Listen: Kearney’s Nagarsheth on internal and customer-facing bank automations

Banks often struggle with how to automate operations or functions deemed essential or strategically different, says Hemal Nagarsheth, associate partner at global management consultancy Kearney, in this episode of “The Buzz” podcast. The Covid-19 pandemic uncovered operational inefficiencies at many financial institutions and in turn compelled the organizations to embrace automation initiatives more quickly, he says.

In this Bank Automation News podcast, Nagarsheth discusses getting buy-in and changing culture within an organization while determining the operations and functions to digitize. Learn more about “co-designing” automations for internal processes and customer-facing transactions, as well as working with third parties to manage digital transformations.

This podcast is presented as part of a content partnership between Bank Automation News and Kearney. 

The following is a transcript generated by AI technology that has been lightly edited but still contains errors.

Myra Thomas
Good day My name is Myra Thomas and editor with Bank Automation News. Recently I had a chance to speak with Hamel Nagarsheth, associate partner at Kearney, a global management consultancy firm. In this role Hamel is a senior leading leader in the financial institutions group advising executives on banking and payment topics at leading organizations spanning networks, banks, central banks, industry consortia and retailers. Hamel has been with party for over 10 years and is focused on supporting firms globally, to bring new products to market drive execution of large programs and improve operational efficiency. Hamel particularly focuses on the intersection of technology and innovation with banking and payments. Thanks for joining us, Hamell. Recently, Carney released a report that notes that banks have a hard time knowing which of their operations or functions are truly essential, or strategically differentiating. So they’re aware of what they can actually digitalize to slim down our organizations. I guess getting to this point can be difficult. So how does a bank take the first steps to critically take a step back and look at operations and get the buy in and change the culture of their financial institution to make it all happen?Hamel Nagarsheth
Thanks for having me here today. Yeah, no, that’s a great question. Um, I think we acknowledge that it can be difficult, right? I think it’s difficult to identify what those functions may be. And then perhaps equally as important out of messaging within the organizations are it because delivering a message to a function that they are not critical, or not necessarily differentiatingcan be often deemed motivational writers or worse, or work against the objectives of trying to actually improve the organization’s efficiency or customer experience to deliver? Right. But I think there are a couple of methods that we’ve seen banks globally sort of adopt that can be employed. I think some of it to start with some really basic things. Right. start listening, started questioning that is cool. Ask a lot of intelligent questions. So you know, why have things been done this way? I think oftentimes, we found within organizations that folks just go along with business processes that may be put in place a long time ago, always a thing working that have been just there for a long time, but not stop to ask that, like, does this still make sense today? Right, and it’s sort of that intelligent questioning challenge functions, that can really start to identify, you know, are there capabilities that really could be done elsewhere to free up capacity ready to take the conversation is not all about cutting capacity necessarily. It’s about repurposing, say, where do we create the most value within the within the walls of the bank? versus where can a partner help? And I think some of the inspiration can come from like digital first, or even FinTech organizations, right? Where often many of them have a culture of constantly rethinking status quo, right? They’re not necessarily wedded to previous approaches, or previous ways of doing things and having that mindset, allow an organization such as a bank to say, how do we actually go off the market and say, who are partners? Who are suppliers? Who can we work with? What are their best ideas? How can they help us say, you know, what, this area really makes sense for us to take on because we can we can do it, not only more efficiently, but then sort of show you ways how you can use that technology to repurpose those areas so that they can do them even better themselves.Myra Thomas
I think that, you know, when you’re thinking about those things, the banks need to really break it down between ideas of, you know, the things that are more people oriented and bringing those, you know, into making those digitalized. Versus figuring out the more complex things that I would imagine are much harder to get to the point of thinking of making digital, which would be, you know, actual business, business processes, business things that evolved business decisions. Do you find that to be the case?Hamel Nagarsheth
Yeah, no, I think that’s a great point. There’s a difference between doing work and then doing quality work, right? I think, oftentimes, organizations either because of capability, technology or processes, have folks doing work that is very manual, repetitive nature, where if you step back and say, You know this, if we change the way this works, we could probably automate this. And then that same person can go and do something more fulfilling or more something that creates tangible value for the customer. Right? So for example, if it’s reviewing a transaction or reviewing an application within the bank, there are aspects of it that are probably better off done. You know, automated fashion. And then that frees up the person to really focus on something that might be a little bit more customer facing, for example, right? And then that drives more fulfillment even from doing the task.

Myra Thomas
How do you how do you figure out return on investment? Because ultimately, I mean, I’ve spoken to so many bankers, I started to believe. And when they talk about automation and applying it to whatever, front or back end of the the operation there, they might be thinking of applying it to, there’s often a disconnect between, you know, what the actual return on investment is? And, you know, they’ll say, Oh, yeah, we assume that there’s a return on investment here, we think it’ll be x. But yeah, when they reach when they actually forecast it, versus when they actually look at it, the numbers are often different. How do you get a better sense of that return on investment?

Hamel Nagarsheth
No, that is a common struggle, right. And I think there’s a couple of things that can be done. One is pursue like an integral approach to get there. So that you can sort of test and learn, right, I think, often if a business case or some determination of the ROI is done at the onset, and then it’s not necessarily updated later, or the approach is not adjusted to say, okay, how’s this working, not working, because oftentimes, you know, initiative may not work for me not deliver the outcome you need. So if you go and update that along the way that helps if you change if you’re flexible, to change the approach that helps. And then also, even when thinking about the ROI, there’s there is an efficiency component to that ROI. But increasingly, we’re finding it banks are looking at two other measures that can improve ROI, right. One is, what does this do for the CX or the customer experience? And what does that do in terms of like, top line? Right? Are we getting better? Sort of outreach from a marketing efforts coming out of that? Or are we able to convert customers better because we made this process? And then the third one is really? Does this help mitigate any sort of loss or other risk? Sort of oriented? KPIs are metrics, right? So then that way, the, the ROI can be much more holistic? Because if it’s, if it’s only on cost, and that may not be enough?

Myra Thomas
Yeah, I think what you made you said is important point, because I think referencing back to your report, you’re talking about, you know, other industries sectors that had been much more successful in speeding up customer transactions and using automation to do it, whether it’s pharmacies, retail, fast food and other service companies. But, you know, I think, obviously, banks are playing catch up. But I’m wondering, you know, what’s the holdup for banks? I mean, has it just been being wedded to legacy systems and the costs that, you know, that banks face? Is it, you know, regulation of the industry? Or do you think that, you know, the customer experience is a much different one, and the transaction and the, even the way that banks say they want to relate to their customers much different than what might happen between, you know, fast food establishment retailer, and their customer?

Hamel Nagarsheth
Yeah, I think it’s a confluence of factors, right. And there’s multiple drivers for that, in many ways, banking may be catching up. But I think also banking is the head at the same time. And what I mean is that if I take retail or, you know, quick service restaurants or fast food, anything related to that, I think some of the learnings happened last year during the pandemic. And for that it was much more of a drastic nature of the shift, right? I think, for some of those industries, there was an almost overnight shuttering of stores and cutting off all in person interaction. And so it was very hard to just even move forward with today’s lecture. Like if your dining rooms closed or the store had to be closed, how do you serve great food or, or fulfill a shopping trip versus in that sense? You know, banking has been ahead, right that online banking has existed for a long time, mobile banking, is getting scale and pretty much handled a lot of the basic everyday banking. So in that sense, there wasn’t that immediate business continuity risk. But I think the challenge you have with banks versus some other sectors is that there needs to be more active managing of like the consumers receptivity for self service and digital, right. They customers do use digital, they like mobile banking, and all that. I mean, I think that there’s really well, but when we when Carney has done the consumer survey, it shows that even though bank, consumers look for those high tech capabilities, they still also consider what’s the proximity of a branch location, right when they decide which bank they want to shoot? in many ways. It’s almost like a safety blanket. Consumers say look, you you it’s not negotiable. You have to have a good website. You have to go to mobile app, but I may want to branch nearby And so that I think that weighs a little bit right on trying to just make that big shift to say everything sugar or self service, I think to your point about regulation, regulations do have, you know, their place. But I think what’s also important is that banks need to really sort of manage and think about privacy and security, right when they do Digital’s digital solution. And it’s not just because you know, financial transactions are play, it also has to do with the position that consumers hold of their bank, right? I think when Carney is in consumer survey, when we asked for it to Who do you trust, who do you use? Who do you trust to, like safeguard your information? And who do you trust to provide your personal information to, to no surprise me bank, banks rise to the top and, you know, banks and some of their payment companies, they beat out a lot of other companies that consumers regularly interact? Right. And so I think banks banks are aware, and they know they can’t sort of do ill will write on that trust, they’ve earned that trust the wrong time, they need to maintain it. And so that’s why banks can’t just necessarily pivot. You know, push things online or digital without thinking about the safeguarding of the data and the privacy implications. And then I think also, the The challenge here is, if I’m going in and men are getting a drive thru cup of coffee, right, that’s not necessarily a high touch interaction. In banking, there are a fair amount of interactions that need to be high touch right there. There’s a component of like advice. It’s not very transactional. And I think the technology needs to catch up consumers need to catch up in terms of how do you make that smart choice versus, you know, what, what can be digital and self service? And what needs a human to intervene? Right, like, where does it make sense to introduce a little bit more human to human connection? I think

Myra Thomas
the one thing where I think your report mentions that digital mortgage lenders now sit on the lion’s share of mortgages, you know, so at least for that customers are really embracing, you know, digital mortgage lenders, I think you mentioned giving more than rocket rocket, you know, a number of other ones, and they’ve taken a lead on traditional banks. How can banks compete on this front?

