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Goldman Sachs chooses Marqeta’s card issuing platform for Marcus

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Goldman Sachs chooses Marqeta's card issuing platform for Marcus

Goldman Sachs will use Marqeta’s card issuing platform to underpin its Marcus current accounts when they launch later this year.

Marcus, the global financial services firm’s digital banking arm for consumers, will take advantage of different capabilities offered by Marqeta’s card issuing platform, including open APIs and webhooks, as well as a cutting-edge developer experience.

Omer Ismail, global head of the consumer business at Goldman Sachs, says “integrating with Marqeta’s platform will allow us to create a personalised, feature-rich banking experience for our checking customers”.

The partnership with Marqeta follows reports that Goldman Sachs is considering a number of acquisitions to boost Marcus, in a bid to lessen global firm’s reliance on trading and investment banking revenues.

According to Reuters, digital businesses that bring in new customers or unique technologies would be attractive to Goldman Sachs as potential acquisitions.

Jason Gardner, founder and chief executive officer of US-headquartered Marqeta, says the partnership with Goldman Sachs is “a true validation of the power of our technology.”

He continues: “Our modern card issuing platform helps digital innovators build the sorts of customer experiences that can be industry game changers, and we’re looking forward to working alongside Marcus to bring a powerful new digital banking experience to life.”

Marqeta extended its global partnership with Mastercard in October 2020.

The partnership extension will see the companies expand into new geographies, open access to new products, and launch additional card programmes together.

Mastercard also made an undisclosed financial investment in Marqeta as part of the partnership extension.

Infineon issues new employee ID card with payment functionality

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Infineon issues new employee ID card with payment functionality

Semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies is replacing the employee ID cards at its headquarters in Germany with a solution that combines highly secured office building access and a flexible, contactless Mastercard payment function.

Employees based at Infineon’s Am Campeon building in Munich can enter company buildings and the workplace, make cashless payments, or transmit their digital business card using near-field-communication (NFC).

Called the Campeon Card, the smart card solution was built in partnership with Mastercard, PayCenter and petaFuel.

Infineon will be responsible for managing and issuing the employee ID card, which was developed to comply with the EMV standard for chip-based payment solutions and readers used internationally.

This means the Campeon Card can be used at work at coffee machines or in company restaurants, for example, but also outside Infineon premises at all 70 million Mastercard acceptance points worldwide.

At the heart of the Campeon Card is Infineon’s SECORA Pay solution, which enables the quick and efficient production of certified payment cards according to EMV standards.

The CIPURSE functionality integrated into the Campeon Card’s chip allows secure access to company buildings. The solution tends to be deployed in innovative transit, access and smart city systems.

Thomas Rosteck, president of Infineon‘s connected secure systems division, says: “Infineon set standards for a modern and creative working environment very early on with the campus architecture at its headquarters. We continue to do so with the new employee ID cards.”

“Contactless technologies are convenient and hygienic which has never been more important than today to protect us from the Corona pandemic. But contactless smart building solutions that combine multiple functions in one card are also becoming increasingly important in the long term.”

Payment service provider petaFuel is responsible for integrating the Mastercard payment function.

Infineon employees can use petaFuel’s mobile payment app, VIMpay, to digitally link their bank account to their company card for direct charging via their computer or smartphone. Mobile payments via smartphone are also possible.

The VIMpay app also provides a transparent overview of all transactions and instant spending control.

Ludwig Adam, chief technology officer at petaFuel, says: “Together with Infineon and Mastercard, we have developed an innovative and multifunctional corporate card with contactless payment functionality.”

“By connecting to Mastercard and the existing infrastructure, our mobile payment app VIMpay offers an ideal platform for companies and public authorities to introduce individual smart card applications with payment features and to modernise their building infrastructure.”

Acin aims to take advantage of its momentum

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Acin aims to take advantage of its momentum

Last year was an important one for UK-based risktech company Acin, a data and knowledge-sharing network focused on quantifying, standardising and digitising operational risk, as it embarked on its next stage of growth.

When FinTech Intel last spoke to founder and chief executive officer Paul Ford, Acin had 15 investment banks on its network, including Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered and Société Générale. Set up in 2017 and launched a year later, the regtech company was well placed to “connect financial services firms around operational risk and make the whole business safer”.

Then, of course, Covid-19 happened. Amid a global pandemic, no-one really knew what was coming next. Lockdowns, social distancing, working from home—every day of 2020 brought something new.

Ford predicted that financial organisations around the world would look “for creative ways to cope with their own challenges of managing decentralised teams as social distancing kicks in”. He said: “For many, this will stress the application of their risks and controls definitions in the face of new and un-envisaged scenarios—or ‘unknown unknowns’.”

Acin’s network and the data and peer-sourced insights that the company curates and publishes could prove “key to helping these firms—and the authorities that they answer to”, he continued. It was just a question of making some of those ‘unknowns’ known.

Fast forward to October 2020 and Ford’s predictions were proving correct. Despite the pandemic, Acin was able to raise $12 million in series A funding to spearhead efforts to create a complete front-to-back-office solution to assess and manage operational and non-financial risks. The company has also grown its team from 20 to over 50 colleagues and associates since September 2020.

‘Covid-19 was one big operational risk event’

Acin aims to take advantage of its momentum (2)
Paul Ford, founder and chief executive officer, Acin

Ford tells FinTech Intel today: “Covid-19 was one big operational risk event, so there was no longer any need to explain Acin’s role. Everyone we spoke to was experiencing it for themselves.”

Operational risk, unlike credit or market risk, lacks standardisation and digitisation, so it’s weighed and measured on an individual basis, to the best of the ability of each financial services institution in question.

Increasingly, institutions are recognising the importance of their operational risk data, its provenance and integrity—the days of using Microsoft Excel-based solutions are numbered as the value of the data is more fully appreciated.

The pandemic brought home the need for a better way of handling operational risk, through both digitisation and sharing the burden through collaboration.

Acin reacted quickly to the outbreak of Covid-19 in February and March across much of the world. The company was inundated with requests from network members to find out how other firms were coping, so proceeded to publish as much relevant data as possible and deliver intelligence to its network.

Acin also went ahead as planned with a front-end launch in April 2020, given the need for platforms such as its own to be accessed remotely as network members around the world moved staff members off site.

Ford comments: “We have had lots of opportunities to help organisations move along their digital journey and help make everything more secure. For example, a hybrid office and home working model is emerging, requiring technology that can be used and integrated in a number of different ways.”

He adds that the online community that Acin manages has become essential during the pandemic, proving the importance of a network of financial institutions such as its own.

Acin’s series A investors, European software-as-a-service investor Notion Capital and Fitch Ventures, the investment arm of US-based ratings agency Fitch, recognised this importance and were quick to connect with the company once the initial shock of the pandemic wore off.

Conducting such a large fundraise amid a pandemic and restrictions on travel was unusual, Ford says, but not impossible. He found it easier to build rapport with investors than he’d expected.

The whole process, conducted via video conferencing, lacked the personal touch of face-to-face meetings, but it was certainly more efficient, he says.

Investors are bringing more to Acin than just capital investment

Both Notion and Fitch are bringing more to Acin than just capital investment, which will be used to enhance Acin’s cloud-based Terminal solution with additional inventories of risks and controls, extended functionality, software extensions, and integrated benchmarking.

Notion Capital is helping to build Acin as a company and holds a seat on its board. Fitch Ventures, meanwhile, brings significant credit risk expertise, and can offer insights into working with credit risk analysts and experience of turning data into intelligence for the wider market.

Investor interest was reflected in several awards last year. Acin won the RegTech Initiative Award at the UK FinTech Awards in November 2020. The company was also highly commended at the Regulation Asia Awards for Excellence and won Most Innovative Third-Party Technology Vendor—Trading, Risk and Compliance at the American Financial Technology Awards.

Acin plans to “improve and enhance” its investment bank offering in 2021, with a view to adopting a regional approach in the expansion of its network. Ford intends to enter the asset management market in the next 12 months and retail banking after that.

Acin has also explored healthcare as a possible market for its solution, with a proof of concept identifying several similarities with financial services.

Ford says a consultancy firm was commissioned to further explore healthcare as a potential market, “because we now have the backing to take advantage of our momentum”.

UK FinTech Awards 2021 is open for entries

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UK FinTech Awards 2021 is open for entries

The UK FinTech Awards is returning to celebrate the innovation, ingenuity and successes of the fintech communities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Entries for 2021 are now open. The entry deadline is 26 February. All that’s required to enter is a written submission of between 250 and 1,000 words, or a three-minute video.

Twenty-five categories will recognise the full spectrum of fintech products, services and solutions, as well as company achievements and the innovation and commitment of leading individuals.

Independent judging panels made up of experts from across the UK, all chosen for their expertise, experience and positions in financial services, will assess entries, formulate the shortlist and select the winners. Judges will be announced soon.

The UK FinTech Awards launched in 2020, amid the global pandemic. But the fintech communities in the UK stood up and were counted as innovative yet reliable providers of much-needed products, services and solutions.

They were recognised during a widely watched online broadcast in November. Congratulations are due once again to all of the 2020 winners and finalists.

Left top: RegTech Initiative Award, Acin
Left bottom: Payments Tech Award, Curve
Right: Online Initiative of the Year and Team of the Year, Refinitiv
Left: InsurTech Award, Cuuva
Right: Personal Finance Tech Award, Wealthify

Winners of the UK FinTech Awards 2021 will be announced during an in-person ceremony on 20 May at Leonardo Royal London St Paul’s.

FinTech Intel also recently launched the inaugural Asia, European and US FinTech Awards so that fintech companies of all stripes, shapes and sizes can now seek the recognition they deserve.

Visit fintechawardsasia.com, fintechawardseurope.com or usfintechawards.com to learn more about these awards and find how you can enter.

IHS Markit acquires regtech provider Cappitech

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IHS Markit acquires regtech provider Cappitech

Financial data and intelligence company IHS Markit is expanding its suite of global, multi-asset class transaction regulatory reporting offerings to financial services providers with the acquisition of Cappitech.

Cappitech, a private company based in Israel, provides robust regulatory reporting, best execution analysis and business intelligence solutions, allowing customers to efficiently comply with transaction reporting regulations across multiple jurisdictions in one place.

The firm’s scalable cloud-based platform is relied on by more than 200 global banks, brokers, asset managers, hedge funds and corporations, and its products and technology have received numerous industry awards.

In 2019, IHS Markit selected Cappitech’s platform as a key component of its Securities Financing Transactions Regulation (SFTR) solution, which is now relied on by some of the largest financial institutions in the world.

Capitalising on the established relationship and existing integration, the acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, will deliver unified solutions to the market and solidify IHS Markit’s continued commitment to providing industry-leading regulatory reporting solutions.

Pierre Khemdoudi, managing director of global equities at IHS Markit, says: “Regulatory reporting demands will continue to grow rapidly around the globe and customers are looking for a reliable, frictionless and cost-effective way to comply with requirements across jurisdictions.” 

“Cappitech’s platform complements our existing offering, enabling us to provide the most comprehensive and scalable integrated financial regulatory service to customers.”

Ronen Kertis, chief executive officer and founder at Cappitech, comments: “We are excited to join a company that shares our passion for providing best-of-breed regulatory reporting solutions and looking forward to expanding our existing commitment to the industry.”

“Based on our extensive engagement with IHS Markit over the past two years, we are confident that combining our mutual successes and sector expertise will enable us to accelerate our product enhancement and services for the benefit of our global clients.”

How to enter FinTech Intel’s awards

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How to enter FinTech Intel's awards

Fintech companies of all stripes, shapes and sizes can now seek the recognition they deserve with the launch of FinTech Intel’s inaugural Asia, European and US FinTech Awards.

