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Stripe acquires Recko to help internet businesses automate payments reconciliation

Stripe acquires Recko to help internet businesses automate payments reconciliation

Payments infrastructure provider Stripe is acquiring India-based reconciliation software company Recko.

The deal, subject to customary closing conditions and for an undisclosed sum, will see Stripe expand its offering beyond payments acceptance to include a key accounting process and build on the revenue growing tools it already offers, including Revenue Recognition, Billing, Invoicing, and more.

Will Gaybrick, Stripe’s chief product officer, comments: “Payments reconciliation shouldn’t be a mild headache that balloons into a migraine as a company grows—it should be an easy, highly automated process.” 

“Stripe helps millions of businesses around the world streamline their revenue management—from subscriptions and invoicing to revenue recognition and bookkeeping. With Recko, we’ll automate their payments reconciliation, a critical input into their overall financial health.”

Based in Bangalore, India, Recko was founded in 2017 and currently counts leading internet businesses including Deliveroo, Meesho, PharmEasy, and more as customers.

Recko’s team will join Stripe’s remote engineering hub, helping to build and scale its products globally. This acquisition comes amid Stripe’s increased investment in India, including updated data locality architecture and rapid local hiring.

Saurya Prakash Sinha, chief executive officer and co-founder of Recko, says: “Joining Stripe is a perfect next chapter for Recko, and we can’t wait to help grow the GDP of the internet by removing the burden of reconciliation complexity.”

“Internet businesses need new financial tools that can scale with their growth and automate the tasks required to produce an accurate picture of their financial health.”

Quantum computing startup Multiverse closes $11.64m seed round

Quantum computing startup Multiverse closes $11.64m seed round

Spain-based Multiverse Computing, a quantum computing startup dedicated to financial services, has closed a seed funding round worth $11.64 million. 

The seed round was led by JME Ventures and also included Quantonation, EASO Ventures, Inveready, CLAVE Capital (Mondragón Fondo de Promoción), Ikerlan, LKS, Penja Strategy, Seed Gipuzkoa and Ezten Venture Capital Fund.

The funding will be used to consolidate the company’s growth and globalisation strategy as well as continue to advance its technology and marketing, according to Enrique Lizaso PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of Multiverse Computing.

Lizaso said: “We are a unique company in the quantum computing field. While other firms are focused on improving the fundamental hardware and software components of quantum computers, we are keenly focused on leveraging the most advanced quantum devices available now to deliver near-term value for the financial sector.”

Founded in 2019, Multiverse Computing developed its flagship product, Singularity, for providers in the financial services sector. 

The product enables financial services professionals to run ultra-efficient quantum algorithms on any quantum computer from a simple spreadsheet to address highly complex problems, such as portfolio optimisation and fraud detection, without requiring any knowledge of quantum computers, according to the company.

Multiverse Computing is aiming to achieve annual revenues of close to $116.46 million by 2027 with a staff of 100 people.

In addition to its financial services focus, the funding round will support the company’s gradual entry into new markets such as energy, mobility and smart manufacturing, where Multiverse Computing already works with reference customers.

The company will also increase support for its global expansion, which currently includes a fully operational office in Toronto and two recent office openings in Paris and Munich.

In June, Multiverse Computing partnered with Crédit Agricole CIB and Pasqal to design and implement new approaches running on classical and quantum computers in order to outperform state-of-the-art algorithms for capital markets and risk management.

Trading fintech Trumid raises $208m

Trading fintech Trumid raises $208m

Trumid, the electronic credit trading provider, has secured $208 million of financing.

The financing round was led by Point Break Capital Management, with significant participation from Motive Partners.

They were joined by Senator Investment Group, Phase2 Partners and existing investors, including Dragoneer Investment Group, TPG, DST Global, Singapore Exchange (SGX), and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and T. Rowe Price Associates. 

Growth capital from this financing will enable Trumid to further enhance its technology and to expand its footprint to include additional trading protocols, asset classes and geographies.

New York, USA-headquartered Trumid provides global credit trading solutions that have experienced significant market share and client activity growth. 

Daily trading volumes on the Trumid platform have grown rapidly, now almost seven times higher than two years ago. In 2021 alone, year-to-date average daily volume has increased 71% year over year.

In addition to Trumid’s US corporate bond franchise, the company has recently added emerging market debt to its platform.

The fintech says its partnership with Point Break Capital Management, a private investment firm with significant experience and relationships in global financial markets and deep roots in Latin America, corresponds well with the its expansionary initiatives in emerging market debt.

Commenting on the new financing, Mike Sobel, president of Trumid, says: “Strong partnership with our community of clients and investors is how Trumid drives sustainable innovation and value.”

“We’re thrilled to bring in investors whose expertise matches our strategic priorities. Credit market structure is evolving quickly and we’re excited to run hard at the big growth opportunities in front of us.” 

Ashwin Kumar, industry partner at Motive Partners, comments “Trumid’s strong performance demonstrates its ability to deliver efficient trade execution and support global credit trading through outstanding technology.”

“We see great potential for the creation of long-term value in the business and expect this round of funding to enable the company to achieve its expansion plans. We’re delighted to make our extensive resources in technology and innovation available to help the Trumid team drive those plans forward.”

TradingView hits $3 billion valuation with $298 million investment

TradingView hits $3 billion valuation with $298 million investment
Credit: TradingView

Investing intelligence provider TradingView has closed a $298 million investment round led by Tiger Global.

The round values London, UK-headquartered TradingView at $3 billion, following 18 months of increasing visitor numbers and a jump in created accounts. 

Founded in 2011, TradingView has built a platform for sharing and sourcing trading and investment information and insight accessed by a reported 30 million monthly users.

The company says it is doubling down on its broker relationships and is expecting to partner and integrate with most major brokerage platforms over the next few years to allow consumers to trade directly from TradingView, while using their preferred financial institutions.

Denis Globa, chief executive officer and co-founder of TradingView, says: “We’re excited to be partnering with Tiger Global. Their global fintech expertise and insights will contribute significantly to furthering TradingView’s vision of informed financial trading and investing for the world.”

“We built this company with the belief that people everywhere want the same thing: to be in control of their own economic futures. We work towards this by creating an environment where all traders and investors can ‘Look first / Then leap’. That it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from, you’ll always have access to the best tools and the best insights to find your right trading opportunities, then act on them.”

Alex Cook, partner at Tiger Global, adds: “TradingView’s global reach, strong product offering, and engaged customer base positions the company to be the default social network and financial analysis platform used by all traders and investors.”

“We’re looking forward to helping Denis and the team realise this ambition and expand the company’s market leadership position.”

VoxSmart acquires GreenKey to strengthen communications surveillance offering

VoxSmart acquires GreenKey to strengthen communications surveillance offering

UK technology firm VoxSmart has acquired GreenKey Technologies, an automated speech recognition and natural language processing provider, to bolster its communications surveillance offering to global financial institutions. 

VoxSmart says the addition of Chicago, USA-based GreenKey’s domain-specific communication analysis expertise will enable the company to rapidly accelerate growth and position it as the de facto market leader in natural language processing and voice analytics for financial markets.

Commenting on the deal, Oliver Blower, chief executive officer of VoxSmart, says: “By acquiring GreenKey, we have added an extremely valuable asset to our product portfolio enabling us to provide even greater value and deeper insights to our clients. We continue to be extremely well positioned to help the market consolidate their surveillance assets with our unique ‘one platform’ approach.”  

Anthony Tassone, chief executive officer of GreenKey, adds: “Following eight years of research and development focusing on voice data analysis for the financial markets, we are incredibly excited to be working with VoxSmart on this transaction. They have the breadth and depth of reach within this sector to take the technology to the next level.”

This acquisition marks a period of rapid growth for VoxSmart, following a $25 million growth equity investment injection from Toscafund earlier this year, which was designed to support transactions such as this.

George Koulouris, partner at Toscafund, says: “We are already seeing our investment in VoxSmart providing the necessary support in facilitating the completion of this deal, with the company well positioned to pursue further transactions and solidify its position as the market leader.”

Raiffeisen Digital Bank launches a new app in six months with Mambu

Raiffeisen Digital Bank launches a new app in six months with Mambu

Raiffeisen Digital Bank, a provider of consumer lending products in Poland delivered exclusively online, has launched a new mobile app using the Mambu low-code banking-as-a-service (BaaS) platform.

Polish citizens are able to set up an account and request a loan via the app up to the value of PLN 100,000 (€22,000) with a repayment period of up to 60 months.