Hamel Nagarsheth
You know, what are they doing wrong? And how can I make it right? Yeah, no mortgage is a great example. And I think it’s also a tale of two different customers where a building up the point that we were just talking about self service versus high touch. I think if you look at the math, mortgage market rates of more traditional conventional loans, then yes, there are a lot of these digital first lenders or FinTech lenders, what have you, they’ve, they’ve done well for themselves. But I think if you look at jumbo loans, and sort of the higher end of the market, their presence is still muted, right. And I think that speaks to in that market, there’s more complex set of needs, there’s more need for high touch. So they haven’t been successful. But in the mass market, what are they doing? Right? And I think there’s a couple of things right, what they’ve done is they’ve focused on saying, how do we just not be beholden to the current process? Right, so for those who have gone into mortgage, it’s not instant, right? I mean, if I go to a bank website and apply for a credit card, for most customers, you can get an instant decision right then and there, they’ll tell you about the credit card or not, the mortgage experience is not quite there yet. It can take 30 days, 45 days, 60 days, sometimes to close. And in this whole real time world, that can be confusing for customers, where it’s like, I’m in a world where things can be delivered to me Next day, same day, everything’s real time. Why does this work this way? I think, you know, some of the newer vendors and sort of fintechs, etc. They’re trying to say, how do we take out all the manual steps of the process right there. There are steps where, you know, customers are asked to fill out paper forms or even digital forms. There’s data that needs to be collected, that takes time, there’s manual appraisals that have to be done on the property. There’s more and more offices, how do we automate that right? Can I pull income data automatically? Can I can I use other data sources to triangulate? Can I do an appraisal? virtually, if I if I need one, right? So can I use e signatures? So I’m not fedexing? a document to somebody? Right? So these are some of the maybe sound basic, but some of the steps that are being taken to crashing the cycle. And I think that’s what people like, right? And some of the lenders have taken the process and almost completely vanished paper out of it, right? Everything’s online, they can do e signatures, all of that. And I think that’s what consumers are sort of gravitating to, right? They’re saying, look, I like this new way of doing it. Yeah.

Myra Thomas
So but let’s jump back to you mentioned the pandemic and I’ve heard this quite often. The pandemic highlighted all the things that banking organizations were getting wrong, and what they needed to digitize. Do you think that you’re first off? Why? And second of all, do you think the lessons learned from the pandemic are necessary or have really been learned by banks, and that they’re really rethinking? You know what they need to make digital first?

Hamel Nagarsheth
Yeah, I think the some of it came down to just basic. So how do you get the work done? Right. So for example, if I look at the domain of b2b payments, a lot of those of them with checks, the way it worked was, they had staff go in, and they pick up the checks and process them. Well, when folks were working from home, that became a problem, right? And even though it’s very basically, well, how do I actually process this paper? Or even on the other side, where corporate have to work with the bank, they would shuffle paper around, they say, Well, I can’t do that anymore. Because I don’t have staff going in there. Or, you know, I’m having trouble with delivery services or what have you. And I think it was almost that very basic realization that said, yeah, this process has worked for us, these payment methods have worked for us, but they don’t work anymore. And in an increasingly remote, care driven world, it’s hard to push around paper versus electrons. And so I think it’s these basic things that highlighted that and said, okay, like, this is a real risk to our business. And I think that’s why now, banks and other organizations have started looking at say, how do we, how do we actually not only digitize right, which is step one, which is maybe taking the paper and just turning it into a PDF, or something like that, right. But then actually truly digitalize, which is take that and really just say, Can we have a digital process? Right, and that’s why we’re seeing some momentum behind not only automation tools, which is sort of saying, can we can we actually get documents to originate electronically, right, whether it’s an invoice or, or something else?

Myra Thomas
now working with all those vendors, and obviously, banks, you know, I’ve talked to banks, and oftentimes, they might be working with 4050 different vendors, you know, for a variety of functions on the front end back end, or whatever. You mentioned the need to co design in your report, and not just sort of handover the work to the vendor, whatever they might be working on, you know, whether it I don’t know, its credit decision name, you know, KYC, it could be anything, you know, automating, you know, like you said, If signature or what have you, you know, how can banks work on a more collaborative basis when, you know, essentially, I would imagine they’re just looking to the vendor to offload work?

Hamel Nagarsheth
No, that’s true. And I think it requires a little bit of a mindset shift that we talked about earlier. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s not throw it over the fence. Right? You can’t just say, here are a couple of requirements or, or leave it to the vendor to just solve it purely requires having the openness to say this is how things are done. What are the best practices that the market can bring where a vendor supplier can bring, and then, as we say, co design, which means creating something that you’re making to buy, right, which is a different concept. I mean, typically, when outsourcing is done, folks may have some requirements, and they’re essentially buying what the vendor can offer. I think this is a little bit of No, let’s, let’s build something that recognizes my uniqueness and differentiating aspects where they exist and actually make something that’s for me, with the bank. And when we when we do that, that’s where we see the creativity really taking off. And the bottom line impact, right, because now, both sides are not sort of beholden to their existing technology or processes or platforms, they’re both sort of taking the best of both, so to speak, and bringing it together, right, and that, but that that requires a different way of thinking new requires a thought process of you know, what, maybe the other side actually as a better way of doing this on the way I’ve been doing

Myra Thomas
with but we have these multiple partners, you have to think about cross partner integration and management. How is that accomplished? effectively?

Hamel Nagarsheth
Yeah, and I think that requires almost like a new organization structure, right? What we’ve, what we’ve seen banks do, we term it sort of like a notion of like almost an operating factory or something like that, which is you, you essentially ring fenced and create an operations organization that can look at things. And right, the notion of can’t look at things by product, or just by line of business or Lunar vertical, you got to go horizontal. And what that does is that allows them the dedicated organization to manage multiple vendors, because to your point, it takes some effort. I mean, managing vendors And sort of having this cross learning matters, the what we do in our organizational culture to work with banks to create a top layer that can actually really serve to do that orchestration. And figure out, you know, where do vendors need to work together? Where do different parts of the board need to work together. So you can get that cross partner coordination, and then delegate the actual day to day tasks down to the vendor or to that particular, you know, in house part of the organization so that they can excel on doing the day to day work, but there’s actually a dedicated layer routine that’s thinking expressly about cross partner, right? Otherwise, what happens is it sort of becomes an afterthought, and then may not be done well, right? If there’s so no dedicated team focused on it.

Myra Thomas
Well, I think that’s a good place to start. I want to thank you once again, Mo for joining me today. That wraps up this episode of the buzz. Thanks for listening and please let us know how we’re doing and thank automation and of course on Twitter and LinkedIn. Thanks again.

Report: Brace for consolidation trend in fintech

The fintech industry will see a wave of consolidations in the coming six to 12 months as banks grab up fintechs and larger fintechs eat their own. These are the predictions from “The Changing Fintech Landscape: A Snapshot of M&A Themes and Trends,” a collaboration between Shearman & Sterling, S&P Global Market Intelligence and Rise, […]

ECB launches digital euro project

The European Central Bank has officially launched its digital euro project. But there is still a long way to go before digital euros start to appear in our digital wallets. In this post we look at the rationale, timeline and implications for the project.

What is a CBDC?

Central Bank Digital Currencies are an electronic form of central bank money, potentially accessible to all citizens and companies as an alternative to, and introduced alongside, cash.

Several countries are picking up speed on developing CBDCs, notably the US and China. But CBDCs raise fundamental questions about financial stability and monetary policy, as well as societal questions such as the ongoing role of cash and private banks.

The ECB’s digital euro project sets out its stall for how the EU will answer those questions.

Rationale for the digital euro: Potential benefits

The ECB has identified the below scenarios in which a digital euro could benefit the EU and its citizens. One of the key themes is the desire to improve the autonomy of the Eurosystem.