Set to be held virtually in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and following the success of the UK FinTech Awards in November 2020, the three events dedicated to fintech communities in and serving Asia, Europe and the US will be held on 27 and 28 April 2021.

The entry deadline for each event is 26 February 2021.

Visit fintechawardsasia.com, fintechawardseurope.com or usfintechawards.com to learn more about these awards and the categories.

In the meantime, follow these simple steps and you’ll produce a submission that our independent panel of judges will find clear, concise and compelling.

Pick your categories: There are lots of categories to choose from. Read the criteria carefully for each and decide which will give you the best opportunity to demonstrate your strengths.

Choose the form of your entry: Make sure every submission is unique for the category that you’re entering. We accept written submissions of between 250 and 1,000 words per category. Written submissions are at their best after several drafts, with input from everyone involved. Remember that your entry needs to stand out from the crowd, so keep it active, free of jargon, and don’t forget to proofread your words before entering. Alternatively, you can enter a video submission. You’ll have a maximum of three minutes to demonstrate why you, your team or business should win the particular category. Videos are easy to digest and revisit, and they allow the judges to put a face to an entry.

Submit your nomination online via the entry form: Entries can only be accepted via the entry form. Fill out all of the required information, and make sure you choose the correct category from the list. The form must be filled out and submitted for every category. The form removes all formatting, so don’t worry about italics, bolding, underlining or hyperlinking, as these won’t make it through our system. Furthermore, no supporting documents and attachments are allowed, so don’t use the attach buttons for CVs, promo videos, PDFs and Word docs—these won’t make it through our system, either. For written submissions, input your 250 to 1,000 words in the ‘Reason Why’ box. For video entries, fill out the form, except the ‘Reason Why’ box, and submit your video via WeTransfer to simon.krawczynski@barkerbrooks.co.uk.

Attach your logo: If you make it to the shortlist, we’ll need a high resolution version of your logo for the ceremony and marketing campaigns. We accept the .JPEG, .PNG and .PDF formats, but prefer .EPS wherever possible. If you don’t have this, don’t worry.

Attach nominee’s photo: This is for the individual awards. Colour photos are preferred, and high resolution .JPEG is best.

Sit back and wait for news: That’s it, you’re done! Approximately two weeks following the entry deadline, our judging panel will convene to make their final decisions. We’ll then get in touch with every finalist to give them the good news.

NBX eyes banking licence after funding boost

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NBX eyes banking licence after funding boost

The Norwegian Block Exchange (NBX) is on course to obtain a banking licence and become a preferred digital assets services provider in the Nordics after securing $7.12 million in funding.

The funding, arranged via private placement by Nordic investment bank Pareto Securities, which served as sole manager and book runner, provides NBX with the “financial robustness” required to become one of Europe’s first digital assets banks.

Launched in April 2020, NBX is a Norwegian cryptocurrency exchange, custodian and payment system.

It started as a spin-off from Norwegian Air Shuttle to introduce cryptocurrency payments to the air industry, and was set up by Bank Norwegian founder Bjørn Kjos.

Kjos says the $7.12 million in funding will enable the provider to build on its success in the Nordics, which has seen it attract more than 7,000 clients, including institutional accounts, and grow trading volume up to $2.38 million.

He continues: “This funding will provide NBX with the financial robustness to pursue a banking license, and become one of Europe’s first digital assets banks, while simultaneously expanding our services to new countries and establishing NBX as the preferred digital asset service provider in the Nordics.”

NBX plans to develop further relationships with institutional clients that are considering cryptocurrencies in wealth management.

Oxygen raises $17 million for digital banking platform

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Oxygen raises $17 million for digital banking platform

San Francisco-headquartered digital banking platform Oxygen plans to use the $17 million raised from its series A funding round to scale its team, accelerate growth and continue to build products for consumers and small businesses.

The series A round attracted investors such as Runa Capital, S7V, 1984.vc, EFG Hermes, Rucker Park and Inventures, as well as Frank Strauss, a long-time Deutsche Bank retail banking executive.

Strauss, who will serve as strategic adviser to Oxygen, believes the platform is “offering something truly different for consumers and small businesses”.

Oxygen only launched in January 2020 but has already opened more than 125,000 accounts and achieved a 969X revenue increase.

Its consumer and small business accounts have no minimum balance or monthly fees, are US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured via a partnership with The Bancorp Bank, and come with a Visa debit card that includes cash-back rewards on selected everyday spending categories and merchants.

“Oxygen is the premier banking platform for today’s digital consumer,” comments Andre Bliznyuk, general partner of Runa Capital, which led the series A round.

“Their all-in-one banking app serves both consumers and businesses, ranging from tech-savvy consumers who are just looking for a better banking experience to burgeoning entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for digital banking solutions that meet their strict requirements. It’s banking done better.”

Hussein Ahmed, chief executive officer of Oxygen, says the digital banking platform’s team is “humbled that our investors are putting their faith in us with this most recent round of funding”.

Ahmed continues: “This investment not only validates what we’ve built but also enables us to continue pursuing our vision of building financial tools that integrate seamlessly with the digital world of today and delight our customers.”

“We founded Oxygen because we wanted to provide financial services in the same way people interact with technology in their everyday lives. We didn’t see that and believe this led to exclusion for many. This is an important milestone, but we are just getting started.”

InvestSuite lands €3m in new funding

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InvestSuite lands €3m in new funding
InvestSuite co-founders Laurent Sorber and Bart Vanhaeren

Wealth technology company InvestSuite intends to build on the digital transformation momentum brought about by the pandemic with €3 million in new funding.

InvestSuite, a provider of cloud-based modular wealth and investment technology solutions to financial institutions, has raised €9 million since inception in 2018.

Existing investor PMV invested an additional €800.000 in the latest funding round, alongside AB Accelerator, 365.fintech and other investors.

Headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, with presences in London, Sydney, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Madrid and Amsterdam, InvestSuite has enjoyed significant growth since March.

The company has increased from 25 people to 45, added multiple senior hires, and expanded its development and quant teams.

Bart Vanhaeren, chief executive officer and co-founder of InvestSuite, believes the pandemic “has strongly accelerated the digital wealth transformation journeys in our key financial services verticals, and our rapidly expanding global pipeline. The funding allows us to hone in on these opportunities.”

Laurent Sorber, chief technology officer and co-founder, adds: “Covid-19 has shown that we can remotely sell, build and deliver enterprise solutions to our global customer base.”

Kris Vandenberk, senior investment manager at investor PMV, agrees: “The pandemic has forced wealth managers to step up its digital efforts. InvestSuite provides a suite of differentiating solutions to expedite this digital transformation journey.”

“We’re excited to continue supporting InvestSuite on that mission and their global expansion ambitions.”

InvestSuite offers three white-labelled solutions in the wealth and investment spaces.

Robo Advisor enables financial institutions to offer personal financial advice to mass affluent customers and high-net-worth individuals, while Self Investor is an execution-only investment platform for retail investors.

StoryTeller, meanwhile, uses machine learning and storytelling techniques to outline the performance of an end customer’s portfolio.

In addition to these solutions, InvestSuite has also defined its own measure of risk, iVaR, which is at the heart of its portfolio construction framework and enables financial institutions to deliver personalised portfolios at-scale to their clients.

Billhop partners with OmaSp to boost Finnish business cash flow

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Billhop partners with OmaSp to boost Finnish business cash flow

A new partnership between Billhop and Oma Säästöpankki Oyj (OmaSp) will help Finnish businesses improve their cash flow and close their liquidity gap.

Billhop, a Nordic fintech company headquartered in Stockholm, enables businesses and individuals to pay invoices with credit cards, regardless of whether the end beneficiary accepts card payments or not.

With support from Visa Finland, OmaSp, the country’s largest savings bank, has launched a new business credit card product that will provide access to Billhop’s service at a preferential rate.

Paying with the new OmaSp commercial card via Billhop will enable Finnish businesses to improve their working capital. Cash flow changes do not take effect until the card statement is due.

This partnership follows Billhop’s collaboration with Visa in Ireland earlier this year and a period of significant growth in the commercial space. It has launched in several European markets.

Billhop chief executive officer Sebastian Andreescu says: “The cooperation with OmaSp marks an important step in commercial issuer cooperation. We see the interest for Billhop’s service increase among issuers as they are experiencing significant reduction in overall travel and entertainment volumes as a consequence of Covid-19.”

“The foremost obstacle in the B2B space is low card acceptance and Billhop instantly removes this hurdle and makes all supplier payments card-accessible.”

Billhop chief financial officer Ingemar Sjögren is enthusiastic about working with OmaSp and launching the product in Finland: “Billhop’s service will be available to OmaSp’s customers at a much lower price, which will help thousands of Finnish companies improve their cash flow and close their liquidity gap. Billhop already has more than 50,000 satisfied customers across Europe.”

Riikka Salminen, country manager for Visa Finland, Sweden and the Baltics, adds: “I am pleased to launch our cooperation with Billhop with the help of OmaSp. This launch is of a special significance to us, as the new OmaSp Visa business credit card is the very first of its kind in Finland.”

BNPL fintech Zilch raises $30 million

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BNPL fintech Zilch raises $30 million

UK fintech company Zilch, a buy now, pay later (BNPL) specialist, is celebrating a four-fold customer registration increase and the closing of its oversubscribed pre-series B funding round.

Zilch intends to scale its business in the coming months. The fintech company secured an additional $30 million equity funding from its pre-series B round, from investors such as Gauss Ventures and Simon Nixon, co-founder of Money Supermarket, taking its reported total raised to $40 million.

The new funding follows Zilch’s consumer credit authorisation in the UK, a quadruple increase in customer registration numbers over the past six months, and 100% month-on-month transaction volume growth.

Zilch’s business centres on its ‘over the top’ BNPL model that requires no technical integration with retailers. Users pay 25% upfront for a purchase from a participating retailer. Payments are then spread out over a six week period. 

The fintech company leverages its strategic partnership with Mastercard to provide this service, allowing it to offer data-driven credit assessment technology that focuses on optimising its users’ cash flow while preventing over indebtedness.

Zilch chief executive officer and founder Philip Belamant explains: “Zilch ensures customers never over-borrow. We make use of open banking and AI along with soft credit checks to determine each customer’s level of affordability. As a result, Zilch’s customers rarely default and make use of the product as a cash flow management tool, which has proven to be of huge value to our customers.”

Jason Lane, executive vice president of market development in Europe at Mastercard comments: “Zilch is helping shoppers manage their cash flow in a way that suits them best and we are excited to partner with innovative fintechs, such as Zilch, across Europe as we scale innovative payment solutions that improve people’s lives.”

Zilch is an ‘exciting and disruptive’ new player

Belamant is “excited and humbled” by the investor and customer response to the fintech company’s product.

Belamant continued: “This is what sets us apart from other BNPL players in the market today and what continues to drive us in creating a new category—we want and can help people during these difficult times as our systems self adapt to the socio-economic conditions of the day and we feel privileged to be in a position to do so.”

Commenting on the investment, Nikita Tchesnokov, partner of Gauss Ventures, says “Zilch is one of the most exciting and disruptive new players to enter the BNPL market.”

“The company sets itself apart by engaging customers at the beginning of the buying journey and giving them a seamless, interest free method of purchase.”

Conio partners with Banca Generali to take cryptocurrency mainstream in Italy

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Conio partners with Banca Generali to take cryptocurrency mainstream in Italy

Italian private bank Banca Generali is entering the cryptocurrency market through a new partnership with local fintech company Conio, a wallet provider offering bitcoin custody, negotiation and reporting services.

