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Duplo co-founder Yele Oyekola on digitising payments in Africa

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Duplo co-founder Yele Oyekola on digitising payments in Africa

Yele Oyekola first saw problems that retail distributors face in Nigeria when he was seven years old. His grandmother is a big distributor there and would send out sales reps to deliver goods and collect cash, but there would be theft in transit, or claims that the money was lost or stolen. 

Years later, during the COVID pandemic, when Oyekola went to visit his grandmother, she would speak of the problems she faced as sales reps couldn’t go out to deliver goods or collect cash. Oyekola saw this as a big opportunity. A company like Duplo was needed.  

Oyekola is chief executive officer and co-founder of Duplo. The payments company is on a mission to digitise payments in the B2B market and simplify accounting procedures, allowing African businesses to optimise and scale. 

The Lagos-based firm plans to dominate the B2B payments market in the country and then expand elsewhere on the continent.  

Fintech Intel spoke with Yele Oyekola to discuss Duplo, problems that businesses face in Africa and the enormous opportunities available for entrepreneurs to solve them.  

Can you tell us about Duplo and the problems that it solves for businesses?  

Duplo is the simplest way for businesses to pay each other in Nigeria. We allow businesses to transact easily with their suppliers and vendors. We launched in January of 2022 within the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry.  

Our first use case was digitising payments between wholesalers and retailers and between distributors and wholesalers. This digitised process enabled FMCG distributors in Nigeria to onboard retailers within their network on Duplo, making it easier for them to collect payments digitally and access real-time insights into their business performance as well.  

In terms of the problems, there has been a lot of advancement with consumer payments and B2C payments. But B2B is still very archaic. It’s highly manual, pen and paper, and the industry has been kind of left behind. 

We are trying to simplify and modernise how businesses transact. Beyond that, we are also trying to simplify how businesses automate, track and reconcile payment flows, which saves them immense time and costs. It is a massive opportunity.  

How important is digitising payments to businesses in Africa and their prosperity? 

It is very important. When we launched Duplo, we had businesses claim they were losing a significant part of their revenue to payment operation errors and processes. 

When you have businesses transacting in cash or manual payment methods, you also have issues with errors. Digitising payments can save time and money and allow them to scale.  

Tell us about Duplo’s initial growth in the FMCG industry—how did this come about? 

The reason we went with the FMCG industry in Nigeria is that this is a problem I had seen first-hand with my grandmother, who is a big retail distributor.  

When I was seven, I remember vividly how she would have her sales reps deliver goods and collect cash. There would be theft in transit, or claims of ‘I Iost the money’ or ‘I was robbed’. So, we were trying initially to allow distributors to digitise payments to avoid these issues.    

In the last few months, we have also expanded into other industries in Nigeria. B2B logistics, medical supplies and anything that has that dynamic, where a distributor is selling goods to a retailer or a wholesaler. 

When did you first realise there was an opportunity for a company such as Duplo?  

The idea came up during the COVID pandemic, but it is a problem I had seen growing up and a problem that was still occurring when I went to see my grandmother during pandemic. I saw how big the opportunity was and decided to work on it full-time. 

I remember my grandmother said during lockdown that there wasn’t a way for her sales reps to go and deliver goods or collect cash—that would have been a perfect time for a solution such as Duplo. It also made a lot of sense because when you think of how the industry is evolving, the next step is actually going digital.  

The pandemic contributed to accelerating the digitisation of the industry. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Heineken just couldn’t operate because they weren’t used to their distributors having to go digital. It brought about a massive shift in behaviour. 

A lot of businesses have become receptive to Duplo because of how much they suffered during the pandemic. 

Duplo has expanded quickly. What’s next? 

Our plan is to improve our products and scale across other industries within Nigeria. To be the premier B2B payments network. Then to use that knowledge to scale to other parts of the continent.  

We are very bullish on Egypt and Ivory Coast over the next nine months or so. They have massive economies. Cash is still king in a lot of the industries there and the space is still so green for a solution such as Duplo’s. 

We are looking to expand our product suite to international payments across Nigeria. Then potentially exploring buy now pay later, because a lot of these businesses want to sell more and I think there is a massive gap to fill there. 

Image: Duplo  

Stubben Edge secures another £5.6m in funding

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Stubben Edge secures another £5.6m in funding

Stubben Edge Group has secured a further £5.6m investment in an oversubscribed round, giving it a pre-money valuation of £175m. 

The group plans to use the funding to expand its business, diversify its services and capture a greater share of the insurance value chain.  

The round was led by Dowgate Capital, which led the previous round in September, when Stubben Edge also raised £5.6m. 

The group has raised more than £20m to date. Cornerstone investors include several Lloyd’s names, such as Nigel Wray, as well as family offices and institutional investors.  

The UK-based company provides embedded products and technology for insurance distributors that want to start, run or grow their business. 

It achieved a top-line revenue growth of more than 400% in 2022 and is forecasting similar growth this year. 

As part of its growth, the group has acquired insurance market specialists Helodrium, managing general underwriter Cedar Underwriting, and broker distribution platform Insurercore 

On the latest round, Chris Kenning, chief executive officer of Stubben Edge, said: “In 2023 our ambition continues to be to support the entrepreneurs and owners of brokers and IFAs.  

“Helping them build their businesses by providing the technology, data and products that will enable them to service their SME clients more efficiently, cost-effectively, wherever, and whenever their clients want to engage.” 

David Poutney, chief executive of Dowgate Capital, commented: “We believe that Lloyd’s and the insurance industry generally are ripe for disruption and reform and that Chris Kenning and the team at Stubben Edge are well-positioned with their strategy and products to take full advantage of the opportunity in 2023.” 

Image: Stubben Edge  

Ripple promotes Monica Long to president

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Ripple promotes Monica Long to president

Ripple, a cryptocurrency solution provider, has promoted Monica Long from general manager to president. 

Long joined Ripple in 2013 when the company only had 10 employees. Today, the California, US-based business provides solutions for cross-border payments, crypto liquidity and CBDCs. 

Long helped to launch Ripple’s flagship product—On-Demand Liquidity (ODL)—in 2018, which uses crypto for cross-border transactions. 

Last year, approximately 60% of payments over RippleNet, Ripple’s cross-border payments product, were sent through ODL. RippleNet has processed $30b worth of volume and 20m transactions since its launch. 

Long was promoted to general manager of RippleX in 2020, where she oversaw product, engineering, CBDCs, and more as part of her role. 

She was appointed as RippleNet general manager in June 2022, in addition to her work for RippleX. In this role she was responsible for the development and growth of ODL and global customer success. 

Brad Garlinghouse, chief executive officer at Ripple, commented: “Even in the current challenging crypto environment, Monica has helped guide Ripple to a very unique place of growth and financial strength.” 

Monica Long
Monica Long

On her new role, Long said: “I’m incredibly honoured to take on the role of president at Ripple as we expand deeper into crypto-enabled services like liquidity, settlement and custody. 

“Looking back over my tenure, we tackled some huge audacious goals—like being able to send money instantly for fractions of a penny around the world. The internet of value is a mission I believed in on day one and continue to find inspiration in for the future.” 

Chris Larsen, Ripple’s executive chairman and co-founder, added: “[Long] joined us when crypto was unheard of, and to see her grow over the last ten years into the fantastic leader she is today, is a testament to how far the industry has come.” 

Image: Ripple 

Related article: Ripple brings its crypto payments tech to Africa 

Marqeta buys Power Finance in its first company acquisition

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Marqeta buys Power Finance in its first company acquisition

Marqeta, a card issuer and payments platform, has agreed to buy credit card issuer Power Finance in its first acquisition since being founded in 2010. 

TechCrunch reported Marqeta will pay $223m in cash for the startup. About one-third of the purchase price is payable over a two-year period. An additional $52m will be paid if one undisclosed milestone is met.  

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. It will add New York, US-based Power Finance’s credit card management programme capabilities to Marqeta’s platform. 

Marqeta believes the acquisition of Power Finance will give it greater access to the $4t+ US credit card market, enabling the California, US-based company to grow processing revenues and improve its competitive positioning when competing for new deals. 

It already works with Uber for its business debit card and Goldman Sachs for its Marcus current accounts. 

Power Finance was founded in 2021 by chief executive officer Randy Fernando and chief financial officer Andrew Dust. 

As part of the acquisition, Fernando will lead product management for the Marqeta credit card platform.  

Fernando commented: “Companies like ours were made possible because of the path Marqeta blazed in modern card issuing, demonstrating the possibilities in payments with flexible and modern payment infrastructure. 

“At Power, we built a full-stack, cloud-native credit card issuance platform, and by becoming a part of Marqeta we have the ability now to bring this innovation to a much larger market at global scale.” 

This news come on the back of Marqeta promoting Simon Khalaf to chief executive officer. Previous CEO and founder Jason Gardner is now executive chairman. 

Alongside Simon’s appointment, ex-Google and Ancestry executive Todd Pollak joined the company as chief revenue officer.  

On his new role, Khalaf commented: “There is tremendous opportunity in front of us to enable the brands we serve with our innovative, flexible platform and grow the ubiquity of digital payments globally.” 

Image: Marqeta  

BIT and Circle collaborate for greater crypto adoption

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BIT and Circle collaborate for greater crypto adoption

Users of BIT, a cryptocurrency exchange, can now can on-ramp fiat funds into USDC. 

BIT has partnered with USDC’s creator, Circle, to enable its users to transfer fiat currencies from more than 80 countries into their accounts as USDC, which can then be used for crypto payments and transfers, or to withdraw the stable coin to USD via bank wire, on a 1-1 trading margin. 

Together, they seek to expand crypto adoption and utility. Last October, BIT began offering USD-settled options, which it described in a statement as more scalable for launching cryptocurrency options. 

Boston, US-based Circle is an issuer of digital currency stablecoins, including USDC and EUROC (Euro coin). More than $43b of USDC is currently in circulation. 

Seychelles-headquartered BIT’s platform claims to provide institutional-grade security, which is “supplemented” by features such as portfolio and unified margin that minimise margin needs on hedged positions. 

It accepts bitcoin, ether, USDC and tether (USDT) and other securities as collateral. 

BIT switched all perpetual future pairs from requiring USDT-margined to USD last July, since the introduction of USD-settled options on its platform. 

BIT’s USD-margined products are powered by its USD basket programme, which now supports USDC. It also plans to incorporate more stablecoins into its USD basket in the future. 

Lan Yue, co-founder and chief operating officer of BIT, commented: “Our collaboration helps us provide new efficiencies to our customers, saving retail and institutional investors valuable time and letting them focus solely on trading.” 

Raagulan Pathy, vice president of Asia Pacific for Circle, added: “Together, we will provide the stability of USDC to BIT customers and making USDC more accessible.”  

Image: Canva  

Insurtech Waggel partners with Vet-AI to extend benefits of digital veterinary care

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Insurtech Waggel partners with Vet-AI to extend benefits of digital veterinary care

Waggel, an insurtech focused on pet insurance, has partnered with veterinary tech firm Vet-AI. 

The collaboration will give Waggel policyholders access to Vet-AI’s app Joii Pet Care. The app provides 24/7 video consultations, nurse consultations and a symptom checker. 

It builds on Waggel’s existing digital offering, which provides lifetime insurance policies for cats and dogs. The insurtech claims its offering removes the hassle from pet insurance. 

Partnerships such as these are a foundation of Leeds, UK-headquartered Vet-AI’s business model. It already partners with Animal Friends Insurance, ASDA Money and Purely Pets. 