  1. The digitalisation and independence of the European economy could benefit from a digital form of central bank money available to citizens.
  2. It could provide a more sustainable option for central bank digital currency in the face of declining use of cash as a means of payment. An increasing dependence on private forms of money and private payment solutions could endanger the sustainability of the cash infrastructure and hamper the provision of adequate cash services.
  3. A form of money other than euro-denominated (i) central bank money, (ii) commercial bank deposits, or (iii) electronic money could become a credible alternative as a medium of exchange and, potentially, as a store of value in the euro area. Here, solutions with a global reach developed by private actors such as big technology providers, possibly outside EU supervision, could threaten European financial, economic and political sovereignty. A digital euro offering the same functionality as such a private form of money would seek to counter this threat.
  4. If the Eurosystem were to conclude in the future that the issuance of a digital euro is necessary or beneficial from a monetary policy perspective. The central bank could use a digital euro as a direct transmission channel and, for example, set the renumeration rate on the digital euro as they deem necessary for the overall economy.
  5. The need to mitigate the probability that a cyber incident, natural disaster, pandemic or other extreme events could hinder the provision of other forms of payment services. In this scenario, a digital euro, together with cash, could constitute a possible contingency mechanism to make sure that payment services are still available.
  6. The international role of the euro could become a Eurosystem objective which would be enhanced if issued as a digital euro, especially if it were designed as an interoperable way to offer cross-currency payments.
  7. If the Eurosystem decides to proactively support improvements in the overall costs and ecological footprint of the monetary and payment systems. A digital euro would not need to be physically produced, nor would the infrastructure need cash distribution centres, branches and ATMs. The power consumption of a digital euro core settlement system would be low; in its tests, only a few kilowatts were needed to run thousands of transactions per second.
What has happened so far and what happens next?

The ECB emphasises that no final decision has yet been made on whether a digital euro will actually be adopted. The issues surrounding CBDCs and the many options available in their development are complex and require careful thinking, so it is no big surprise that the EU plans to take five years to work it through.

The Digital Euro Report October 2020

The launch of the digital euro project was preceded by a report on a digital euro published in October 2020 (read our blogpost: Lofty Ways to Leave your Fiver). This examined the issuance of a digital euro from the perspective of the Eurosystem: defining scenarios and implied consequences which could induce the Eurosystem to issue a digital euro. It also identified a number of principles for such a digital euro, explored its potential effects and design possibilities, and considered technical and organisational approaches. 

Further experimental work

Following the October 2020 report, the Eurosystem’s High-Level Task Force on CBDC conducted further experimental work to address key design options left open by the report.

Digital euro project phases 

  • Investigation phase: As no major technical obstacles were identified during the preliminary experimentation phase, the Eurosystem has proceeded to launching the digital euro project with an investigation phase projected to last 24 months.
  • Experimentation phase: This investigation phase will be accompanied by an intensified experimentation phase which focuses on the technical aspects of a digital euro.
  • Determination: At the end of the digital investigation phase, the ECB will decide whether or not to start work on the actual development of a digital euro. 


Assuming a positive decision, overall, we expect the timeframe to be at least 4-5 years from now.

What will happen during the investigation phase?

The goal of the project is to develop a riskless, accessible and efficient form of digital central bank money. In the investigation phase the ECB will further develop the functional design of a digital euro based on the user’s needs which are key to this goal.

While further diving into the technical side of things, the legal framework will also be assessed to identify any changes that might be required to issue the digital euro.

Lastly, the ECB will focus on the possible impact of a digital euro on the market, privacy concerns and, maybe most difficult of all, assess the meaning for supervised intermediaries with the goal to define business models with the digital euro ecosystem.

Here, the ECB has already identified a broad array of design options and significant implications in its October 2020 report. While the ECB aims for a balanced outcome, the stakes are high. For example:

  • Role of banks: The future roles of banks could be significantly affected if the Eurosystem were to grant its end users the ability to directly access and operate accounts on its infrastructure, potentially ending the need for private banks.
  • Role of intermediaries: The Eurosystem could continue to interact directly only with supervised intermediaries which would, for example, act as settlement agents instructing transactions on behalf of their customers as of today. Alternatively, a decentralised infrastructure could allow end users to transfer holdings of bearer digital euro among them with no need third party involvement (such as the Eurosystem or supervised intermediaries).
Will a digital euro be DLT-based?

No decisions made yet on design features

Up until now, the ECB has only identified general principles and goals, shaping a general outline of key characteristics. No decisions have yet been made on final design features, such as the underlying technology.

While the ECB recognises the possibility of using DLT protocols, it also emphasises that there is no need to use DLT. In its experiments so far, ECB has focused on how to combine a centralised ledger and a decentralised ledger as well as focusing on the issue of scalability and how to determine digital identity.

TIPS system

Even though there were no major technical restrictions identified for all technologies tested to date, experiments conducted on the TARGET Instant Payment Settlement (TIPS) System showed a slightly higher scalability as compared to blockchain based models. According to some press coverage, the ECB currently seems to lean towards the use of TIPS as a potential technological basis for a digital euro.

What to look out for

While other countries’ CBDC projects pick up steam, and while the euro area becomes increasingly dependent on non-European payment networks, the pressure to enhance European based payment solutions is likely to build. As a result, there is the possibility that other initiatives with similar objectives might gather political support over the digital euro.

This is already the case for the European Payments Initiative (EPI), which aims to provide a system for real-time payments between consumers based on the SEPA instant credit transfer scheme (read our blogpost: EPI promises new cashless payment solution). Given the increasing pressure from consumers for this kind of solution, we expect growing support for this initiative.

In any case, central banks are aware of the many difficult and open questions around CBDCs, especially in connection with the significant impacts a CBDC could have on the financial system. They will tread carefully and are most likely to move forward incrementally considering carefully the design options and functionality

Note that players in the payments industry will have the chance to input their thoughts on the digital euro in market advisory group (MAG) which will be established. We will keep you updated on developments. 

Learn more about global trends in payments, including CBDCs, by catching up on the payments session in our Regulating the Digital Economy Series.

DIFC Supports MEASA Interest in Legaltech With Investment in Licensed Clara Start-up

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is to invest in the UK-based legaltech start-up, Clara

Clara’s platform digitises and automates many of the legal tasks that founders need to perform, including setting up companies within different jurisdictions.

The legaltech is led by a team of lawyers and technologists who hold diverse backgrounds working within the legal industry. The company’s platform automates many of the tasks currently performed by lawyers for start-ups including forming companies, drafting agreements, building cap tables, structuring data rooms and predictively educating founders on legal concepts.

Clara has raised $3.5 million in seed financing from institutional investors, including 500 Startups and Techstars. They are expected to open an office in Dubai following the investment of DIFC’s Fintech Fund.

The investment reflects the DIFC’s commitment to driving the automation and digitisation of legal services. The investment is by the DIFC Fintech Fund, a $100 million fund announced in 2017 to help establish, grow and upscale start-up and growth stage companies seeking access to MEASA markets.

Additionally, recognising the growth opportunities associated with operating in DIFC, given the Centre is home to the largest and most comprehensive fintech and innovation ecosystem in the region, under Clara’s new license, it will now be able to provide its streamlined corporate services platform to DIFC companies. This is the third jurisdiction to license Clara to set up companies.

Arif Amiri, CEO, DIFC AuthorityArif Amiri, CEO, DIFC Authority
Arif Amiri, CEO, DIFC Authority

Commenting on the announcement, Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority, said, “DIFC continues to be a catalyst for innovation in the region by investing in businesses that can help transform the finance industry. We are therefore delighted to announce investment from DIFC’s Fintech Fund in Clara, a rapidly growing LegalTech start-up that will make doing business easier for early stage companies and other businesses that form part of the region’s largest financial services ecosystem.”

Adding to this, Patrick Rogers, CEO and Co-Founder of Clara comments, “Start-ups are looking for a new approach to help them overcome the pain and complexity of dealing with legal matters. We are thrilled to be setting up in DIFC which will allow us to completely streamline the customer experience of incorporating DIFC entities – adding further value to the Clara platform, which digitises and automates start-up legals.”

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

Digital Banking Innovations in Vietnam

Most Southeast Asian economies are leapfrogging to digital banking, thanks to the rising internet and smartphone penetration. The digital banking space in Vietnam is thriving on the back of rapid FinTech adoption, a booming e-commerce industry, and COVID-19 impact. In Q2 2020, visits to e-commerce apps reached 12.7 billion. The e-commerce Gross Merchandise Value is expected to rise to $23 billion in 2025. Online payments increased by 76% in Q1 2020, with the total value rising to 129% compared to 2019.

Vietnam’s Digital Readiness Reflects High Growth Potential

Revenue from digital financial services in Vietnam is expected to reach $3.8 billion by 2025. Mobile transactions in the country are likely to increase by 300% between 2021 and 2025, as per a report by IDC.

With a 30% banked population and just 2% of the adult population with a credit card, Vietnam has some of the fewest bank branches and ATMs in ASEAN. However, about 72% of the adult population owns a smartphone, and internet penetration is at 66%. The country has over 4.2 million digital wallet users spread across roughly 20 digital wallet brands. Vietnam is one o …

Digital CX: What’s holding banks back?

Consumers and businesses in the U.S., looking for the holistic, hassle-free customer experiences they get from technology giants such as Amazon and Uber, are struggling to get the same from their banking providers. This is particularly true of smaller businesses: according to JD Power’s 2020 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction Survey, such businesses “have seen significant declines in satisfaction”. What is preventing financial institutions from evolving in the direction their customers want?