Banca Generali has taken a $14 million stake in Conio to support the fintech company’s growth and the distribution of its products as part of the Italian private bank’s range of digital services offered to its customers.

Conio, founded in 2015 by co-chief executive officers Christian Miccoli and Vincenzo di Nicola, is known for ensuring secure custody and reducing counterparty risk. Its digital currency custody system requires multiple signatures through three security keys.

The fintech company, based in Milan, Italy, and San Francisco in the US, currently serves more than 150,000 cryptocurrency portfolios for Italian customers.

Banca Generali believes “the future structure of financial markets will be influenced by blockchain technology, which continues to enable innovation in cryptocurrencies and many other areas of the financial ecosystem”, according to chief executive officer and general manager Gian Maria Mossa.

Mossa continues: “Some central banks have already begun studies and projects to introduce digital currencies alongside traditional systems; global payment systems players are including this new world in their business models; and in Switzerland we are seeing the creation of the first banks based on blockchain systems.”

“In this context, the agreement with Conio means an expansion of the services offered to our customers and collaborating with an innovation-oriented partner.”

“We can thus continue to develop our open-banking platform expanding our offering with industry leading innovative solutions.”

Miccoli adds: “This agreement with Banca Generali is a significant step towards a new era for the whole financial system with more traditional financial institutions opening the way for collaboration between the established and the new players.”

“After ten years of development and industrial stabilisation, cryptocurrencies are now entering into a tangible new phase, debuting on the financial institutions’ range of services.”

“With this transaction, Banca Generali is positioning Italy as a leading country in Europe in the race towards the development of these new technologies.”

Tink secures €85 million in funding

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Tink secures €85 million in funding
Tink co-founders Daniel Kjellén (CEO) and Fredrik Hedberg (CTO)

Open banking company Tink is planning to expand development of its payment initiation services across Europe and deliver new data products after completing an €85 million investment round extension.

The €85 million investment is an extension of its January round in which the Sweden-based company landed €90 million.

The investment round was co-led by a new investor, Eurazeo Growth, and current investor UK-based venture capital firm Dawn Capital.

Existing investors PayPal Ventures, ​HMI Capital, Heartcore, ABN AMRO Ventures, Poste Italiane and BNP Paribas’s venture capital arm, Opera Tech Ventures, ​increased their investments in Tink.

Founded in 2012, Tink allows customers to access aggregated financial data, initiate payments, enrich transactions and build personal finance management tools.

Tink’s open banking technology and connectivity powers digital services for more than 300 banks and fintech companies, including PayPal, NatWest, ABN AMRO, BNP Paribas, Nordea and SEB, and is also used by more than 8,000 developers.

The company currently processes ​close to one million​ payment transactions per month in five markets and aims to make its payment initiation services live in 10 markets in 2021.

Tink made three major acquisitions during 2020 as part of its strategy to invest in intelligent data services based on open banking.

The company acquired Swedish credit decisioning firm Instantor, improving its capability in credit risk products built on top of its open banking connectivity, Spanish account aggregation provider Eurobits, significantly increasing its bank connectivity in Europe, and the aggregation platform of UK open banking developer OpenWrks, which will bring UK business account data to Tink’s customers.

Daniel Kjellén, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tink, says 2020 saw payments powered by open banking take off and expects “to see this scale” in 2021.

He continues: “This funding extension will further facilitate the development of our payment initiation services across Europe, while continuing to deliver new data-products built on open banking technology to our customers.”

Zoé Fabian, managing director of new investor Eurazeo Growth, adds: “The open banking movement continues to pick up pace, with 2021 showing every sign that it will bring increased collaboration between fintechs and large enterprises, who want to take digitally enabled services to their customers with a tried and trusted partner.”

“Since its inception eight years ago, Tink has proven itself to be the leading open banking platform in Europe, and our investment underlines the confidence we and the industry have in Tink and open banking. We look forward to supporting them on their continued journey.”

Entries now being accepted for Asia, European and US FinTech Awards

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Entries now being accepted for Asia, European and US FinTech Awards

Fintech companies of all stripes, shapes and sizes can now seek the recognition they deserve with the launch of FinTech Intel’s inaugural Asia, European and US FinTech Awards.

Set to be held virtually in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and following the success of the UK FinTech Awards in November, the three events dedicated to fintech communities in and serving Asia, Europe and the US will be held on 27 and 28 April 2021.

The entry deadline for each event is 26 February 2021. As with the UK FinTech Awards, all that is required to enter is a written submission of between 250 and 1,000 words, or a three-minute video.

Twenty-five categories will recognise the full spectrum of fintech products, services and solutions, as well as company achievements and the innovation and commitment of leading individuals.

Independent judging panels made up of experts from around the world, all chosen for their expertise, experience and positions in financial services, will assess entries, formulate the shortlist and select the winners. Judges will be announced soon.

This has been a particularly difficult year, but the fintech sector has stood up and been counted as an innovative yet reliable provider of much-needed products, services and solutions.

It is time that the fintech communities around the world celebrate their achievements and receive the recognition they deserve.

Visit fintechawardsasia.com, eufintechawards.eu or usfintechawards.com to learn more about these awards and find how you can enter.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management acquires tax fintech 55ip

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J.P. Morgan Asset Management acquires tax fintech 55ip

Fintech company 55ip, a specialist in helping financial advisers to deliver tax-smart investment strategies at scale, is joining J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management agreed to acquire India-based 55ip for an undisclosed sum. The fintech company, headquartered in Mumbai, will continue to operate as a separate entity under its own brand.

55ip develops automated tax technology and has provided financial advisers with a tax-smart investment strategy engine for nearly five years. It partners with third-party asset managers, strategists and wealth management platforms to drive model portfolio usage.

Its ActiveTax Technology, designed to enhance asset portfolio design and delivery, covers tax-smart transitions, management (including systematic tax-loss harvesting), and withdrawals. 55ip also helps advisers to deliver ongoing tax-smart trading and tax benefit reporting to clients.

The acquisition of 55ip accelerates J.P. Morgan Asset Management‘s significant investments in advanced adviser technology, according to chief executive officer George Gatch.

Gatch continues: “This is an exciting development that signifies broad collaboration between fintech and asset managers, aimed toward improving capabilities and outcomes for advisers and their clients.”

Jed Laskowitz, global head of asset management solutions, adds: “55ip’s unique application of automated tax management to the model portfolio universe has tremendous potential in today’s market environment.”

“Automating sophisticated strategies while also allowing for customisation for tax and individual preferences is a differentiator and will be a key driver of success.”

Dr Vinay Nair, founder and executive chairman of 55ip, will stay on as a consultant and special adviser to J.P. Morgan Asset Management following the acquisition.

Nair said: “Tax-related savings are first order, especially in a world with lower rates, lower returns and higher taxes. We are delighted that J.P. Morgan shares our vision to democratise sophisticated tax management.”

iZettle joins Starling Bank’s Business Marketplace

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iZettle joins Starling Bank's Business Marketplace

PayPal’s iZettle is the latest addition to Starling Bank’s Business Marketplace.

Swedish mobile payments company iZettle, which joined PayPal for $2.2 billion in 2018, will provide Starling Bank business customers with in-depth transaction information.

It is the first payment service provider to join the Starling Starling Bank Business Marketplace and will give the digital bank’s small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers detailed information about sales, fees, tips and taxes.

Starling Bank’s Business Toolkit customers will also gain access to accounting features.

iZettle’s arrival in the Business Marketplace follows Starling Bank’s strategy to offer deeper integrations and paid-for features to this set of customers.

Starling Bank says it holds a 4.4% share of the UK SME banking market and is the first UK bank to offer sole traders and business customers such an in-depth integration with iZettle.

Participating customers will be able to view details of incoming deposits in their banking app. They will also be able to monitor how many sales they have made over the last seven days using iZettle.

Starling Bank changes no monthly fees on business and sole trader accounts, but a subscription to its Business Toolkit, a suite of third-party services designed to simplify business administration, costs £7 per month.

iZettle is the latest addition to Starling Bank’s in-app Business Marketplace, which offers customers 30 services. Other existing providers include online accounting software from Xero and QuickBooks, flexible insurance from SuperScript, and project management from UnderPinned.

Jacob de Geer, vice president of small business products and iZettle at PayPal, says: “It’s fantastic to support new and existing small business owners through our integration with Starling Bank. Together, we can help merchants across the UK access critical sales data and analytics in one place so they can make important decisions that allow them to sell smarter and grow their business.”

Anne Boden, founder and chief executive officer of Starling Bank, adds: “This integration will help Starling’s SME customers see granular information on their payouts from iZettle as well as offering them an easier way to manage their transaction data for bookkeeping purposes, saving them time and effort.”

Starling Bank is now breaking even after reporting a trading update for the three months up to 31 October.

The digital bank has nearly 1.8 million accounts, approximately £4 billion in deposits and is engaged in some £1.5 billion of lending. It expects to be profitable on a monthly basis going forward as it continues to grow and gears up to scale across Europe.

Rocker to launch fingerprint payment cards in 2021

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Swedish fintech company Rocker and identity and security specialist IDEMIA are developing a biometric payment card that will launch as a proof of concept early next year.

Scheduled for deployment among Rocker customers in Q1 2021, Rocker and IDEMIA will carry out their first ever fingerprint ID card proof of concept in Northern Europe. Payments with the card are fingerprint-checked in store.

Rocker to launch fingerprint payment cards in 2021
Prototype of Rocker’s fingerprint ID debit card

The F.CODE payment card adopts a user-friendly biometric authentication procedure that makes transactions quicker, more hygienic and more secure, according to Rocker and IDEMIA.

IDEMIA’s technology ensures that fingerprints are stored in the chip on the card, rather than in a remote database. The battery-free card that will be rolled out in the middle of 2021 after the proof of concept is powered by the payment terminal.

Rocker is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and counts Scandinavian media group Schibsted as its largest shareholder. The fintech company offers loans, payments and savings, licensed as a payment institution in the EU.

The fintech company aims to offer the F.CODE card as a new service in its growing offering of retail financial services that are easier to use, more flexible and better priced.

Jonas Hultin, chief product officer and one of Rocker’s three founders, says the fintech company is “moving at a high pace to provide new and attractive innovations to customers”.

He continues: “Launching biometric F.CODE debit cards is part of our strategy to offer smart and secure payment solutions across platforms, whether you wish to pay with your mobile, a card or with a transfer. In doing so, we are first in Sweden and one of the first in the world to offer this payment technology for consumers.”

Amanda Gourbault, executive vice president of financial institutions at IDEMIA, says: “We are proud to partner with Rocker and to shape the future of payments, hand in hand with a fintech at the cutting edge of innovation. We are delighted to ensure an innovative yet seamless experience to Rocker’s customers thanks to the use of biometrics.”

Swedbank chooses Meniga to revamp digital banking for customers

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Swedbank chooses Meniga to revamp digital banking for customers
Georg Ludviksson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Meniga

Swedbank is using the services of fintech company Meniga to provide a new digital banking solution to customers in Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

The new digital banking solution, now live across all four markets, is the first product to stem from Meniga’s partnership with Swedbank.

Using Meniga’s data-driven digital banking technology, Swedbank’s internet and mobile banking services have been redeveloped to boost customer engagement and improve the overall digital user experience. 

The new service, which is driven by personalised data, offers an easy-to-use and secure solution for everyday banking, helping Swedbank customers to better understand and take control of their personal finances.

The solution relies on Meniga’s platform for the categorisation and enrichment of all transaction data and account history. This provides Swedbank customers with a more immersive and interactive experience, granting them access to real-time data on their spending behaviour, while maintaining high customer data integrity.