Matt Elcock, chief operating officer of Vet-AI, commented: “The insurance market is fast evolving and we felt there was great synergy between Joii Pet Care and Waggel as disruptors in our respective sectors.  

“Both are at the cutting edge of technology and innovation, underpinned by a drive to help pet owners conveniently access services online. Our missions are also very aligned as we strive to enhance the lives of pets and their owners.” 

Elcock continued: “It’s fantastic to be able to reach even more people through our partnership with Waggel, offering thousands more pet owners the chance to access high quality vet care at their fingertips.  

“Pets are more likely to keep fit, well and healthy with regular professional vet advice and that’s where our vet team can step in.” 

Andrew Leal, chief executive officer of Waggel, added: “As an insurtech enterprise, we like to partner with providers that share the same level of technology ambition and sophistication.  

“We look forward to offering Waggel members the numerous services that Joii Pet Care currently provides. We are even more excited about future projects that we are expecting to collaborate on with Joii.” 

Image: Canva  

Dubai Investments acquires stake in digital bank Monument

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Dubai Investments acquires stake in digital bank Monument

Dubai Investments has acquired a 9% equity stake in Monument Bank, a UK-based digital bank. 

Monument Bank focuses on high-net-worth individuals. It aims to provide core banking and other related services to help clients “prosper and save time”. 

Founded in 2018, Monument provides property investment lending and a range of savings products within its app. 

It is currently working on expanding its range of products and services for its customers, and looking to expand globally. 

Commenting on the acquisition, Khalid Bin Kalban, vice chairman and chief executive officer at Dubai Investments, said: “Investment in Monument Bank provides the group a unique opportunity to foray into digital banking space in one of the most advanced and regulated markets at an early stage. 

“With Monument Bank combining traditional and established banking products with innovative solutions, the group is looking forward to be a part of the evolving and the continued growth phase of digital banks while expanding horizons and diversifying strategically.” 

Ian Rand, chief executive officer of Monument, said: “Monument Bank is uniquely positioned as the only UK bank focused exclusively on the mass-affluent segment. We are already supporting thousands of customers with our deposit products and have lent nearly £100m in our first year of operation. 

“With this investment and partnership, we will accelerate the scale-up of our UK business, launching innovative solutions to our target segment and growing our market share, whilst also leveraging our best-in-class technology with partners and clients around the world.” 

Mintoo Bhandari, the head of institutional relationships and founder of Monument, added: “We believe that we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the trends and opportunities that are continuing to emerge in our home market and believe that our partners at Dubai Investments can help us advance our strategic plans, leveraging our technological capabilities, to extend our operations and spheres of influence in other markets around the world.” 

Image: Dubai Investments 

German digital bank N26 appoints Arnd Schwierholz as CFO

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German digital bank N26 appoints Arnd Schwierholz as CFO

N26, a Germany-based digital bank, has appointed Arnd Schwierholz as its new chief financial officer. 

He will lead the financial department when he starts his role on 1 February, joining from venture capital firm Iconical. 

Schwierholz has previously served as chief financial officer of mobility provider Flix SE and Air Berlin, and led the financial department at Lufthansa subsidiary Sky Chefs. 

He has also led the mergers and acquisitions department at Lufthansa and worked at UBS Group. 

Marcus W Mosen, chairman of the supervisory board of N26, commented: “With Arnd Schwierholz, N26 gains an experienced financial leader with a strong track record across different industries and business models.  

“His CV includes demanding positions in large corporations, in fast-growing companies and established organisations alike.” 

Arnd Schwierholz
Arnd Schwierholz

On his new role, Schwierholz said: “I look forward to applying my experience and expertise at N26 to support the company in improving banking for millions of consumers.” 

Valentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal founded N26 in 2013 and launched the initial product in early 2015. Today, the digital bank has more than eight million customers in 24 markets.  

N26 recently partnered with Bitpanda to expand its cryptocurrency trading product across Europe. Launched in Austria last year, N26 Crypto will be made available to customers in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal and Ireland. 

Image: Canva  

Paytech Mollie promotes Koen Köppen to CEO

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Paytech Mollie promotes Koen Köppen to CEO

Mollie, a payments platform founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 2004, is set to appoint Koen Köppen as its new chief executive officer.  

The appointment is conditional to the approval by the Dutch Central Bank and on the advice of Mollie’s works council. 

In his new role, Köppen will work on Mollie’s mission to simplify complex financial services and level the playing field for small- and medium-sized enterprises. 

Koen Köppen
Koen Köppen

Köppen joined Mollie as chief technology officer last May. Previously, he worked as Klarna’s chief technology officer for five years.  

He will replace current chief executive officer Shane Happach, who is leaving the company to take up a leadership role in Asia.  

Köppen helped to launch Mollie Capital, a way for its customers to access funding, in September 2022. 

The launch was part of Mollie’s move into new areas of financial services and a way for it to improve access to cash for SMEs. 

As chief executive officer, Köppen’s will take an even more central role in developing and launching innovative products such as Capital at speed. 

Eli Leenaars, chair of Mollie, commented: “We’ve been very impressed by Koen’s achievements and drive over the last eight months.  

“His promotion is richly deserved and we are confident in his ability to lead Mollie’s further growth and evolution.” 

On Happach’s departure, he added: “Shane can be proud of the company he leaves behind, leading our Series C funding round and our move into financial services.” 

Mollie raised $800m in a series C funding round in 2021, taking the fintech’s total funding raised to more than $940 million.  

Image: Mollie  

Method raises $16m to help consumers manage liabilities

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Method raises $16m to help consumers manage liabilities

Method, an embedded banking provider that automates consumer debt payments and balance transfers, has announced a $16m series A funding round. 

The investment will be used to grow its team and further develop its technology that allows its customers to retrieve and pay all of a user’s liabilities using just their phone number. 

The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz and joined by Truist Ventures, SV Angel and Abstract Ventures. 

The round included other seed investors Y Combinator, Ardent and Cameron Ventures. To date, Method had raised $18.5m in venture capital.  

Launched in 2022, Method now has 45 customers, including banks, credit unions and personal finance management apps, that serve 100k end-users connect $2B in consumer debt, and process $50M in debt and bill payments. 

Commenting on the round, Anish Acharya, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said: “Method has made a genuine technological breakthrough with its debt repayment API. The vision of automating a consumer’s balance sheet will now become a reality.”  

Christina Bechhold Russ, head of strategic initiatives for Truist Ventures, added: “Truist aims to create more delightful digital interaction between our bank and clients, and Method’s APIs have promise to inject much needed transparency into debt management for borrowers and lenders.” 

Jose Bethancourt, co-founder and chief executive officer at Method, explained in an online statement that in 2019 the co-founders discovered a “systemic data and payment access problem across all types of liabilities” affecting millions of lower-income and under-online-banked consumers. 

So, in 2021, Method set out to reduce this access issue by providing consumers with more competitive and affordable credit, as well as empowering them to better manage their liabilities in one place. 

Method wanted to achieve the consumer credit access that was envisioned in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act—that sought to protect consumers and taxpayers in the US after the 2007-2008 financial crisis by ensuring those in the financial system play by the rules. 

Bethancourt said: “As a result, we built a suite of consumer-permissioned debt repayment tools that more easily empower consumers to see and service their liabilities across a broad spectrum of debts.  

“Our technology solutions enable consumers to retrieve and share real-time data on all debt accounts, even for individuals that are not online-banked.” 

Image: Method  

Inscribe lands $25m to fight financial fraud

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Inscribe lands $25m to fight financial fraud

Inscribe, an AI-powered fraud detection provider, has raised $25m in a series B investment round.  

The capital will be used to introduce a new fraud detection product, Risk Intelligence, which identifies fraudulent/legitimate and risky/creditworthy customers for companies that want to build “digital trust”.  

The round was led by Threshold Ventures, and joined by Crosslink Capital, Foundry and Uncork Capital. 

Other investors include Forum Ventures, Box and Intercom, bringing its total amount raised to $38m. 

Ronan Burke, co-founder and chief executive officer at Inscribe, said in statement its Risk Intelligence product is equipped with “AI-powdered fraud and credit insights that eliminate uncertainty and make risk decisions easier”.   

This allows companies that use the product to “effectively build trust and ultimately approve more customers with confidence”, he said.  

A key selling point of its product is convenience. “Buyers have come to not only enjoy—but expect—frictionless interactions that provide instant gratification. Fast response times are no longer a perk; they’re the most important attribute of the customer experience“, Burke said.  

The California, US-based company has seen a 3x year-over-year increase in annual recurring revenue and a 4x year-over-year increase in monthly usage in 2022. 

Founded in 2017, Inscribe is hoping its growth continues as companies look for ways to reduce losses from fraud and eliminate uncertainty about potential customers.  

Research from PYMNTS and cited by Inscribe shows that the average US fintech loses $51M to fraud annually, and the impact of fraud has a negative ripple effect across the entire company. 

According to Deloitte, 79% of financial institutions said that enhancing the quality, availability and timeliness of risk data was a top priority. 

Image: Inscribe 

Related article: Regtech Salv raises €4m to fight financial crime 

Copper appoints former chancellor Philip Hammond as chair

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Copper appoints former chancellor Philip Hammond as chair

Digital asset technology firm Copper has appointed former UK chancellor Lord Philip Hammond as chair.  

Hammond has worked at the firm as a senior adviser since 2021, providing advice as the firm grew from 50 to 300 people, doubled revenues and expanded globally, the firm said in a statement. 

During this time, Copper partnered with State Street Digital, onboarded hedge funds and worked with participants in the decentralised finance sector.  

The firm’s leading product is its exchange network ClearLoop, which enables clients to trade and settle in near real time across multiple exchanges, while mitigating counterparty risk and increasing capital efficiency.  

Hammond is an advocate for the UK as a global leader in digital asset technology. He supports the case to connect traditional finance with distributed ledger technology and reforming the UK’s regulatory framework governing digital assets.  

Lord Philip_Hammond
Lord Philip Hammond

On his new role and the digital asset sector, Hammond said: “Recent security and regulatory challenges affecting the digital asset sector have only served to emphasise the need for safe, well-regulated trading infrastructure. 

“I remain firmly of the view that the post-Brexit UK financial services sector needs to embrace distributed ledger technology as a key part of its strategy to remain a major global financial centre.” 

Hammond had a career in British politics as a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2019, serving as chancellor from 2016-2019.  

On his appointment, Dmitry Tokarev, chief executive officer at Copper, commented: “It has been an outstanding privilege to benefit from Lord Hammond’s strategic expertise forged by his successful career in politics and business.” 

This news comes as scrutiny of many cryptocurrencies increases. 

The Dutch central bank fined cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase €3.3m, authorities seized cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato and arrested its co-founder for processing £567m in illicit funds, and Sam Bankman-Fried and his company, FTX, are still under investigation after its meltdown last November. 

Image: Copper 

Fidelity Investments buys Shoobx

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Fidelity Investments buys Shoobx

Fidelity Investments has acquired equity management platform Shoobx for an undisclosed amount. 

Founded in 2013, Shoobx is a provider of automated equity management operations and financing software for private companies from their early stages to their initial public offerings.  

Shoobx will join Fidelity’s Stock Plan Services business, which provides equity compensation plan record keeping and administration to nearly 700 companies with 2.5m plan participants and over $250b in plan value.  

Stock Plan Services is part of Fidelity’s Workplace Investing division and provides workplace benefits.  

Fidelity started working with Shoobx in 2021 to provide a complete equity management solution to the private market.  

