Security is the Cornerstone of Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Cryptocurrency exchanges are under pressure to improve
security practices to mitigate future cyberattacks and scams after
losses of more than $3billion in 2020.

Malicious attacks have become increasingly more frequent and
sophisticated, causing significant financial loss and serious PR
issues for the entire crypto asset market.

According to Ben Zhou, co-founder and CEO of
crypto trading platform Bybit, exchanges need to
better address areas of vulnerability and apply multiple layers of
security for penetration testing in order to combat potential
hacking threats.

Here Zhou discusses why cryptocurrency exchanges are being
targeted and how the right investment can prevent potential data
breaches internally and externally.

Ben Zhou, CEO, BybitBen Zhou, CEO, Bybit

Security incidents of cryptocurrency exchanges are occurring
more regularly, and thieves have begun to wise up to some of the
more ‘basic security protocols’ that some exchanges have

One of the more widely reported cases was that of Japanese
Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which collapsed in 2014
after losing $460million to hackers. The ramifications of the case
still continue to this day. As the popularity of crypto and the
volume of trades increase, so does the appetite of hackers looking
for an opportunity to score a payday.

Bitcoin, one of the more widely known and traded
cryptocurrencies, has been the preferred digital asset of choice
for scammers in recent years. In 2016, hackers stole $72million
worth of Bitcoin from exchange Bitfinex and in
2018, hackers stole $500million in digital tokens from exchange
Coincheck. At the tail end of last year,
approximately $40million worth of Bitcoin was stolen from
Binance, through a single transaction.

The crypto world was also thrust into mainstream news last year
following a high
profile Twitter hack
that saw hackers taking control of
accounts from a list of ‘who’s who’ of wealthy or well-known
individuals and companies, including Barack Obama, Bill
Gates, Elon Musk, Joe Biden, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos

and Kanye West.

Hackers invited their followers to deposit Bitcoin into a
particular account with the promise of receiving double their money
in return. Even Apple and Uber were drawn into the fray. Although
this specific scenario appears to have been a quick and dirty money
heist, the scam netted more than $120,000.

Meanwhile, in September 2020, cryptocurrency exchange
KuCoin reported a major security breach affecting
Bitcoin, Ether and ERC20 hot wallets to the tune of

Security concerns and the subsequent negative media coverage
often become the centre of attention, with a reported $1.7billion
in cryptocurrency stolen over the years, most of which have come
from exchanges either based in, or centred around Asia.

Why are cryptocurrency exchanges being targeted?

The reason is quite simple: because they can. Cryptocurrency
exchanges have been plagued by malicious attacks since the first
exchange launched over a decade ago. Over time, these malicious
attacks have become increasingly more frequent and sophisticated,
causing significant financial loss and serious public relations
issues for the entire crypto asset market.

The main issue, however, is that most exchanges act as a
centralised single point of failure, which in most cases are
vulnerable by design. As a centralised web application programmed
to execute specific transactions, exchanges are susceptible to the
same security issues and concerns as all other websites.

In addition, the vast majority of cryptocurrency exchange
servers and storage networks preserve live pools of digital
currency in hot wallets. However, if the hot wallets are not
properly protected or if the application functions, such as mobile
app access, terminals, data repositories and application
programming interfaces (APIs) on the backend lack the sufficient
security controls, the cryptocurrency held within hot wallets could
be vulnerable to theft, making them inviting targets for

With regards to security, there is no doubt that a cold wallet
system is vastly superior to hot wallets. Even though both wallets
store security keys and codes, the fact that hot wallets are
connected online make them more vulnerable to potential hacking
threats or scamming attempts. Cold wallets on the other hand, are
not connected online, making them a significantly safer and more
stable option. The only downside is not being able to make large
withdrawals from an exchange immediately. But which would you
rather have, immediacy with a considerably higher risk factor or a
slight delay with assurances that your cryptocurrency is safe?

How can cryptocurrency exchanges better mitigate security

Investing in security should be one of the highest priorities on
an exchange platform’s agenda, especially if it operates online.
The extent of security investment reflects the overall security
commitment and capabilities of a company. On average, most of the
leading cryptocurrency exchanges spend around 15 per cent, with
some increasing investment in security to 20 per cent or more.
Though spend shouldn’t be the only factor for consideration;
it’s just as important to adopt and adhere to best practices in
cybersecurity and risk management.

In order to combat potential hacking threats, exchanges need to
better address areas of vulnerability and apply multiple layers of
security for penetration testing, in order to better assess the
effectiveness and preparedness of the security system’s defences.
Any security system employed should also cover privacy and
information protection across all points of interaction with the
exchange. Put simply, this means protecting a user’s data and
information throughout from account registration, login, trading,
to any information exchange with the platform.

This can be accomplished by applying best practices for
application lifecycle management, hiring knowledgeable and
reputable security consultants for penetration testing and running
bounty programs within the white hat community to identify any
potential vulnerabilities. It’s also recommended that
cryptocurrency exchanges work with reputable security audit
institutions to carry out security audits, apply strict management
processes, and invest in zero-trust architecture, whereby all
access to a service requires verification in order to prevent any
potential data breaches internally and externally. This drastically
reduces risk as a result of human error.