Added functionality includes personalised insights and reports, budgeting and financial planning, dynamic searching for specific transactions, and a new mobile bank app start page offering a personalised at-a-glance overview of a customer’s finances.

Swedbank’s new digital banking solution is free-to-use and available from major app stores.

Lotta Lovén, head of digital banking and IT and chief information officer at Swedbank, says Meniga demonstrated the innovation capabilities and broad experience in creating digital customer engagement necessary to support the bank “in taking the next step in personalised digital services”.

Lovén continues: “Key to behaviour-based services is the customers’ trust that underlying data integrity and consistency remains intact, which has been a focus throughout our collaboration, and I am very happy with the end result. We now look forward to continue building on the foundation we jointly have created.”

Georg Ludviksson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Meniga, says: “We are very excited to have established this great partnership with one of the most reputable financial institutions in the Nordics, which takes us another step closer to strengthening our position as the leading provider of digital banking solutions across Europe and beyond.”

“Meniga has been working meticulously with Swedbank to develop a first-class personal finance management solution with an innovative, engaging and intuitive interface, which will ensure the best possible user experience for its customers. We are delighted to be able to support Swedbank with these services, which we are confident will help millions of potential new customers across the Nordics and Baltics better manage their finances and take control of their own financial health.”

The Swedbank news follows Meniga closing an €8.5 million investment round in May.

Meniga customers Groupe BPCE, the second largest banking group in France, Portugal’s Grupo Crédito Agrícola and long-standing strategic partner UniCredit led the investment round.

Other participants included current institutional investors Velocity Capital, Industrifonden and Frumtak Ventures.

Meniga said the funding will be invested in its research and development activities, as well as for strengthening its sales and service teams to meet growing demand.

UK fintech Updraft raises £16 million

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UK fintech Updraft raises £16 million

Updraft, the personal finance fintech aiming to lift users out of debt, has launched after raising £16 million in funding.

Updraft is now available on the Apple App Store and promises to automatically build a 360-degree picture of spending and borrowing using open banking and credit report data. It then provides a series of interventions designed to lift the consumer back into the black.

Updraft’s funding is a mixture of equity and debt, with specialist investment firm Quilam Capital participating in the round alongside the UK government’s Future Fund, via a convertible loan note, and a group of high-net-worth investors.

Aseem Munshi, former head of cards and unsecured lending at HSBC in the UK, founded Updraft to tackle what he saw as too heavy a reliance on credit cards, overdrafts and the buy now, pay later schemes often found on ecommerce sites.

Among its interventions to help lift users out of debt is ‘Updraft Credit’, offered when expensive borrowing is detected. This lower cost loan can be used to pay off expensive debts.

Updraft attracted significant interest instead of its launch. More than 40,000 people joined the waitlist for the service and 15,000 were granted early access to beta test the app.

The fintech company says it has already refinanced millions of pounds of borrowings using its own balance sheet and a typical Updraft member has been able to reduce their borrowing charges by up to 50%.

Updraft now has significant funding to press ahead with its plans, which include the launch of an Android version of its app.

Sarah Watts, director at Quilam Capital, says: “Over the years we’ve seen innovators making use of open banking, shed light on financial health and provide credit, however, Updraft provides a truly unique offering across all of these aspects with a market leading solution to give customers the fairly priced credit they deserve.”

“We’re delighted to invest in Updraft and support the business on their mission to give consumers the tools to save and reach their life goals faster.”

Munshi says: “We are thrilled by this vote of confidence from a respected institution like Quilam. This funding gives us the fire power to take on the UK’s spiralling consumer borrowing.”

Zen launches in 30+ jurisdictions

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Zen launches in 30+ jurisdictions

Poland-headquartered fintech company Zen is now live in more than 30 countries across Europe.

Zen is offering a multi-currency current account combined with Mastercard-backed payment cards in a bid to target the growing ecommerce market.

The fintech company, launched by Dawid Rożek, co-founder of digital games marketplace G2A, holds a digital money licence from Lithuania’s central bank, giving it access to a broad range of jurisdictions in Europe.

Zen’s mobile app-based offering is two-fold and designed to simplify ecommerce for both consumers and businesses.

Consumer multi-currency current account holders will receive several added benefits, including purchase protection, support, partner savings, and Apple Pay and Google Pay integration thanks to the partnership with Mastercard.

Businesses, meanwhile, will get access to a current account and an online platform, providing swift payments and flexible payment options.

Zen also says its business customers will receive no chargeback claims, lowering the cost of ecommerce business.

Rożek, founder of Zen, commented: “As an entrepreneur running my own business, I have encountered many challenges managing my finances and money transfers with traditional banking solutions. It has been taking too much of my time, distracting me from growing my business.”

“This experience has made me realize that more people like myself need a comprehensive, digital financial suite which gives peace of mind in terms of managing their money and cash flow. This is how the Zen concept was born. Our mission is to provide effortless banking experience and online payments so that our clients can focus on what really matters.”

Commenting on Mastercard’s role in the launch of Zen, Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, said: “Mastercard is partner of choice for fintechs around the world and we are delighted that Zen has selected us to not only partner on leading product development, but also their launch and communications strategy.”

“I truly believe that Zen’s exciting new customer value proposition combined with a strong marketing strategy driven in partnership with Mastercard, will be a great success for the many people it serves.”

Danske Bank looks to Windward for help with maritime financial crime compliance

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Danske Bank looks to Windward for help with maritime financial crime compliance

Danske Bank is partnering with UK-based data analytics company Windward to digitise and automate aspects of its crime compliance controls in maritime financial trade.

The Denmark-headquartered bank will use Windward’s artificial intelligence-based predictive intelligence solution for managing maritime sanctions, risks and regulations.

Windward, whose predictive intelligence solution is powered by MAIA, the Maritime Artificial Intelligence Analytics platform released in September that uses 300 behavioural analytics models and more than 10 billion data points, says Danske Bank will be able to employ dynamic risk profiling and efficiently integrate automated risk-based maritime compliance measures.

Windward’s platform will also enhance Danske Bank’s operational performance for screening, investigating, and auditing transactions for the 90% of global trade that occurs on the ocean.

New sanction advisories from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control and the UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, along with ongoing efforts against anti-money laundering, “have made an already complex ecosystem even more difficult to navigate”, according to Amalie Korning Wedege, head of sanctions compliance at Danske Bank.

Korning Wedege continues: “To meet regulatory expectations, we are enhancing our efforts to improve business operations, reduce risk, and improve compliance across maritime financial trade using Windward’s AI solution.”

Ami Daniel, chief executive officer of Windward, added: “Trade finance is becoming more complex as regulations targeting money laundering, financial crime, and compliance evolve across the globe, and it’s imperative that banks intimately know who they are doing business with.”

“Danske Bank now has the most comprehensive, real-time, risk-based view of the maritime trade ecosystem that enables the highest level of accountability, transparency, and compliance to facilitate better business operations.”

Dreams partners with Ukrsibbank for digital personal finance tools

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Dreams partners with Ukrsibbank for digital personal finance tools

Sweden-headquartered Dreams, a provider of digital self-help tools for managing personal finances, is partnering with Ukrainian commercial bank Ukrsibbank.

Dreams is developing a proposition in the market as a provider of white label solutions to financial institutions, and this is the fintech company’s latest enterprise partnership.

Through the new partnership, Ukrsibbank, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, will offer digital tools to Ukrainian customers that will allow them to set and achieve money-saving goals through clever, automated saving features, in addition to nudges and saving hacks.

The Dreams personal finance toolset will be included as part of Ukrsibbank’s digital banking offering for its two million+ customers, and is set to grant millions of potential consumers across Ukraine access to products that help keep their finances on track and improve their financial wellbeing.

Dreams launched its consumer-facing app in its native Sweden in 2016 and Norway in 2018, where it has already achieved a 16% market share of all 20 to 39 year olds.

The Ukrsibbank partnership follows Dreams striking an enterprise agreement with banking software provider Silverlake Symmetri earlier this, and the recent unveiling of a new department in Stockholm dedicated to the development of its white label proposition.

Henrik Rosvall, chief executive officer and founder of Dreams, commented: “It’s a true honour to be partnering with Ukrsibbank and BNP Paribas Group, and we’re incredibly excited to be introducing the Dreams solution to Ukrsibbank’s customers and the wider Ukrainian market.”

He added: “Our financial wellbeing platform—which is built upon behavioural science and personal finance management principles—will provide the perfect tool for Ukrsibbank to help its customers make better financial choices and become more sustainable in the way they handle their finances.”

“This partnership will also help Ukrsibbank safeguard the loyalty of its customers and futureproof its digital banking offering against a growing number of challenger banks and fintechs.”

Konstantin Lezhnin, head of retail at Ukrsibbank BNP Paribas Group, said: “I believe that banks have a role to improve their customers’ lives. Planning and saving for important life events improves our quality of life by reducing stress levels, and we wish to make our customers feel more confident and in-control of their lives.”

“Ukrsibbank has always applied innovative ways to assist our customers in financial planning, so we are very happy to now be working with Dreams, the best European player in behavioural savings. They have an extremely solid track record in Sweden and Norway based on scientific research, so we are confident that this partnership will work positively for our customers in Ukraine.”

“This also demonstrates our strategy to cooperate with startups and innovative companies that seek ways to expand their operations.”

Blockchain fintech Figure seeks US bank charter

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Blockchain fintech Figure seeks US bank charter

US-based blockchain technology company Figure is seeking a national bank charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to reduce its regulatory burden and deliver its products and services across the country.

Figure uses its Provenance blockchain to deliver loan origination, financing and servicing. The San Francisco-headquartered fintech company also launched a digital funds services offering earlier this year.

According to co-founder and chief executive officer Mike Cagney, Figure, which currently operates in several US states, would need more than 200 local licences next year without a national bank charter from regulator the OCC.

Cagney continues: “By reducing complexity, we can leverage the technology efficiencies we have to deliver financial solutions to traditionally underserved and underrepresented consumers, driving real financial inclusion.”

Figure says a national bank charter would enable it to offer a cohesive set of products and services nationwide, focus its compliance efforts on the requirements of a single regulator, reduce its legal and regulatory costs and risks, and offer its customers and business partners the security of dealing with a federally regulated and supervised national bank.

CD Davies, head of lending at Figure, will lead the fintech company’s efforts to obtain the bank charter from the OCC.

Davies will also become chief executive officer of Figure Bank. He served in the same role at CitiMortgage and was head of global mortgage at Citibank. He also previously served as president of home loans at Capital One.

Davies says: “This national bank charter will be instrumental in our efforts to continue to develop and deliver new financial products and services to communities across this country that really haven’t had access to affordable offerings.”

“I look forward to working with the OCC as we move forward on this journey.”

Starling Bank eyes monthly profitability after breaking even

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Starling Bank eyes monthly profitability after breaking even

Starling Bank is now breaking even after reporting a trading update for the three months up to 31 October.

The digital bank has nearly 1.8 million accounts, approximately £4 billion in deposits and is engaged in some £1.5 billion of lending. It expects to be profitable on a monthly basis going forward as it continues to grow and gears up to scale across Europe.

Starling Bank generated a total operating income of £9 million for the month of October 2020, which represents an annualised revenue run rate of approximately £108 million. This figure is split between £5.5 million of net interest income and £3.5 million of gross fees and commissions income.

This represents a four-fold increase in revenue compared to 12 months ago and 30% over its last trading update.

Starling Bank chief executive officer Anne Boden said: “Five years ago, I stood in front of numerous investors to outline my vision of a new sort of bank. It would be a technology-led bank like no other and a profitable business, I announced, perhaps quite boldly because I didn’t even have a banking licence at the time.”