Under the brand Raiffeisen Digital Bank, Austria- and Central and Eastern Europe-focused Raiffeisen Centrobank AG offers fully digital consumer loans in Poland with aim of being easy and fast, with no visits to branches required.

Mambu’s implementation and advisory teams worked closely with Raiffeisen Centrobank remotely to develop the app due to Covid-19 restrictions, but were able to launch in six months. 

The fintech says that by using its BaaS platform, which enables users to rapidly deploy banking and lending services, Raiffeisen Centrobank was able to develop a highly automated seamless architecture, allowing for shorter development cycles, accelerated innovation and fast time to market.

Commenting on the launch of the app, Jakub Malach, head of lending at Raiffeisen Digital Bank, says: “The uptake of digital banking and lending products in Poland and across the entire region is increasing rapidly and we wanted to be part of this dynamic market. We knew that only an advanced cloud-native technology would give us the competitive edge and the ability to reach new markets rapidly.” 

Elliott Limb, chief customer officer at Mambu, adds: “Covid-19 has shifted customer behaviour towards digital banking, making Raiffeisen Centrobank’s new product relevant and timely. But the pandemic has also made customers more demanding. Banks need the flexibility to change and adapt their products and services quickly, and most incumbents don’t have that capability.”

“With Mambu, Raiffeisen Centrobank is well-positioned to capitalise on this growing opportunity. We know that Raiffeisen Digital Bank can take banking and lending in the region to the next level.”

Digital insurer Getsafe extends series B funding round

Digital insurer Getsafe extends series B funding round

Digital insurer Getsafe has secured another $63 million in funds, extending its series B round to $93 million. 

Among the newest investors in the insurtech, which serves 250,000 customers in Germany and the UK, are large family offices in Europe, including Abacon Capital, as well as Earlybird, CommerzVentures, and Swiss Re.

Getsafe plans to use the capital to fund its own insurance licence by the end of 2021 and to accelerate its European expansion.

The company began offering renters insurance in Germany in late 2017, and has expanded its product portfolio to a car insurance product at the end of last year.

It also launched its renters insurance product in the UK in 2020. Currently, one quarter of Getsafe’s total growth is already generated through the British market.

The insurtech is digitising the entire insurance process and making it accessible through its smartphone app, where customers can buy, manage, and adapt their policies as well as file a claim.

Christian Wiens, chief executive officer and co-founder of Getsafe, comments: “The insurance brands we know today have been founded in a totally different era. But insurance, more than many other products, can be much better when powered by technology and machine learning. This is why we believe that insurance companies built from scratch, on their own digital platform, are set to become the dominant insurance players for the generations to come.”

To control the full value chain, Getsafe has applied for an insurance licence with Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority last year.

With its own licence, Getsafe plans to expand its product offering and innovations even faster. Wiens says: “We don’t only want to do insurance differently, but we want to make it unconditionally better. The innovations in the insurance market we’ve seen so far are merely the tip of the iceberg. Becoming a full-stack carrier will give us the necessary freedom to take unconventional paths and to realise innovations quicker than before.”

Commenting on its investment, Christian Nagel, partner at Earlybird, says: “We are delighted to work with the team surrounding CEO Christian Wiens. Getsafe’s vision to excite people with a digital insurance experience, and to sustainably change this industry is a fantastic journey to be part of.”

“At Earlybird, we invest in innovative and scalable technology companies that have the potential to revolutionise entire industries. The disruption of the insurance sector is well underway and holds lots of growth opportunities. Getsafe is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between traditional insurance distribution and the needs of a new generation of customers across Europe.”

Fraud prevention specialist Alloy raises $100m

Fraud prevention specialist Alloy raises $100m

Alloy, the New York, USA-based fraud prevention technology provider, has raised $100 million in series C funding.

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round, with participation from existing investors Canapi Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Avid Ventures and Felicis Ventures, bringing the company’s valuation to $1.35 billion and its total raised to more than $150 million. 

The new round of funding will be used to expand Alloy’s product offerings to help fintech companies and banks combat fraud by building out a continuously evolving identity profile throughout a customer’s lifecycle.

Over the last year, what began as a platform used to automate onboarding identity decisions has grown to also include transaction monitoring, according to Alloy.

With this extended capability, Alloy’s API-based platform has started on the journey to creating customer identity profiles that can be used to prevent fraud and minimise risk. Future product expansions will incorporate richer data and risk signals to give financial institutions a full, 360° picture of their customers.

Tommy Nicholas, co-founder and chief executive officer at Alloy, comments: “We want to make building a fintech product as easy as building an ecommerce product, and we’re thrilled to have Lightspeed on board to help us do that.”

“Identity and its associated risk isn’t something businesses should be figuring out, it should just be something they install. As Alloy grows into a multi-product platform for the full customer identity lifecycle, we can not only help make risk easier to understand, but also further industry innovation by making fintech products easier to build.”

Alloy says improving the developer experience is a significant priority, especially when it comes to bringing new products to market.

The company aims to have risk and identity all in one, easy-to-use place, enabling developer and product teams to use these tools to their full potential.

Alloy’s platform already brings the many pieces of digital identity into a centralised platform, working across more than 85 data sources to enable customers to make better decisions and take a closer look at the full picture of their customers.

Justin Overdorff, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, says: “We’re thrilled to put our support behind the Alloy team as their product and mission fits squarely within our thesis that the proliferation of fintech, financial services, and embedded fintech companies is driving increasing demand for tools like Alloy.” 

“Alloy takes the risk off their client’s plate while maintaining operational efficiency throughout the customer lifecycle, making Alloy a crucial piece of the fintech infrastructure stack.”

The new funding will also be invested in the Alloy team, expanding all functions of the business to increase output and specialisation.

In less than a year, Alloy has seen revenue more than triple and headcount increase by 140%. The company currently services more than 200 clients, including Ally Bank, HMBradley, Gemini, Ramp and Evolve Bank & Trust.

SumUp appoints new CEO for Europe

SumUp appoints new CEO for Europe
Michael Schrezenmaier

Merchant payments provider SumUp has appointed Michael Schrezenmaier as its new chief executive officer for Europe.

Schrezenmaier brings with him a founder’s mentality and a hands-on attitude, according to SumUp, a specialist in digital payments based in the UK, as well as being a perfect cultural fit for the company, which is notably diverse, in respect of markets served and its employees.

He held a number of C-suite positions, including chief operating officer and co-chief executive officer at his most recent company, Pipedrive, a customer relationship management provider. During his time there, the company achieved unicorn status.

Schrezenmaier previously worked at Spark Networks, the New York Stock Exchange-listed dating company, where he was chief operating officer and managing director for almost seven years.

He also held a number of management positions at Kuehne + Nagel, the logistics and supply chain company.

Commenting on his appointment, Schrezenmaier says: “SumUp is a company known for its entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to embrace change which, combined with its growth journey and continued upward trajectory, makes this an exciting time to join.”

“Through its range of innovative solutions and dedication to merchants, SumUp is a leader in the payment space and I look forward to getting to know our merchants, drawn from across the globe, as the company continues its evolution to becoming the go-to financial and business account platform for SMEs in Europe.”

Marc-Alexander Christ, co-founder of SumUp, comments: “For SumUp to maintain positive momentum, we have to attract and hire the best people. Michael is a prime example of the type of person that will drive the company forward as we look to uphold our strong position in Europe—and deliver for our merchants.”

“The rate at which SumUp has grown, and is growing presently, is testament to our peerless employees and our loyal merchants, who drive our company’s success. Michael’s appointment exemplifies our approach and we are certain he will play a major part in future company success.”

SumUp has enjoyed a strong year, continuing to expand its services to become 360° payment provider to small merchants.

The fintech raised €750 million earlier in 2021. The raise involved Goldman Sachs, Temasek, Bain Capital Credit, Crestline and Oaktree Capital Management.

SumUp supports more than three million merchants today, operating with a team of more than 2,600 people, situated across 19 offices worldwide.

Chip launches growth investment round

Chip launches growth investment round

Digital savings fintech Chip is planning a growth investment round from the crowd and institutions in the coming weeks.

The UK-based fintech says the new round of funding will enable the acceleration of all growth activities across marketing, product and technology. Its longer-term ambition is to raise £100 million in the next 24 months.

In the past year, Chip says it has proven it can create a sustainable business model through the pandemic as it saw an explosive growth in revenue.

The fintech achieved positive growth margins for the first time in August 2021, while its revenues have increased 500% since December 2020.