There are a number of bespoke security solutions that can be
externally sourced and applied from reliable vendors. However, if
the exchange has the right talent, experience, expertise and
capabilities, solutions can also be developed in-house, which could
provide better oversight over potential security concerns.

At Bybit, we put our customers above all else and have invested
considerable resources in developing and enhancing our own security
protocols and solutions. We have implemented an industry-leading,
multi-signature HD cold wallet system to guarantee the safety of
our traders’ funds. We would rather sacrifice some user
experience to ensure asset security.

When it comes to combating potential hacking threats and
internal control management, we organise and conduct multiple red
alert scenarios and bounty programmes with the white hat community
to ensure there are no system vulnerabilities. Even when it comes
to withdrawals, we subject any requests to at least three layers of
risk-control verifications. Crypto asset consolidation among cold
wallets follows the strictest policy, including physical
environment security, system security, encryption techniques,
operation authentication, monitoring and audit.

Looking ahead

As the industry gradually matures, we expect many more
cryptocurrency exchanges to continue to innovate for the benefit of
traders. Investing in, and ensuring the implementation of the right
processes, protocols and relevant security measures will be a
necessity in order to insulate traders from potential hacks and
security breaches. Those that don’t keep pace with the latest
cybersecurity trends and solutions leave themselves more vulnerable
and open to attack in the future.

The post
Security is the Cornerstone of Cryptocurrency Exchanges

appeared first on The
Fintech Times

Bryan Clagett Joins Moven as Chief Revenue Officer

Fintech veteran Bryan Clagett is making moves within Moven this year. Clagett was recently appointed Chief Revenue Officer of Moven after serving as an advisor to the New York-based company for six months.

“Bringing on Bryan was an essential next step in expanding our business maturity as we look to expand our U.S. market presence,” said Moven Founder Brett King. “Having worked on and off with Bryan for 10 years, I’m glad we finally snagged him at a time when our U.S. operations are accelerating rapidly and where COVID has created an extraordinary demand for digital differentiation in the retail digital banking space.”

Clagett’s fintech career started three decades ago, his most notable position being Chief Marketing Officer and Investor at Geezeo, where he served for ten years until the digital banking company was acquired by Jack Henry in 2019. During his tenure, Clagett helped Geezeo grow to more than 550 clients and achieve profitability.

Since his time at Geezeo, Clagett has served as an advisor to Conotext, Blip Labs, Procurity, and StrategyCorps.

“I’m extremely excited to join Moven to lead sales, marketing and partnership strategy as we evolve the company’s growth trajectory. Moven’s client-centric philosophy and emphasis on helping financial services via flexible and innovative, data-driven solutions made this a great fit for me. I’m looking forward to expanding into new markets, strengthening our relationships with our partners, and building the leading GTM function in our space,” said Clagett.

Moven’s appointment of Clagett comes after Moven made a major pivot in March of last year, dropping its B2C offering to focus on its enterprise arm that serves financial institutions. The new B2B approach has been flourishing in recent months, as banking-as-a-service tools have been gaining traction thanks to firms’ heightened focus on their digital presence.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

A Look at Up and Coming Fintechs in India and Africa

With 2021 underway, fintech analysts and observers have begun sharing their lists of companies they expect to do big things in the coming year. This week, Finovate Global Lists shares two compilations of fintech startups from India and Africa that are raising millions in capital and bringing a variety of digital financial services to underserved consumers and businesses.

In India, these innovators range from online payments and banking technology company Cashfree to crypto trading platform CoinDCX (which we profiled in Finovate Global last spring). Inc42’s Suprita Anupam notes that the global health crisis of COVID-19 served “as a booster” for India’s fintech sector, citing year-on-year growth in transaction volumes of 70%.

Looking at fintech in sub-Saharan Africa, TechCabal’s Alexander Onukwue leverages Disrupt Africa’s 2020 tech startups funding report to highlight emerging African fintechs. Fara Jituboh-Ashiru’s Okra, which enables bank accountholders to link their accounts with lending and banking apps, and P2P mobile payments company Chipper Cash, were among the companies highlighted in Onukwue’s survey.

Javier García

This week our Finovate Global Voices feature comes to us courtesy of Nathan Lustig, entrepreneur, investor, and managing partner at Magma Partners. Launched in 2014 and headquartered in Santiago, Chile, Magma Partners is an early stage investment company that specializes in Latin American startups innovating in fintech, insurtech, and infrastructure.

Among the firm’s portfolio companies are Billpocket, the “Square of Latin America”; Albo, a mobile banking service for the unbanked; and an Ecuadorian/Colombian fintech, Kushki, based in U.S. that seeks to be the “Stripe of Latin America.”

Lustig is also a podcaster, and in his most recent Crossing Borders Podcast, he talks with Javier García, Director of Corporate Venturing and Growth Capital at the corporate VC fund of Mexican conglomerate FEMSA.