One reason is complacency. As regulated entities possessing banking licenses, banks and credit unions have long enjoyed exclusivity in providing core banking services such as deposit accounts, lending and transaction banking. But that premise has come increasingly under threat, as today it is possible for non-banks to obtain limited licenses for lending and money transfer services.

The lending marketplace is already well served by alt-lenders: fintech mortgage originators, for example, have reduced the top 5 banks’ share of mortgage originators from 50% in 2011 to 21% today, as found by Business Insider Intelligence’s Online Mortgage Lending Report. Banks’ traditional dominance in the area of money transfer services is also under attack, with digital wallet and P2P payment services like PayPal and Venmo increasingly used for both business and consumer transactions.

The cryptosphere poses another threat. Bitcoin and its brethren are designed to allow payment transactions to be made without a traditional financial institution involved. Of course, it remains to be seen whether cryptocurrencies will become a mainstream medium for the exchange of funds, in addition to storage of value, but they could create a fundamentally different model for the movement of money.

In order to neutralize these threats, banks need to move forward with digital CX adoption for their customers, particularly small businesses and corporations, and do so quickly. Banks are finding it difficult to keep up, however, because of outdated technology in their core banking, payments and lending systems. For instance, some banks are using mainframe systems that can be up to 20-30 years old. This legacy technology represents a massive store of technical debt. Combined with the 60% or more of their budgets that banks spend on compliance, there is precious little room for innovation.

So how can banks need to obtain the freedom to evolve in the direction they want for themselves and their customers? For some institutions, the only answer is to replace their legacy systems, despite the difficulty of doing so. In other cases, it means working around them.

Commercial payment services provide some instructive models. Real-time payment networks, such as The Clearing House’s RTP®, allow banks to provide 24×7 immediate payment services. Since RTP is new, it makes more sense to simply adopt that type of service on the cloud, allowing for the injection of new technology approaches into the banking infrastructure without touching the existing systems. For Fedwire™ transactions on the other hand, where the pandemic has driven the fastest rise in volumes in forty years, it is better to decommission and replace the aging account-to-account payment systems that represent the weakest link in the payment chain, with technology that is more likely to stand the test of time. Whatever the approach, in order for banks to truly rejuvenate their customer experiences and provide differentiated services, ultimately they need to modernize how they move money.

Ideally, the solutions that banks need to emulate are those provided by consumer technology platforms, such as Netflix or Facebook, which handle massive data-rich transaction volumes daily, without downtime. The banking equivalents of these solutions typically run in the cloud with 24×7 resiliency and are API-centric. They also excel at handling extended data sets (such as those found in ISO 20022) using modern streaming real-time databases, and are extremely efficient in terms of managing high transaction volumes. Last but not least, these solutions provide speed to market.

All of these factors represent critical components for banks in their quest to free themselves from the limitations of legacy technology. Finding themselves up against a dramatically changing landscape, this approach will not merely allow banks to stay competitive, it may well prove pivotal to their future, enabling rapid evolution instead of quick extinction.

To learn more, read Payments Modernization: US Mid-Tier Banks

Bridgeweave Introduces AI-Powered Investment App to UK Retail Investors

It’s reported that the AI product developer Bridgeweave is to launch their investment information app InvestorAi across the UK.

Targetted at retail investors, InvestorAi sits upon algorithms trained for global equity markets. The use of such algorithms offers powerful predictive insights to both retail investors and professional money managers, providing each with the same quality of information, in an easy-to-understand way.

InvestorAi’s algorithms are set over no fewer than 4,500 stocks and 1,500 ETFs. They crunch more than 800 million calculations every day to create over 600 signals and ideas that help self-directed investors make smarter investment decisions.

According to recently published data from Nucoro, 53% of retail investors would consider using a robo-adviser platform.

Akshaya Bhargava, Founder and Executive Chairman, BridgeweaveAkshaya Bhargava, Founder and Executive Chairman, Bridgeweave
Akshaya Bhargava, Founder and Executive Chairman, Bridgeweave

“The world has seen an explosion in new, digital retail investors entering equity markets. These investors often gravitate towards familiar name stocks like Apple, Tesla, and Google, ignoring hidden opportunities,” comments Akshaya Bhargava, Founder and Executive Chairman of Bridgeweave. “Our algorithms analyse each stock in equal depth, giving access to the same high-quality research that has historically only been available to professional investors.

“We’re on a crusade to close this investment information gap by giving DIY investors the same high-quality predictive market insights from a mobile app that top hedge fund managers and investment bankers get from a team of quant research analysts.”

InvestorAi’s algorithms have been programmed to learn from user behaviour and market conditions, and can automatically tune themselves to become smarter and more personalised over time. The accuracy of each algorithm is measured every day and is shown to the user through the interface of the app.

“We believe that human plus machine is an incredibly powerful combination – we call this notion “You+AI” – and our mission is to make it easier to invest intelligently, empowering every investor to make more informed decisions,” Akshaya continues.

Bridgeweave has reported that they are currently in the process of integrating the technology, using APIs, with major UK brokerage firms to ensure a seamless end-to-end experience for its customers.

The app supports a diverse range of intelligent features that can be used by all types of investors, whether they are occasional investors, regular investors or high-volume day traders. Once registered on the app, a user can:

  • Look for investment Ideas: These are machine generated predictive ideas, ranging from as little as 3-day ideas, to 30-day ideas to longer term signals on value stocks.
  • Discover ideas on their own: The algorithms present a curated universe of stocks and ETFs and allow the user to personalise what they see, using a wide range of criteria.
  • Compare stocks before buying: The “Play” algorithm allows the user to compare any two stocks in a visual way, across multiple criteria or against the Index.
  • Intelligent monitoring: The algorithm enables a user to monitor individual stocks and thematic baskets, set up custom alerts for profit or loss limits, find similar stocks, see past signals, or be alerted with a new signal on a stock.
  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

Gender Equality in Fintech With Prometeos’ Ximena Alemán

Though the world is getting more progressive every day, gender equality is still a problem that needs solving – and the fintech sector is no different. 

The reality of the Fintech industry is that it is one of the least gender-diverse industries with women making up only 7% of the pool. This gap is especially noticed in funding. Financial institutions, investors and company founders all together are able to change the landscape and make the industry more equal, enabling women to access all varieties of the required resources needed to succeed.

Ximena Alemán, Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Prometeo

In light of this, The Fintech Times sat down with Ximena Alemán, Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Prometeo, the Uruguayan fintech company leading open banking API adoption throughout Latin America, to discuss women in fintech and the challenges they can face. 

What kind of problems arise from the lack of gender equality within fintech and finance

Broadly speaking, there are two things that I think are really important to highlight when we talk about gender equality in finance. The first is the lack of products that are customised to female customer segments. Financial inclusion is an issue across the world, but having a lack of products and services specifically for the female customer segment creates issues. 

The second is the lack of financial support for start-ups that are led by women.  When we talk about the gender inequality in the fintech space, I think what we’re seeing is the merging of two industries, finance and tech, that have historically been male-dominated. Fewer women enter these industries due to societal perceptions and that leads to gender inequality in the fintech space. The numbers show this reality, with female-led startups having less funding, often receiving less than half of the deal size than male-led companies. I wrote an article last year and found women-led fintech raising around 1% of all VC deals in the history of fintech.

An example of these concerns coming together is in Latin America, which already is an underbanked region, but we know that women tend to avoid going to banks when they need to finance their own small businesses because they feel that banks don’t understand their needs – despite the fact women are often better borrowers and tend to pay back loans with a better success rate. 

This bias is very damaging for women in fintech, and these are concerns that we need to address. 

Why is it important for the industry to address these issues?

My impression is that we’re always trying to ‘polish’ society, to be constantly improving and make it better. We started with human rights, we had to understand that each human being has a certain set of rights. Then when you look closer you start to see disparities, so it’s time to polish again and make this better and smoother. Gender inequality is what I believe my generation has to polish in order to make a fairer society and be able to develop ourselves and unleash our potential. 

When it comes to fintech, I think it’s really important to repair that inequality and create products and services that attend to female customer segments. It is important that, as women, we can have the financial support we need, whether that’s to live our lives or to go on and create our own fintech companies. 

Have you experienced any of these problems first-hand?

Yes, particularly when trying to get our funding. As a female entrepreneur, it has been hard, me and my co-founders have had to work a lot to be able to accomplish the funding that we need for our startup. 

I think it’s really important that we as women discuss this, because when you speak in terms of gender, changing perspectives is key when striking such a complex problem, as you are overcoming much more than gender and are actually overcoming everything else.

How do you think we can achieve gender equality within fintech?

That’s a great question, and there’s a great shift that’s happening already in fintech, particularly when looking at Latin America. In that region there’s a female revolution of fintech being led by women, there’s still not full equality, but things are starting to happen. 