Other achievements include growth in the total amount of saves processed to more than £600 million and daily deposits in excess of £5 million.

Chip has also seen its average user balance increase by 545% in the last year, from £459.35 in September 2020 to £2,961.03 in September 2021. Its user base now stands at more than 400,000.

Earlier this year, the fintech also launched a membership plan focused on earning returns, with access to 10 different funds.

As part of the crowd component of its latest round, Chip has launched pre-registrations for the upcoming Crowdcube campaign. The fintech saw more than 25,000 people register their interest for its previous round in September 2020, and expects a significant increase in pre-registrations this year.

Chip is among Europe’s most successfully crowdfunded companies, and its 17,000-strong shareholder community is one of the largest in the UK’s fintech scene. It expects to expand its community even further as a result of the upcoming round.

Simon Rabin, chief executive officer and founder of Chip comments: “Having focused for the past year on adding returns products to Chip, the growth of our revenues, and optimisation of our unit economics, this round of investment is a strong endorsement of the strategy we pursued in 2021.”

“We have ambitions to take Chip global, and this round is the start of an aggressive growth stage as we work towards becoming the UK’s first fintech savings unicorn. It represents a fantastic validation of our strategy over the past year, cementing our plans to expand Chip across Europe and rocket our valuation and shareholder value much further.”

“I firmly believe in the power of long-term sustainable growth”, Rabin continued. “Far too often companies focus on short-term profitability which I think is a massive mistake. Our goal at Chip is to build the best savings app in the world, and it’s not something you achieve overnight.”

“We made immense progress in the past year and now plan on building upon it, aggressively. I am thrilled to offer our community an opportunity to join our journey as we prepare to go big, and go global.”

BNY Mellon Invests in Quantexa Technology

BNY Mellon Invests in Quantexa Technology

BNY Mellon has completed a strategic investment in Quantexa Technology, to close its series D led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

As part of the investment, Joseph Sieczkowski, chief information officer of engineering and architecture at BNY Mellon, will join the Quantexa board, while Eric Hirschhorn, the bank’s chief data officer, will bring his expertise to its advisory board.

BNY Mellon has invested in Quantexa, a data management and analytics fintech based in the UK, after using its solution for 12 months. Their expanded relationship will focus on data fabric innovation at the global bank.

Sieczkowski comments: “After leveraging Quantexa’s technology, the synergies for BNY Mellon became obvious, and we participated in its series D round of funding. We’re excited to collaborate on a number of new data and analytics technology innovations, which will directly benefit our customers and support Quantexa’s technology as we set new standards across banking, data management, and risk and compliance together.”

Vishal Marria, chief executive officer at Quantexa, adds: “We feel exceptionally fortunate to have found not only a great client in BNY Mellon expanding our footprint in North America, but also an innovative collaborator. We’re thrilled with the opportunity to work alongside Joe and Eric whose experience and expertise will be invaluable as we scale to meet increasing demand in enterprise IT and data environments.”

Prior to confirmation of BNY Mellon’s participation, Quantexa revealed the value of its series D funding round, led by Warburg Pincus and involving a growing group of blue-chip investors, to be $153 million.

Starling to make BaaS available in Europe

Starling to make BaaS available in Europe

Starling Bank has confirmed that it is looking to expand into Europe next year. 

During H1 2022 and subject to regulatory approval, the digital bank hopes to make its banking-as-a-service (BaaS) solution available in the EU, including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. 

Called Starling as a Service, the solution will enable businesses to build their own financial products, such as savings or current accounts, integrated digital wallets, kids’ cards and debit cards, on the digital bank’s platform.

Starling handles the technical and regulatory demands behind the scenes, leaving businesses to take care of their customers with innovative embedded banking solutions.

Anne Boden, chief executive officer of Starling, comments: “The thriving technology and fintech scene in European markets makes them a great fit for the culture of innovation at Starling, and therefore a natural space for us to offer and develop our solutions in Europe.”

“We have seen a consistent and growing demand for digital financial services, further accelerated by extended lockdowns and a shift in consumer behaviours in key European markets, and it is clear that Starling can power new and exciting opportunities for businesses across Europe”

Starling launched its BaaS offering in the UK in 2018 and already has 25 payment and banking services customers, including Raisin, CurrencyCloud, Moneybox and Vitesse.

Confirmation of the launch of the BaaS offering in Europe follows the digital bank receiving a £50 million investment from Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. 

That investment was an extension of its oversubscribed £272 million series D funding round, which valued the digital bank in excess of £1.1 billion pre-money.

PrimaryBid appoints first chair

PrimaryBid appoints first chair
Sir Donald Brydon CBE

PrimaryBid, the UK-based fintech connecting retail investors with public companies raising capital, has appointed Sir Donald Brydon CBE as its first chair.

Brydon will continue as chair of Sage Group until 30 September, when he takes on the same role at PrimaryBid, subject to regulatory approval.

He is an experienced first appointment for the fintech. His CV includes recently chairing the London Stock Exchange Group, and in 2019, he led an independent review for the UK government into the quality and effectiveness of audit.

Commenting on his appointment, Brydon says: “Being asked to become chair of such an ambitious and forward-thinking firm is a real privilege. Both individual investors and public companies stand to benefit when our capital markets are accessible to all, and PrimaryBid has been at the forefront of this inclusion agenda.”

He adds: “As was highlighted in HM Treasury’s recent market consultation, facilitating wider participation in the ownership of public companies is important and technologically achievable. PrimaryBid is a dynamic, pioneering platform with world-class backing, and I am looking forward to helping guide it to further success.”

Anand Sambasivan, chief executive officer of PrimaryBid, comments: “I am delighted that Sir Donald has agreed to become our first chair. He brings significant FTSE board experience and proven governance credentials at the highest levels of UK plc. His experience will be of great benefit as we continue to deliver on PrimaryBid’s ambition to build more inclusive public markets through our technology.”

Brydon’s appointment follows a period of significant growth for PrimaryBid, including a $50 million series B fundraise in October 2020, becoming fully regulated in the EU and launching alongside Euronext in France in June 2021.

PrimaryBid has also seen significant activity in the UK with more than 180 transactions conducted on behalf of UK public companies choosing to include personal investors in fundraises.

International student loan fintech Prodigy Finance lands $750 million

International student loan fintech Prodigy Finance lands $750 million

Prodigy Finance, the UK-based fintech providing cross-border lending for postgraduate international students, has secured a financing deal worth up to $500 million, after striking an agreement on a $250 million facility last year.

CPP Investments will provide up to $500 million of financing through its wholly owned subsidiary, CPPIB Credit Investments.

The deal enables Prodigy Finance to continue to meet growing demand for international student loans, with applications up 50% year-on-year, while moving into new markets.

These markets include China, Australia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Spain, Chile, Singapore, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and most of South America, and their addition means Prodigy Finance can now support the ambitions of students and organisations from more than 120 countries.

The latest investment comes on top of a $250 million facility Prodigy Finance agreed last year with development bank the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which partners with the private sector to finance solutions to critical challenges facing the developing world today.

The DFC funds will be used to grant loans to postgraduate students with a primary focus on low-income and lower-middle-income countries (minimum 50%) and women (minimum 30%).

Prodigy Finance’s business model is built on the idea that access to financing for international graduate education should be borderless and based on future potential rather than current circumstance.

While lending to students from all over the world under UK consumer credit regulation, Prodigy Finance’s payment solutions enable it to engage with and collect from borrowers wherever they are resident post-study.

Prodigy Finance underwrites its loans based on its proprietary Future Earning Potential credit model, helping those without traditional sources of finance or guarantors to study around the world.

To date, Prodigy Finance has funded more than $1 billion in graduate education loans, to more than 20,000 high-potential students from over 100 countries.

Commenting on the new funding, Joel Frisch, head of global acquisition at Prodigy Finance says: “We have always believed that talent is borderless and finance should be too, so we’re thrilled to now be able to support students from all these additional countries. In total we can now help students from over 120 countries worldwide and want to keep being a leader in helping global talent achieve its true potential.”

Derek Jackson, managing director and head of European credit at CPP Investments, adds: “This financial commitment to Prodigy Finance is a great example of our ability to provide flexible funding solutions to complex business needs and fits well with CPP Investments’ credit strategy of investing our patient capital with leading partner organisations.”

Open banking fintech Vyne raises $15.5 million in seed funding

Open banking fintech Vyne raises $15.5 million in seed funding

Open banking fintech Vyne has secured $15.5 million in seed funding from leading fintech investors as it takes on traditional card and alternative payment methods.