The two discuss the work of FEMSA’s fund in Latin America, including the firm’s investment strategy, recommendations for fintechs working with incumbents, and lessons García has learned in working with startups.

Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean


Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

Middle East and Northern Africa

Photo by Harsha Vardhan from Pexels

PayByCar Announces E-ZPass Touchless Payment Solution at Alltown Gas Stations

PayByCar, Inc., a provider of transactional vehicle payment solutions, has announced the implementation of their services at all 30 Alltown gas stations in Massachusetts, where customers will be able to pay for gas and other goods directly from their mobile device, without ever having to take out cash, a credit card, or mobile app.

Those with E-ZPass toll transponders who register for PayByCar on the PayByCar website will be able to easily pay for their fuel, without having to touch the gas station keypad, by using their transponders. Vehicles without a toll transponder can use PayByCar’s own non-toll sticker to enrol.

“Following the success of PayByCar’s first in the nation breakthrough test pilot program at Alltown of Westborough last year, we are proud to expand our pay-by-text service throughout Massachusetts,” said Kevin Condon, CEO and founder of PayByCar.

In addition to eliminating multiple points of touching a public surface, the process also cuts transaction and refuelling time by 73% for patrons during the winter months.

“We’re living at a time when contactless payments are increasingly important,” said Mark Cosenza, Senior Vice President at Global Partners LP, owner of Alltown convenience stores. “We’re excited to offer drivers not only the convenience of simple and quick transactions but also the added safety and peace of mind during the age of COVID-19.”

Massachusetts-based Global Partners has nearly 300 company-owned convenience stores, including Alltown and Alltown Fresh. PayByCar became available at four Alltown locations in Marlborough, Framingham, Wellesley, and Westborough MA, with the 26 more Massachusetts locations rolling out in 2021.

The technology will soon be available for other kinds of transactions such as paying at convenience stores, car washes, drive-thru’s, and restaurants in 2021. Since PayByCar’s launch, the company has made waves in the business technology world, leading to an unprecedented non-toll services pilot agreement with the E-ZPass Group in 2018 that allows the PayByCar product to leverage the transponder devices E-ZPass drivers already use to pay for highway tolls across 18 states — a service the agency group calls “Driven by E-ZPass”.

FIs lead RPA adoption

Financial services are leading the adoption and use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), driven largely by lending automation, compliance management and hardships program administration. “Now and Next: State of RPA,” a study released this week by RPA vendor Automation Anywhere, found that 57% of survey respondents said they will increase RPA spending across all industries […]

BAN survey: Automation may redefine banking

Financial executives were blunt when sharing their views on the future of automation in banking with Bank Automation News, saying financial institutions will need the technology for survival. “Automation will be the determining factor between those FIs who live and die,” wrote one executive as part of Bank Automation News’ survey “The State of Automation […]

dLocal Partners With Dinie to Bring Buy Now Pay Later to Brazilian SMEs

dLocal, a cross-border payment platform connecting
global merchants to emerging markets, have announced a new
partnership deal with Dinie to allow global
merchants to offer instalment payments to their customers in Brazil
as a form of small business lending. The partnership between dLocal
and Dinie will give SME customers a wider choice of payment options
and more purchasing power at the checkout, which in turn, increases
the conversion rate and basket sizes for merchants.

The Dinie Paylater solution (Dinie Pay) enables merchants to get
paid up-front and in full, while their customers benefit from
paying in three-to-nine month instalments. The merchant has no
credit risk exposure, and SME customers are not required to have a
credit card or use Boleto to pay but can use their Dinie credit
account while benefiting from the instalment plan.

According to dLocal data, 54% of e-commerce spend in 2020 in
Brazil was made accessing an instalment plan offered by merchants.
With the addition of this 
“Buy Now, Pay Later” solution (BNPL)
,  online sellers can
expect increased conversion rates, as research shows Brazilians
often prefer instalment payments when it comes to e-commerce.

Through the new partnership, Dinie Pay will be integrated within
the dLocal payments platform, which streamlines the merchant
onboarding process. Essentially, this means dLocal will enable
merchants to use Dinie Pay hassle-free, and with no further
integration needed. Once a purchase is confirmed at the
merchant’s checkout, the Dinie Pay option is presented and the
SME customers can choose to split the payment into up to nine
monthly instalments.

Commenting on the partnership, Rodrigo Sanchez
, VP Product at dLocal, said: “At dLocal, we are
innovators at heart and our goal is to bridge the payments
innovation gap between developed countries and emerging economies
and Dinie shares that ambition with us.

Dinie is complementing dLocal’s hyper-local Brazilian payments
solutions with capital accessibility to SMEs to pay for
higher-value business purchases and invest in their growth via
improved technology and digital marketing. We enable global
merchants to unlock new revenues and get paid upfront, frictionless
and risk-free.”

Suzy Ferreira, CEO and Founder of Dinie, said:
“Through one single integration to dLocal, Dinie will be able to
connect to the world’s largest digital merchants and access
millions of SME customers. Dinie will enable these customers to
easily purchase online, make investments in technology and digital
marketing, whilst ensuring their cash flow isn’t so heavily
impacted since they have an opportunity to match their investment
with the revenue they generate later.