A huge part of solving the issue is having great women leaders within tech that can be great role models to the rest of the industry. Women are creating great fintech solutions, and are taking on the role of fintech ambassadors in their country. This is a key way to help lift women up in the industry and keep encouraging them to step forward with their ideas. 

What advice do you have for any aspiring female founders?

I always try to focus and just stress the emotional tools that you have as an entrepreneur that you can develop to help you overcome challenges in order to not get frustrated. For fundraising, you shouldn’t ask your co-founder etc to do the fundraising for you, you have to persist with your business idea despite everything – I really think that’s key. 

You have to persist. It’s important that we create our inner strength and also be aware when gender bias appears. With enough persistence within ourselves to work towards what we want, while that doesn’t always translate to success it does translate into self- esteem, which is such an important thing. 

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

Can BNPL schemes affect consumers’ chances of securing a mortgage?

Recent headlines suggest that users of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) schemes like Klarna and Clearpay may be at risk of having their mortgage application declined, due to the credit agreements being factored into the mortgage affordability assessment.

The news comes as releases their Shop Now, Stress Later report for 2021 which reveals that one-in-six BNPL users (16%) have purchased more than they could afford.

Cassie Stephenson, director of mortgages at Mojo Mortgages, explained how BNPL credit agreements could affect your chances of securing a mortgage:

“Lenders continually update their reporting and credit checks to ensure borrowers have the means available to secure a mortgage and while schemes such as Klarna are often used for convenience they could trigger automated red flags for some lenders. However, it is an area that’s changing all the time and if balances are paid on time, you shouldn’t currently have too many problems when it comes to your application.

“Thinking back to payday loans – this is an area that has changed mortgage eligibility significantly in recent years. Taking out one of these loans wasn’t a problem for many lenders a few years ago, but if you can take one out now it’s likely you will need specialist help. This is of course a very different case to Buy Now Pay Later options but highlights how lenders can and will change their minds on the criteria used to judge affordability.

“For those looking to apply for a mortgage over the coming months and years, it is important however to keep tabs on how lenders judge eligibility – particularly as BNPL options continue to grow in terms of their scale and usage. The main thing to remember when contemplating a purchase in the run-up to your mortgage application is deciding whether you really need it right now and how quick will it take you to pay off any balance from borrowing?”

Taking the above into account, the recent ‘Shop Now, Stress Later’ report from looking into the attitudes of consumers regarding the accessibility of BNPL schemes makes for a stark warning regarding young Britons and any potential plans for purchasing property in the future they might have:

The study of more than 2000 shoppers found that:

  • One in five (19%) shoppers admit BNPL is a way to buy now, and worry later
  • One in eight (13%) of 18-24 year olds say social media influencers encouraged their decision to use BNPL
  • 18-24 year olds are more likely to use BNPL schemes (54%) than a credit card (49%)
  • One in six (16%) say BNPL schemes led them to purchase more than they could afford
  • Average BNPL users owe £244.37 and take nine months to repay
  • Just one in twelve (8%) are concerned about the potential impact that BNPL schemes could have on their credit scores
  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

Barclaycard Payments Joins Mastercard Track Business Payment Service For Modern Business Payments

Barclaycard Payments has announced it has agreed to join Mastercard Track Business Payment Service, making new services available to Barclaycard Payments’ customers later this year.

The innovative, open-loop network delivers value to both Buyers and Suppliers by simplifying and automating the set-up and execution of business payments using multiple payment rails and enhancing the exchange of payments-related data. In turn, it enables Buyers and Suppliers to utilise the best available option for paying each and every invoice.

The agreement builds on Barclaycard Payments and Mastercard’s strong existing relationship in Commercial cards. The two businesses have recently signed a new multi-year agreement, ensuring that together they can continue to deliver outstanding commercial payment services to businesses around the world.

Marc Pettican, President, Barclaycard Payments commented, “We are delighted to be building on our successful partnership with Mastercard. This announcement further strengthens our relationship and I look forward to continuing to drive transformational change across our industry to benefit businesses. What excites me most about today’s B2B payments landscape is the opportunity to help save time, money and working capital – especially now when it is most important – and our partnership with Mastercard is another step forward toward that goal.”

Individual companies connect to Mastercard Track Business Payment Service through a ‘Payment Agent’, who assists them in getting the best value from the service. Highlighting its position as a leading global payment business that helps merchants both make and take payments, Barclaycard Payments has agreed to join Track as both a Buyers and a Suppliers Payment Agent. This enables corporate customers to solve both Payables and Receivables challenges – meaning painstaking manual reconciliation, and lengthy delays in allocating cash will become a thing of the past.

The challenges that result from manual processes are highlighted by research from Barclaycard Payments* revealing that more than four in 10 (44 per cent) businesses seek greater automation when it comes to payment processes. Nearly a third (32 per cent) also say they would like to add functionality that automatically matches supplier invoices against purchase orders – both of which participation in Track will accelerate.

Mark Barnett, President, Mastercard Europe commented, “Barclaycard has been a longstanding partner and we are delighted to be expanding our relationship further, offering new services to make B2B payments work harder, faster and smarter. We have a mutual goal to give businesses a better way to maintain control, manage cash flow and be more operationally efficient – all things that are incredibly important for companies navigating today’s economic challenges.”

James Anderson, Executive Vice President of Commercial and B2B Solutions at Mastercard said, “There is a paradigm shift happening in the B2B payments landscape. Our partnership with Barclaycard Payments will work at scale to give businesses a multi-rail experience to manage working capital, get better quality information, improved payment security. We are honoured that Barclaycard Payments has chosen to work with Mastercard as they deliver on their mission to make B2B payments work better.”

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

iwoca SME Expert Index find 1 in 3 Brokers See Rising Demand for Unsecured Finance

Demand for unsecured finance from SMEs is on the rise, according to iwoca’s quarterly SME Expert Index of UK brokers.

The index, which covers a four-week period in May, found that over a third (38%) of brokers had submitted more lending applications for unsecured finance compared to the four weeks prior to that, suggesting that SMEs are increasingly using credit to support their growth and recovery. Almost one in five brokers (19%) saw demand increase significantly – submitting 50% or more applications compared to the previous four weeks. This has risen from 14% of brokers citing the same in the Q1 index.

iwoca’s Q2 SME Expert Index is based on insight from UK brokers who collectively submitted over 1250 applications for unsecured finance on behalf of their SME clients in May.

Over half of respondents (55%) reported that the most commonly requested unsecured loan amount they’d applied for on behalf of their clients was under £50,000. Nearly one in five (17%) were most likely to request loans under £25,000 – this is below the threshold of the government-backed Recovery Loan Scheme.

Businesses continue to look to unsecured finance to manage cash flow

Cash flow remains the key driver for small businesses applying for finance: 32% of brokers said the most requested reason for loan applications in May was managing “day to day cash flows”. Growth comes next, with 23% of brokers stating the top reason their SME clients requested finance was to “grow their business”. The findings also show that – as social distancing restrictions ease – one in five (21%) SMEs are seeking finance to recover from lockdown or closure.

For SME clients who requested finance through the government-backed Recovery Loan Scheme in May, a third of brokers said they waited – or are still waiting – for non-bank lenders to be accredited to the scheme.

Quantity still counts

The “approved amount” continues to be the most important factor for brokers when presenting two competing loan offers to clients, with 23% of brokers highlighting this as having the most impact (25% in Q1 SME Expert Index). “Total cost of borrowing” (19%) and “monthly interest rate” (19%) come next. However, the number of brokers concerned with the level of APR has more than halved since January from 13% to 6%.

Just over two-thirds (68%) of brokers said the “speed of receiving a decision” and that the “amount requested meets lender’s offering” were the factors that most often played a part in deciding which lender to send a submission to. This was a slight variation to the Q1 index, where speed was the key factor and only 56% were concerned with the lender matching the amount requested.

Colin Goldstein, Commercial Growth Director of iwoca: ”The SME Expert Index provides vital insights from the broker community into what SMEs need, and how lenders can best support them as they look beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

“Access to finance is crucial for small businesses who are looking to grow and recover from the pandemic. As social distancing restrictions ease and the economy opens up, it’s encouraging that SMEs are feeling increasingly confident to use credit as an important tool to help them get back on track.”

Calvin Dexter, Director at Calvin Dexter Financial Solutions Limited added: “It’s certainly not business as usual for the unsecured lending market, but I’m seeing signs of recovery and I expect things to pick up significantly as more alternative lenders become accredited for the Recovery Loan Scheme.

“Over the coming weeks I believe we’ll see a big shift to unsecured lenders as small businesses who ordinarily turn to the banks for support, will require alternative options when they realise the support is not forthcoming.

“In the meantime, business owners will have to continue to carefully manage cash flow and be alert to seek early support should additional cash be required for an opportunity or to put out a fire. This is where the unsecured loan market can assist promptly and effectively.”