The partnership will offer private companies “innovative technology, industry experience and seamless service”.  

Services it will offer include full capitalisation table and data modelling capabilities, as well as board management tools.  

Kevin Barry, head of Fidelity Workplace Investing, commented: “Given the success of our commercial relationship with Shoobx and the increasing demand from private companies to support them as they scale and grow, including helping their employees manage their financial well-being, acquiring Shoobx was a natural next step in our relationship.  

“Together, we will accelerate the development of new and innovative solutions designed to help private companies confidently navigate the complex journey all the way through to an exit or IPO.” 

Jason Furtado, chief executive officer and co-founder of Shoobx, added: “Fidelity’s financial strength, market leadership, and unrelenting commitment to the client make this acquisition a perfect environment for Shoobx—allowing us to continue innovating to meet the complex needs of our existing clients, while thoughtfully accelerating our private market expansion.” 

Image: Fidelity Investments

Multi-bank joint venture bolsters blockchain platform SWIAT

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Multi-bank joint venture bolsters blockchain platform SWIAT

Three banks and a technology company have come together to bolster SWIAT, a blockchain platform that enables real-time settlement and trading of traditional and digital data, assets and transactions. 

The joint venture is made up of SC Ventures, the fintech arm of Standard Chartered, German bank Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW), DekaBank and financial software provider Comyno 

Comyno’s software will create a decentralised financial infrastructure and “frictionless”, real-time settlement for securities lending, repurchase agreements and bond issuance.  

It will allow banks to conduct business “more efficiently, at a lower cost with better risk management, higher speed and greater flexibility”. 

It will also improve economies of scale and create new business opportunities such as providing custody services. 

DekaBank established SWIAT in February 2022. The investment from the new partners will be used to build capacity and speed up product development. 

Martin K Müller, a member of DekaBank’s board of management, commented: “Only with other financial institutions coming on board would it be possible to develop and establish such a standard on the blockchain for the financial sector, so in essence, SWIAT really relies on multi-party cooperation.” 

Alex Manson, head of SC Ventures, added: “SC Ventures is convinced that the current use case is the precursor for many others, with the bulk of the settlement industry moving gradually to blockchain protocols.” 

Speaking on the blockchain technology, Comyno’s chief executive officer and founder, Markus Büttner, explains: “Compared to classical centralised infrastructure, the two big advantages of decentralised blockchain applications are the increased efficiency and higher security we can enjoy. 

“We have already seen this in the first use cases such as securities lending, where we have done away with having to move securities around physically. The higher the number of participants on the blockchain, the more these advantages are felt.” 

Image: Canva  

Brite founder Lena Hackelöer on payments tech and the changing world of fintech

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Brite founder Lena Hackelöer on payments tech and the changing world of fintech

Lena Hackelöer was first introduced to fintech in 2010 when she joined buy now pay later company Klarna. 

She saw a gap in this expanding market for a business that would provide an instant payments offering for merchants and consumers and created Brite to fill this need in 2019. 

Brite Payments is an instant payments provider, with headquarters in Stockholm and a growing presence across Europe. 

It currently operates across 21 markets in Europe and is connected to more than 3,800 banks within the EU. 

Fintech Intel spoke with Hackelöer to discuss Brite, being part of the growing fintech scene and the future of payments.  

What does Brite Payments offer customers and merchants? 

Brite Payments is an instant payments provider, with headquarters in Stockholm and a growing presence across Europe. We leverage open banking technology to process account-to-account (A2A) payments in real-time between consumers and online merchants.  

We currently operate across 21 markets in Europe and are connected to more than 3,800 banks within the EU. However, with strong demand for more convenient payment methods, this figure continues to grow.  

At Brite, we initiate the payment from the consumer to the merchant, but also take full receipt of the funds for instant processing. To do this, we utilise our own banking network across Europe, which we use to funnel the funds and to increase speed and cost efficiency.

For merchants, the instant processing takes away the credit and fraud risk and increases consumer convenience because funds are typically settled within seconds.  

Moreover, we also offer instant payouts; this was driven by merchant demand across services such as insurance, consumer loans, refunds, savings, investments, gig economy wages and more.  

For customers using our services, no signup or credit card details are needed, as they can authenticate themselves using top-of-mind details via their bank’s usual identification method. A quick, secure and convenient experience.  

Why did you start Brite and how is it different to what was already on the market?  

I joined Klarna back in 2010, which was my first introduction to fintech, and since then there has been a huge level of growth in the industry and the space has evolved drastically.

Throughout the last twelve years I have been closely assessing the industry’s developments and what brands have offered to suit new customer demands – be that B2B or B2C. 

I felt that despite the rapid development of the industry in many areas, there was still a gap. There was still the need for a business that would provide a strong, large-scale instant payments offering with an attractive brand positioning for both merchants and consumers. 

We created Brite to address this gap and to introduce an instant payments business to the market that would be highly recognisable and engaging for both merchants and consumers – a unique offering within the market.  

Brite is always visible as a payment brand, meaning consumers make an active choice to pay or get paid with Brite, in contrast to other players in the open banking space.  

Moreover, our concentrated efforts to improve and enhance the consumer experience mean that we are uniquely placed, and this approach has helped drive our current period of hypergrowth.  

How has fintech changed, from the early days at Klarna up until now? 

The fintech industry has certainly evolved drastically since I started at Klarna back in 2010. There are three overarching transformative trends that I’d highlight. 

First is infrastructure. First generation fintechs entered the market when the foundations were not yet established – they were riding the rails while laying them. This meant in-house teams creating custom- built solutions, often using technologies in new and innovative ways. Although costly, this offered a significant competitive advantage because there were so many opportunities to build products superior to the competition. 

I observed this phenomenon during my time at Klarna, where products launched across the industry were truly differentiated in terms of their technological approach and there were real advantages to be gained.  

By comparison, today there is a flourishing ecosystem to support second generation fintechs, with many modular out-of-the-box solutions that have supplanted some of the in-house innovation. While on the one hand this standardised infrastructure has significantly levelled the playing field, it also means that competition is fiercer than ever. Now, fintechs must work harder to deliver a truly differentiated product.  

Second, the approach to talent has changed markedly. In 2010, we were in an environment where particular skill sets were not yet available – there wasn’t an industry that existed to develop them.  

Today, fintechs can build teams with talented individuals who have honed their skills in a similar role previously, drawing upon in-depth experience. In a similar vein, the fintechs that were growing rapidly in the early 2010s were carving out a new path and did not have comparable business models from which to learn.  

By comparison, companies can now assess the business models of a decade ago in minute detail, which helps make more informed strategic decisions.  

Finally, over the last decade we have seen significant change to regulation, which has presented both challenges and opportunities for established and emerging fintech businesses.  

The introduction of new, and often more robust, regulation in fintech has increased the compliance burden and created the need for significant resources to follow changing requirements across markets.  

However, it has also unlocked a host of opportunities for innovation across sectors, for example the impact of open banking regulation on APIs, which has been transformative for merchants and consumers. 

What role will Brite and similar fintechs play in the future of payments? 

We will continue to leverage technology in order to simplify the payment experience for consumers, which we believe is still more cumbersome than it should be across Europe. 

For merchants, payments are still very local and the only red threads across Europe currently are either card payments or a select few payment giants, for example, PayPal. 

Therefore, our role will be to provide a pan-European alternative to process these payments safely and efficiently. 

What’s on the horizon for Brite?  

We are really proud to share that we hit multiple milestones last year and are currently in a period of hypergrowth, having experienced significant demand across Europe for our payment products.  

We will continue to establish local operations across Europe and evolve our products for individual merchant and consumer needs.  

We are also planning for further expansion to bring our products to even more geographies and currencies, creating sorely needed connection and convenience. 

Image: Brite Payments  

Lloyds Banking Group invests in Caura motor app

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Lloyds Banking Group invests in Caura motor app

Lloyds Banking Group has invested £4m in UK-based Caura, the provider of a motor app that handles car admin.  

The app serves as a platform that enables drivers to manage all the admin associated with running a car, including insurance, vehicle tax, tolls and city charges. 

Caura claims that its app saves drivers time and money through the unified platform, as well as features such as reminders about payments. 

The investment from Lloyds Banking Group, which is targeting potential partners through its recently formed fintech investment team, will support the development of new and existing products and services covering challenges such as maintenance and UK-wide parking. 

This is Lloyds Banking Group’s third fintech investment. 

Kirsty Rutter, the financial services firm’s fintech investment director, commented: “This significant investment represents another important step forward in our plans to work closely with fintechs and technology partners to bring together data-driven insight and technologies to help our customers.” 

Dr Sai Lakshmi, chief executive officer and founder of Caura, said: “As part of our mission to take the pain out of driving, we have already simplified payments for tolls, city charges and vehicle excise duty. 

“Our next step is to apply our technology to overhauling the car insurance and maintenance processes which have remained antiquated and resistant to change. 

“Our future plans for Caura include developing embedded financial services such as motor loans and insurance, white-labelled payment solutions for automotive partners and self-service SaaS solutions to SME customers.” 

This latest investment is part of Lloyds Banking Group’s commitment to the Fintech Delivery Pledge—an initiative to strengthen the UK’s financial system by setting standards for partnerships between fintechs and financial institutions. 

The pledge is part of a wider fintech strategy, supported by the UK government and Tech Nation. It has also been signed by Barclays, HSBC and NatWest Group. 

As UK fintech firms are disrupting traditional ways of banking with new innovations and their number is set to double by 2030, banks see the importance of supporting and working with fintechs to help their own growth. 

Image: LLoyds Banking Group 

Regtech Salv raises €4m to fight financial crime

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Regtech Salv raises €4m to fight financial crime
Taavi Tamkivi

Estonia-based regtech Salv has raised €4m in a seed round extension led by ffVC. 

Salv will use the funds to further develop its technology and expand into other countries, including Poland. 

Founded in 2018 by former Wise and Skype employees, Salv has raised €7m in venture capital investments so far.  

German G+D Ventures and other existing investors, including Fly Ventures, also took part in the latest round. 

Salv offers anti-money laundering functionality for financial services firms, such as automatically identifying and prioritising suspicious activity and processing “vast” amounts of data in real-time. 

The regtech believes a collaborative approach is key to fighting financial crime and this underpins its products and services. 

Salv Bridge is its cross-border intelligence sharing product for fighting financial crime. The product opens a direct line of communication between financial institutions, allowing them to exchange data on potential threats. 

Financial crime is a trillion-dollar business and growing rapidly. The UN estimates the amount of money laundered globally in one year can be valued in the range of 2 to 5% of global GDP—or $800b to $2t. 

In the UK, authorised push payment fraud is the fastest growing crime. According to UK Finance, cases increased by 42% in 2021, with an estimated £583.2m in losses. 

Last year, global AML and other financial crimes surged by 50%. Banks and other financial institutions were fined almost $5b. 

Global crises such as COVID, the war in Ukraine and the economic downturn all present new opportunities for criminals—and demand innovative solutions to tackle the problem. 

In an interview with FinTech Intel, Taavi Tamkivi, chief executive officer and co-founder of Salv, spoke about the scale of the problem. “It is estimated that only 1% of these crimes are being stopped in the system. So 99% of the money goes through the banking system without being noticed or stopped.

“Unfortunately, the fines [levied against banks] are not working. The fines for banks are going up, but if you look at the profits that banks make, it is a tiny percentage. They are needed, but it really isn’t helping.” 

To fight financial crime, global collaboration and the exchange of information in real-time across borders is the best solution, according to Tamkivi. 