“Teaming up with a company of dLocal’s calibre, a high
growth Latam unicorn servicing the world’s largest digital
merchants, is a huge opportunity for Dinie to accelerate growth and
reinforce our commitment to irrigate the Brazilian SME market with
capital to support their germination and growth.”

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dLocal Partners With Dinie to Bring Buy Now Pay Later to Brazilian
appeared first on The Fintech Times.

The inside story on why we pivoted to Bank Automation News [VIDEO]

This week Bank Automation News launched as a new brand, replacing
Bank Innovation. What’s the behind-the-scenes reasoning for the
move? During this video podcast, editors JJ Hornblass, Bianca Chan
and Loraine Lawson discuss the impetus behind the pivot to BAN, and
share insider info as to what readers can expect as we move forward
to […]

Embedded Finance – The Intersection of FinTech and BigTech

FinTechs are seamlessly embedding finance in technology to facilitate our day-to-day activities. However, there is a new set of companies which does not identify as FinTechs but embeds financial services in offerings to attract and retain customers. Payment solutions such as Visa, Mastercard, Klarna, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay and e-marketplace service providers such as Shopify, which earns 59% of its revenue from embedded payment products, are not merely FinTech companies.

Embedded finance is estimated to offer a market opportunity of over $7 trillion by 2030. Embedded insurance is estimated to be a $3 trillion market. 

Embedded finance is the native integration of financial services into a traditionally non-financial service or product.

BigTechs have specialized expertise, thorough knowledge of consumer segments, and networked resources that come along with their investments. By embedding finance in their non-financial services business, they provide their customers access to financial services and payments, often in an invisible, seamless way.

Payments, the first financial service to be embedded into non-financial product experiences, has pervaded digital platforms such as Apple Pay, Afterpay, Paytm, and WeChat. Other financial service …

AC Milan Joins Sports Crypto Movement to Launch Fan Token

Italian football giants AC Milan, in partnership with fintech blockchain company Chiliz, have announced plans to launch an $ACM Fan Token on the fan engagement and rewards platform in the coming weeks.

AC Milan are among the most successful clubs of all time, with 18 FIFA and UEFA trophies to their name in addition to 18 Serie A titles and a massive global fanbase estimated at 450 million, including a significant following throughout Asia.

$ACM Fan Token owners will be able to access a wide range of benefits including the right to vote in multiple club decisions each season, VIP rewards & experiences, exclusive club and sponsor promotions, games, competitions and ‘super-fan’ recognition.

The club joins a list of 19 major sporting organisations who have partnered with to launch Fan Tokens, including FC Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma, Atlético de Madrid, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor. Leading esports organisations Team Heretics, NAVI, OG and Alliance have all launched Fan Tokens on the platform, while UFC have signed a global fan engagement agreement and fellow MMA organisation the Professional Fighters League will launch a Fan Token in the coming months. More major clubs are set to launch Fan Tokens in the near future.

Notable examples of fan engagement through include fans of Apollon FC choosing the first team for a friendly match and the club’s home and away kit for the 2021/22 season. Juventus fans chose the club’s new goal celebration song, decided on a limited-edition redesign of the iconic ‘J’ logo and the first team bus for the 2020/21 season. Supporters of FC Barcelona placed a unique fan designed artwork at the heart of the Camp Nou dressing room, Roma fans delivered questions directly to head coach Paolo Fonseca in a live press conference and PSG fans chose a unique message for the captain’s armband as well as voting on their end of season awards through the app.

Powered by the utility token Chiliz $CHZ, is one of the most active non-financial, consumer-facing mainstream blockchain products in the world. In just over a year it has been downloaded by more than 450,000 people, over 14M Fan Tokens have been sold, and over 700,000 votes registered on the blockchain. In total, Fan Tokens have generated over $30M USD for clubs and partners in a little over 12 months. In late December and early January, several Fan Tokens were listed on major global exchanges driving significant activity, with $PSG and $JUV trading volumes hitting a 24 hour high of $300M in late December.

 Casper Stylsvig, Chief Revenue Officer of AC Milan said: “We are happy to join hands with and welcome them to our family as a global partner. This partnership allows us to give our 450 million fans across the world another exciting way to interact with AC Milan, which is particularly important under the current circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As an innovative Club, one of our focus areas is modernisation and this partnership helps us complete another important step in that direction.”

Fans who purchased ‘Milan Devils’ Tokens using pre-sale feature Locker Room will have their tokens transformed into $ACM Fan Tokens upon launch. Locker Tokens for Manchester Blue and The Galácticos have sold out.

Alexandre Dreyfus, CEO and Founder of Chiliz and said:  “I’m delighted to welcome AC Milan and their 450 million fans from across the world to Fans of the I Rossoneri will be able to enjoy unprecedented engagement with their favourite team, influencing the club in polls, accessing VIP rewards, exclusive promotions, chat forums and much more.

