pre-set categories such as travel, shopping, and dining, as well as get instant insight into their spending and saving patterns, and their investment performance.

Interestingly, due to a restrictive data sharing agreement, users will not be able to link their Apple Cards to Marcus Insights. This is despite the fact that Apple is a Goldman partner. Also partnering with Goldman and Marcus on this initiative is Finovate alum Plaid, which was acquired by Visa for $5.3 billion at the beginning of the year.

Goldman launched Marcus, which was named after the investment bank’s founder Marcus Goldman, in 2016 and, just this year, unveiled a mobile app for the online bank. As of January, Marcus has $60 billion in customer deposits, and $5 billion in loans. CNBC reported that Marcus plans to add a digital checking account and an investing service in 2021.

Photo by julie aagaard from Pexels

How Citi, PNC and SVB incubate from within

Share For many banks, innovation means partnering with fintechs or developing new banking features in-house. Dozens of banks, however, are going even further by spinning out their own ideas through in-house incubators and innovation labs. “We have seen from the research we have done with our clients and investor partners that there is tremendous value …Read More

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