Investors in the seed round include Hearst Ventures, Entrée Capital, Triplepoint, Seedcamp, Venrex, Founder Collective and Partech, alongside angel investment from Alex Chesterman, founder of Zoopla and chief executive officer of Cazoo, Charlie Dellingpole, chief executive officer and founder of ComplyAdvantage, and Will Neale, founder of Grabyo.

Founded in 2019, Vyne uses open banking to power account-to-account payments for online businesses. 

Using Vyne, payments can be completed by consumers in three-clicks and merchants can engage customers through more digital channels such as QR codes and pay-by-link, which can be sent by email, SMS, or in person. 

Coupling user experience with improved operational merchant services, Vyne says it empowers business growth by increasing conversion, reducing cost per transaction, streamlining business operations with quick, easy invoicing, and by providing a real-time view of cash flow.

Vyne says it processes millions of pounds worth of transactions each month at a growth rate of 95% month on month.

The $15.5 million investment will enable Vyne to increase international coverage and bring new use cases to market, forging the path to a future of account-to-account payments powered by open banking, challenging traditional card and alternative payment methods. 

Megumi Ikeda, managing director at Hearst Ventures comments: “The global financial ecosystem is moving rapidly away from traditional payments systems and towards open banking and real-time payments.”

“Vyne sits at the bleeding edge of this revolution, by improving the payment experience for all stakeholders. The team’s commercial success is testament to their expertise and commitment to innovation, and we’re delighted to be supporting their continued growth.”

Reshma Sohoni, partner and co-founder at Seedcamp, adds: “As leading payments experts, Vyne are the perfect team to capitalise on the new opportunities for innovation brought about by open banking.”

“Upon first meeting the team we really bought into their vision of delivering a frictionless, more secure end-to-end payments experience for consumers—all while saving merchants money. We’ve been enormously excited by their commercial progress to date and believe Vyne has the opportunity to become a global payments giant.”

Karl MacGregor, chief executive officer at Vyne, comments: “At its heart, Vyne was founded with the simple vision of  perfecting payments for businesses and consumers alike. This seed round will further propel Vyne on its mission to make account-to-account payments the best way to pay and get paid around the world.”

“The calibre of investment we have received is testament to not only the team’s hard work to date but also the opportunity open banking presents to overhaul the traditional banking and payment infrastructure that merchants and consumers have been beholden to for decades.” 

In the last quarter, Vyne made a number of strategic hires, including ex-Klarna and Laybuy executive Luke Flomo as chief revenue officer and Ors Kardos, previously of booking.com, as director of engineering. The business has also recently opened headquarters in Holborn, London.

Data science fintech Incited strengthens senior leadership team

Data science fintech Incited strengthens senior leadership team
Dan Fiehn

Incited has appointed Dan Fiehn as chief operating officer to strengthen the experience of its senior leadership team in insurance, innovation, technology and digital. 

A former Incited client, Fiehn joins the UK data science fintech after 10 years with Markerstudy Insurance Group, where he was group chief operating officer and before that chief information officer.

In these roles, Fiehn was the architect of Markerstudy’s first integrated digital strategy underpinning its rapid growth, and he managed the complex integration of more than 30 acquisitions.

He is also a recognised thought leader and influencer in technology, data and insurance digitalisation, regularly appearing in the media and with a significant social media following.

He joins a data science fintech that launched in 2016 to work with insurance companies, brokers, software houses and third-party providers to create data solutions that, today, are used by more than a dozen UK insurers. 

Incited’s platforms deliver advanced analytics, visualisation, machine learning and enrichment services over billions of records at point of transaction.

Fiehn says: “Historically, the insurance sector has been behind the curve digitally, grappling with legacy tech and watching its financial services peers in sectors like banking benefit from exploiting their data.”

“With its uniquely integrated data science, analytics and artificial intelligence proposition transforming data into insight and action, Incited is the disruptor that is accelerating insurers’ digital journeys. The outcomes for the industry include insight about customers that leads to more effectively priced insurance products, identifies and reduces fraud, enhances the claims experience and minimises churn.”

According to Incited’s founder and chief executive officer, Nick Turner, Fiehn’s unique skillset, background and perspective make him a valuable addition to the team and underpin the company’s growth strategy: “We supported Dan during his digital journey at Markerstudy, recognising his clarity, vision and relentless drive when developing and implementing strategy.”

“Having worked with Dan for many years, we did not have to look far for an industry leader with shared values and the right mix of leadership, strategy and technology experience.”

Fiehn goes on to explain what attracted him to the chief operating officer role at Incited: “During my time at Markerstudy, I created an innovation hub designed to scan the horizon for emerging technologies and generate shareholder value by maximising insight from data. This experience was incredibly fulfilling, strengthening the team’s entrepreneurial culture and resulting in robust solutions that reshaped the group from within.”

“The chief operating officer role at Incited attracted me because of its parallels, and its vision for unlocking the value of data through innovation. Incited is a uniquely positioned business, poised to transform any sector rich in data which is often locked in legacy systems and team silos, and ineffectively used. The unique combination of a cloud-based platform, skilled team and collaborative partnering approach overcomes these barriers seamlessly and has enormous growth potential. That’s very exciting.” 

Fiehn’s appointment is the second senior hire at Incited this quarter, following the appointment of experienced finance executive David Blake as the company’s chief financial officer in August.

Turner concludes: “Our new chief operating officer’s arrival signals the scaling of Incited’s offering and a continued significant investment in our senior leadership team with the skills and experience to take the company forward.”

Airwallex achieves $4 billion valuation with latest funding round

Airwallex achieves $4 billion valuation with latest funding round

Airwallex has raised $200 million in an oversubscribed series E round, increasing the company’s valuation to $4 billion. 

This latest investment follows an extended series D capital raise earlier this year for the Australia-headquartered payments provider, as it pursues global expansion, multiple product development initiatives, growing its sales and commercial teams, and increasing its breadth of offerings for small and larger businesses operating in the digital economy. 

Lone Pine Capital led the series E financing round. New investors G Squared and Vetamer Capital also participated, alongside existing investors including 1835i Ventures (formerly ANZi), DST Global, Salesforce Ventures and Sequoia Capital China.

With the completion of the series E round, Airwallex has raised more than $700 million in equity funds to date. 

Jack Zhang, co-founder and chief executive officer at Airwallex, comments: “We are excited to welcome Lone Pine Capital and our new Silicon Valley investors. Their wealth of experience, foresight and successful industry track records are a significant validation of our business and global growth strategy.”

Zhang adds: “From the start, our vision has been to build a global financial operating system that will allow modern businesses to operate without borders. This additional capital enables us to scale our presence in North America, UK, Europe and other new markets including the Middle East, South America and Southeast Asia, and become a dominant leader in global payments.”

Airwallex has seen significant business growth in the last year, recording year-over-year revenue growth of nearly 150% for the first half of 2021, and processing more than annualised $20 billion for a global client portfolio that has quadrupled in size, serving innovative global businesses such as GOAT, Papaya Global and Stake.

The company has nearly doubled its headcount in 2021 and employs almost 1,000 employees today in more than 20 locations globally.

This year, Airwallex launched a series of new products and reached major milestones with its global expansion plans, opening for business in the US last month, as well as securing licences in the Netherlands and Malaysia.

David Craver, managing director at Lone Pine Capital, comments: “Airwallex has a clear competitive advantage in the digital payments market. Its unique Asia Pacific roots, coupled with its innovative infrastructure, products and services, speak volumes about the business’ global growth opportunities and its impressive expansion in the competitive payment providers space.”

“We are excited to invest in Airwallex at this dynamic time, and look forward to helping drive the company’s expansion and success worldwide.”

Canadian fintech Neo Financial raises $50 million

Canadian fintech Neo Financial raises $50 million

Neo Financial, a fintech based in Canada specialising in spending, savings and rewards, has closed a $50 million (CAD $64 million) series B funding round.

This latest round takes Neo’s total funding raised to almost $90 million (CAD 114 million), with Valar Ventures leading both the series A and B rounds.

New series B investors include Greenoaks Capital and Altos Ventures. Other investors included Breyer Capital, Golden Ventures, Afore Capital, Inovia Capital, Thomvest and Maple VC.

Neo intends to use this new capital to continue to grow its team in both Calgary and Winnipeg, and focus on launching new integrated fintech partnerships with retailers, of which it currently has more than 4,000.

The fintech also intends to go beyond spending and savings by innovating and launching new products and features to influence more of Canadians’ financial lives.