“My pitch was, in the main, greeted with the healthy scepticism that many start-ups encounter. Today, I’m pleased to say that Starling has become the first of the new breed of digital banks to become profitable.”

Boden said of the digital bank’s future plans: “[We] will become a formidable competitor in the European banking market as we gear up to scale across Europe. We know that our technology is hugely scalable because our tech team runs a constant simulation at around ten times our current capacity. We’re prepared for a sudden influx of customers and transactions. In fact, we’re prepared for pretty much anything.”

UK fintech sector innovation on show at virtual awards ceremony

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UK fintech sector innovation on show at virtual awards ceremony

A host of companies and professionals were recognised as the most innovative in the UK fintech sector at the virtual UK FinTech Awards last night.

Xero, Tide and Cuvva were among the winners announced during the virtual ceremony on ukfintechawards.co.uk, where the sector celebrated the successes of the past 12 months and its dedication to supporting customers in these difficult times.

Starling Bank took home FinTech of the Year, with the judges commending the digital bank for removing the stress from personal finance and giving its customers control by empowering them through ease and speed of use.

The digital bank has made its customers more savvy when it comes to managing their own money and was described by the judges as “a real trailblazer”.

Of the individuals to be recognised at the UK FinTech Awards, Emma Steeley of AccountScore won Director of the Year.

The judges said Steeley had changed customers’ lives through innovation, driving both her own organisation and team to achieve significant growth.

Steeley is also a role model, having helped to launch Women in Open Finance, and serves as a real leader within the fintech sector.

In his speech during the virtual UK FinTech Awards, Stephen Ingledew, chief executive of FinTech Scotland and chair of the independent judging panel that assessed hundreds of entries earlier this year to decide the award winners, praised the entrants, finalists and the wider sector for rising to the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “Whilst we live in hugely uncertain economic and social times arising from the pandemic, the UK’s fintech movement has more than risen to the challenges faced by people, communities and business by imaginative and innovative new solutions in an increasingly digital and virtual world.”

“In short, the creativity and resilience by fintechs teams across the country has been absolutely inspiring and uplifting, providing important glimmers of hope and determination in coming through these troubled times.”

“This has been brought alive by the exciting array of UK FinTech Award submissions from FinTech leaders and teams this year, all of whom have demonstrated how innovation, collaboration and inclusion go hand in hand in delivering positive impact in the financial world.”

While financial services continue to adapt to the new normal, and as customers consider their current and future needs, find out what the independent judging panel had to say about each and every winner at the UK FinTech Awards 2020.

Stay tuned for details about the UK FinTech Awards 2021 and news of the EU, US and Asia FinTech Awards, as the celebration of this innovative and dynamic sector goes global.

Get registered and ready for the UK FinTech Awards 2020

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Get registered and ready for the UK FinTech Awards 2020

The UK FinTech Awards will reflect the innovation integral to the prosperity of the sector tomorrow when the 2020 ceremony is broadcast online.

The broadcast will stream via ukfintechawards.co.uk at 7pm and you can expect all of the usual glamour associated with an awards show, including a celebrity host, a speech from the chair of our judging panel and, of course, the awards ceremony itself.

Sign up now to watch the ceremony for free online. If you are shortlisted, this is your chance to find out whether you won one of the coveted awards recognising excellence in fintech. Of course, anyone can register and we encourage you to share the event with your friends and colleagues.

Unique access information will be sent out to registered attendees soon, so don’t miss your opportunity to watch the biggest fintech show in town tomorrow evening.

Although we cannot be together in person, show your support and participation via #UKFTAwards on Twitter and LinkedIn. There will be shoutouts for photos of the best dressed, most impressive viewing location/setup, and cutest pet fans!

That’s it—get registered and ready for the UK FinTech Awards 2020. We can’t wait to celebrate the sector’s fantastic achievements.

New Refinitiv research reveals machine learning is maturing in finance

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New Refinitiv research reveals machine learning is maturing in finance

Amanda West - Refinitiv LabsAs firms strive for competitive prowess, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are increasingly scaled across multiple business areas in financial services, a recent Refinitiv report reveals. With financial data scientists adopting a more influential role driving machine learning strategies, firms are only limited by challenges around data quality and availability, writes Amanda West, global head of Refinitiv Labs

  • In its new report, Refinitiv captured insights from over 400 data scientists, quants and data leaders to reveal the latest AI and machine learning trends in finance.
  • Machine learning is clearly maturing in financial services. Eighty percent of firms are making significant investments in related technologies.
  • Data scientists play an increasingly strategic role, and the number of data science teams in financial services firms have grown by more than 260 percent since 2018.

These are some of the highlights from the second Refinitiv global Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Report, entitled ‘The rise of the data scientist’.

The report is based on one of the largest global surveys of data practitioners and decision makers on the use of machine learning across finance, and is a ‘must-read’ for data practitioners and innovation leaders.

Read the Refinitiv Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Report: The rise of the data scientist

Watch: New AI and Machine Learning Research—The Rise of the Data Scientist

Machine learning becomes a horizontal capability

Machine learning is maturing in financial services, as companies deploy ever more sophisticated techniques, such as deep learning, and begin to execute rapid innovation cycles.

Over 72% of this year’s survey participants say it is a core component of their business strategy, with 80% making significant investments in associated technologies.

Challenges relating to investment levels, technology choices and access to talent, identified as key barriers to adoption in 2018, have diminished, providing a robust foundation to implement machine learning models at scale.

New Refinitiv research reveals machine learning is maturing in finance

Data scientists have a more strategic role

Data scientists have shifted from the technology department to working and driving machine learning directly in the business. They have transitioned from developing models at the request of the business, to influencing the technology and data strategies required to achieve business objectives.

The importance of data scientists to the success of machine learning strategies is clear. The average number of data science roles in each firm has increased significantly since our first machine learning report in 2018, and the number of teams has risen by over 260 percent.

New Refinitiv research reveals machine learning is maturing in finance

Adoption of deep learning

This year’s report shows that 75% of firms are employing deep learning. An unexpected advance, but backed up by a surge in the use of leading deep learning technology frameworks.

New Refinitiv research reveals machine learning is maturing in finance

Deep learning can help firms gain valuable insights from large and diverse unstructured data sets, but the cost of hardware and time taken to train models can be prohibitive.

Natural language processing (NLP) is another growing area of focus, and is increasingly applied to unlock value in unstructured data. It’s no surprise that the use of unstructured data is on the rise. In 2018, only 2% of firms worked exclusively with unstructured data, and this figure has shot up to 17% in 2020. Today, 64% of firms work with some form of unstructured data.

New Refinitiv research reveals machine learning is maturing in finance

The importance of data strategy

Data scientists are using diverse data sources, including unstructured data and alternative data, to develop models.

Only 3% of participants in the 2020 survey say they do not use alternative data in their models, a decrease from 30% in 2018, which reflects the need for new data sets to better understand the impact of Covid-19.

In our 2018 survey, poor data quality was considered one of the key challenges to the effective deployment of models. This year, poor data quality and availability continue to be cited as barriers to adoption.

If firms are going to genuinely benefit from the speed, agility and value of an ‘AI-first’ vision, they need high-quality, trustworthy data that can be easily accessed, ingested, and manipulated.

Covid-19 is the arch accelerator

Our 2020 report shows that 72 percent of firms’ models were negatively impacted by Covid-19. Some firms declared their models obsolete, while others are building new ones.

The crux of the problem was a lack of agility to quickly adapt and incorporate new data sets as circumstances changed.

What you need to know about machine learning in finance

This year’s report is packed with everything you need to know about the machine learning landscape. It provides insights into use cases in financial services, the changing role of the data scientist, the use of emerging technologies, the latest investment trends, and more.

It also includes practical advice based on Refinitiv Labs’ experience in developing and deploying machine learning models to solve some of the most challenging problems in finance, and shares some of the prototypes built in collaboration with our customers.

Read the Refinitiv Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Report: The rise of the data scientist

Santander partners with Personetics to launch money management feature

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Santander partners with Personetics to launch money management feature

Santander’s investments in fintech companies through its dedicated venture capital arm are paying off with the launch of a money management feature built on the technology of Israel-headquartered fintech company Personetics.

Personetics, a Santander InnoVentures portfolio company, supplied an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered automation solution to build the My Money Manager feature.

My Money Manager is integrated into Santander’s mobile banking app, which the bank claims has four million active monthly users.

The feature will use AI to provide financial tips, helpful nudges and personalised insights into spending and upcoming financial commitments, all delivered through push notifications and a new insights inbox

Users can view cash-flow analysis, including deposits and regular payments, and analysis of their spending broken down by category.

The My Money Manager is “the result of a new kind of partnership between Santander and Personetics”, according to Andy Warren, head of customer journey design at Santander UK.

Warren said: “Working collaboratively, the Personetics team is an extension of our internal teams, generating new use cases and co-creating beyond off-the-shelf solutions. Building long-lasting and meaningful relationships with our strategic partners is key to accelerate Santander’s digital transformation. We’re proud to bring innovation to our customers.”

David Sosna, chief executive officer and co-founder of Personetics, whose personalisation and customer engagement solutions reportedly serve more than 65 million bank customers worldwide, commented: “We’re proud to be working with Santander to provide the technology to deliver personalised, proactive insights that significantly impact a customer’s financial confidence and ability to make lasting improvements to their financial situation.”

“Santander’s continued investment in customer-centric technologies demonstrates their innovative approach to customer engagement and digital innovation to better service their customers in a very tumultuous time.”

Santander InnoVentures, an investor in Personetics, was spun out and allocated another $200 million in funding earlier this year.

The bank’s fintech venture capital arm will be known as Mouro Capital going forward and managed autonomously. With $400 million allocated to the fintech venture capital firm, it will aim to lead funding rounds with initial investments of up to $15 million.

Nordic Capital acquires BearingPoint RegTech

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Nordic Capital acquires BearingPoint RegTech

Private equity firm Nordic Capital plans to support RegTech’s next phase of innovation and sustainable growth after acquiring the regulatory reporting business from BearingPoint.

The acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, will see BearingPoint, a technology consultancy, retain a minority stake in RegTech while continuing to serve as a strategic consulting partner.

Founded more than 25 years ago and with a foothold today in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, RegTech’s flagship reporting products are used by more than 6,000 firms, including banks, insurance companies, supervisory authorities and financial services providers.

The Germany-headquartered company has 17 offices across 10 countries with a total workforce of approximately 630 employees. RegTech is expected to generate revenues of close to €100 million in 2020.

Nordic Capital, which has previously invested in Bambora, Board International, Conscia, Itiviti, Macrobond, Trustly and Signicat, and recently acquired a stake in Siteimprove, will invest in product development at RegTech, as well as enhance its organisational capacity and expand its international footprint.

The current RegTech management team will remain in place. Fredrik Näslund, partner and head of technology and payments at Nordic Capital, said: “Our broad experience in supporting the growth and development of software and technology companies makes Nordic Capital an ideal partner to play a formative role in the next phase for RegTech together with the company’s management team.”

Jürgen Lux, chief executive officer of RegTech, said: “We are delighted to welcome Nordic Capital to RegTech. The new ownership will support our further development and will also benefit our customers.

“With Nordic Capital we have a strong new partner at our side with extensive experience in developing and growing leading businesses in the software industry.”

A finalist for every kind of fintech

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A finalist for every kind of fintech

Discover who was shortlisted as a finalist ahead of the UK FinTech Awards 2020 on 17 November.