“The AC Milan partnership is a great start to a year in which we will work harder than ever on our mission to fully establish Fan Tokens as the ultimate fan engagement tool and as a powerful new revenue generator for the sports industry.”

Liquidity Capital and Vault Investments Launch $100m Debt Investment Fund

Tel Aviv-based global fund manager Liquidity Capital and Dubai-based Vault Investments have announced an agreement to form a joint $100M Venture Debt Investment fund based in Dubai.

The new fund will deploy debt financing funding aimed at fueling technology financing in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and will leverage technology already in use by Liquidity in that company’s Asia-Pacific and US investments. As part of the partnership, Liquidity Capital and Vault investment will open offices in Dubai, to more effectively locate potential investments in the region.

“The United Arab Emirates, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the Middle East as a whole are overflowing with technology,” said Sultan Ali Lootah of Vault Investments. “The partnership between Vault Investments and Liquidity Capital will create new growth in the region, and the facilities and services we provide will be a positive anchor for entrepreneurs. We believe that our partnership will provide success in the future through our combined leadership in Dubai.”

The joint venture marks a step forward in the rapidly solidifying relationships that have emerged between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and following the recent peace agreements between those countries. Together, Liquidity Capital and Vault Investments will better leverage the region’s deep technological know-how and capital to unlock business opportunities for Middle Eastern startups and growth companies – enabling them to become true global players.

Ron Daniel, CEO and Founder of Liquidity Capital noted “Beyond the personal excitement by this first of its kind fund, and the wonderful relationship with Sultan Lootah of Vault Investments and his team, I strongly believe the new fund is a game-changer in both the availability of non-dilutive growth capital in the region and for the fast distribution of tech products from the Middle East and globally. The new climate in the region brings a lot of potential to capture. Non-dilutive debt is an asset class now transforming successful companies into unicorns and Liquidity Capital is at the forefront of this by marrying technology and credit know-how.”

Avner Stepak, Controlling Shareholder at Meitav Dash and Chairman at Liquidity Capital said “We are thrilled to cooperate with one of the most significant business groups of Dubai and incorporate an innovative fund that will help technology companies, mainly from our region, finance rapid growth, based on Liquidity’s great online underwriting technology. Sultan Lootah and his team will become great partners of ours and I strongly believe that this is just the beginning of several future joint businesses.”

African Development Bank and European Investment Bank Sign Joint Action Plan for African Development

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed a joint partnership action plan highlighting their strengthened cooperation and mutual development priorities and a strong shared emphasis on boosting public and private sector investment in Africa.

The Joint Action Plan enables both institutions to grow a shared pipeline of bankable projects around key complementary themes to which each institution would bring their comparative advantage.

These themes are climate action and environmental sustainability; transformative large-scale quality infrastructure investment; Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and services; financial inclusion with a gender lens aimed at the empowerment of girls and women; education and training; and the health sector.

The signing comes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which is increasing poverty across the African continent and threatening markets and livelihoods, heightening the urgency for action.

“It is crucial that more multinational development banks and other development finance institutions commit to closer and stronger collaboration, such as seen through this Joint Action Plan between the AfDB and the EIB, in order to more efficiently and effectively support our regional member countries during these troubling times,” said Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala, Acting Senior Vice President, African Development Bank, “Sustainable economic growth and security in regions facing particular challenges, such as the Sahel and Horn of Africa, are our top priority.”

The agreement was signed by Tshabalala, and Thomas Östros, European Investment Bank Vice President, during a virtual ceremony attended by more than 100 stakeholders from across Africa and Europe. The session was preceded by a short roundtable between the two senior management members and representatives from both institutions.

“Partnerships are crucial for the EIB’s business and impact, and this partnership with Africa’s Bank is crucial for Africa. The Action Plan signed with the African Development Bank today demonstrates the firm commitment of the European Investment Bank, the EU Bank, to delivering investment that makes a real difference to Africa. Enhancing our work with the African Development Bank, Africa’s multilateral development bank, is a strategic priority for the EIB and Europe. Together the EIB and AfDB will enhance cooperation and engagement with African partners to ensure that Africa emerges from the health, social and economic challenges of COVID-19 to an even brighter 21st Century,” said Thomas Östros, European Investment Vice President.

Shared Priorities for Supporting Transformation

The plan reflects the Bank’s High 5 development priority areas as well as EIB’s priority areas for Africa. In the wake of COVID-19 both institutions have devoted financing for rapid response to meet budgetary and health needs of countries in the region.

Over the past 5 years, the shared portfolio of the two institutions has grown to EUR 3.4 billion, leveraging investment totalling EUR 10.2 billion for 26 projects across the continent.

The EIB and African Development Bank recognise the unique role of publicly owned development banks in supporting high-impact and pioneering investment and mobilising private sector financing.

Recent cooperation to increase venture capital financing for innovation and technology companies through the Boost Africa initiative and commitment to the Desert to Power programme highlights how public banks accelerate financing in priority policy areas.

The unique financial and technical contribution of public banks was further demonstrated earlier this month when the EIB and AfDB Presidents confirmed enhanced support for biodiversity and investment across the Sahel under the Great Green Wall initiative confirmed at the One Planet Summit hosted by the French President Macron and Prince Charles.