Neo initially launched in 2020 with the Neo Card, a no-fee Mastercard that earns cashback at partners and across all spend, and the Neo Savings account, a high-interest savings account.

Since launch, Neo has partnered with more than 4,000 retail partners on its national cashback network, including a strategic partnership with Hudson’s Bay to power the new Hudson’s Bay Mastercard.

Neo co-founder and chief executive officer Andrew Chau says: “Reimagining the way Canadians bank is no easy feat, but it’s a challenge that our team is taking head on. This raise is validation of not only the problem Neo is tackling, but our team’s ability to solve it.”

“As one of the largest Series B raises for a Canadian fintech, this new round of funding will allow us to continue building innovative products and features for all Canadians and businesses. It’s an exciting time to grow our team from both our Calgary and Winnipeg offices.” 

Mastercard swoops for CipherTrace and Aiia

Mastercard swoops for CipherTrace and Aiia

Mastercard has announced two acquisitions this month, swooping for cryptocurrency intelligence company CipherTrace and Aiia, the European open banking technology provider. 

US-based CipherTrace helps customers, including banks, exchanges, and other financial institutions, enhance their security and fraud monitoring activities for crypto-related programmes, via coverage of more than 900 cryptocurrencies.

Mastercard will combine CipherTrace’s technology, AI and cyber capabilities with its own to boost its card and real-time payments infrastructure. 

CipherTrace will also help drive continued innovation with a diverse range of partners, such as other fintechs, crypto-wallet providers, and governments, while also Mastercard to deliver on the principles it has established for all blockchain-related programmes.

Commenting on the deal, Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence at Mastercard, says: “Digital assets have the potential to reimagine commerce, from everyday acts like paying and getting paid to transforming economies, making them more inclusive and efficient.”

“With the rapid growth of the digital asset ecosystem comes the need to ensure it is trusted and safe. Our aim is to build upon the complementary capabilities of Mastercard and CipherTrace to do just this.”

Dave Jevans, chief executive officer at CipherTrace, adds: “Our two companies share this vision to provide security and trust throughout the ecosystem. We are thrilled to join the Mastercard family to scale CipherTrace’s reach across the globe.”

The deal for Aiiaalso announced this month, adds a direct connection to banks via a single API to Mastercard’s capabilities.

Craig Vosburg, chief product officer at Mastercard, explains: “The value of open banking comes through empowering consumers and businesses to use their own data to obtain financial services solutions simply, securely and quickly. The addition of Aiia anchors our European open banking efforts and allows us to continue to meet our customers where they are.”

“As open banking continues to ignite innovation, we’re committed to providing a unique set of technology platforms, data connectivity and infrastructure combined with data privacy and security principles. This will help fintechs and financial institutions innovate, gather feedback and scale faster and more effectively than ever to power smarter, more meaningful experiences.”

Both acquisitions are being made for undisclosed sums and are expected to close by the end of this year.

Capital markets fintech Irwin closes $20m series A round

Capital markets fintech Irwin closes $20m series A round

Canada-based capital markets fintech Irwin has closed a $20 million series A financing round.

K1 Investment Management, a firm that focuses on high-growth enterprise software companies, led the round, which will fund Irwin’s plans to scale its global team and operations to meet demand for its suite of investor relations and capital markets software solutions.

They monitor buying and selling activity within any shareholder base, and identify and connect capital seekers with investors using data and proactive insights tailored to each user.

David Whyte, chief executive officer and co-founder of Irwin, comments: “With this new funding, Irwin is more committed than ever to building innovative software, data, and service solutions to support capital markets participants worldwide.”

“It’s gratifying to partner with an investor who recognises our vision—we couldn’t be more proud to collaborate with K1 to bring modern technology to the forefront of the industry.”

In August, Irwin welcomed an additional executive hire, Marissa Homère, who joined the team as vice president of marketing.

The company also recently launched a new mobile app for iOS and Android, and Research, Estimates, and Transcripts data feeds, integrating financial data directly into its platform from FactSet.

Tarun Jain, senior vice president at K1, says: “As evidenced by its incredible growth, Irwin has built an innovative platform that is revolutionising the investor relations software market.”

“We see an immense opportunity in this underserved sector to modernise capital markets solutions, and Irwin is uniquely positioned to deliver on a global scale. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with David, Mark and the entire Irwin team to help them achieve their vision.”

PayPal to acquire payments and BNPL fintech Paidy

PayPal to acquire payments and BNPL fintech Paidy

PayPal will acquire Paidy, a payments and buy now, pay later provider in Japan, for  approximately $2.7 billion. 

The acquisition will expand PayPal’s capabilities, distribution and relevance in the domestic payments market in Japan, and complement its existing cross-border ecommerce business in the country. 

Peter Kenevan, vice president and head of Japan at PayPal, says: “Combining Paidy’s brand, capabilities and talented team with PayPal’s expertise, resources and global scale will create a strong foundation to accelerate our momentum in this strategically important market.”

Paidy’s payment services allow Japanese shoppers to make purchases online, and then pay for them each month in a consolidated bill at a convenience store or via bank transfer. 

The fintech uses proprietary technology to score creditworthiness, underwrite transactions and guarantee payment to merchants.

Paidy has demonstrated an ability to rapidly develop and successfully launch innovative products, including its Paidy 3-Pay monthly instalment offering, that has impressed PayPal.

As a result, the fintech has been able to drive strong engagement with its more than six million registered users and establish strategic relationships with brands and online marketplaces.

It also boasts integrations with PayPal and other digital and QR wallets through Paidy Link that expand its reach to online and offline merchants beyond its own platform. 

Russell Cummer, founder and executive chairman of Paidy, believes there is “no better home for Paidy to continue to grow and innovate than PayPal”.

Cummer continues: “Japan has been a vibrant environment for our growth to date and we’re honoured to have our team’s hard work and potential recognised by a global leader. Together with PayPal, we will be able to further achieve our mission of taking the hassle out of shopping.”

Riku Sugie, president and chief executive officer of Paidy, adds: “Paidy is just at the beginning of our journey and joining PayPal will accelerate our plans to expand beyond ecommerce and build unique services as the new shopping standard.”

Following the acquisition, Paidy will continue to operate its existing business, maintain its brand and support a wide variety of consumer wallets and marketplaces. 

Cummer and Sugie will also continue to lead the Paidy team, after closing in Q4 2021. 

Trade Ledger powers new ScotPac origination and underwriting experience

Trade Ledger powers new ScotPac origination and underwriting experience

Digital lending technology provider Trade Ledger has joined forces with ScotPac, Australia and New Zealand’s largest non-bank lender to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to create an origination and underwriting experience for business funding.

ScotPac is using Trade Ledger’s data-driven lending platform to unlock all types of working capital and business lending products for SMEs that cannot always easily access finance.

Trade Ledger’s platform was piloted on ScotPac’s asset finance offering and has been a hit with business owners and brokers, achieving a 90% reduction in application turnaround time and a 300% growth in new business volume in the past 12 months.

Commenting on the partnership, Martin McCann, co-founder and chief executive officer at Trade Ledger, says: “Our technology and business data insight, paired with business finance experts like ScotPac, is accelerating and transforming business finance—focusing in particular on the SME and mid-market lending experience, unlocking economic growth with better lending products.”

He adds: “Our platform puts the customer experience at the heart of the process and expands credit distribution without increasing risk, unlocking a £1.2 trillion un-served segment of the £7 trillion global SME credit market. The ScotPac partnership demonstrates how effectively our platform can help a lender grow their business.”

“Trade Ledger’s platform goes beyond open banking. Our ability to match a lender’s customers with the right services and bring new propositions to market quickly is key to our relationship with ScotPac and transforms how business finance can be accessed.”

ScotPac chief executive officer Jon Sutton says: “ScotPac and Trade Ledger have created a fully digital experience that is simple for the end user, whether they are a small businesses or large corporation. The goal is to transform business funding so it’s easily accessible for SMEs.”

He continues: “SMEs can quickly access multiple products (including our debtor finance, asset finance and trade finance), to solve their most bespoke or complex funding problems. The value of speed and consistency is massive for business owners, and for our broker and accountant partners.”

The future of risk management in invoice financing

Trade Ledger is running a live panel discussion on the future of risk management in invoice finance on 16 September at 11am BST.

The company is bringing together an established bank and a new bank with no legacy systems, to discuss their different approaches to risk and automation.