Seventy-seven fintech companies were chosen as finalists, across four categories dedicated to individuals and four to the accomplishments of businesses

Eleven categories recognise technological innovation in accountancy, banking, insurance, investment, lending, digital services, payments, pensions, personal finance, regulatory compliance, and wealth management, making the UK FinTech Awards the most comprehensive benchmark of financial technology and innovation around.

The final award, FinTech of the Year, recognises the contribution of the winner to the fintech movement, singling out this finalist for its innovation, commitment to customers and disruptive effect on financial services.

MEET THE FINALISTS

The independent judging panel for the UK FinTech Awards 2020, led by Stephen Ingledew of FinTech Scotland, worked tirelessly to evaluate hundreds of entries and amass a shortlist that reflects the talent and innovation of fintech companies in the UK.

The winners will be announced during a pre-recorded broadcast at 7pm on 17 November exclusively via ukfintechawards.co.uk.

Anyone can watch the ceremony. All you have to do is register.

When you do register, you’ll be sent access information and a password during the week of the event, along with regular reminders so you don’t miss the opportunity to discover the UK fintech champions of 2020, and learn how they are delivering such important products and services in these difficult times.

Alliance Data to acquire buy now, pay later fintech for $450 million

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Alliance Data to acquire buy now, pay later fintech for $450 million

US loyalty and payment solutions provider Alliance Data is acquiring personalised payment fintech Bread for $450 million.

The acquisition, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions, is expected to close by the end of 2020.

Bread provides point-of-sale technologies, including installment and buy now, pay later solutions, and integrates directly with retailers’ ecommerce websites.

The fintech’s 185 employees will join their new parent company when the acquisition closes, giving the company, whose credit and loyalty programmes do not yet offer installment and buy now, pay later solutions, a starting base of 400 clients. It intends to offer Bread’s technology platform to its own brand partners “soon”.

Ralph Andretta, president and chief executive officer of Alliance Data, said “the acquisition of Bread significantly expands our digital capabilities and payment options for our brand partners and their customers, while providing another reason for retailers and brands to choose Alliance Data to help them grow their businesses”.

“Bread’s pay-over-time solutions, together with our robust existing private label, general purpose and commercial products, will further expand our breadth of payment options and capabilities, giving our brand partners across all verticals another way to capitalise on the rapidly growing ecommerce channel.”

Josh Abramowitz, chief executive officer at Bread, said: “At Bread, we’ve always strived to reimagine payments in the digital age, and we’re excited for the opportunity to provide Alliance Data with our technology, support and digital development expertise through this agreement.”

“We look forward to helping an industry leader like Alliance Data grow its business by offering enhanced solutions for its clients and their customers.”

Pleo launches feature for tracking out-of-pocket expenses

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Pleo launches feature for tracking out-of-pocket expenses

Danish fintech company Pleo, a smart payment card issuer focused on business, has rolled out a new feature to track out-of-pocket expenses.

Pocket sits within the Pleo app and covers a range of the most common occasions when employees spend their own cash on work-related purchases.

The new feature also covers mileage claims, with Pleo digitising the outdated methods of tracking petrol costs for employees who travel for work. Expenses paid with cash and the use of company cards for personal purchases will now be trackable with Pocket.

Pleo is rolling out the feature to more than 10,000 customers across the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Ireland and Spain who currently use its cards and app to manage their expenses.

The fintech company says Pocket will ensure that when both employee and employer log in, they will be able to get a full overview of who owes what, with easy settlement.

Luke Richardson, director of brand and communications at Pleo, said: “Pleo stands for the future of work, and there’s a strong connection between this and digitising the workforce, and ditching cash. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we acknowledge that we need to provide tools that bridge the gap between digital and analogue work experiences.”

“This is what we’re doing by launching Pocket, creating a set of features that can support businesses regardless of whether they’re dealing with online or offline payments.”

Pleo closed a $56 million series B round in May 2019, led by New York-based growth fund Stripes. The company is supported by strategic and technical partnerships with Mastercard, J.P. Morgan and Danske Bank.

Rapyd launches in South Korea

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Rapyd launches in South Korea

Rapyd has launched its payment capabilities in South Korea, with the fintech-as-a-service company now serving six major markets around the world.

Through partnerships with South Korean payment service providers such as KCP and PayLetter, Rapyd provides access to a robust and comprehensive suite of local payment options.

These include international and local cards (Hyundai Card, Shinhan Card, Samsung Card), mobile wallets (Kakao Pay, Samsung Pay, Toss, and PAYCO), bank transfers, vouchers, and carrier billing.

Rapyd also offers its all-in-one payment capabilities in Singapore, Brazil, the UK, Mexico and India.

Joel Yarbrough, vice president for the Asia Pacific at Rapyd, noted South Korea’s emergence as a trend-setter for digital payments in the region. According to eMarketer, the country is one of the world’s top five ecommerce markets by retail ecommerce sales volume, accounting for $113 billion sales in 2019.

Yarbrough said: “South Korea is setting many trends in Asia Pacific, and digital payments are not an exception. This market is seeing fast adoption of mobile wallets, such as Kakao Pay, and is incredibly rich in payment services. While competition is heating up and the market is becoming more segmented, the overall pie of Korean mobile payments keeps growing.”

“With the launch of Rapyd’s payment capabilities in South Korea, we are able to bridge the global eCommerce players to a vibrant and exciting Korean market opportunity, and create a truly native South Korean payment experience.”

Jaewook Noh, managing director of KCP, commented: “South Korea is one of the world’s most mature payment markets in the world, and we welcome an opportunity to collaborate with Rapyd and bring Korea closer to the global ecommerce ecosystem.”

“Our partnership is an example of ‘local going global’: it is an attestation of our commitment to building customer-centered experiences, while also supporting the growth of the global Internet economy.”

PrimaryBid attracts $50 million in series B funding

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PrimaryBid attracts $50 million in series B funding

PrimaryBid, the UK-based fintech platform that connects retail investors with public companies raising capital, has closed a $50 million series B funding round.

PrimaryBid attracted global investors in its series B fundraise, including London Stock Exchange Group, Draper Esprit, OMERS Ventures, Fidelity International Strategic Ventures and ABN AMRO Ventures to facilitate expansion into international markets.

The funding round follows a period of rapid growth in 2020 for PrimaryBid. The company helped UK retail investors access billions of pounds of corporate fundraisings during the Covid-19 pandemic, including FTSE 100 Compass Group, Ocado, Taylor Wimpey and Segro.

Proceeds will be used to build-out the PrimaryBid team and technology platform as the company deepens its links with key intermediaries and expands into international markets.

PrimaryBid has completed more than 41 capital raisings for UK-listed companies and investment trusts since April 2020, working alongside global investment banks to broaden investor access.

The company does not charge investors any commission for its service, which is available through its website and app.

PrimaryBid completed an $8.6 million series A funding round last year, and signed a commercial agreement with London Stock Exchange to broaden access to UK equity offerings.

It also has a commercial agreement with Euronext, the operator of major European bourses including the Paris and Amsterdam stock exchanges.

Charlie Walker, head of equity and fixed income for primary markets at London Stock Exchange, said PrimaryBid enables retail investors “to access capital raisings on the same terms as institutional investors”.

Walker continued: “PrimaryBid has become an important part of the UK’s capital raising ecosystem and we look forward to working with them to further enhance retail investor access to capital markets within the UK and globally.”

Anand Sambasivan, chief executive officer of PrimaryBid, said: “We are privileged to welcome a number of leading global investors in our series B. Our mission is to enhance fairness, inclusivity and transparency in capital markets, and these investors all share that commitment and global ambition.”

“I look forward to working with them as we expand PrimaryBid’s offering to retail investors in new markets, build our team and technology platform, and deepen our integration into the capital raising ecosystem.”

RaiseNow secures $6 million investment

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RaiseNow secures $6 million investment

Charity fundraising technology provider RaiseNow has secured a $6 million series A+ investment from SIX Fintech Ventures and existing investor PostFinance, as well as several individuals.

Headquartered in Zurich with active offices in Berlin and Munich, RaiseNow helps non-profit organisations find supporters, rally communities, raise funds, and create impact.

The series A+ round followed a strategic merger earlier this year between RaiseNow and Altruja, a fundraising technology company specialising in the growth of digital fundraising in Germany and Austria.

With PostFinance, the financial services unit of Swiss Post, increasing its stake in the fintech company after being a current investor for more than three years, the latest funding will be used for further investment in RaiseNow’s technology capacity.

“In terms of feature-density, user experience, and quality of integrations, RaiseNow is the best-in-class technology provider in the growing fundraising space,” commented Patrick Graf, head of corporates at PostFinance. “We are pleased to back this standout player once again—not just for their performance today, but also what they will evolve to be in the future .”

SIX Fintech Ventures, which led the funding round, is the corporate venture capital arm of SIX.

Andreas Iten, managing director of SIX Fintech Ventures, said: “We are committed to supporting startups that leverage the power of cutting-edge technologies in order to transform the Swiss financial sector. Not only does RaiseNow offer superior fundraising technology, they also provide a superb customer experience.”

“We are convinced that RaiseNow will continue to enable non-profit organisations by developing the latest payment technology, such as through its cooperation with TWINT, the biggest mobile payment provider in Switzerland.”

Another prominent investor who featured in the round was Ivo Francioni, a private investor and fintech veteran. Francioni will join RaiseNow’s board of directors.

Marco Zaugg, founder and chief executive officer of RaiseNow, said: “As an industry, we are just scratching the surface of how powerful fundraising technology can be when it’s combined with donor data, diversified channels, integrated and automated processes, and massive opportunities offered by dynamic shifts in the industry.”

“Having the strong commitment and domain expertise of our existing and new investors will help us execute our vision even more rapidly and broadly.”

Unqork partners with Life.io after bumper valuation

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Unqork partners with Life.io after bumper valuation

Enterprise no-code software platform provider Unqork has struck a strategic partnership with Life.io to develop insurance solutions, just weeks after raising $207 million in Series C funding and achieving a $2 billion valuation.

Life.io, a subsidiary of SE2 and the provider of customer engagement solutions for the insurance and financial services sectors, will use Unqork’s platform to build integrated quote, needs analysis, app and dashboard suites for insurers offering life and annuity products across multiple distribution channels.

Jon Cooper, chief executive officer of Life.io, said: “Unqork’s no-code platform is a great complement to Life.io’s expertise in design and engagement. This combination allows carriers to be nimble and quickly deliver a highly flexible product that truly puts customers and advisors at the center of the experience.”

Farooq Sheikh, insurance go-to-market lead at Unqork, said: “Life.io is a market-leading provider of customer engagement solutions for the insurance industry and we are proud to partner with Life.io.”

“Having an ecosystem of solution providers like Life.io building products on Unqork is a critical next step in Unqork’s evolution.”

Unqork’s evolution took a huge step earlier in October with a $207 million Series C funding round and a $2 billion valuation.

The round was led by funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, and joined by Eldridge, Fin Venture Capital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Schonfeld Strategic Advisors and Sunley House Capital Management, a subsidiary of Advent International.

Existing investors including CapitalG, Alphabet’s independent growth fund, Goldman Sachs, Broadridge Financial Solutions, Aquiline Technology Growth and World Innovation Lab also participated.

Speaking earlier in October, Gary Hoberman, founder and chief executive officer of Unqork, said: “At Unqork, we pride ourselves in fearlessly taking on huge challenges with our customers. That’s an important characteristic to have when your mission is to completely change the way enterprises create software by offering a better way without code.”

“The same scale that cloud computing brought to infrastructure, Unqork is now bringing to all enterprise software in every industry. That places Unqork in a unique position to capture the $500 billion wasted annually on custom enterprise code and this funding will accelerate our efforts.”