“In Estonia, where we launched, before the exchange of information the fraud rate was really high. As soon as banks started exchanging information, it was reported that 80% of this fraud stopped.” 

Commenting on ffVC’s investment in Salv and the regtech’s potential, Mateusz Zawistowski, managing director of the venture capital firm, said: “For us, an important element was that 21 financial institutions in Europe have already joined the collaborative crime-fighting network and collectively solved almost 7,000 investigations, helping to prevent €6-7m from reaching criminals. 

“We see a huge potential for geographical expansion and more financial institutions joining the network to improve their compliance and crime-fighting capabilities.” 

Image: Salv  

Orrick and Buckley merge to create fintech law firm

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Orrick and Buckley merge to create fintech law firm

Two international law firms have merged to create a practice dedicated to serving fintech and financial services. 

Orrick, founded in San Francisco, USA, is merging with Washington DC-based Buckley to create a combined law firm that counts major consumer banks, more than 700 fintech market participants, leading funds, 4,000 emerging companies and 10 of the Fortune 20 tech companies as clients. 

Orrick will launch a new business unit focused on providing “regulatory and commercial solutions that integrate deep sector knowledge” following completion of the merger. 

On the new strategic advisory and government enforcement unit, Matthew Gemello, head of Orrick’s global corporate practice, commented: “Clients increasingly tell us that synthesising these perspectives into an integrated, market-focused one, and embedding that holistic expertise in our transactional and litigation work, is what enables the Orrick team to deliver distinctive value.” 

Speaking on the merger, Orrick chair Mitch Zuklie said: “Our finance and tech clients are innovating in an environment of increasing regulatory and enforcement uncertainty—it’s one of their primary business risks.  

“As these sectors converge, the combined firm will offer valuable regulatory and sector insight to these innovators and their investors who need to see around regulatory corners in pursuing their strategies.” 

Buckley co-managing partner Clint Rockwell added: “This transformation creates a host of novel and precedent-setting regulatory, transactional and litigation risks and opportunities for our clients—and by joining forces with Orrick, we will be able to partner closely with our clients on top-quality, holistic solutions.”  

Image: Canva  

Core10 secures $6.5m in series B round

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Core10 secures $6.5m in series B round

Core10, a provider of banking technology integration services and banking and lending products, has secured $6.5m in a series B funding round. 

The US-based company will use the capital to support the expansion of its Accrue platform and strengthen its banking technology and integration services.  

The latest round brings its total funding to $12.5m since its inception in 2016. 

Patriot Financial Partners led the latest round, with participation from JAM FINTOP and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).  

The company’s flagship Accrue platform is a lending and onboarding application designed specifically for community banks and credit unions looking to accelerate digital strategies. 

Core10’s API integration team also provide community financial institutions and fintechs with subscription and project-based solutions to “eliminate backlogs, reduce staffing costs and support business growth opportunities”, the company said.   

Charles Potts, chief innovation officer and executive vice president at ICBA, commented: “Accrue creates efficient and affordable pathways to meet the customer’s growing demand for digital experiences. It does so in a manner that delivers convenience and speed to both customer and banker, making it an indispensable solution to have.”   

Rodney Whitwell, principal of Patriot Financial Partners, added: “Accrue offers financial institutions incredible opportunities to innovate, generate additional revenue and effectively compete within the digital banking arena. 

“We believe that Core10’s products, core banking expertise, streamlined integration capabilities and impressive implementation results will be instrumental in enabling the company to act as a leading provider of digital banking technology and solutions.”  

Jeff Hanson, chief executive officer of Core10, said: “Each of these partners recognises and shares our commitment to helping community banks unleash their market potential and achieve their digital innovation goals.” 

Image: Core10

Arcus Partners promotes Saurabh Bhole to CTO

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Arcus Partners promotes Saurabh Bhole to CTO

Arcus Partners, a financial technology service provider, has named Saurabh Bhole as partner and chief technology officer. 

Bhole began working at Arcus Partners in 2016 as cloud technology adviser, focusing on Finity360, Arcus Partner’s Salesforce, cloud-based wealth management digital office product. 

The Philadelphia-based fintech says Finity360 allows businesses to “gain more value from their data, technology and Salesforce platform”. 

In his new role, Bhole will focus on further developing Finity360, concentrating on compliance, usability and innovation.  

Saurabh Bhole
Saurabh Bhole

He will also work with the company’s director to ensure customisations and migrations are handled successfully, and manage the development team and customer projects globally.  

Bhole has more than 15 years of fintech experience gained from roles at Salesforce and Amazon Web Services (AWS), among others. 

He has also worked at SunGard, WNS Global Services and Teleperformance. 

Gerry Murphy, chief executive officer of Arcus Partners, commented: “Saurabh truly is a force in the financial services tech industry, having led cloud development projects and successfully growing professionally as a strong leader and cloud visionary.  

“He understands the process gaps and other key operations challenges wealth managers, RIAs, and broker-dealers face every day with legacy technology.” 

Image: Arcus Partners 

Themis raises £3.1m in pre-series A round

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Themis raises £3.1m in pre-series A round

Themis, the provider of a technology platform for managing financial crime risk, has secured £3.1m in a pre-series A funding round. 

The capital will support expected growth from crack downs on anti-money laundering (AML) failings. Last year, global AML and other financial crimes surged by 50% 

Themis uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect potential links to financial crime. 

Founded in 2018, Themis reported a 57% growth in revenues in 2022 compared to the previous year. 

After the latest round of funding, the UK-based company is now valued at £15.4m. It comes on the back of a £1.67m seed round in 2021. 

Matthew Hurn, chairman of Themis, commented; “An estimated 2.7% of global GDP is lost every year to money laundering and associated crimes, enriching criminals and organised crime groups at the expense of people, businesses and our planet, so the importance of ramping up our collective ability to detect and disrupt these threats cannot be underestimated.  

“Through its technology, insight and intelligence, Themis aims to help individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organisations and governments to address their financial crime risks.”  

Matt Deacon, chief technology officer at Themis, added: “We have developed a simple search engine that enables you to find out if your clients, suppliers or indeed any other people or companies you use, have criminal records or any links to illicit activity.  

“Our platform can tell you if they are on any international sanctions lists, own or are directors of any companies or offshore vehicles anywhere around the world, have political exposure and influence or simply have adverse media about them.” 

Image: Canva  

PrimaryBid appoints chief operating officer

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PrimaryBid appoints chief operating officer

PrimaryBid, the UK-based fintech connecting retail investors with public companies raising capital, has appointed Fiona Richards as its chief operating officer. 

Richards will join the executive team in London, and be responsible for global business operations and strategic planning.  

Previously, Richards worked at Rowan Dartington, the discretionary investment arm of St. James’s Place, where she was also chief operating officer and responsible for technology, change, and customer service and operations. 

She has more than 25 years of industry experience across consulting and investment banking at Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Accenture.  

Anand Sambasivan, PrimaryBid’s chief executive officer, commented: “We are thrilled to welcome Fiona to PrimaryBid. She is an industry veteran, bringing highly relevant experience at an exciting time in our company’s growth.  

“Recent regulatory developments around retail investors have only strengthened the need for technology-driven improvements to the capital markets infrastructure, and Fiona’s addition to our hugely experienced team means we can hit the ground running in 2023.” 

Richards added: “I have joined a firm with a very exciting future. PrimaryBid’s track record to this point speaks for itself and I look forward to supporting the continued build-out of the company as we expand geographically and across a deeper product set.” 

Founded in 2016, PrimaryBid has made a number of appointments over the past six months across its business to support its growth.  

In 2020, the fintech attracted $50m in a series B round, and a $190m series C investment last year. 

Image: PrimaryBid  

Westpac partners with AI company to improve its business lending

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Westpac partners with AI company to improve its business lending

Australia-based bank Westpac has partnered with artificial intelligence (AI) company Rich Data Co (RDC) to improve its lending experience for business customers and bankers.  

The upgrades include a digital application process, technology that speeds up decisions for borrowers, and an expanded cash flow offering that allows businesses to access flexible, unsecured funding.  

RDC’s platform will simplify the lending process and speed up decisions for Westpac customers. 

Shane Howell, managing director of business lending at Westpac, commented: “This work gives us a deeper understanding of our customers, so that we can support and provide insights as and when they need it. 

“Customers will see tangible benefits, including our two-sided digital finance application form, which allows both customers and bankers to jointly work on an application for a faster experience.” 

Ada Guan, RDC chief executive officer and co-founder, added: “We are thrilled to be working with Westpac as it focuses on the growth and acceleration of its business lending capabilities.  

“Our platform will allow Westpac to have a greater understanding of its customers for both lending needs and credit risk management.” 

In a similar agreement in 2020, the National Australian Bank (NAB) struck a deal with RDC to use its AI prediction and decisioning capability software.  

They co-developed a “test and learn” environment to help NAB better understand its small business customers’ needs.  

Image: Canva  

TechPassport launches standardised questions for fintech onboarding

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TechPassport launches standardised questions for fintech onboarding

TechPassport has teamed up with 15 banks to develop a series of eligibility questions to better prepare fintechs for partnerships and speed up the onboarding process. 

Morgan Stanley, Citi and HSBC were among the banks to help create the questions in partnership with TechPassport, which runs a marketplace for banks shopping for fintech partners. 

It can take up to 18 months for a fintech to be fully integrated into a bank. TechPassport said this “has been a major barrier to innovation in the industry”.  

The new questions, designed to judge whether a fintech is enterprise-ready, should streamline the process, speed up innovation, and save time and money. 

Layla White, founder and chief executive officer of TechPassport, commented: “Having worked in the banking industry for large global banks such as HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds, I knew there must be a better way, a way we could save time and money and, most importantly, work in partnership with fintechs to help them succeed by removing friction and barriers to entry. 

“We started with three Tier 1 banks six months ago and now have 15 at the table who have helped shape and create these ERQs that will drive innovation forward for the entire industry.” 

Sean Manahan, global head of business development and partnerships at Morgan Stanley, added: “Partnerships with early-stage companies are a key part of our strategy to drive new opportunities for our clients and business. 

“With this cross-industry initiative, we have created a platform that sets the foundation for a productive partnership between fintechs and financial services organisations. It unlocks fintechs’ innovation potential by empowering them to focus on impactful contributions and deliver value faster.” 

This is TechPassport’s latest move to facilitate collaboration in the financial services. Founded in 2019, the UK-based company was created to help lower the barrier of entry for fintechs and startups looking to work with financial institutions. 

 

In a recent interview with FinTech Intel, White talked about TechPassport, and the changing relationships between banks and fintechs. 

Image: TechPassport 

HugoBank is granted digital banking licence in Pakistan

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HugoBank is granted digital banking licence in Pakistan

HugoBank is preparing to launch in Pakistan after receiving clearance to do so from the country’s central bank. 

The digital bank, a joint venture that includes Singapore’s Atlas Consolidated, owner of the savings app Hugosave, received a no-objection certificate (NOC)— the principal stage in the digital banking licencing process—from the State Bank of Pakistan. 

The licence will allow HugoBank to provide a range of digital banking services to citizens of Pakistan, including an online account, money transfers and bill payments.  

Pakistan has the world’s fifth largest population and could become one of the world’s biggest economies by 2075 due to rapid population growth. 

But more than half of its 220m population is currently unbanked. 

The State Bank of Pakistan attributes this to the “lack of awareness of financial products, and a lack of basic money and financial management skills”.  

HugoBank aims to drive financial education and offer affordable and accessible products and services. 