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

Yield farming: High Rewards, High Risk?,450&ssl=1#

The world’s largest cryptocurrency fell below the $30,000 threshold early last week, and many fear that  Aeolus’ bag of winds may have opened and we may see new lows. Cryptocurrencies have tumbled since mid-May, wiping some $1.3 trillion off their market value. All of the top ten most valuable cryptocurrencies are down by more than 50% since their recent highs. Bitcoin has faced a range of obstacles, including regulatory scrutiny in China, Europe, and the US and dropping hash rates. But in the last few days, the values of cryptocurrencies have all trended upward, indicating that the cryptocurrency market may be beginning to show signs of recovery. The reason behind the bounce back is Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and Cathie Wood speaking during a panel discussion about the future of Bitcoin. Yet, many crypto investors instead of just waiting for the value of their digital coins to grow, are now actively pursuing returns by lending out their crypto holdings or exploring other ways to earn yield and maximize their profits. “Yield farming” can result in interest rates in the double digits, which is far greater than the interest rates available in dollars.

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the founder and CEO at Kryptonio wallet.
Get Kryptonio – the safest and simplest crypto wallet.

Yield farming has been the cornerstone concept for DeFi from 2020. Yield farming, the hunt for passive profits on cryptocurrencies, is already taking shape on a number of new lending platforms. Yield farmers invest their money in the hope of earning high returns, frequently in the double digits. Yield farming is crypto’s answer to traditional lending.

Compound, an Ethereum-based credit market, introduce one of the largest DeFi lending platforms, where users may now borrow and lend any cryptocurrency on a short-term basis at rates calculated by an algorithm. A typical yield farmer transfers assets among pools on Compound, continuously pursuing the pool that offers the greatest annual percentage yield in order to maximize returns. On a practical level, it is similar to a technique used in conventional banking called a foreign currency carry trade, in which a trader attempts to borrow the currency with a lower interest rate and lend it to the currency with a greater rate of return.

In early July, Coinbase unveiled a savings account with a 4% APY (annual percentage yield), taking aim at U.S. banks, fintechs, and other brokerages alike. To use the high-yield savings account, savers will need to convert their dollars to USDC.

Rivals like Celsius, Hodlnaut, and Nexo offer yields of 8.69%, 10.5%, and up to 12% on USDC accounts, respectively. Amber Group, a Hong Kong-based startup became a unicorn, worth $1 billion, after a June fundraising round, in just four years since it launched.

However, there’s a big catch with all of these savings accounts. These crypto brokerages use their savings deposits to fund margin lending against crypto assets, so your savings are still subject to the downside of a crypto crash. Coinbase is guaranteeing the principal balance of these USDC savings accounts, so savers can take comfort in the stability of their savings at Coinbase relative to other higher-yielding crypto exchanges.

Coinbase’s guarantee is great, but there is a significant difference between Coinbase’s guarantee of your principle and the guarantee offered by major U.S. banks on savings accounts and money market accounts. What’s the difference? Federal deposit insurance provided by FDIC protects checking and savings accounts up to a maximum of $250,000 in value.

Coinbase’s new savings account is not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) because Coinbase is not a bank. While it’s highly unlikely, this means that if Coinbase was to go bankrupt for some reason, there’s no guarantee that your savings account principal at Coinbase would be safe.

Price volatility is not the only risk when it comes to yield farming. Investors run the risk of having their digital wealth stolen by scammers. From Jan-April, DeFi fraudsters stole $83.4 million in DeFi fraud losses, according to CipherTrace. In June, Mark Cuban “got hit” as a yield-farming operation imploded. After peaking at $60, the underlying token became worthless, in what some called a crypto bank run.

Hacking is another big problem as DeFi applications are open source and can be vulnerable to hacks. There is also the risk of joining DeFi platforms with young, unproven tokens that have a high chance of losing their value, leading the entire dApp ecosystem to crash.

While regulators appear to be on the attack, New Jersey, Texas, and Alabama served a cease and desist order to BlockFi, the market is highly unregulated. Regulators seem to point to BlockFi’s Interest Account (BIA), which offers rates that consumers are now becoming accustomed to in DeFi, but that have blown traditional banking rates out of the water. Regulators will have difficulty dealing with yield farming. Considering the fragmented and diverse nature of the market the task for regulators seems almost impossible. Who and what is there to regulate? From a regulatory standpoint, the yield farming market poses several serious and multifaceted risks and challenges, that will become more serious as the market further grows.

Any investment requires a balancing act, between risk and reward. Yield farming is a high-risk, high-reward investment option that is worth pursuing, as long as you understand the various risks associated with it and develop a strategy to deal with them.

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Bybit Announces Entrance into Crypto Spot Trading Market

Bybit, a derivatives-only cryptocurrency exchange, has announced its expansion into the crypto spot trading market.

Bybit’s new spot trading platform opened to all on July 15th and comes with zero maker fees. At launch, BTCUSDT, ETHUSDT, XRPUSDT and EOSUSDT were supported.

A spot trade allows traders to buy and sell the crypto-asset “on the spot” and at the current market rate once an order is filled. In the spot market, ownerships of crypto assets are transferred directly between buyers and sellers. Crypto spot is not only a foundational starting point for new market entrants but a complementary vector for derivatives traders engaging in hedging strategies.

Bringing World-Class Liquidity and Reliability to Spot Trading

Bybit prides itself on being a reliable, stable and usable exchange of the bull run. Unique among major exchanges, Bybit experienced no overload nor downtime throughout.

Liquidity is arguably the be-all and end-all attribute for asset exchanges. Bybit’s derivatives trading platform has the world’s best liquidity and tightest spread. Traders are ensured the best quote and best execution in the market even during extreme volatility.

Bybit’s retail-focused products and customer support focused services will help lower the entry threshold to crypto trading to a whole host of new customers around the world, allowing them to seamlessly enjoy the immediate delivery of crypto trades.

“It has been Bybit’s utmost privilege to have enjoyed the ardent support of our community and partners as we continue to grow and improve,” said Ben Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Bybit. “We are excited to bring with us to spot trading the world class liquidity and reliability derivatives clients have come to associate with Bybit.”

Bybit is a cryptocurrency exchange established in March 2018 to offer a professional platform where crypto traders can find an ultra-fast matching engine, excellent customer service and multi-lingual community support. The company provides innovative online trading services and cloud mining products, as well as API support, to retail and professional clients around the world, and strives to be the most reliable exchange for the emerging digital asset class.

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

Top 50 Gen Z and Millennials Investment Stocks Sourced by DailyFX

The Gamestop fiasco last year has led to a surge in millennials and Gen Z becoming involved in the stock market, investing their money in the companies they believe are the future. The Reddit uprising dominated stock market news, but that’s not the only thing millennials and Gen Z, whose ages range from 25-40, are investing money in.

In fact, the younger market is much more diverse than you might imagine and their investments show an intriguing range of choices. So what companies do the younger generations believe in and who are they investing in?

A new study by financial source DailyFX has analysed the stock market in the US to find out which companies young investors are backing.

The top 50 stocks in the US among millennials and Gen Z 

The most popular stocks millennials and Gen Z are investing inThe most popular stocks millennials and Gen Z are investing in
The most popular stocks millennials and Gen Z are investing in

Many of America’s most popular investments among the youngest investors come in the form of technology brands, with the likes of Apple, Plug Power, GoPro and Fitbit making the top 50. Automotive companies also draw interest, with the likes of Ford, Tesla and Marathon Oil attracting millennial and Gen Z attention.

Major brands such as Starbucks, Uber and Netflix also prove a source of stock excitement — supporting an assertion by The Economist, which pointed out that “Global brands account for more than 30% of the stock market value of companies in the S&P 500 index.”


Young Americans across the country also show an interest in investing in healthcare. Both Pfizer and Moderna, which are pioneering vaccines for the covid-19 pandemic, appear high on young investor lists.


Stocks in travel-related industry stocks also lure younger investors. American Airlines is the fifth most popular stock with the likes of Delta and JetBlue airways also among the top 30.

Cruise company Royal Caribbean also appears among the most popular stocks for millennials and Generation Z.

What millennials are investing in by state

Most popular stocks by US statesMost popular stocks by US states
Most popular stocks by US states

The study also found the most popular investments by state with some preferring to invest in household names such as Apple and Disney, while others being less well known. DailyFX looked at the trends in search volume for share prices in each state to work out who wants what, where.

Apple (AAPL) is the most popular millennial investment in seven states

It comes as no surprise to see that tech giant Apple is one of the brands leading the way for millennial and Gen Z investments. At the time of writing, its share price sits at $134.16, an increase from $69.23 over the past year. Covid-19 has certainly played a part in the company’s success, with people across the globe relying more than ever on technology to keep them connected.

Apple is the most popular stock among millennials and Gen Z in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia.

Plug Power (PLUG) shows younger audiences are investing in sustainability

Plug Power is another brand popular with millennials and Gen Z. In fact, it is the top investment among the demographic group across seven states. Plug Power is a developer of hydrogen-based technology that could power the emission-free vehicles of the future.

Its technology is promising news for the environment. The younger investors interested in Plug Power span Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Tennessee.