The African Development Bank Group and the European Investment Bank have a long history of cooperation, framed by their relationship as Multilateral Development Banks and a Memorandum of Understanding on an Enhanced Strategic Partnership, signed in 2005, between the EIB, the AfDB and the European Commission. They have also signed a Procedural Framework for co-financed public sector projects.

Biden picks Gensler for SEC

President Biden’s pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission is MIT Sloan professor Gary Gensler.

Gensler’s teaching and research at MIT has focused on blockchain technologies, digital currencies, financial technology and public policy. Recently, Gensler was working on a paper with research assistant Lily Bailey regarding how deep learning may lead to a fragile financial system and economy-wide risks.

Gensler also offers two courses through MIT OpenCourse Ware, Fintech: Shaping the Financial World and Blockchain and Money.

Plaid launches FinRise to level fintech playing field

Plaid has officially launched an incubator program, FinRise to empower early-stage entrepreneurs.

The idea came about during an internal ‘hackathon’ last summer and was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. After the initial concept and months of planning, FinRise was launched to be a nine-month program designed to support early-state founders who are Black, Indigenous or people of color.

“Entrepreneurship should be accessible. Anyone with a great idea should have access to the same opportunities and resources to be successful,” said a blog regarding FinRise on “At Plaid, we believe in technology as a force for good. We want to unlock financial freedom for everyone by empowering entrepreneurs and innovators. We want to create a fintech ecosystem that consists of more voices rather than fewer.”

Synchrony and Mattress Firm renew strategic partnership

Synchrony consumer financial services company and Mattress Firm mattress retailer announced the renewal of their strategic partnership. Under the multi-year agreement, Mattress Firm will continue offering Synchrony’s financing program and solutions, according to a press release.

Launched in April 2016, Synchrony’s consumer financing options are available for online and in-store purchases at 2,400 Mattress Firm stores in the U.S. Leveraging digital tools and analytics, Synchrony is helping to optimize the transactional phase of Mattress Firm’s omni-channel customer journey, delivering a seamless user experience for shoppers. Qualifying cardholders enjoy special financing, online and mobile account management, savings and discount offers, and access to previews and events.

Mattress Firm’s accelerated digital transformation, which was critical throughout the pandemic, has helped the company serve 3.5 million customers, the most in company history, according to its last fiscal year which ended in September 2020. With expanded payment and financing options, Mattress Firm can now offer customers more purchasing power and enhanced experiences.

“Evolution is crucial for our industry, especially with the changing retail landscape due to the pandemic,” John Eck, president and CEO of Mattress Firm said in the release. “The combination of our customer-centric mindset and Synchrony’s financial expertise and differentiated customer experience, ensures our customers can shop safely and confidently at every stage of the purchasing process. Together, we’ve created a more seamless customer journey and enriched cardholder experience.”

“Synchrony’s flexible financing solutions and innovative business tools support Mattress Firm’s commitment to meet its customers at the moments that matter most in their purchasing journey,” Brian Doubles, president, Synchrony said in the release. “Our suite of digital capabilities for simplifying financing at the point of sale creates more purchase options for customers and empowers Mattress Firm to convert more prospects, expand customer loyalty and engagement and grow its business. We look forward to many more years as a strategic partner of Mattress Firm.”

RNIB and Uswitch Partner to Help People With Sight Loss Review and Switch Suppliers

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is launching a campaign to help blind and partially sighted people be ‘smart with their money’ and potentially change their energy and broadband providers to less expensive alternatives.

The campaign comes off the back of Ofgem research, which shows that blind and partially sighted people are less likely to have switched energy suppliers in the last 12 months than their sighted peers. Just a third (36%) of blind and partially sighted people investigated switching suppliers in the last year compared to nearly half (49%) of the population.

It is also working with the comparison and switching service, Uswitch, to offer accessible tools for blind and partially sighted customers to review their current deals.

Janette Scott, 61, from Stirling has retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and glaucoma. She’s been with the same energy provider for 20 years, and despite not being happy with her current provider, has been unable to switch. She said: “Being blind, it can feel safer to stick with the deal you have even if it’s not great. When I’ve spoken to others about this, they’ve said exactly the same. Although they feel frustrated and annoyed, they haven’t got the capacity to move to another company.

“I feel frustrated with not being able to access or collect information.”

The charity is launching ‘Smart with your money week’ (between Monday 18 and Sunday 24 January). During this time, the charity will be offering information on consumer rights, grants and discounts that individuals may be eligible for, and advice on how people can save money on their bills and using comparison services.

Marc Powell, Strategic Accessibility Lead at RNIB, said: “The findings from Ofgem show that more needs to be done in empowering blind and partially sighted people to make informed decisions when it comes to their energy bills. This is especially important during a cold winter with all of us spending more time at home, coupled with the higher cost of living with a disability.

“Through working with Uswitch, we aim to create better understanding of the information and resources available to help people make informed decisions on how they spend their money.”