Aside from HugoBank, Pakistan’s central bank also granted NOCs to four other financial institutions, out of 20 applications. 

David Fergusson, chief executive officer of Atlas Consolidated, commented: “Our winning proposition was to drive financial inclusion and improve the lives of millions of people in Pakistan. 

“This is the reason why Hugo exists—to help individuals from every level of society establish and build their financial journeys.” 

HugoBank plans to utilise other consortium members, The Getz Group and Muller & Phipps, to reach unbanked customers.  

Kamran Nishat, chief executive officer of Muller & Phipps Pakistan, said: “We have been present in Pakistan for over a century, and this is a fundamentally important development for us as a group. 

“Consumers in Pakistan are familiar with our pharmaceutical, distribution, and courier businesses. We are extremely excited to add banking to this mix.” 

Image: Canva

N26 expands its crypto trading product across Europe

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N26 expands its crypto trading product across Europe

N26, the Germany-based digital bank, is expanding its cryptocurrency trading product across Europe. 

Launched in Austria last year, N26 Crypto will be made available to customers in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal and Ireland. 

Almost 200 cryptocurrencies are available to buy on the N26 app, where it is being rolled out over the next few weeks.  

N26 has partnered with Bitpanda for the product, which manages the execution of trades and custody of coins. 

Gilles BianRosa, chief product officer at N26, commented: “The N26 banking experience has always been built around the customers’ needs, with features that make money management easy.  

“With N26 Crypto we have created a simple, intuitive product that integrates seamlessly into N26’s fully-regulated banking experience where one’s bank balance, savings, and investment portfolio sit side by side—with cryptocurrencies being the first asset class we intend to offer.” 

N26 co-founder and co-chief executive officer Valentin Stalf added: “Market fluctuations aside, cryptocurrencies continue to remain a requested and interesting asset class for investors and a growing part of the financial system. 

“Cryptocurrency trading is often the entry point to investing for a new generation of investors who are looking to explore ways to grow their wealth. With N26 Crypto, we are offering a simple way to trade and invest, with a great user experience and low and transparent fees.” 

N26’s confidence in cryptocurrencies is in contrast to a lot of recent news, which shows crypto companies have been under heavy fire.  

Authorities recently seized cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato and arrested its co-founder for processing £567m in illicit funds.  

And Sam Bankman-Fried and his company, FTX, are still under investigation after its meltdown last November. 

Image: N26  

B2B payments platform Sprinque raises €6m to expand across Europe

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B2B payments platform Sprinque raises €6m to expand across Europe

Sprinque, a B2B payments platform, has raised €6m in a seed funding round led by Connect Ventures.   

The Netherlands-based company will use the funding to expand across Europe, initially targeting merchants in its home country, as well as Germany and Spain. 

Other investors in the round include Kraken Ventures, Inference Partners and SeedX. 

Founded in 2021, Sprinque raised €1.7m in the same year to kick start the business.  

It aims to help B2B businesses grow in an increasingly digital world by offering flexible payment methods, primarily, its Pay by Invoice product.  

Sprinque said that despite more business transactions moving online, merchants and marketplaces still face “great challenges”.  

On the problems across B2B industries, Juan Espinosa, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sprinque, said: “Buyers won’t convert and be retained if the ability to Pay by Invoice is not given to them, but the existing offline and manual processes B2B merchants rely on are not adequate to manage risk and serve hundreds of online buyers across multiple geographies.

“Sprinque has been built to enable merchants and marketplaces to offer Pay by Invoice with payment terms in the most seamless way possible for the most ambitious merchants.

Rory Stirling, general partner at Connect Ventures, commented:“Sprinque’s founding team has a deep understanding of B2B commerce and how to help their customers improve conversion, retention and cash flow.  

“They recognise that a B2C-style BNPL payment method doesn’t translate into a B2B context, so instead they are building a differentiated product designed specifically for the breadth and complexity of B2B commerce.”  

Image: Sprinque  

TechPassport founder Layla White on banks and fintechs

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TechPassport founder Layla White on banks and fintechs

Layla White worked within the procurement teams of banks for 10 years. 

While there is no better place to witness the latest innovations in financial technology, she grew frustrated with the fact that most of her time was spent negotiating back and forth over incredibly simple contracts that are largely the same as each other. 

TechPassport grew out of her lived-in frustrations with the processes she knew back to front and the way these irritations spread across the entire financial ecosystem. 

She founded the company in 2019 and had both its first product and customer in 2020. 

TechPassport aims to make it easier for banks, suppliers and startups to collaborate. Startups can sell their products to banks, and banks have a marketplace in which to shop for products. 

Fintech Intel spoke with White to talk about TechPassport, the relationships between banks and fintechs, talent in the UK and being an advocate for women in the industry. 

Layla White
Layla White

Given TechPassport’s  position in the market, what are banks and other financial services firms most requesting of  fintech providers in terms of products and services? 

From what we can see they just want everything faster. That runs right through the types of products they are interested in—they want faster payments, they want to make faster decisions, they want their tech stack to integrate fully so they can share information between systems with the touch of a button. They want to generally innovate faster while not sacrificing their regulatory and compliance obligations. 

In terms of the specific sectors we’re seeing, a lot of financial institutions are starting to explore the metaverse in a very real way, defining what the financial services use cases might be and who they should be partnering with. 

How are these requirements  reflecting broader trends, in both the consumer and enterprise segments? 

We live in the information age, so I suppose this need for pace is reflective of the fact that everyone has grown used to having everything right now, this very second. Why should businesses expect any different from the suppliers they work with? 

What are banks and other financial services firms demanding of fintech providers in terms of technology and results? Are  fintechs  being given room and time to test and improve? 

It depends on the profile of the fintech as well as how urgent the business need is. If they are buying your product for an urgent problem they have, they don’t want half a year of workshops and development and tweaking. They want an out-of-the-box solution from a trusted provider that they can be assured will get the job done. They’ll generally go to more mature suppliers for these, so of course, the expectations will be different. 

The majority of people within the technology or innovation teams in banks love innovation, and want to see new and exciting technology progress and change the way things are done. 

If the idea is good enough, and they really see the value in how an idea can reduce risk or save them money, then from what we have seen and experienced they will want to partner and help you along your journey any way they can.  

How are the relationships between the legacy institutions and disrupters evolving? Can we expect more integrations and partnerships, or are  acquisitions  more likely? 

For the near future, I would suggest integrations and partnerships will win out, simply because it’s less of an economic risk. 

This doesn’t mean we won’t see any acquisitions, but they will only be if there is a bargain to be had and the due diligence and risk analysis have been very thorough. Incidents such as the recent FTX debacle will be encouraging that as well.  

What are your thoughts on the fintech industry in the UK and its current state in terms of talent and opportunity? What can it do attract more talent, across a more diverse range of people? 

I can only really speak from experience on this, and the talent I see in my team makes me very confident in the talent pool we’ve got in the UK. Our team is made up of different ethnicities, genders and sexualities, and it has all happened organically.  

I’m not sure if explicit diversity schemes work, really. My advice to other fintechs would be to hire based on personality and attitude rather than experience. 

Could you tell us about the work you do as a member and advocate for women of fintech? 

We have been members of Women of FinTech for four years now and have supported and sponsored several of its events and STEM projects. We whole heartedly advocate for equality in this space. 

The first Women of FinTech event I attended was a fireside chat with Anne Boden. She talked about setting up Starling Bank. It was a sell-out event and completely inspirational. 

She spoke about how to achieve gender balance—we just need to hire more women. This simple answer was so obvious that no one there could argue with it! 

How many women do you see working in the fintech industry, at both startups  and banks? 

There are a number of women in the sector, but visibility of them at c-level and above is not enough to warrant the label of equality yet and that is where we want to get to. 

There should not be gender pay gaps in this day and age, so we need to petition for women to be present in all levels of a company and with equal pay. 

As a female founder, I can set that standard in my own company as well as be visible to show others what can be achieved. 

I also have two daughters who I am paving the way for and showing them that anything is possible, and their gender cannot and will not hold them back. 

Image: TechPassport 

ClearBank appoints Mark Fairless as CFO

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ClearBank appoints Mark Fairless as CFO

ClearBank, an embedded banking provider, has appointed Mark Fairless as its new chief financial officer.  

Fairless will lead the finance team, be an executive director on the UK board and a member of the executive committee.  

He will work on growing the bank as it seeks to expand globally.  

The London, UK-based bank provides APIs to financial institutions so they can offer their customers regulated banking infrastructure. 

ClearBank, founded in 2015, achieved profitability last year, as revenues reached £45m. 

Fairless joins the bank from M&G, where he was also the chief financial officer. He has more than 17 years of experience in financial services, including positions at Santander UK and Barclays Investment Bank.  

Mark Fairless
Mark Fairless

On his new role, Fairless said: “I believe strongly in the potential of ClearBank to drive innovation within financial services, and of the significant opportunity that lies ahead. 2023 is set to be a hugely important period for the business.” 

Charles McManus, chief executive officer at ClearBank, commented: “Mark joins us at a truly exciting time for ClearBank, as we build on the achievements of 2022 and make progress on our growth ambitions for 2023.  

“Mark will bring a wealth of global knowledge, expertise, and experience to the ClearBank team that will be critical to our future success.” 

Interested in reading more about embedded finance? Read ‘Fast and frictionless: Is embedded finance here to stay?’ now. 

Image: Clear Bank

Oneiro Solutions adds two members to its board

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Oneiro Solutions adds two members to its board

Oneiro Solutions, the provider of a digital loan servicing platform, has appointed Chris Hardie and Paul Mitchell to its board. 

Launched in 2021, the fintech raised more than £1m in seed funding last year to bring DLX, which digitalises and automates the syndicated loan servicing process, to market. The two new appointments are hoping to accelerate its growth. 

Mitchell has worked with One Solutions since its inception and has experience in financial and operational roles, including at Deltex Medical Group and Remote Diagnostic Technologies. 

Hardie has more than 40 years of experience as a corporate financier for integrated banks Kleinwort Benson and Charterhouse, and most recently at stockbroker Arden Partners. 

Paul Mitchell
Paul Mitchell

On his appointment, Mitchell said: “I’m very pleased to join the board and look forward to continuing to work with them towards a bright and exciting future for their customers and the company.” 

Hardie commented: “I’m excited to join the team who are breaking the mould of established operators in their market with a game-changing product. I believe that my experience of startup and early-stage companies will prove valuable.” 

Chris Hardie
Chris Hardie

Chris Papathanassi, founder of Oneiro Solutions, added: “The amount of interest the company is seeing has grown exponentially in the last few months. 

“Financial organisations around the world are waking to the need for innovation within their business models. 

“They are discovering the value of migrating from ‘legacy’ to next generation technology that enables unrivalled customer experience—the gains of which are driving them to take action. These new signings are evidence of this.” 

Image: Oneiro Solutions 

Climate X appoints VP to help it scale

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Climate X appoints VP to help it scale

Climate X has appointed former chief of staff at Monzo Bank, Andrew Ellam, as its vice president of technology. 

The UK-based company predicts extreme weather events linked to climate change decades before they happen. 

This information is passed on to banks, insurers and governmental organisations so they can make better predictions about these physical events, such as flooding, which could affect their investments and operations. 

At Climate X, Ellam will work on helping the company scale amid the growing demand for climate risk data.  

Ellam has more than 20 years of experience in the tech industry, including at tech giants Amazon and Meta/Facebook. 

On his new role, Ellam commented: “For me, climate change is the biggest threat facing our generation and future generations. 