Clim8 Invest appoints three experts to investment committee

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Clim8 Invest appoints three experts to investment committee

Hot on the heels of its latest Crowdcube funding campaign, Clim8 Invest has appointed three prominent figures to its investment committee, including James Millard of specialist global insurer Hiscox.

The provider of a digital consumer platform focused on climate-crisis tackling investments has also added Vivian Bertseka and Bart Dujczynski to its investment committee, after smashing its £400,000 Crowdcube funding target and as it begins to onboard more than 10,000 people to its sustainable investment app.

Clim8 allows investors to create a curated portfolio of publicly listed companies, covering sectors such as clean energy, clean technology, sustainable food, smart mobility and recycling. It aims to launch in the next few months.

Its three new appointments have a wealth of investment experience between them, along with renewable energy and cleantech expertise.

Millard is chief investment officer of Hiscox and the former head of multi-manager strategies at Aberdeen Standard Investments. where he was responsible for more than £27 billion of client assets.

Bertseka is a former director of Generation Investment Management, a sustainable investing firm co-founded by Al Gore, which manages more than $25 billion of assets in public and private funds. 

Dujczynski, a renewable energy and cleantech expert who was previously chief financial officer of Polenergia. Poland’s largest listed independent renewables utility, and an investment professional at Kulczyk Investments, Oaktree Capital and Rothschilds. 

Bertseka commented on her appointment: “Clim8 is addressing an enormous opportunity and it’s coming to market just at the right time to provide a product that solves a very big issue. Investing behind environmental priorities is not easy; it’s actually very hard to do. What Clim8 has that is differentiating is an experienced team that works to actively help manage clients’ money.”

Duncan Grierson, founder and chief executive officer of Clim8, said, “We’re really excited to have James, Vivian and Bart on our investment committee. They each have different and very relevant experience for Clim8, with deep expertise in large scale fund management, in sustainability investing and in renewable energy and cleantech. They are a fantastic asset to our investment team.”

CUNA Mutual Group acquires digital lending platform provider CuneXus

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CUNA Mutual Group acquires digital lending platform provider CuneXus

CUNA Mutual Group has acquired digital lending platform provider CuneXus.

The acquisition of California-based CuneXus, whose one-click pre-approved lending platform serves banks and credit unions, marks a continuation of CUNA Mutual Group’s journey “into a more diverse, digital-first world”, according to president and chief executive officer Robert Trunzo.

He continued: “Our company is committed to using technology to enhance consumers’ access to financial solutions that work for them and create a more equitable financial system and society. This is a top priority for all of our core businesses.”

CUNA Mutual Group invested in CuneXus in 2017 through its venture capital arm, CMFG Ventures. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

CuneXus, which works with more than 140 financial institutions, enables them to offer pre-approved, ‘click-to-accept’ consumer loans to customers where and when they need them.

The platform uses a combination of a bank’s or credit union’s customer information and lending criteria, as well as customer credit history, behaviour and location to identify the best potential loan offers for consumers.

Wisconsin-based CUNA Mutual Group provides retirement plans services and insurance products to businesses and credit union members.

Trunzo said: “CuneXus is on a strong growth trajectory, and adding their expertise and product solution to our company portfolio allows us to maximise its growth potential and enhance our long-standing efforts to make a brighter financial future accessible to everyone.”

Dave Buerger, chief executive officer of CuneXus, said: “We are genuinely excited to join the CUNA Mutual Group family. Our capabilities and culture align very well, and we believe we can greatly enhance CUNA Mutual Group’s digital evolution in the lending space.”

UK FinTech Awards 2020: Register to watch

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UK FinTech Awards 2020 - Register to watch

The UK FinTech Awards 2020 will be broadcast via ukfintechawards.co.uk on 17 November at 7pm.

Here’s why you should register for access to the exclusive stream:

  • There is no cost or barrier to stream. Everyone in the fintech sector can watch it. 
  • It’s a celebration during a remarkably tough time, so put your tuxedos or ball gowns on and have a drink with the entire sector! 
  • Show your support for your business, colleagues and clients.
  • Be seen. While you’re watching the broadcast, use #UKFTAwards across social media to engage with your peers.
  • Find out if you, your team, your business or your clients have won an award!
  • Watch it on your smartphone, laptop or smart TV, wherever you like (shout outs on social media for the best examples!).

Fintech deserves to be recognised with an unrivalled production. It would have been easy to cancel the 2020 awards in light of, well, 2020, but digital innovation within financial services is crucial to consumers and businesses, and highlighting and rewarding best practice will contribute to its continued success.

When you do register for the UK FinTech Awards 2020, you’ll be sent access information and a password during the week of the event, along with regular reminders so you don’t miss the opportunity to discover the UK fintech champions of 2020, and learn how they are delivering such important products and services in these difficult times.

Greenwood raises $3 million to launch digital bank for Black and Latinx communities

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Greenwood raises $3 million to launch digital bank for Black and Latinx communities
Michael “Killer Mike” Render, Ambassador Andrew J Young and Ryan Glover

US-based challenger bank Greenwood has raised $3 million in seed funding from private investors to launch the first digital banking platform for Black and Latinx people and business owners.

Greenwood was founded by civil rights legend and former Atlanta mayor and ambassador to the United Nations Andrew J Young, and Michael Render, also known as Killer Mike, a rapper and activist in Black financial empowerment. Its third co-founder, Ryan Glover, who launched Bounce TV network, serves as its chairman.

The Greenwood name pays homage to ‘Black Wall Street’, a part of the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the early 20th century that served as a centre of African American enterprise, entertainment, skills, wealth and investment capital. It was destroyed during the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

Explaining why launching Greenwood to serve Black and Latinx people and business owners was necessary, Render said: “Today, a dollar circulates for 20 days in the white community but only six hours in the Black community.”

“Moreover, a Black person is twice as likely as a white person to be denied a mortgage. This lack of fairness in the financial system is why we created Greenwood.”

“It’s no secret that traditional banks have failed the Black and Latinx community,” continued Glover. “We needed to create a new financial platform that understands our history and our needs going forward, a banking platform built by us and for us, a platform that helps us build a stronger future for our communities.”

“This is our time to take back control of our lives and our financial future. That is why we launched Greenwood, modern banking for the culture.” 

Greenwood’s initial products are savings and spending accounts that come with a black metal debit card for customers who sign up by the end of the year.

Advanced features such as Apple, Samsung, and Google Pay, virtual debit cards, peer-to-peer transfers, mobile check deposits, and free ATM usage in more than 30,000 US locations are offered with no hidden fees.

Greenwood also plans to work with brick and mortar minority-owned banks to provide deposits to help strengthen historically black banks.

Young said: “The work that we did in the civil rights movement wasn’t just about being able to sit at the counter. It was also about being able to own the restaurant. We have the skills, talent and energy to compete anywhere in the world, but to grow the economy, it has to be based on the spirit of the universe and not the greed of the universe.”

“Killer Mike, Ryan and I are launching Greenwood to continue this work of empowering black and brown people to have economic opportunity.”

Greenwood also committed to providing five free meals to a family in need for every customer sign-up, a donation to one of several charities serving education, fighting hunger and supporting civil rights for every swipe of its debit card, and a $10,000 grant every month to a Black or Latinx small business owner that is a customer.

Cover Genius secures A$15 million in new funding

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Cover Genius secures A$15 million in new funding

Insurtech company Cover Genius has raised A$15 million as it expands its product suite and partner network globally.

The funding announcement comes as the company launches its product and parcel insurance products on Shopee Thailand.

Within the last month, Cover Genius has successfully integrated commercial, shipping and product insurance for six global ecommerce platforms, including Tile and Wayfair.

The latest funding round, led by King River Capital, supplemented by a loan from Leap Capital, is aimed at supporting Cover Genius integrations with significant names in technology and ecommerce across South East Asia, India, the US and Europe.

Angus McDonald, chief executive officer and co-founder of Cover Genius, said the latest funding round, backed by the company’s existing shareholder group, showed continued investor support for its international expansion plans.

McDonald said: “Our global partner network is rapidly growing and this recent raise will support the ongoing development of high volumes of strategic partnership deals, across a broad range of insurance lines, verticals and geographies.”

Commenting on how customer adoption of insurance has increased dramatically in recent times with the surge to online shopping, McDonald said: “Customers want to protect their purchases, big or small, and given the option many will take insurance cover at the point of sale from their favourite online brands.”

“The confidence this gives customers is driving an increase in purchase volume with 32% of customers happy to buy and spend more if offered insurance. Our partners are certainly ahead of the curve and can see the value of insurance not only to their customers, but also their business.”

Chris Barter, partner at King River Capital, continued: “It’s no surprise that many businesses are looking at partnerships and integrations that can help grow their business in these challenging times. Cover Genius has a long history of actively contributing to the growth and prosperity of some of the world’s biggest ecommerce brands and we are excited to see them expand so quickly into new territories and verticals.”

Revolut selects Fireblock for launch of new crypto services

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Revolut selects Fireblocks, plans to introduce new crypto services

UK-headquartered fintech company Revolut is using the infrastructure of Fireblocks to support the introduction of new crypto services for its 13 million retail customers.

Revolut already provides access to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ether and Stellar but is in need of a secure platform that allows digital assets to be transferred outside of its own app.

Fireblocks provides a platform and secure infrastructure for digital asset transfers. Its founders launched the company after working on the investigation into the 2017 hacking of four South Korean exchanges and theft of $200 million in Bitcoin.

Revolut has rapidly expanded since its launch in 2015 and is now worth $5.5 billion. It offers features and services such as salary advance, instant peer-to-peer payments, and budgeting controls.

Its user base of more than 13 million is making more than 100 million transactions per month, suggesting there is significant room for growth and the addition of new services.

Revolut chose Fireblocks to support its introduction of new crypto services because the platform gives the fintech company “a competitive edge over other financial applications”.

Ed Cooper, head of crypto at Revolut, said: “[Fireblocks] enables us to rapidly add more advanced crypto features as the space continues to evolve at breakneck speed.”

Streamlining liquidity settlements through its network guarantees an excellent price for Revolut users while reducing counterparty risk, according to Fireblocks.

Fireblocks’s MPC-based wallet infrastructure and network also make it possible for Revolut to add additional product lines and retail-facing capabilities, bringing more traditional banking services alongside crypto to the platform.

With Fireblocks support, Revolut can efficiently scale the framework of its crypto services by streamlining storage, liquidity access, and settlements, while maintaining governance and compliance.

Fireblocks revealed that Revolut was its 100th customer. The platform was backed with $16 million in series A funding when it launched in 2019.

Other customers are based in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Berlin and Paris.

Crypto-derivatives subject to retail ban in UK

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UK financial services regulator bans sale of crypto-derivatives to retail consumers

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has banned the sale of crypto-derivatives to retail customers.

The financial services regulator in the UK considers these products to be “ill-suited for retail consumers due to the harm they pose”.

Among the reasons provided for the ban, the UK FCA said crypto-derivatives have no reliable basis for valuation because of the inherent nature of the underlying assets.

There is also a prevalence of market abuse and financial crime in the secondary market, extreme volatility in cryptoasset price movements, inadequate understanding of the assets among retail customers, and a lack of a legitimate need for them to invest in these products.

The ban, scheduled to come into effect on 6 January 2021, prohibits the sale, marketing and distribution to all retail consumers of any derivatives (contracts for difference, options and futures) and exchange-traded notes that reference unregulated transferable cryptoassets by firms acting in, or from, the UK.

The UK FCA estimates that retail consumers will save around £53 million from the ban on crypto-derivatives.