RegTech Women Launches New Membership Service to Further Support Women in the Industry

In February 2019, over 70 women got together for the launch of a new network aimed at connecting women who work in the regulatory technology (regtech) industry in financial services. Two years later and with more than 500 supporters, RegTech Women have firmly established themselves as a leading network that supports and enhances the vital role that women play in driving success in the industry.

RegTech Women have now launched a new membership model to support the next stage of their growing network. Their annual subscription launched in January 2021 includes several benefits ranging from exclusive member-only events to career-enhancing workshops and specialist advisory groups.

Throughout 2019 RegTech Women held several events including ‘Leap of Faith’, a panel discussion on how women can take more risks in their career and ‘Mind the Gap’, a panel discussion on how to improve collaboration between key stakeholders in the regtech ecosystem. Hosted and supported by the firms like the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Deloitte, the events were well attended, and delegates thoroughly enjoyed the networking opportunities.

RegTech Women continued to support the network through the difficult months of 2020. Despite the inability to meet face-to-face, the association ran various virtual events including online panel discussions on financial crime and regulatory change, webinars to highlight female founders, workshops to explore imposter syndrome and LinkedIn social selling, and even an evening of virtual cheese tasting.

The new annual membership allows members to benefit from an exciting line-up of events and initiatives planned for 2021. Lucy Heavens, Co-founder of RegTech Women said, “We are thrilled to invite members to be part of our exciting future with RegTech Women and to help us make real change in the industry. The membership supports us on our mission to inspire and champion women in our community and provide a safe space for unsafe conversations.”

Sian Lewin, Co-founder of RegTech Women added, “We launched RegTech Women in 2019 and since then the network has gone from strength to strength. This next stage in our journey is an important one, and we need the backing from members to support and enable us to run initiatives that support and empower the female contribution to RegTech, provide a platform for women to network and collaborate, – celebrate emerging female talent, and improve gender diversity in the RegTech sector.”

Digital wallet adoption: how providers can sustain a competitive advantage.

Alexis Zukierman is the Business Development Manager at Intive, a global digital software and design company that accelerates digital transformation for products and services. Alexis shares his insight and knowledge of digital wallets and how providers can utilize this tool to gain a competitive advantage.

In this age of COVID-19, minimizing physical touch and proximity to others in public spaces is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. By allowing users to go cashless while making in-store purchases, e-wallets significantly reduce the amount of physical contact and subsequently bring down the risk of spreading the virus.

The Emerging Payments Association has recognized this trend in its latest report report which predicts a rise in the use of e-wallets for both online and in-store purchases.

Alexis Zukierman

Business Development Manager, Intive

As people turn to e-wallets to address safety concerns, they discover the many benefits that come with using digital payment methods: It’s faster, safer, and more convenient when you can make all of your purchases from one digital location. Not to mention, e-wallets are safer and more secure than carrying around cash or credit or debit cards.

Worldwide, China leads the way when it comes to adoption of the digital wallet with 81% of Chinese smartphone owners using digital wallets. The number of Europeans saying they used a digital wallet is 68% of Europeans. In the U.S., the number of digital wallet users are rising steadily.

While millennials were the initial target user of e-wallets, 48%of 18–34-year-olds had a mobile wallet according to a 2018 report, users from older age groups and with less technical know-how are jumping on the trend and realizing its benefits. Digital wallet providers will now need to adapt and cater to its new, unexpected consumer segments.

Thanks to their convenience, simplicity of use, and the ways in which they promote safety during the pandemic, e-wallets have made a strong mark on the payment’s ecosystem.

As the trend continues to grow and adoption spreads into new segments, e-wallet products will have to take extra measures to gain a competitive advantage and the trust of new users. This will mean prioritizing user experience and improving integration capabilities. Here’s why e-wallets are having their moment and what they should do to stay ahead in the market.

The key to a competitive advantage

If digital wallets are to reach the maximum of potential users, many of whom aren’t particularly experienced with digital products, they must make sure to prioritize simple yet seamless user experience.

Initially, e-wallet designers should remember the importance of a straightforward onboarding and initial set-up. If this is more than a few simple steps and takes the user what they consider to be too long to kick off, e-wallets run the risk of the user leaving the app before they’ve even started.

Other ways of ensuring a user-friendly experience include displaying steps one at a time so as not to overwhelm the user, showing simplified activity icons in the home screen, and having confirmation messages pop up when an action is completed.

It should be easy for new users to create an account without additional or hidden fees (something traditional finance often fails on), and straightforward for them to view all of their transactions and activities within the wallet. The app users of today demand seamless user experience, and any products that neglect to prioritize this risk falling by the wayside.

Many apps are also embracing new innovations and incorporating biometric authentication to add another layer of security, such as fingerprint and facial recognition-enabled log in. Leading banks and fintechs across the board are adopting biometric technology to boost security and streamline user experience in the process.

Not only is biometric scanning more secure than password-based authentication, but it allows users to avoid lengthy processes and paperwork when setting up an account. Users can simply scan their faces and IDs with their phone camera to verify their identity.