“I’ve joined Climate X with a shared vision to provide the insights firms need to help improve things—to build a climate-resilient economy that can withstand the challenges ahead.” 

Lukky Ahmed, chief executive officer and co-founder at Climate X, said: “Andrew brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to the climate fintech industry.  

“He will be pivotal in leading a team that will deliver a market-leading platform that customers can use to process trillions of data points, all within seconds, at a global scale and without compromising on security.” 

The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and reduce by 43% by 2030 to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change.  

A report by PwC, a consultancy, demonstrates these effects could expose a company’s supply chains, costing it several hundred million dollars a year or double its transportation costs.  

Image: Canva  

ONE partners with regtech provider Know Your Customer

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ONE partners with regtech provider Know Your Customer

ONE, a fintech focused on serving the payments, FX and crypto needs of corporate clients, has teamed up with regtech provider Know Your Customer following a major rebrand. 

The UK-based company said in a statement that the partnership will “deliver a more seamless onboarding experience” to its corporate clients, by “streamlining” the process. 

Founded in 2017 as an OTC digital asset trading desk, ONE now provides payments, foreign exchange and crypto trading solutions worldwide to clients in the gambling and sports betting, cryptoasset, and offshore sectors. 

Previously known as AIMS, ONE rebranded as part of its plan to launch a number of new products and services in the future. 

Explaining what Know Your Customer will achieve for ONE, Kathryn Willis, the fintech’s managing director and group head of compliance, commented: “By working with Know Your Customer, we have developed a world-class onboarding tool which is commended by our financial crime auditors.  

“At a glance of a screen, we can visualise a customer’s entire corporate structure, risk profile and AML screening results, while also having immediate access to the corresponding records. 

“This allows us to streamline our compliance processes, and automate key management information, demonstrating the real benefits regtech solutions like Know Your Customer can bring to a business.” 

Claus Christensen, chief executive officer and co-founder of Know Your Customer, added: “At Know Your Customer, we have seen time and time again that true customer-centricity starts with onboarding.  

“In fact, as the initial phase of all business relationships, onboarding represents a crucial step for any fintech or financial services provider. We are delighted to be working with ONE to help incorporate the human touch into this often-overlooked process.” 

Image: Canva  

FNZ acquires Germany’s Fondsdepot Bank

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FNZ acquires Germany’s Fondsdepot Bank

Wealth management provider FNZ has acquired Germany-headquartered Fondsdepot Bank.  

The acquisition is the latest in Germany by FNZ, having previously purchased investment platform ebase and wealthtech provider DIAMOS 

With the acquisition, FNZ will employ more than 1,000 people and manage assets of over $120b for more than 2m customers in Germany. 

Sebastian Henrichs will continue as chief executive officer of Fondsdepot Bank, while also leading FNZ Germany. 

Kai Friedrich, who leads ebase as chief executive officer, will be appointed as FNZ’s head of European integration. 

Adrian Durham, group chief executive officer of FNZ, commented: “We are delighted to have successfully completed the acquisition of Fondsdepot Bank, which, together with ebase and DIAMOS, accelerates our mission to open up wealth by making wealth management more accessible to more people. 

“We also look forward to welcoming Sebastian. He has extensive leadership experience and a track record of success in the German wealth management sector.”  

Henrichs added: “Together, we will continue to grow FNZ’s market-leading client offering by leveraging our combined platform capabilities and market knowledge.”  

FNZ raised $1.4b in equity funding in February 2022, valuing the company at more $20b.  

In other recent news for FNZ, the wealthtech appointed Renata Mrazova as group chief people officer to work on its long-term people strategy. 

Image: Canva  

Fast and frictionless: Is embedded finance here to stay?

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Fast and frictionless: Is embedded finance here to stay?

If fintech could be compared to a rapidly developing civilisation, we might argue that it’s currently living through its Age of Embedded Finance. 

Such is the popularity and prevalence of this concept, which McKinsey defines as the placing of a financial product in a non-financial customer experience, journey or platform, that embedded finance accounted for nearly 5.6% of total US transactions in 2021, according to Bain. 

By 2026, this volume is expected to exceed more than 10% of total US transaction value. 

It can be seen in retail, with Shopify offering a balance account for its store owners and Klarna bringing lending to shoppers at the point of purchase. Even Lyft drivers can get paid instantly with its branded direct debit card. 

It can also be an add on to purchase, such as with Tesla insurance in the US. And for investments, with companies such as Acorns. 

 

For fintech, embedded finance represents an ideal opportunity to further disrupt traditional financial services, reduce costs and friction—and open up new revenue streams to entire industries and sectors. 

One fintech working in the embedded finance space, Weavr, is a good example of the options currently out there. 

Weavr claims its plug-and-play finance model enables digital businesses to launch and monetise financial services quickly, efficiently and cheaper than a traditional banking-as-as-service (BaaS) model. 

Embedded finance is arguably an evolution of BaaS—the provision of banking products and services through third-party distributors. 

But it is better than the traditional BaaS model, according to Daniel Greiller, chief commercial officer at Weavr. He explains: “To use BaaS you need to be an expert in banking. And it costs a huge amount of money. 

“We make it faster, simpler and easier. We take away the compliance concerns. Everything is built in with us.” 

“Faster, simpler and easier” succinctly summarises the key benefits of embedded finance and what it can bring to consumers and businesses. 

Focusing on the cost benefit, Greiller continues: “A transaction with Weavr will be more expensive than a transaction with a BaaS provider. 

“But if you layer in the transaction monitoring, the cost to maintain a data secure environment, the customer authentication system, the cost of Google Pay and Apple Pay, everything considered, we are considerably cheaper.” 

Not only is embedded finance a potentially cheaper route into offering one or more financial products, it is a route that sidesteps traditional providers, namely banks, and comes with the added benefit of simplicity. 

Nick Root, chief executive officer of another embedded finance player, Intergiro, which providers an all-in-one platform offering multi-currency bank accounts, card issuing and card acquiring across Europe, says: “The emergence of API-led banking services means that distribution is no longer an issue. 

“That layer of friction has now been removed, with any digital company being able to offer a financial service without the headache and complexity that offering financial services used to bring. What WordPress did for the internet, fintechs are doing for finance.” 

Alistair Cotton, chief executive officer and co-founder of Integrated Finance, a fintech infrastructure provider, thinks the delivery of financial services will be completely transformed thanks to embedded finance: “The high street banks will stop being accessed through internet banking. 

“All of their services will be consumed through other pieces of software, where we increasingly spend our time. There may be an intermediary step like making payments via accountancy, but it’s all going to end up on your phone.” 

Greiller comments: “What it should do and what its already doing is improving access. Most financial services are very vanilla. If you want to get an overdraft, you will be asked how much money do you earn, where do you live, and a bank will say whether you are worth an overdraft or not. 

“With embedded finance you have a wealth of information around that customer, so you can make a richer decision. So, it’s easier to say yes to someone or something. 

“If you think about where it is already well used, Amazon, Uber, Klarna, these are fantastic consumer experiences. Uber embeds finance in transport. Klarna provides it at the point of need, as opposed to a credit card which you have to go and get. People love these services because they are frictionless. 

“Consumers should get the experiences they get with Amazon, Uber and Klarna across all of their software engagements.” 

Cotton adds that the interoperability of embedded finance is one of its stronger points. “I think embedded finance will bring all forms of payments closer together. Most things on the internet are paid for by debit and credit cards. 

“Embedded finance will allow different payment methods to become more useful. So cards, open banking or crypto or however you want to pay for something, it will be available to you.” 

Embedded finance is reshaping the traditional financial services business model. How far that will go remains to be seen, but the benefits are clear and much potential remains. 

Greiller concludes: “We are moving into a time with embedded finance where it is going to be really important to manage compliance. I think that is going to be the next stage of embedded finance.” 

Cotton adds: “What Shopify has done for ecommerce, where you can do everything from one platform, that’s what will happen with financial services. 

“Traditionally big institutions served a lot of customers. As the cost of the technology is coming down, it’s allowing many more small companies to be created, serving smaller audiences, but more niche and more tuned to their specific needs.” 

Image: Canva 

Salt Edge takes its open banking solutions to Jordan

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Salt Edge takes its open banking solutions to Jordan

Salt Edge is continuing its expansion in the Middle East with the release of its open banking solutions in Jordan. 

The London, UK-headquartered company will assist banks operating in Jordan and other local financial institutions as the country seeks to digitise its financial services.  

In a similar move, Salt Edge recently rolled out its services in Saudi Arabia. 

As open banking expands in the Middle East, Salt Edge’s open banking solutions will help financial institutions and their customers by sharing banking data with third parties using API technology. 

Salt Edge also said in a statement that its solutions will allow banks to be open banking-compliant in one month. 

The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) believes open banking is crucial for innovation and competition in the increasingly digital economy.  

In December 2022, the CBJ issued a global banking framework that all banks operating in the region must follow. 

As part of this framework, banks must allow authorised parties access to customers’ data through API. As a result, institutions need the necessary technology to be compliant by the end of 2023.  

Banks that have adopted Salt Edge’s technology so far include Jordan Ahli Bank, Byblos Bank and Habib Bank.  

Alina Beleuta, chief growth officer at Salt Edge, commented: “As the Middle East is taking confident steps to accelerate its position as a global financial hub, we are thrilled to see countries like Jordan taking proactive measures to achieve this.  

“The newly issued guidelines represent a step toward broader financial inclusion and cutting-edge technologies, all of which are enabled by open banking.” 

On the particular challenges faced in Jordan, Beleuta added: “Compared to other countries in the region, Jordan has a slightly different regulatory approach toward the interaction between banks and third parties—these being under contractual agreements and, as a result, adding an additional layer of friction.  

“In order to establish the relationship, the bank will need to find a mechanism for identifying and verifying the third party, another task that can be handled by Salt Edge.” 

Image: Canva 

BlackRock acquires minority stake in retirement provider Human Interest

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BlackRock acquires minority stake in retirement provider Human Interest

BlackRock is taking a minority investment and leading a financing round in retirement plan fintech Human Interest. 

The companies plan to make retirement plans available to more small and medium-sized businesses in the US. 

BlackRock’s investment will help Human Interest, which uses technology to make setting up and managing retirement plans easier, improve its platform. 

According to the AARP, approximately 57 million people—nearly half of all American employees aged 18-64 in the private sector—do not have access to an employer-provided pension or retirement savings plan. 

San Francisco-headquartered Human Interest said in a statement that this lack of access skews heavily to small and medium businesses that do not offer retirement plans due to high costs, complexity and administrative burden. 

Jeff Schneble, chief executive officer of Human Interest, commented: “We are excited to work with BlackRock to find ways to bring retirement within reach of millions of additional workers in the coming years.”  

Anne Ackerley, head of BlackRock’s retirement group, added: “Getting people on a path to a secure retirement is core to BlackRock’s purpose. We look forward to helping Human Interest close the access gap.” 

Human Interest, founded in 2015, claims to have seen more than 400% growth in the number of customers and revenue since the initial closing of its last announced financing in 2021. It has secured $500m in funding to date. 

The last funding round was led by The Rise Fund, TPG’s global impact investing platform. Other backers included SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Crosslink Capital. 

Image: Human Interest  

PayPal’s Xoom adds Visa debit card remittance feature

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PayPal’s Xoom adds Visa debit card remittance feature

PayPal’s international money transfer service, Xoom, has added a remittance feature to its Debit Card Deposit product, allowing its US customers to send money abroad.  

The new feature will allow remittance receivers who have a Visa debit card “real time” access to funds.  