NIO is the most sought after investment for American millennials 

Another electric car brand appealing to US millennial investors and Gen Z is NIO. The Shanghai-based manufacturer shot to fame in the Formula E racing championship and is being tipped by many to become a rival for Tesla.

NIO is the most popular millennial investment in eight states, making it the USA’s most sought after stock for the age bracket. Investors in Georgia, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia can’t get enough of the brand. This huge wave of investment and confidence comes even though no NIO car has been sold in the US as of yet.

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

Make Banking Great Again: Biden’s Executive Order’s Knock-on Effect on Fintechs

The financial industry has suffered immensely – with many bank branches being closed, many promising startups having to shut down as they could not receive the funding they needed due to investors being hesitant to put their money towards an uncertain venture when the economy was falling apart and more. In the hope of bringing about more job security and healthy competition, President Joe Biden announced the Executive Order on the 9th of July. 

The Order includes 72 initiatives by more than a dozen federal agencies to promptly tackle some of the most pressing competition problems across the American economy. The gist of the Order’s initiatives are:

  • Make it easier to change jobs and help raise wages by banning or limiting non-compete agreements and unnecessary, cumbersome occupational licensing requirements that impede economic mobility.
  • Save Americans money on their internet bills by banning excessive early termination fees, requiring clear disclosure of plan costs to facilitate comparison shopping, and ending landlord exclusivity arrangements that stick tenants with only a single internet option.
  • Make it easier for people to get refunds from airlines and to comparison shop for flights by requiring clear upfront disclosure of add-on fees.
  • Make it easier and cheaper to switch banks by requiring banks to allow customers to take their financial transaction data with them to a competitor.
  • Increase opportunities for small businesses by directing all federal agencies to promote greater competition through their procurement and spending decisions.

The Problem

There is not one isolated area that the Order will look to tackle – it is looking to help the economy as a whole. The main problem from the official announcement was that inadequate competition holds back economic growth. When there are only a few employers in town, workers have less opportunity to bargain for a higher wage and to demand dignity and respect in the workplace with research suggesting that industry consolidation has driven down wages by 17%.

In over 75% of US industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did twenty years ago, meaning more of the market, mark-ups (charges over cost) have tripled, with the lack of competition driving up prices for consumers.

When looking at the fintech space and banking, one must look at the context the pandemic has had, whilst also looking back further. With more and more banks having closed down, especially during the turbulent times of the past year, Biden has encouraged banking agencies to update guidelines on banking mergers to provide more robust scrutiny of mergers, and stop monopolisation.

With banking data being hard to transfer, the president has acknowledged open banking, and encouraged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to issue rules allowing customers to download their banking data and take it with them. The aim of this will be to drive down the expenses consumers must pay when moving bank.

How This Affects the Fintech Space

Experts across the industry have contributed to discuss how the Order will impact fintechs in North America:

Siamac Rezaiezadeh, Director of Product Marketing at GoCardless, said:

“This is the first step along the path to a truly competitive, open banking ecosystem in the US. The government has now recognised that customer banking data is precisely that — the property of the customer.

“Before, a more laissez-faire approach to open banking in the US meant that many banks had no incentive to provide third parties with access to customer data. This led to ‘closed banking’ and runs counter to the principles of innovation and competition that open banking is built upon.

“What this Executive Order means is, in the near-term, more competitive retail banking in the US by making it easier for customers to switch providers. However, we hope that it will also spur innovation which will make it easier for third party providers to access customer data via APIs. This will enable even greater competition and really push the US down the path of open banking.”

Eyal Sivan, Head of Open Banking at Axway, an open and global API management platform said:

“With the signing of his executive order, the White House has taken a bold step towards bringing open banking to the US. Although the executive order aims to promote competition across a broad range of sectors, financial services is definitely on the list, with a specific nod to data portability and ownership. According to the fact sheet linked below, the order specifically states customers should be able to easily take their financial transaction history data to a new bank and that it encourages the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to issue rules allowing customers to download their banking data and take it with them… Sure sounds a lot like open banking.”

Dima Kats, CEO at Clear Junction said:

“Paper-based banking is disappearing at a rapid pace in favour of data-heavy digital banking. User experience is at the root of this shift. Fintechs can improve user experience, but they need data. By making the data modern open banking relies upon more accessible, Biden’s Executive Order will help fintech organisations integrate seamlessly with banks and other financial organisations’ platforms. So, as more businesses and consumers embrace open banking, the regulation change will help fintechs form partnerships with neobanks looking to compete with market giants and the incumbent banks looking to fend off the challengers.”

Jane Barratt, Chief Advocacy Officer at MX acknowledged how this would affect consumers and the industry:

“For Consumers: Implementing these imperatives will give consumers confidence that the data they want to share is complete, transportable, secure, and that in the event of a breach or other loss, they will be protected. This will give them safe and reliable access to a broad range of financial services applications that will empower their financial futures.

“For the Industry: there are enormous benefits to the whole ecosystem – including increased security, decreased risk and a fundamental shift to the creation of new revenue opportunities from API based services, like Banking As A Service (BAAS). The transparency provided with secure data sharing means that institutions of all sizes will have insights into the business impacts of their customers’ data sharing activities – and be able to better expand services to suit. In turn, sparking new companies to emerge and compete and bringing further optionality to the consumer for their financial decisions.”

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

News & Views Podcast | Episode 41: Fintech & Football

On this weeks episode of The Fintech Times News & Views, Polly speaks on the quickly growing presence Fintech has within football, and how football & fintech can help to benefit one another in the not too distant future.

LOQBOX Partners With ClearScore to Close Financial Exclusion in Lending Rates

Financial exclusion impacts billions of people around the world, including younger people who are thin file – a credit report of someone with little or no credit history – or new to credit. As the UK economy works hard to bounce back from the pandemic, British lenders are now expecting a rise in unsecured lending.

As more people apply for credit, inevitably, more people will be declined.

In light of this, LOQBOX and ClearScore have partnered together to help UK consumers build a credit history, support them in getting a head start on credit, and secure a responsible financial future.

The integration of LOQBOX into ClearScore Build will bring benefits to hundreds of thousands of UK consumers. The partnership will allow customers to view their credit-building progress, learn how to build a healthy credit score, and receive updates all in one place.

Gregor Mowat, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, LOQBOX Gregor Mowat, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, LOQBOX
Gregor Mowat, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, LOQBOX

Speaking on the partnership, LOQBOX Co-Founder and Co-CEO Gregor Mowat said: “This world-first partnership and integration is a huge step towards ending financial exclusion. Certainly, since the pandemic, we have seen more and more young people who have suffered from a poor or non-existent credit score, preventing them from participating fairly in the financial world.

“We believe ClearScoreXLOQBOX will help thousands of people who want to get a head start on building a credit history and to eventually become financially included.”

Adding to this, Co-Founder and CEO of ClearScore UK, Justin Basini said: “We are very excited about ClearScore x LOQBOX which is designed to help everyone, no matter what their circumstances, achieve greater financial wellbeing. We!ve always helped our users to improve their credit report and score but we wanted to go further. The reality for millions of people is that they are locked out of mainstream credit products, either because they don!t have any credit history or have made some mistakes in the past.”

LOQBOX members who successfully completed a 6 month period saw their credit score increase by 34 points on average. Members typically then go on to perform better than their peers with traditional credit products and in turn, are rewarded by saving thousands of pounds over their financial lives.

Co-Founder and Co-CEO of LOQBOX, Tom Eyre concluded with: “We wanted to work with ClearScore to provide a way that a person could simply and easily, without traditional borrowing, actually prove in a relatively short period of time that they were creditworthy and build a better future.

“We are proud to partner with ClearScore, and look forward to helping thousands more people to become financially included.”

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

Littlepay Expand Contactless Transit Payments to Porto

The city of Porto sees a huge upgrade to its transport system as Littlepay announce its collaboration for the introduction of Portugal’s first contactless transit ticketing system. The transit payment service provider is partnering with Visa, Andante (intermodal ticketing system for the Metropolitan Area of Porto, managed by TIP), Unicre, Card4B and Cybersource, to launch a pilot project on Metro do Porto’s Linha Violeta (E) and STCP Bus Line 500, which will offer passengers a simple, secure and convenient way to pay for fares.

From late July, residents, business travellers and tourists, will no longer need to top up their Andante cards every time they want to use the tube line that supports the Porto International Airport or the buses of STCP Bus Line 500. With ‘Tap-to-Pay’, users can experience more seamless journeys, paying fares by tapping their contactless debit, credit, prepaid card, or payment-enabled device on payment readers. There is no need to carry cash, queue for tickets or understand the local ticketing system.

Simple fares for better mobility

In the coming months, it is planned to roll-out the system to all metro lines; and, by the end of 2022, contactless payments will be accepted across the entire STCP bus fleet and CP-Porto trains. It is predicted the simplicity of this payment method will play a vital role in promoting the use of public transport in Porto, enabling better, more environmentally sustainable mobility for residents and tourists.