Integration is vital for a complete product

When it comes to third-party integrations, the more complete the e-wallet, the better a chance it has at becoming a centralized point for the user from which they can conduct all of their transactions. This means that integration with the user’s bank and other digital accounts, such as PayPal, is essential for any e-wallet provider that wants to extend its reach and grow its user segments.

By integrating with other platforms, e-wallets make it easier for users to cross borders and still be able to pay with the same method they’re used to at home. Integrations provide a way for e-wallets to enter new markets and grow their user base as the trend surges on a global scale, especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These regions have huge potential for e-wallet growth due to their high portion of unbanked individuals. In Latin America, on average 51% of adults did not have a bank account in 2017.

Ultimately, digital financial products require the trust of their users. If this is not achieved, e-wallets will not be able to ride the current wave of global expansion. By prioritizing seamless user experience design, a secure infrastructure, and third-party integrations, digital wallets will be able to establish user trust and loyalty, while promoting a safe and convenient payment method that’s fit for the current climate.

Cyphere on Supply Chain Attacks: Be Wary of Third-Party Suppliers

From outsourced software developers to warehouse management systems, information moves around the globe via multiple devices  But if data is the oil of this century, then data leakage is the equivalent of an oil spillage.

Harman Singh, director at cybersecurity services company Cyphere, is passionate about helping businesses protect their most prized assets. Having helped top tier brands across UK, he is responsible for providing advisory services to CIOs & CISOs across the financial services, fintech and e-commerce sectors.

Here he shares his thoughts on supply chain attacks and the need to be wary of third-party suppliers.

Harman Singh, Director, Cyphere

The supply chain model is an age-old model adding efficiency to customer services as well as operational and financial positions. It has grown to be more complex in the digital world with the added ingredients of outsourcing and multiple digital endpoints combining trusted and untrusted entities together. This inter-linking of supply chain entities leads to new challenges, and one of the prime concerns is cyber-attacks on supply chains.

Supply chains will likely dominate 2021 news for negative reasons –cyber-attacks. Two latest examples include what is considered as the worst supply chain cyberattack in history. A US company, SolarWinds, was at the centre of supply chain attack where nation-state actors compromised the source code and poisoned it to make inroads into hundreds of organisations including US government agencies and corporates.

Similarly, this week a Mimecast-issued certificate used to authenticate to Microsoft services was compromised by a threat actor. A digital certificate is used to verify the validity of the source and ensure trust. This situation has been abused by attackers to take over the connections, stealing information from Microsoft linked accounts (appearing to be used by Mimecast).

The issue lies at the heart of unrestricted access enjoyed by attackers once the supply chain is compromised. This leads to legal, financial and reputational implications, as well as job losses, low-security team morale and mental health impacts.

The gist of the matter is that for the most significant risks, they sometimes do not come through the front door. These trusted relationships between partners, suppliers and service providers can be compromised with less effort compared to through the host organisation. Therefore, beefing up one’s own security may not assure the entire organisation is safe from cyber-attacks. Your crown jewels can still be accessed by abusing your trusted channels, i.e., your supply chain. This, in some cases, could also be a chain issue where a breach occurs much further down the line e.g. a supplier’s supplier. An instance that would be includes compromised MSSP’s that provide secure services to their enterprise customers, often big outsourcers of software development or IT services.

From a cybersecurity perspective, supplier assurance provides a way to maintain confidence in the security process. Supplier assurance shouldn’t follow a tick in the box approach, as this often leads to security by obscurity. This is one of the mistakes we have noticed several times where a one-page questionnaire is submitted without any evidence or communication happening with the right contacts. A pragmatic approach is needed that takes into account the understanding of security measures in place by suppliers – this allows analysts to evaluate potential risk exposures. These depend on several factors such as your logical/digital connectivity with suppliers’ IT assets, the criticality of the services supplied, data processing and the sensitivity levels. These risk exposures may change over time due to changes in new developments on the technology front or change in threat profile of the supplier business. It is, therefore, necessary to frequently review supply chain cybersecurity posture.

To counter this threat, it is essential to understand the value of information held, who has access and what needs to be secured. Then communicate with suppliers and gain insights into their security maturity. By assessing the security risk of a supply chain would help to come to terms with reality than a false sense of security with questionnaires. This would then help set the security requirements for suppliers, communicated in an understanding way and working with suppliers to achieve that level.

One proactive way of changing our practices is how at Cyphere we are communicating and showing our customers that tick in the box questionnaires are not working. It is essential to introduce cybersecurity considerations at the procurement stage. New supplier requirement policies should include cybersecurity risk profiling processes that feedback into the decision-making process rather than taking on higher risk suppliers.

At a ground level, this would mean asking for assurance exercises such as penetration testing or ethical hacking exercises to assess the risks to digital assets and assessing their proactive security approach towards risk management.

Last but not least, keep raising awareness of security in your supply chain just like you do within your organisation. By supporting your supply chain, you are helping everyone succeed together while securing your cybersphere. As cyberattack chains develop, this is a continuous fight against cybercrime, and continuous security improvements are needed to stay ahead of attackers.