Xoom’s Debit Card Deposit launched in 2020 for US domestic transfers. Now, customers can send money internationally, allowing friends and family to receive money almost instantly. 

With the new feature, customers can currently send money to 25 countries, including the UK and Ukraine in Europe, Thailand and Vietnam in Asia, and Jamaica. More are expected to be added throughout the year. 

Previously, customers could send money internationally through Xoom by bank deposit or cash pickup. The Debit Card Deposit feature allows funds to be available in minutes. 

PayPal said in a statement, that wire transfers are commonly used for remittances, which can take five business days or longer to reach the receiver. 

Wei-Lin Lee, vice president of remittances at PayPal, commented: “This expansion, through our partnership with Visa, will help more customers around the world get a fast and convenient way to access necessary funds needed for everyday essentials.” 

Yanilsa Gonzalez-Ore, senior vice president and head of Visa Direct North America, added: “There’s an ever-increasing need for digital solutions that help remove barriers for those looking to send money to friends and family across borders.” 

Xoom is available through an app or online and can also be accessed through PayPal’s platforms. 

According to the World Bank, remittances to low- and middle-income countries grew an estimated 5% to $626b in 2022, and are vital source of income to households.  

The US outward remittances in 2021 totalled over $72,000m, by far the largest exporter in the world.  

The growing market has led to the creation of many remittance companies, such as Xoom and Wise, to rival Western Union, which has long taken the lion’s share of the market.  

PayPal acquired San Francisco startup Xoom in 2015 for more than $1b. 

Image: Canva 

Allied Payment Network appoints new COO

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Allied Payment Network appoints new COO

Allied Payment Network has appointed Kathi Klawitter as its chief operating officer.  

Klawitter will oversee the US-headquartered payments technology provider’s operation to support its “rapidly growing demand and market share, while accelerating service optimisation”.  

In her role, Klawitter will work on business development, client retention, product development and performance optimisation. 

She has more than 20 years of experience within the payments and fintech industries.  

Klawitter joins Allied from Fortune 500 company Fiserv, where she was head of operations and initiatives for the global business solutions division. 

Geoff Knapp, chief executive officer at Allied, commented: “Kathi has worked with community financial institutions her entire career, which puts her in the unique position of knowing exactly what it takes to nurture and grow those customer relationships.” 

Kathi Klawitter
Kathi Klawitter

 

Klawitter said: “I am thrilled to join Allied at this exciting time in their growth. I look forward to furthering its mission of bringing industry-first financial wellness and payments products to community financial institutions and the customers they serve.” 

Knapp was promoted to chief executive officer last month, having worked as chief growth officer since 2020. 

Image: Allied

Berlin-based Mondu secures $13m series A extension round

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Berlin-based Mondu secures $13m series A extension round

German B2B payments company Mondu has announced a $13m series A extension round led by Valor Ventures.  

The investment will be used to further its market growth and product development, as it explores new use cases for its payment products.  

The series A extension takes the total investment round to $56m, having raised $43m in May last year. Since starting in October 2021, it has secured $90m in equity and debt financing.  

New York venture capital firm FinTech Collective also took part in the latest funding round. 

Mondu co-founder and co-chief executive officer Philipp Povel said: “Buy now, pay later in B2B has established itself as a valuable tool to meet the business buyers’ expectations, providing a ‘consumer’ checkout experience and flexible payment. 

“We are confident that the demand for buy now, pay later for B2B will grow dramatically in 2023. There are many positive effects of this financial tool, not only for buyers but also merchants and marketplaces as they continue seeing basket sizes increase and enhanced loyalty of buyers.” 

Andrew McCormack, founding partner of Valar Ventures, commented: “We want to accelerate the execution of their vision further as Mondu continues to build a platform of B2B payments solutions to serve a variety of industries.” 

Gareth Jones, founding partner of FinTech Collective, added: “Thousands of businesses have already turned to Mondu’s solution, and the company has signed merchant customers across industries, including construction materials, electronics, beauty, cleaning, and manufacturing.”  

Wired Magazine selected Mondu as one of the hottest startups in Berlin last year.  

The city is one of Europe’s biggest tech hubs. A 2022 State of European Tech report ranked Berlin third behind London and Paris in capital investment. 

Image: Canva  

PayQuicker appoints Nazuk Jain to lead product development

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PayQuicker appoints Nazuk Jain to lead product development

US-headquartered global payouts platform PayQuicker has announced the appointment of Nazuk Jain as head of product. 

In this role, Jain will build out PayQuicker’s product team, and lead new initiatives in its payouts-as-a-service products. 

She will also focus on new and existing product development, with emphasis on ROI for customers and partners. 

Jain joins from Apple, where she was product manager for the retail online payments and affordability team.  

Prior to this, Jain was product manager at Wells Fargo, overseeing digital products in personal lending. She has also worked at J.P. Morgan.  

Nazuk Jain
Nazuk Jain

On her new role, Jain said: “My team will be focused on strengthening PayQuicker’s underlying technology solutions and furthering the company’s commitment to investing in and building products that serve the needs of payees, and particularly gig economy workers, across the globe.” 

Charles Rosenblatt, president of PayQuicker, added: “Nazuk will play a key factor in maintaining the top quality of our award-winning products and continuing to build out our offerings for our more than 300 clients and growing around the world.” 

The fintech, founded in 2007, launched Payouts OS last year, to address the needs of gig economy workers, the underbanked and small and medium-sized businesses. 

The new platform offers options for payouts, including virtual cards, bank transfers, crypto and global ewallets. 

Image: PayQuicker  

Regtech Cube acquires The Hub to boost AI capabilities

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Regtech Cube acquires The Hub to boost AI capabilities

London-headquartered regtech Cube has acquired The Hub to boost its artificial intelligence regulatory (ARI) technology.  

Cube’s ARI RegPlatform automates regulatory intelligence for organisations, which, it claims, reduces risk and compliance operating costs. 

It will integrate The Hub’s technology with its RegPlatform to provide additional capabilities for customers to automate their regulatory compliance processes. 

The acquisition follows Cube’s recent strategic growth investment from Bregal Milestone to further its geographical expansion. 

CUBE founder and chief executive officer, Ben Richmond, commented: “The acquisition of The Hub marks the first in what is expected to be a number of purposeful acquisitions for CUBE as a consolidator of regulatory compliance focused firms and technologies in what is a highly fragmented regtech market. 

“The Hub’s team and solutions are best in class and represent many synergies with CUBE’s own capabilities. 

Richmond added: “The current macro environment creates uncertainties for newer, less proven market entrants so it is ever more important that customers can be confident in selecting the right partner to support their long-term regulatory compliance strategy.” 

Juned Jable, The Hub co-founder and chief executive officer, added: “We have partnered with CUBE for some time and see this as a natural next step in more closely aligning both firms’ AI-driven regulatory technology.” 

Image: Cube  

UK insurtech Superscript secures £45m in series B funding

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UK insurtech Superscript secures £45m in series B funding

UK-based insurtech Superscript has secured £45m in a series B funding round.  

The funding will be used to develop its underwriting and broking capabilities, and grow its insurance products and services for international distribution.  

The insurtech, founded in 2015, also wants to expand its embedded partnership capabilities. 

BHL UK led the latest round, along with existing investor Concentric, and new investor and Fortune 500 insurer The Hartford. 

Superscript raised $10.4m in its series A round in 2020, led by BHL Holdings.  

Since its series A, Superscript has partnered with Amazon Business and Virgin Money Bank, landed a Lloyd’s of London broker licence, and launched a product for digital asset businesses.   

Cameron Shearer, chief executive officer and co-founder of Superscript, commented: “In the context of a challenging macroeconomic environment and shift in global investor appetites, this funding round represents a huge vote of confidence in what we’re building at Superscript.  

“The flexibility, customisation and affordability we offer puts us in a unique position to meet the insurance requirements of small businesses during turbulent times, as they navigate economic challenges this year.” 

Ian Leech, chief executive officer of BHL UK, said: “Superscript separates itself from other insurtechs through its unique distribution and underwriting capabilities, powered by proprietary machine-learning technology.” 

Stephanie Bush, head of small commercial and personal lines at The Hartford, added: “Superscript finds that most newly incorporated small businesses’ first insurance touchpoint is online, so its customer-centric approach alongside its machine-learning powered underwriting insights puts it in a strong position to penetrate this market successfully.” 

Image: Superscript 

Vodeno’s Wojciech Sobieraj on cloud tech, NatWest and embedded banking

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Vodeno’s Wojciech Sobieraj on cloud tech, NatWest and embedded banking

Wojciech Sobieraj, chief executive officer at Vodeno, has spent more than 30 years in the banking sector. He launched a successful Polish bank, Alior, before setting out to co-found Vodeno and Aion Bank. 

Now, NatWest Group has entered into a partnership with Vodeno that will see the creation of a banking-as-a-service (BaaS) business in the UK. 

The partnership will enable UK businesses to embed financial services products such as payments, deposits, point-of-sale credit and merchant cash advances directly into their ecosystem.  

NatWest committed £115m to the establishment of the new UK entity and a £50m investment in Vodeno Limited (which owns 100% of Vodeno and Aion Bank) to acquire an 18% minority stake. 

Fintech Intel spoke with Sobieraj to discuss how the partnership came about and the future of embedded banking. 

Could you tell me about Vodeno and your role at the company?  

I am the chief executive officer of Vodeno. The concept for Vodeno was to build a financial services technology company with the latest cloud technologies.  

A fully cloud-native banking platform did not exist at the time, so we built the Vodeno Cloud Platform (VCP) from the ground up with proprietary software that covers all aspects of retail and SME banking via hundreds of open APIs. 

We also knew that we needed to tap into fast-moving fintech innovation, so VCP is also a ‘360’ ecosystem with nearly 90 of the best fintechs integrated into the platform. 

How did the partnership with NatWest come about?   

NatWest Group is fully convinced—as we are—that BaaS and the emergence of embedded banking in favourite consumer brands is the future of banking.  

NatWest wanted to tap into the massive opportunity in the UK, and chose to partner with us because of the strength or our platform that complements the business banking technology they had already built.  

What does Vodeno offer to NatWest, that it can’t do in-house?  

NatWest Group business banking app Mettle built a standalone core banking and payments capability, and VCP will provide the core technology to enable the deployment of BaaS services.  

VCP can cover the full spectrum of banking services, from ‘smart contract-enabled’ core banking and accounts to payments, lending and investments, and both for retail and corporate end users, allowing for our solutions to be flexible and modular to client needs. 

How will the partnership benefit businesses and consumers?   

For brands, embedding financial services into their offering in order to deliver a seamless customer experience is critical.  

Retailers, ecommerce brands, travel companies—there are many examples of businesses in non-banking sectors that can reap the rewards of integrating banking, lending or payment products directly into their ecosystem. 

According to research from J.P. Morgan, companies that embed payments into their platforms see a two- to five-time increase in revenue per customer.  

For consumers, a seamless checkout experience—one that does not require them to register or enter personal details, and be able to remain on the brand’s website—is the perfect customer journey, leading to more purchases and increased visits.  

How do you think embedded finance will influence the financial services sector in the future?   

Our belief is that in the 21st century consumers do not need another retail bank, but they do need better banking; fairer, end-to-end digital and more accessible.  

In the next 10 years, we believe traditional branch-based banking will be less prominent because most brands will embed financial services naturally where transactions occur.  

The next big banking trend will be ‘platform banking’ via brands people use every day. Embedded finance is making this possible.  

What are the future plans for Vodeno?  