John Oliver, head of client management and audit for open account products at Barclays Bank, and Conrad Ford, chief product and strategy officer at Allica Bank, will debate with Rob Harris, director at Loxbear Advisory, and Roger Vincent, managing director for the UK and Ireland, at Trade Ledger. Click here to book your spot.

Trade Ledger - Panel graphic - Sep 21

TheCityUK plans push for UK to become world’s top financial centre

TheCityUK plans push for UK to become world's top financial centre

Financial services trade group TheCityUK has unveiled a plan to propel the UK into the position of the world’s leading international financial centre within five years.

Developed in partnership with members and business groups, the strategy aims to overcome the growth of new financial centres in Asia and the ongoing progress made by the US. 

The strategy, called ‘Making the UK the leading global financial centre’, focuses on bolstering competitiveness and attractiveness, underlining the need to strengthen the UK’s market share in existing areas of advantage, such as fintech.

It also calls for the UK to build its capabilities in future areas of global growth where the jurisdiction has a strong competitive advantage, such as data and technology, global environmental, social and corporate governance markets, international investment opportunities, and risk management.

TheCityUK says delivering the strategy will create more high-skilled and -value jobs, attract more foreign direct investment into businesses in all sectors, put the UK at the forefront of technology and innovation, and position the jurisdiction as a leader in financing the growth of the green economy.

Commenting on the strategy, Miles Celic, chief executive officer of TheCityUK, says: “The UK’s financial and related professional services industry is a strategic national asset which provides millions of high-value jobs right across the country, attracts inward investment, contributes significant tax revenue and generates large export surpluses.”

“Being host to the world’s leading financial centre provides large and widespread economic benefit to the UK—which is why there is no shortage of competitors seeking to grow their own financial centres.”

“One of the greatest risks for any successful financial centre is complacency. Europe is littered with cities that were once the leading international centre of their day. The last decade has been one of growth for our industry, yet global competitors have grown faster.”

“However, with the right strategy in place and a clear focus on delivery, the UK can pull away once again from its competitors. It is an ambition that needs industry, government, and regulators to work together. It will take sustained focus, cooperation and determination.”

Crypto exchange FTX.US moves into derivatives with LedgerX acquisition

Crypto exchange FTX.US moves into derivatives with LedgerX acquisition

Cryptocurrency exchange FTX.US has agreed to acquire LedgerX, a digital currency futures and options exchange and clearinghouse. 

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will see FTX.US move into regulated crypto derivatives in the US.

LedgerX is a US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)-regulated designated contract market, swap execution facility and derivatives clearing organisation.

It serves both retail and institutional investors, while also offering physical settlement of all contracts, block trading and algorithmic trading opportunities for this latter group of customers. 

Since its launch in 2017, LedgerX has cleared more than 10 million crypto options and swap contracts, according to FTX.US.

Brett Harrison, president of FTX.US, comments: “We believe the integration of our technological capabilities, product portfolio and large balance sheet with LedgerX will enhance our ability to provide innovative products to all US cryptocurrency traders.” 

Harrison adds: “We’re excited to take this step and work with US regulators to ensure compliance with the existing derivatives licensing regime. We believe it is incumbent upon the industry to be proactive and to seek out working relationships with regulatory groups like the CFTC to help shape the future of our industry.” 

Zach Dexter, chief executive officer and co-founder of LedgerX, comments: “US crypto derivatives is an incredibly underserved market, and it took time and resources for us to become a regulated entity under the existing frameworks. FTX.US has taken the view, which we share, that US regulators are ready and willing to partner on innovative products, and it’s the responsibility of the industry as a whole to step up and work with agencies like the CFTC.” 

A world without borders for marketplace merchants

A world without borders for marketplace merchants

The world of online trading is maturing, but it is still feeling the pain points of a rapidly growing and evolving marketplace where new merchants face multiple barriers to operate because established financial institutions have a fear of the unknown. 

In 2020, Banking Circle carried out a Europe-wide survey involving more than 1,500 SME online merchants, and found that they access a wide range of services from their current banking partners. Around half use short-term loans, overdrafts, finance agreements for specific purposes, and settlement accounts for cross-border payments. One in three use foreign exchange (FX) services. But crucially, only 15% of the SMEs surveyed have not experienced problems when trying to arrange cross border payments through their banking partners. 

While there is a wide range of issues at play, the most influential difficulties are relatively consistent across the regions. Just over a third of all firms found high fees an issue—the most problematic area for all regions except the Nordics, which struggled more with slow bank responses. And poor FX rates provided challenges for around one in three of all online merchants, although they were less of an issue in the UK compared with the other regions.

Interestingly—and particularly considering the acceleration of digital services in response to Covid-19—a poor digital experience hampered a quarter of respondents. Poor customer service affected a similar proportion.

Easing the payments path

Online marketplaces are an increasingly popular avenue for smaller businesses and startups to rapidly grow their customer base. Marketplaces give merchants instant access to global markets. However, some marketplaces settle merchants in the currency of their home country regardless of whether the merchant’s home accounts can accept the currency used at collection, with the result that they can face additional FX costs. Therefore, when a customer in another country places an order, profits and cashflow take a hit as the funds make their way from buyer to seller. Cross-border payments are slow and expensive through traditional banks, as they use the correspondent banking network, with each bank in the chain charging a landing fee.

Payments businesses have stepped in to bridge this gap and provide a faster, more cost-effective transactions solution, but changes introduced under PSD2 have brought an end to online marketplaces being exempt from payments regulations. For marketplaces to remain exempt, the flow of funds must bypass the marketplace.

Addressing this issue, Banking Circle Marketplaces provides sellers with local IBANs in the country in which they want to sell: typically in GBP, EUR and USD. The solution enables payment service providers to accept payments from marketplace buyers in the name of the marketplace seller and settle the funds back to the seller’s house account in the currency of their choice. This allows them to take control of the FX conversions.

The opportunity is clearly there for fintechs and payments businesses already supporting the online merchant space. They can deliver genuine added value by providing their merchant customers with banking services, including access to funding. And in the current climate that support is going to be more valuable than ever. Indeed, for payments providers that demonstrate a real understanding of SME needs, there could be a significant long-term gain.

The full whitepaper,  ‘Mind the Gap: How payments providers can fill a banking gap for online merchants’,  is available to download for  free here 

Bitt chosen to develop Nigeria’s digital currency

Bitt chosen to develop Nigeria’s digital currency

Bitt, the fintech based in Barbados using blockchain to facilitate cross-border payments, has been selected to develop Nigeria’s digital currency, eNaira.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) confirmed Bitt as its technical partner for the project last week. eNaira is scheduled for release later this year.

Nigeria embarked on its digital currency project in 2017, after a lengthy research and evaluation process.

CBN governor Godwin Emefiele is quoted by the central bank as saying the benefits of launching eNaira include increased cross-border trade, accelerated financial inclusion, cheaper and faster remittance inflows, and easier targeted social interventions. 

Bitt was selected for the project after a competitive tender process. CBN says the fintech demonstrated the required technological competence, efficiency, platform security, interoperability, and implementation experience.

The fintech was “key” to the development and successful launch of the central bank digital currency pilot of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in April 2021. 

Alpaca raises $50 million and announces crypto offering

Alpaca raises $50 million and announces crypto offering

Alpaca, the stock brokerage provider that offers APIs for fintech apps to connect and trade in US equities, has closed a $50 million series B funding round.

The round was led by Tribe Capital with participation from Horizons Ventures, Eldridge, and Positive Sum.

Alpaca’s existing investors, Portage Ventures, Spark Capital, and Social Leverage, also participated in the round.

The series B round takes Alpaca’s total funds raised from investors to $72 million.

Since its product launch in 2018, US-based Alpaca has enjoyed impressive growth, reaching more than 100,000 funded brokerage accounts this year and expanding partnerships across Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and North and Latin Americas, including a recent one with Plaid.

The Alpaca Broker API enables fintechs to build and launch commission-free stock trading apps. 

Alpaca also offers fractional shares through its app partners, allowing investors in any country to buy into the US stock market for as little as $1.

The stock brokerage provider is now taking the next step in its growth plan with a new cryptocurrency offering. 

Alpaca says the new crypto product will be made available for both retail consumers and B2B partners, and is made possible by partnerships with specialists Genesis, ErisX, and Silvergate.

Customers will soon be able to buy, sell, hold, and trade cryptocurrencies via Alpaca’s APIs. Interested developers and traders can join the Alpaca Crypto waitlist for alerts and early access to the public beta.