Each trip on Metro do Porto will cost €2.00 and will be valid for 1h15m, regardless of the number of boardings within participating stations. On STCP, the fare for a single journey will be €2.00 and will be valid in one direction only between any two stops on the 500 line, not allowing transfers. On both Metro and STCP, passengers using the system will enjoy automatic best-value fares, and will never pay more than €7.00 (the cost of a daily ticket), no matter how many journeys they make during the day.

Plug-and-play integrations

Littlepay APIs allow card payment readers, acquiring banks and back-offices to plug-and-play with its payment processing platform to handle the complete transaction flow. For this deployment, Littlepay is working in partnership with payments management platform Cybersource, a Visa solution, to facilitate a connection to Portugal’s largest acquiring bank, Unicre. System integrator Card4B is providing cEMV ticketing technology, using ACS payment readers, and a back office for fare calculations.

Littlepay’s back-office API allows smooth integration with Card4B’s AFC back office to enable synchronisation with Andante’s fare system. Business rules are maintained within the AFC back-office, while contactless payment processes are delegated to Littlepay. This way, the complexities of tap aggregation, deny list management and debt recovery are handled expertly in Littlepay’s PCI-Level 1 certified environment, which is fully compliant with the card schemes’ rules for transit.

Amin Shayan, CEO of Littlepay, says, “It’s been a huge honour and great experience to work with an amazing team of partners who are blazing a trail in transit payments and ticketing innovation. Everyone involved in this project has shown great drive and commitment to getting this pilot project live, to bring passengers the benefit of a secure, frictionless ‘Tap-to-Pay’ option.”

Supporting recovery

While the contactless project in Porto was planned before the pandemic, its arrival comes at a critical moment for post-pandemic recovery, supporting the role of public transportation in returning to ‘business as usual’, and providing a safe, easy payment experience for passengers seeking limited physical touchpoints. A recent research survey by C Space on behalf of Visa showed that 44% of public transit users believe they would use public transportation more often if contactless payments were available and 60% of them strongly expect contactless to be available on public transport in the future.

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

MoonPay Enables User Access to MATIC With Support for Polygon

The global provider of cryptocurrency payment solutions MoonPay has announced their support for Polygon, a protocol and framework for building and connecting Ethereum-compatible blockchain networks, to enable purchases of MATIC (Polygon’s token and PoS chain) assets with fiat currency.

MoonPay’s infrastructure facilitates the highest fiat-to-crypto on-ramp conversions currently available to the market, and will for the first time, garner an increase in global usership to the MATIC ecosystem. Users will now enable purchases of MATIC ETH, MATIC USDC, and Native MATIC with fiat currency.

MoonPay will reduce the barriers to entry for Polygon users on all payment methods from digital wallets, traditional credit, and debit cards. Their solution will enable users to access NFT marketplaces and decentralised apps – known as DApps – on the Polygon ecosystem. MoonPay will also send a small amount of MATIC for each Polygon USDC and ETH purchase, allowing customers to quickly transact without having to buy additional MATIC to pay for network fees.

Ivan Soto-Wright, CEO and Co-Founder, MoonPayIvan Soto-Wright, CEO and Co-Founder, MoonPay
Ivan Soto-Wright, CEO and Co-Founder, MoonPay

Speaking on their support for Polygon, MoonPay’s CEO and Co-Founder Ivan Soto-Wright, who recently authored a guest post for The Fintech Times on the wider implications of NFTs on the financial sector, comments, “At MoonPay, we want to make buying and selling cryptocurrencies across all ecosystems seamless. Our agnostic support with Polygon creates whole new accessibility to MATIC for millions of users, and we are thrilled to have also enabled this access in the U.S. for the first time ever.

“MoonPay has moved beyond being a payment provider and we are now bringing new users from across the globe to the Polygon ecosystem. We are looking forward to crypto users, old and new, enjoying the simplicity this creates.”

MoonPay’s support of Polygon comes after a similar move by the payment solutions provider, who recently integrated their system with the DEX aggregator Matcha to power the crypto industry’s first DeFi platform to natively accept fiat currency.

Sandeep Nailwal, Co-Founder of Polygon added, “Integrating a fiat on-ramp onto our network has been our top priority, and finding the right partner to do this has been so important for us. MoonPay’s reputation and track record of seamlessly integrating fiat on-ramps into blockchain networks made them the perfect choice and we are excited to enable our customers across the world, and particularly in the US where it hasn’t been possible, to get onto the Matic ecosystem with complete ease.

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

Veritran: Digital Wallets – Necessary Changes to Remain Relevant Post-Pandemic

The pandemic has created some irreversible changes in the way we live our lives. Not only have employers learnt that many of their employees are capable of doing their jobs well working out of the comfort of their own homes, but they have also learnt how good technology can be within the workspace when day to day necessities are digitised. The same can be said for an average person’s day to day activity too: digital changes that have been made have opened people’s eyes to whole new possibilities. One of these changes was the adoption of eWallets, an alternative payment solution.

Whilst eWallets are not a new commodity, their popularity soared throughout the pandemic. Greynier Fuentes, VP of Digital Solutions at Veritran, a company known for its agile building of low-code business applications for digital channels, spoke with The Fintech Times to discuss what changes must be made to eWallets for them to keep this popularity and not just be a temporary trend.

Fuentes joined Veritran in 2019, where he has led VeriTran’s low-code platform developments and other digital efforts. Fuentes’ passion for digital transformation and technology is deeply rooted in his nearly 20 years of experience in the Information Technology, Software, Banking and Fintech industries. Prior to joining Veritran, Fuentes served as the Chief Technology Officer at Bit Platforms and the CTO at The Pay Solutions

For eWallets to find post-pandemic success, Fuentes said:

Greynier Fuentes, VP of Digital Solutions at VeritranGreynier Fuentes, VP of Digital Solutions at Veritran
Greynier Fuentes, VP of Digital Solutions at Veritran

Prior to the pandemic, it was more intuitive to simply reach for your wallet rather than your phone when making payment transactions. However, over the past year, banking operations as we know them were fully disrupted – customer-filled branches were replaced by apps, and cash and physical card usage by digital wallets.

Digital wallets are software-based systems, such as apps, that store users’ payment information and virtual versions of cards – popular versions of this technology include PayPal and ApplePay. Amid the pandemic, where contactless payments and mobile point-of-sale transactions became more popular than ever due to health concerns, digital wallets began to take center stage in the financial ecosystem.

In fact, according to data from Veritran, the use of digital wallets soared by 180% globally within the past 12 months – more consumers are increasingly relying on digital accounts and virtual wallets than ever before. Furthermore, due to the recent surge in interest in the technology, the overall mobile wallet industry is estimated to grow to $2.4trillion this year, a 24% increase from last year, and to $3.5trillion by 2023.

However, there are hurdles to overcome ahead of widespread adoption of digital wallets: UX, security and seamless integration with POS systems are all important variables to consider when building the technology, and not all digital wallets today reach the highest standards. A new study reported a surge of consumer complaints about mobile payment apps and digital wallets as more people go cashless – the most common concerns being trouble managing, opening or closing accounts; dealing with fraud or scams; and problems with transactions, such as unauthorised transactions. In order for digital wallets to be fully trusted by consumers and reach their full market potential, these challenges will have to be addressed by the banks and financial institutions that offer digital wallets.

To address the first challenge – user experience in banking is more important than ever in a digital-first world and is key in building longer-term loyalty and trust amid users. As digital banking becomes more normalised, consumers will increasingly choose financial institutions based on the most seamless UX. A positive and personalised user experience and a good technology platform have become key in gaining consumer loyalty – and an important part of this is being able to deliver a seamless digital account opening or closing process. Gartner found that 96% of customers who put more effort into opening online accounts or have a difficult experience become more disloyal. Moving forward, it will be necessary for banks and financial institutions that offer a digital wallet product to invest time and resources into ensuring that both the technology and process involved in opening and closing accounts is as streamlined and intuitive as possible.

Security is also a major concern for digital wallets – consumers are spending more time online than ever before and some are making digital transactions for the first time, creating a high-risk environment for being scammed or hacked. Additionally, consumers have fewer protections when they use digital payments, which many don’t realise. According to the US PIRG, many also don’t realise that the instantaneous transactions digital wallets provide are not reversible – once they send money, they cannot get it back. In order to mitigate against the increased cyber-threat, digital wallet products should offer multi-factor authentication to ensure that they have unbreachable security. This includes having multiple checkpoints before being able to access funds – some of which may be biometric checkpoints, an increasingly popular option for financial organisations looking to have the highest level of security possible. Furthermore, banks should offer education to customers about the best practices of utilising digital wallets, from only making transactions with trusted individuals and organisations to not linking their digital wallets to their primary checking or savings account.

Change takes time, and certainly, digital wallets will not respond to these challenges overnight – however, it is important for these products to start adapting to a rapidly changing financial landscape, where consumers are placing a premium on seamless UX and unbreachable security. Once these hurdles are overcome and consumer confidence in the security and user experience of these technologies grow, digital wallets and the companies that offer them will be able to reach their full potential moving forward.