We have many clients on our books and are scaling fast across Europe. We are seeing tremendous interest from non-regulated companies that are looking to embed financial services products to keep up with competitors and grow their business.  

With all this momentum, our ambition is to become one of the top BaaS providers in Europe across the next three years. 

Image: Vodeno 

Twenty7tec announces its second acquisition of the year

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Twenty7tec announces its second acquisition of the year

UK fintech Twenty7tec has acquired the remaining shares of engagement solutions provider Meet Parker for an undisclosed sum.  

Meet Parker has a range of AI solutions to engage customers and answer questions prior to being passed on to a real-person adviser, which, it claims, helps to convert and retain customers. 

Twenty7tec plans to integrate Meet Parker’s solutions into in its Velocity platform, allowing advisers across wealth and mortgage markets to use the AI tech to improve retention and increase lead generation.  

This acquisition comes days after the announcement that Twenty7tec had acquired mortgage affordability platform Broker Sense.  

Broker Sense’s platform will be integrated into Twenty7tec’s mortgage research module, SOURCE, to support advisers in delivering the right recommendations for their clients.  

Commenting on the latest purchase, James Tucker, chief executive officer of Twenty7tec, said: “Our overriding ambition is to simplify, streamline and digitise financial services. 

“Over the last eight years, we have seen the huge benefits that great technology brings to the advice market. Our acquisition of Meet Parker, and the deployment of their artificial intelligence-led technology to all our users, is the obvious next step for us.” 

Freddie Savundra, founder of Meet Parker, added: “Twenty7tec’s previous acquisition of Bluecoat Software in 2022 showed the company’s commitment to creating a seamless client journey with best of breed technology, which is the foundation of what we are trying to achieve here.” 

Image: Twenty7tec  

TMX invests in data analytics company VettaFi

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TMX invests in data analytics company VettaFi

Exchange operator TMX Group has announced a strategic investment in US-headquartered data analytics company VettaFi. 

The Canada-based group, owner of the Toronto Stock Exchange, has taken a 21% stake in VettaFi for C$234m (US£175m).  

The deal includes a commercial agreement to accelerate TMX Datalinx’s expansion, adding new sets of index and exchange-traded fund (ETF) services.  

John McKenzie, chief executive officer of TMX Group and Jay Rajarathinam, its chief operating officer, will join the VettaFi board of directors as part of the deal. 

VettaFi provides a suite of global indices through its index factory and ETF services, including analytics, databases and distribution. 

Rajarathinam commented: “We are excited to announce a significant investment in VettaFi, which includes a commercial agreement that will accelerate TMX’s global index strategy and increase the depth and value of data-driven insights we provide to clients around the world. 

“We look forward to working together to explore ways to combine TMX Datalinx’s data sets and capabilities with VettaFi’s comprehensive services and expertise to further enhance our offerings.” 

Leland Clemons, chief executive officer of VettaFi, added: “Together we’ll seek out new innovative opportunities for investors of all sizes around the world to thrive, by creating new products and digital communities and transforming traditional distribution.” 

Image: Canva  

Securrency names new CEO

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Securrency names new CEO

Regtech company Securrency has appointed Nadine Chakar as its new chief executive officer. 

Chakar will lead Securrency’s next stage of growth as it “accelerates commercialisation of compliance-driven digital asset technology for financial institutions”.  

Chakar has served as a member of the board of directors of US-headquartered Securrency since 2021. 

She has more than 30 years of experience in global wealth and asset management. Most recently, she was executive vice president and head of State Street Digital.  

Prior to State Street, she was global head of operations for Manulife’s global wealth and assest management division and led the global asset servicing teams for BNY Mellon.  

Securrency said in a statement that her appointment “highlights the growing importance of compliance aware tokenisation, interoperability, and institutional DeFi to the future of global finance”.  

Nadine Chakar
Nadine Chakar

On her new role, Chakar said: “The financial services industry is at a critical tipping point as it tokenises regulated real-world assets and automates legacy financial processes using the power of blockchain technology.  

“My priority is to accelerate the commercialisation of what is in essence the digital asset intelligence and interoperability foundation for major financial institutions and the global ecosystem.”  

Dan Doney, co-founder and chief technology officer of Securrency, commented: “Nadine shares my passion for innovation, and we are united in our determination to make financial markets more accessible and efficient.  

“She has a razor-sharp view of where reform is needed and how our technology can help. I am excited to work with Nadine as we focus on evolving our solution to bridge traditional and decentralised finance.”    

Chakar’s appointment will allow Doney, who has served as the company’s chief executive officer since its inception, to focus on innovation, technology delivery and commercialisation as the chief technology officer. 

Jonathan Steinberg, chief executive officer of WisdomTree, a lead investor in Securrency, added: “The future of finance relies on regulation-forward and compliance-driven digital development and Nadine has long been a driver of this evolution.”  

Chakar has been named as one of the most powerful women in finance by American Banker. 

Image: Securrency  

Duck Creek Technologies to acquire Imburse Payments

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Duck Creek Technologies to acquire Imburse Payments

US-based Duck Creek Technologies has agreed to acquire Imburse Payments, a cloud-based payments platform. 

Switzerland-headquartered Imburse’s software-as-a-service payments solution is designed for the insurance industry. 

Imburse claims the platform brings greater ease and efficiency into end-to-end insurance transactions, as it enables insurance carriers to connect to the payments ecosystem at a lower cost, integrate with existing finance infrastructure and processes, and manage multiple partners for collections and disbursements, all in one place.  

Imburse’s platform will still be available on a standalone basis and will also be fully integrated with Duck Creek’s solutions. 

Mike Jackowski, chief executive officer of Duck Creek Technologies, said: “Imburse has developed a great product for the global insurance industry that is not only easy to integrate and implement, but also gives carriers incredible flexibility and payment choices. 

“Imburse has a strong team that embodies Duck Creek’s core values. They have deep expertise across the payments ecosystem and will help to broaden Duck Creek’s insurance industry leadership.”  

As part of Duck Creek, Imburse plans to expand across Europe and into North America and the Asia Pacific. 

Oliver Werneyer, chief executive officer of Imburse, added: “Being part of Duck Creek will further accelerate our mission to simplify how businesses around the world access the global payments ecosystem. 

“We are excited to be part of Duck Creek and to work jointly to deliver modern technology innovations that transform the insurance industry for the future.”  

The acquisition is expected to close in the second fiscal quarter of 2023.  

In August last year, Imburse struck an integration partnership with insurance software firm Sapiens International. 

The partnership enabled insurers that work with Sapiens to connect to the global payments ecosystem through a single connection, giving them more choice in how they pay, and their policyholders receive, claims payouts. 

Image: Duck Creek 

 

Welcome.Place launches refugee ‘first aid’ card in France

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Welcome.Place launches refugee ‘first aid’ card in France

Welcome.Place has launched a pilot project to distribute prepaid Visa cards to Ukranian refugees arriving in France. 

Refugees and immigrants will receive a welcome package containing a prepaid Visa card that is pre-loaded with funds to spend on a range of items and services within their first weeks in the country. 

It will initially focus on Ukranian refugees who have arrived in France since the start of the war last February. 

Since then, an estimated 8m people have fled Ukraine, with around 120,000 in France now registered under official assistance programmes. 

Neobank Welcome.Place teamed up with Enfuce, a payment service provider, and Epassi, an employee benefit app provider, for the project. 

Spending controls can be set on each card, including where and how it can be used, and track how money is spent. 

Payments on activities such as gambling and gaming can also be blocked on the cards.  

Once the pilot project has been completed, a larger contract will be signed in 2023 to expand the programme, to serve more refugees and bring onboard more NGOs.  

Rooh Savar, co-founder and chief executive officer of Welcome.Place, arrived in France as a refugee in 2009. He commented: “When I arrived, I didn’t have a bank account while I had a few income assets. But when I had no more cash, I was not able to buy anything. 

“After a few months, I was finally able to open a bank account, but without the card that would allow me to withdraw money from ATMs or pay in stores or online. 

“This situation lasted for over a year and negatively impacted my personal and professional life. We created Welcome.Place to make sure that every newcomer could have access to banking solutions suited to his/her situation.”   

Caroline Span, co-founder of Welcome.Place, added: “In the first stage, our goal is to provide a service that assists 50,000 Ukrainian and other refugees by the end of 2023.”  

“This new card can transform the lives of refugees arriving in Europe, empowering them with the dignity to buy what they need through a card that looks like any other bank card.” 

Image: Canva  

The Clearing House names new CEO

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The Clearing House names new CEO

The Clearing House (TCH) has named David Watson as its new chief executive officer. 

He will replace current president and chief executive officer Jim Aramanda, who is retiring in the coming months. 

Watson will join from Swift, where he was chief product officer. In this role, Watson was responsible for the company’s product engineering, development and innovation.  

Prior to Swift, Watson spent 17 years at Deutsche Bank in a number of commercial and product leadership roles.  

Commenting on the transition, Brian Moynihan, Bank of America chair and chief executive officer and chair of The Clearing House supervisory board, said: “The Clearing House’s supervisory board is grateful for Jim Aramanda’s long-standing service to the organisation.

“During Jim’s tenure, TCH continued its critical role in delivering ultra-reliable payments capabilities to the US financial system, but importantly, also introduced innovative new payments capabilities. This includes the RTP network, which is now delivering real-time payments capabilities.” 

David Watson
David Watson

On Watson’s appointment, Moynihan added: “We are very pleased to welcome David Watson to lead The Clearing House. David brings extensive payments experience, in-depth expertise in the field, and a strong track record of innovation.  

“David will continue TCH’s important work of driving adoption of real-time payments capabilities and focusing on the safety, security, reliability, and efficiency of bank-owned payment systems which are critical to the financial system.” 

The Clearing House operates US-based payments networks that clear and settle more than $2t each day through wire, check image and real-time payments. 

Image: The Clearing House

ADIB launches wearable payments tech

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ADIB launches wearable payments tech

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) has launched ADIB PAY, a tokenised, contactless payment method designed to transform any watch, ring or bracelet. 

ADIB has partnered with wearable contactless payments technology provider Tappy Technologies and Visa to provide the product, initially to select customers. 

It involves a tokenised contactless payment clasp that can be attached to any wearable.  

To set up, a customer’s ADIB Visa card must be tokenised via the ADIB PAY app. This is then connected to the chip within the payment clasp. 

The ‘tokenisation’ is key, because the process protects vulnerable data by replacing it with a temporary value generated as a series of numbers, called a ‘token’. 

Samih Awadhalla, acting global head of retail banking at ADIB, said: “We are proud to launch the region’s first tokenised, contactless payment clasp with our partners Tappy Technologies and Visa.  

“ADIB PAY demonstrates our commitment to offering simplicity and convenience to our customers.” 

Wayne Leung, chief executive officer of Tappy Technologies, added: “With the Tappy developed UPPU (Universal Passive Provisioning Unit) technology, consumers can digitise their payment cards within seconds and transform their traditional timepiece into a contactless payment accessory without ever needing to recharge it.” 

The UAE is aiming to keep up with the increasing demand for contactless payments. A recent survey found that 45% of consumers in the jurisdiction said they are more likely to use the payment method in the future. 

Salima Gutieva, vice president and country manager for UAE at Visa, commented: “Wearable tech is a fast-growing segment, especially as the young and digitally savvy generations increasingly demand a seamless cashless payment experience. 

“By combining Tappy’s technology with our highly secure tokenization technology, ADIB can meet their customers’ need for security and convenience at a time when contactless payments are very important.” 

Image: Canva