Commenting on Alpaca’s performance, Yoshi Yokokawa, its founder and chief executive officer, says: “By the end of the year, we’re going to see close to 100 global fintech apps built with our APIs go live with their stock trading platforms.”

“We’re unlocking the ability to invest in US companies in places around the world that have never had this opportunity and through fintech partners that share our vision of democratising investing.” 

Arjun Sethi, co-founder and partner at Tribe Capital, adds: “Our modern financial system runs on antiquated rails. Alpaca has established itself as the go-to developer-first API for investing by providing an easier, cleaner, and more scalable alternative to what exists today.” 

“Its crypto launch is just the first of many product iterations that will allow global investors to access US markets. We look forward to working with the company to scale its ambitious vision.”

Airwallex expands into the US

Airwallex expands into the US

Airwallex, the Australia-headquartered cross-border payments provider, has launched in the US.

The expansion means Airwallex’s target business customers in the US will be able access a full suite of cross-border payment products and services, including cards and international collection and transfer.

Airwallex’s market entry into the US is supported by a partnership with domestic bank Evolve Bank & Trust, a technology-focused financial services organisation and banking-as-a-service provider.

In addition, Airwallex has been issued money transmitter licences in various major US states, including California, Texas and Florida.

The fintech aims to progressively introduce its suite of products and services to businesses in the US, including multi-currency cards and an online payment acceptance solution that will allow them to collect payments from customers around the world.

Airwallex, which was founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015, already operates across 12 offices with a global team of more than 900 employees.

The fintech opened an office in San Francisco in 2019. This will serve as one of the fintech’s global engineering hubs alongside Melbourne, Sydney, Shanghai and Amsterdam.

Commenting on the expansion, Jack Zhang, co-founder and chief executive officer of Airwallex, said: “We power some of the leading tech-driven organisations around the world, and are excited to soon offer the same services to businesses in the US. As we grow, we will continue to scale our products and offerings to better serve the needs of businesses operating globally.” 

Corporates join the real-time payments revolution

Corporates join the real-time payments revolution

Instant payments both locally and cross-border have become so normalised for retail customers that they would simply go elsewhere if subjected to the costs and delays businesses experience with sending and receiving payments. Thankfully, though, change is on the horizon.

I believe that the real-time payments revolution will soon begin to benefit corporates of all sizes at much lower, more accessible cost. It will even work for those dealing with cross-border payments. A real life, modern day game-changer. 

The race to deliver instant payments  

Most countries are developing or have already launched new schemes to provide real-time payments. Schemes that have yet to launch will be live within the next few years, meaning most banks and their customers will soon be addressable over these instant schemes. The significance of the change we will see in the next few years should not be underestimated. It will be fast, it will be a paradigm shift, and afterwards—just like retail customers do today—we will wonder how we put up with such slow payments in the past.

But we are not there yet.

Supporting the post-Covid business bounce-back

Businesses of all sizes, but especially the smaller firms and startups, need all the help they can get to bounce back from the impact of Covid-19. Accelerating the corporate element of the real-time payments revolution is a crucial piece in the jigsaw.

Businesses of all types, sizes and industries have immense funds perpetually tied up in the payments system. That is vast sums of inaccessible, unusable cash. For large companies that adversely affects working capital metrics. For smaller companies, the issue is much more critical. A delay in cash flow can have far more significant consequences. Just imagine how the payments landscape and business potential will change as real-time technology is applied.

Suddenly a batch of corporate payments get parcelled out over the payment schemes to run disbursement quickly and at low cost. Balances in the payment system effectively drop to zero, cash flow is maximised; businesses have the liquidity they need to flourish. It will be game-changing, and we will not look back.

So why isn’t this game changer already being delivered? For many banks, it comes down to the inherent legacy systems on which their operations are built.

There are some institutions leading the way, already playing their revolutionary part, and they will be the winners. But for others, with legacy systems holding them back, re-engineering is needed to take full advantage of instant payments for corporates.

There are often issues connecting banks’ front end—what the customer sees—through to the instant payment schemes themselves. There are also challenges with managing liquidity by bank treasuries outside of normal working hours, the dreaded payment repair queue and sanctions screening. Each of these issues diminishes the benefits of instant payments.   

Overcoming hurdles through collaboration

The need is urgent to make instant payments for corporates—large and small—a top priority.  But for some institutions, particularly the smaller, local banks, the cost and upheaval of re-engineering their underlying systems is too big a challenge. Such banks are increasingly recognising the value of collaborating with niche providers to offer innovative and affordable banking solutions, including instant payments, for their corporate customers.

Research we conducted last year among C-suite bank executives across Europe found that half already had partnerships or planned to work with an external provider within the next month; another third planned to partner within the next 12 months.  

The niche expertise of specialist banks and fintechs, as well as their commitment to building the payment rails for instant payments, holds real appeal. It means banks can offer corporates access to affordable, friction-free, real-time cross-border payments that will bolster international economies at a time when they are in great need, as we recover from the economic impact of Covid-19.

Learn about Banking Circle at bankingcircle.com

PayPal launches cryptocurrency service in the UK

PayPal launches cryptocurrency service in the UK

PayPal is rolling out its cryptocurrency service, giving users the ability to hold, buy and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash, in the UK. 

Users will, over the next few weeks, be able to trade these cryptocurrencies via their PayPal accounts. The payments company is also providing real-time crypto prices and educational content to answer common questions and outline opportunities and risks.

This is the first international expansion of PayPal’s cryptocurrency offering outside of the US. The company says that its trusted reputation as a payments processor could lead to the digital asset class becoming mainstream in the UK.

Jose Fernandez da Ponte, vice president and general manager of blockchain, crypto and digital currencies at PayPal, says: “Our global reach, digital payments expertise, and knowledge of consumer and businesses, combined with rigorous security and compliance controls provides us the unique opportunity, and the responsibility, to help people in the UK to explore cryptocurrency.”

Fernandez da Ponte adds: “We are committed to continue working closely with regulators in the UK, and around the world, to offer our support—and meaningfully contribute to shaping the role digital currencies will play in the future of global finance and commerce.”

Further information about the cryptocurrency service will be revealed in the next few weeks. PayPal says it will there will be no fees for holding cryptocurrency in accounts, but the company will charge for transactions.

PayPal is one of the largest companies globally to enter the market for digital currencies with its announcement last October that it would allow US customers to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies.

This March, PayPal launched Checkout with Crypto, enabling customers in the US to use their cryptocurrency alongside other payment methods in their PayPal wallet to make purchases at businesses around the world. In April, the company also introduced crypto services on its mobile payment service Venmo in the US. 

In addition to providing these cryptocurrency services, PayPal has been exploring the potential of digital currencies through partnerships with licensed and regulated cryptocurrency platforms and with central banks.

For the past five years, PayPal has increased its focus on, and invested resources in its internal blockchain research team to explore the next generation of digital financial services infrastructure and enhancements to digital commerce.

The company has enabled its cryptocurrency offering through a partnership with Paxos Trust Company.

PayPal’s venture capital arm has also made investments in blockchain and cryptocurrency-related startups, including: TRM Labs, a provider of cryptocurrency risk management software; TaxBit, a provider of crypto tax software to customers and exchanges; and Talos, which offers institutional-grade infrastructure technology for digital asset trading. 

WorldRemit becomes Zepz as $5b valuation achieved

WorldRemit becomes Zepz as $5b valuation achieved

WorldRemit Group has rebranded as Zepz after raising $292 million in new primary financing.

The cross-border payments provider is now valued at $5 billion. The round includes new equity investors Farallon Capital among others, as well as backing from existing investors Leapfrog, TCV and Accel.

Zepz provides a payments service covering 150 countries through WorldRemit and the recently acquired Sendwave, an Africa-focused remittance company.

The UK-headquartered fintech, which has regional offices around the world, says the new funding will be invested in in its technology, platform and customer proposition.

Breon Corcoran, chief executive officer of Zepz, says: “Today’s announced raise is another important step in the execution of our strategy. Following the acquisition of Sendwave we have made significant progress with the integration of the different businesses and are retaining both the Sendwave and WorldRemit brands. In that context we are proud to announce the rebranding of our holding company to Zepz.” 

“The additional funds raised enable us to accelerate investment to prosecute our very sizeable growth opportunity whilst further strengthening our high-quality investor base and our mission to provide fair, fast, flexible payments for our customers.”

In 2020, Zepz says its brands enabled more than 4.5 million monthly transactions on its platform, generating almost $10 billion of gross send volumes and $338 million of revenues.