Sheldon Mills, interim executive director of strategy and competition at the UK FCA, said: “This ban reflects how seriously we view the potential harm to retail consumers in these products. Consumer protection is paramount here.”

“Significant price volatility, combined with the inherent difficulties of valuing cryptoassets reliably, places retail consumers at a high risk of suffering losses from trading crypto-derivatives. We have evidence of this happening on a significant scale. The ban provides an appropriate level of protection.”

UK FinTech Awards 2020 ceremony set for online broadcast

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UK FinTech Awards 2020 ceremony set for online broadcast

The UK FinTech Awards 2020 ceremony is moving online and will be broadcast on 17 November, exclusively via ukfintechawards.co.uk at 7pm.

The Covid-19 pandemic is demanding innovation from everyone as we navigate this new normal—and the UK FinTech Awards is no exception.

As it remains unsafe to hold the in-person event scheduled for 27 October, the awards ceremony will be broadcast on 17 November.

All you have to do to watch the ceremony on 17 November is register here. That’s it! You’ll receive access information and a password, along with regular reminders so you don’t miss the opportunity to discover the UK fintech champions of 2020, and learn how they are innovating in these difficult times.

Why don’t you take a moment to peruse the shortlist, and find out who this year’s finalists and most innovative financial services technology companies and developers are?

You’ll be able to stream the awards via your desktop, laptop and mobile devices. Or you could cast the ceremony to your smart TV as you sit back and find out whether you or a colleague has brought home the gold.

The independent panel of judges, led by Steve Harper of Invest Northern Ireland, met earlier this year to assemble the shortlist of finalists, all of which deserve special credit for finding the time to enter and seek recognition for all of their hard work.

​​​​​​NEC to buy Avaloq for $2.2 billion

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​​​​​​NEC to buy Avaloq for $2.2 billion

​​​​​​Japanese electronics conglomerate ​​​​​​NEC has struck a deal to buy Switzerland-based Avaloq, a provider of digital banking solutions, core banking software and wealth management technology, for $2.2 billion.

Warburg Pincus owns a 45% stake in the core banking software company, with the rest owned by Avaloq’s founder and employees.

Following completion of the acquisition by April 2021, Avaloq will continue to operate as its own entity, headquartered in Switzerland.

Avaloq represents an entry into fintech for ​​​​​​NEC. The conglomerate is acquiring a proven provider of cloud solutions for banks and wealth managers around the globe, with more than 30 years of experience under its belt.

NEC has ambitions to build ‘smart cities’ and is investing in research and development for biometrics, blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies, in order to take advantage of digitisation and big data transformations around the world.

The conglomerate believes Avaloq has the potential to complement this work by democratising wealth management and making asset classes and advice-led banking services available to mass affluent investors, which represent a highly attractive segment of new clients for private banks and wealth managers.

Juerg Hunziker, chief executive officer of Avaloq, said of the acquisition: “Due to very similar values of professionalism, reliability, quality and excellent service for clients with a focus on precision, we firmly believe that this partnership will be a successful one for employees, clients as well as other stakeholders.”

Francisco Fernandez, founder and chairman of Avaloq, added: “Talking to NEC’s top managers, it became clear to me that they share my ambition for Avaloq to continue to shape the future of the financial industry by continuing to invest heavily in R&D.”

Takashi Niino, president and chief executive officer of NEC Corporation, said: “NEC strongly believes in the importance of safety and security around financial institutions, which is absolutely crucial for sustainable prosperity and digital inclusion. Avaloq is a recognised global leader in their field, and their compelling offering is expected to complement our current solutions. NEC aims to further expand its business in the digital government and digital finance areas, by globally developing SaaS and BPaaS business models that utilise software and technologies from throughout the NEC Group, including Avaloq’s.”

Clim8 Invest launches Crowdcube funding campaign

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Clim8 Invest launches Crowdcube funding campaign

Clim8 Invest, the digital consumer platform focused on climate-crisis tackling investments, has launched a Crowdcube funding campaign and already smashed its £400,000 target.

The new funding round builds on the £2 million that UK-based Clim8 raised earlier this year, which included an investment from a venture capital fund backed by the British Business Bank, and aims to capitalise on an increased interest in impact investing.

At the time of writing, Clim8 had already raised more than £550,000 from the Crowdcube funding campaign, with 29 days left to run.

Duncan Grierson, founder and chief executive officer of Clim8, said: “This year we’ve seen a dramatic increase in interest in climate change and impact investing. Due in part to Covid, people are more aware of their immediate environment, the clean air, and have gained clarity on the things that are most important to them. We are doubling down to make the most of this momentum.”

He continued: “Our mission at Clim8 is to raise awareness of the sustainable options available and empower more people to make the best choice for themselves and for the planet. This funding round will enable us to spread our message and also fund further product development. Our community has grown fast to over 10,000 people and we want to reach many more.”

Clim8 has started onboarding users from its waitlist and will launch the platform officially this autumn.

Mike Barry, former head of sustainability at M&S and a Clim8 adviser and Investor, said: “We need a new economy. One that works for everybody. And that’s what Clim8 does. It empowers people to be part of the economic upside of change and build a better future. One that’s low carbon, fair, equitable, and commits to wellbeing.”

B-North raises £1 million ahead of becoming regulated SME lender

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B-North raises £1 million ahead of becoming regulated SME lender

UK-based fintech company B-North has raised a further £1 million in funding as it moves closer to obtaining regulatory approval to become a lending bank to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The £1 million in funding, from Growth Capital Ventures (GCV), is a part of the fintech company’s £20 million series A round designed to give B-North the necessary capital to finalise its banking licence process.

B-North plans to deliver loans of between £500,000 and £5 million to UK SMEs. Its business is built on the premise of operating regional ‘lending pods’, which include underwriters, valuers, and account managers, across the UK to facilitate a borrowing experience and to develop face-to-face relationships with growing businesses and the brokers that support them.

Teamed with the latest in cloud-based technology, B-North aims to deliver finance up to 10x faster than the market standard.

Jonathan Thompson, chief executive officer of B-North, commented: “We are using this ‘bridge’ round to extend our cash runway and enable us to complete our Series A fundraising as efficiently as possible in the coming months, at which point we will bring the business to market.”

“The last couple of years have seen us painstakingly bring together the different, important elements required to deliver fast, efficient lending to the UK’s SMEs. We are very much ready to go and are excited to get out there and start helping businesses realise their ambitions.”

Craig Peterson, co-founder and chief operating officer of GCV, said: “This fundraise has created a rare and attractive opportunity to own a stake in a business that’s about to bring to market a technology-driven UK bank focused on providing finance to scale-ups and SMEs.”

“The levelling up of the UK economy simply cannot be achieved in the current financial landscape and I am very confident that B-North and its unique regional bank model will be an important addition to the supply side of credit to UK SMEs.”

“Getting more funds to high-growth SMEs will be vital as the UK attempts to reinvigorate an economy that has been damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. SMEs account for around 60% of private sector employment and have been the major driver of job growth over the past ten years.”

Acin raises $12 million as investors back its solution for ‘under-served’ operational risk

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Acin raises $12 million as investors back its solution for 'under-served' operational risk

UK-based regtech company Acin has raised $12 million in series A funding to spearhead efforts to create a complete front-to-back-office solution to assess and manage operational and non-financial risks.

European software-as-a-service investor Notion Capital led the $12 million funding round and will work closely with Acin to drive rapid growth. Fitch Ventures, the investment arm of US-based ratings agency Fitch, supported the round.

Acin is a data and knowledge-sharing network focused on quantifying, standardising and digitising operational risk.

Its cloud-based Terminal solution digitises non-financial risk management for financial services organisations, providing standardised, industry-wide inventories. Acin has 14 tier-one member banks, including Société Générale, Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered, in its network.

The series A funding will be used to enhance Terminal with additional inventories of risks and controls, software extensions, and integrated benchmarking.

Acin also plans to expand its solution into further sectors beyond financial services over time.

The regtech company’s platform is “addressing one of the largest ‘white space’ opportunities in the overall risk landscape”, according to Stephen Chandler, managing partner at new investor Notion.

Chandler said: “Numerous billion-dollar tech companies have been created in market and credit risk but operational risk remains under-served, with static data and antiquated processes and systems.”

“We at Notion are delighted to be supporting them on their journey to define and lead this category.”

Paul Ford, chief executive officer and founder of Acin, said: “Notion is the perfect partner for Acin, as they share our belief in the market opportunity and in the value of our solution. They have a wealth of experience and connections, and we’re extremely excited about working with them to realise our potential.”

He added: “To have Fitch invest in Acin is a testament to the importance of the opportunity we are addressing and a commitment to seeing it through—we are delighted to have their backing.”

Shea Wallon, managing director of Fitch Ventures, said: “We have been tracking Acin and talking to the team over the last 18 months—we have been impressed by both their client engagement and the dedicated focus they bring to the questions they are answering as they build their operating system. We are excited that Acin is the first European investment for Fitch Ventures.”

Finicity launches credit-decisioning product

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Finicity launches credit-decisioning product

US-based open banking solutions provider Finicity has launched a new credit-decisioning product.

Finicity Lend provides banks, lenders and fintech developers with access to tools that enable their borrowers to directly permission data and insights into lending decisioning processes.

Leveraging the Finicity open banking platform’s data intelligence layer, Finicity Lend provides a new alternative data service, Cash Flow, that analyses financial account data, delivering a broad set of cash flow attributes and giving lenders more accurate insights into a small business or individual’s creditworthiness.

The new product also uses transaction and statement data services, as well as sources covering assets, income, employment and scoring attributes.

Finicity’s decision to position itself as a consumer reporting agency also ensures consumers have the ability to review, dispute, and correct any inaccurate information.

The open banking solutions provider says its new product addresses the need for more efficiency and accuracy, better risk management, real-time insights, and enhanced credit-decisioning.

Steve Smith, chief executive officer and co-founder of Finicity, said: “Our new Finicity Lend integrated solution set will complement the current credit rating system while leveraging the tremendous advantages of open banking to create an industry standard for assessing a borrower’s ability to manage a loan going forward.”

“Real-time, permissioned data from multiple financial accounts is the lifeblood of our secure open banking platform, and empowers consumers to make better financial decisions, to mitigate risk for lenders and can increase overall financial inclusion.”

SpotOn raises $60 million in series C funding

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SpotOn raises $60 million in series C funding

Software and payments company SpotOn Transact has raised $60 million in series C funding.

Internet investment firm DST Global led the funding round, with participation from existing investors including Dragoneer Investment Group and Franklin Templeton.

The new funding comes on the heels of US-, Mexico- and Poland-based SpotOn’s series B funding round in March and reflects the company’s rapid growth over the last six months.

Focused on small- and medium-sized retail, services and restaurant businesses, SpotOn offers products specifically designed for each vertical, such as appointments, ecommerce, online ordering and reservation management, as well as marketing, website development, omnichannel payments and point-of-sale solutions.

“We’re excited to partner with the SpotOn founders and management team in their vision of empowering small businesses by offering a suite of integrated payments and software products at low transparent prices,” said Rahul Mehta, managing partner at DST Global.

“We’re very impressed with their quality of execution, product cadence and customer centric approach in these unprecedented times.”

Matt Hyman, co-founder of SpotOn, welcomed DST Global onboard as a new investor. He said: “SpotOn is committed to small- and medium-sized businesses by providing them with the tools they need to thrive in any climate.”

“We will continue to create innovative products and further our go-to-market approach to ensure merchants nationwide have access to the tools they need to run their businesses. This fundraise, and partnering with a firm like DST Global, allows us to accelerate our pursuit of that goal.”