Nerve, a neobank for musicians, to launch in September

Nerve, a neobank for musicians, to launch in September

Nerve, the first neobank created specifically for musicians, is launching next month to provide dedicated financial products and services to this specialist subset of entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals.  

The neobank, based in Texas, USA, plans to deliver a mobile app that merges user experience and financial technologies to help musicians build stronger communities and sustainable careers. 

Its banking products and services, which will be offered by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) member Piermont Bank, include an FDIC-backed business debit and savings accounts, free instant payments to anyone with a Nerve account, and access to 55,000 free ATMs.

These financial products and services will be combined at launch with social features that track a musician’s streaming and follower data while allowing them to connect, network, and conduct business with peers.

Nerve’s app will officially launch in the US on 15 September and the neobank will on-board waiting list customers over the next several months. Additional features and services will also be announced.

‘Smart financial management’

Nerve, a neobank for musicians, to launch in September - John Waupsh
John Waupsh, CEO of Nerve

John Waupsh, a co-founder and chief executive officer at Nerve, set up and runs a boutique label dedicated to releasing rare funk and soul music. It was in that role that he first identified the need for a modern, sophisticated banking tool catering to independent musicians.

Waupsh says: “Banks of days past would offer services that their local geography needed. Today, banking communities aren’t defined by rivers and railroads, but by the shared experience and goals of their customers. Financial empowerment for musicians means giving them a banking platform that understands their unique needs with the tools to help them better manage their money.”

“Musicians and bands at all stages of their development need smart financial management, access to the real-time data that drives their business, not to mention two-minute digital account opening, and collaboration and business banking features to run their brands effectively.” 

Sightline Payments achieves $1b+ valuation

Sightline Payments achieves $1b+ valuation

Las Vegas-based Sightline Payments has completed a $244 million funding round valuing the fintech at more than $1 billion.

This latest funding round makes Sightline the US State of Nevada’s first fintech unicorn.

Fintech investor Bill Foley’s Cannae Holdings led the funding round, which included existing investors Genting Group, Point Break Capital Management, and founding investor Walter Kortschak.

Sightline was founded more than a decade ago by Omer Sattar, Tom Sears, and Kirk Sanford to give consumers a way to safely and securely fund their online gaming experience, starting with the US State of New Jersey’s launch of online gaming in 2013.

The fintech says it has helped power the exponential growth of sports betting in the US after the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in 2018 and continues to lead the industry in innovation by launching cashless gaming in brick-and-mortar casinos.

Sattar comments: “Sightline has continuously risen to meet the changing needs of the casino gaming industry. As we strive to help lead the digital transformation of the patron experience in our vertical, we are humbled to become Nevada’s first fintech unicorn.”

“Financial services have historically not embraced the legal, regulated gaming industry, but thanks to the innovations Sightline has fostered in the market, gaming is clearly poised for an omni-channel cashless revolution.”

Second funding round of 2021

This $244 million round is Sightline’s second round in 2021. The fintech closed an earlier $100 million funding round in April, which also included an investment from Searchlight Capital Partners.

Building on Sightline’s growth in the gaming and hospitality sectors, the fintech recently acquired JOINGO, the casino gaming industry’s top mobile engagement and loyalty platform.

Cannae Holdings chairman William P Foley II says: “After seeing Sightline’s groundbreaking technology firsthand at the recent launch of Resorts World Las Vegas, I am more bullish than ever about Sightline’s ability to be at the forefront of the digital transformation afoot in the North American gaming, sports, and entertainment ecosystem. I look forward to helping Sightline continue their tremendous growth.”

Joe Pappano, chief executive officer of Sightline, says the fintech will use the new funding “to execute our vision of transforming payments in the casino gaming and hospitality industry”.

Working together for better cross-border banking

Working together for better cross-border banking

Banks and fintechs can gain significant cost saving and efficiency benefits, and remain more competitive, through collaboration within the financial ecosystem. But how can these partnerships help improve access to cross-border payments specifically?  

Our 2020 research found that 70% of banks across Europe consider cross-border payments to be a core banking service. Yet the offering remains too slow, too expensive, and ultimately inaccessible to so many businesses.

Delivering both core and non-core services that customers need is fundamental to growing bank revenues, as well as remaining competitive in a market full of innovative new entrants. The challenge is though, that banks often struggle to build and deliver innovative solutions that meet new market needs and in the competitive market of 2021, that puts them at risk of losing clients.

Serving a global customer base

The swathe of online marketplaces is allowing even the smallest business to serve customers all over the world. However, even those startups or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that can afford to absorb the marketplace fees are faced with the potential added cost of cross-border transactions and all their inevitable delays and added transfer fees.

Smaller banks find cross-border payments even more of a challenge than the larger incumbents, in part due to their small volumes and the high cost of fees, foregin exchange rates and the resources required for processing such payments through the traditional correspondent banking network. This means small banks are less able to support their corporate customers in their international expansion.

If local and regional banks want to offer international payments, they have to find a solution that is not dependent on making changes to legacy systems; and which does not add significantly to their own operational cost. Solutions need to be investment-light yet deliver strong innovation flexible enough to meet rapidly shifting expectations and needs.

The answer, many have already found, lies in collaboration. At the end of 2020 when we conducted our research, half of respondents already had partnerships or plans in place to work with an external provider within the next month. Another third of banks have partnerships on the agenda for the next 12 months.

Collaborating with an expert provider allows banks of all sizes to deliver good solutions quickly and without the same level of investment required for in-house development. Ultimately, if small and mid-sized banks can offer their corporate clients a cheaper, faster alternative, their clients are the winners.

Future-proofing cross-border payments

Last year brought many new challenges and accelerated implementation of banks’ long-standing digitalisation plans as customer needs switched overnight. New partnerships and solutions have helped retail and corporate customers alike to access essential banking solutions in new and better ways, and there is no going back.

International trade has been growing for many years, meaning cross-border payments are a long-term priority for banks of all sizes. Offering business customers access to affordable, friction-free cross border payments, Banks can empower even the smallest merchant to serve customers in any geography, which will bolster international economies at a time when they are in great need.

Working in partnership with expert third-parties means banks can provide a wider range of solutions at low cost to the customer, so they remain competitive and keep hold of their all-important corporate customers. Working with specialist and dedicated partners ensures these objectives can be met without delay, high cost or ongoing commitment to maintenance and development.

Click here to download the Banking Circle whitepaper

Brex acquires Weav for $50 million

Brex acquires Weav for $50 million

US fintech company Brex has acquired Israel-based Weav for $50 million.

Brex says the acquisition will allow the fintech to expand its global presence by establishing an innovation hub in Israel.

Weav bills itself as the provider of an universal API for commerce. Its technology enables the flow of data in real time and a standardised format, through a single point of access.

The addition of the Weav API to Brex’s portfolio of products and services, which include credit cards, business cash accounts, spend management and bill pay software together in a single dashboard, will accelerate its expansion toward becoming a fully-integrated and holistic financial services platform for business.

“After a successful partnership, we are thrilled to make Weav part of our core team,: comments Henrique Dubugras, co-founder and chief executive officer of Brex. “Weav’s technology helps make Brex even better for our customers.”

Nadav Lidor, Weav’s co-founder and chief executive officer, who will be leading Brex’s team in Israel, says: “Joining the Brex family will bring incredible reach to Weav’s existing products. Our goal has always been to connect businesses, creators, and other entrepreneurs with fintech to expand financial access, and this aligns with Brex’s mission. We’re excited for our future together.”

LendInvest partners with HSBC and Barclays

LendInvest partners with HSBC and Barclays

LendInvest has struck partnerships with HSBC and Barclays that will see the banks provide funding for short-term mortgages through the property finance firm’s digital platform.

The lending partnerships are reportedly worth £150 million and follow LendInvest’s £255m initial public offering on the AIM index.

LendInvest connects funders and investors including high-net-worth individuals and institutions such as pension funds, insurers and global banks with the property industry.

Funders and investors provide a range of mortgages via a digital platform that simplifies and speeds up the financing process. LendInvest says it has overseen the lending of more than £3 billion since 2008, with a significant leap from £375 million in 2017.

CityAM reports Rod Lockhart, chief executive officer of LendInvest, as saying that the partnerships with HSBC and Barclays add to the momentum the firm has been gathering over the past 12 months.

He said: “There is a real recognition that the technology and platform we have built allows institutions to access the highest quality assets in the market.”

Upgrade closes $105m series E round

Upgrade closes $105m series E round

US digital bank Upgrade has closed a $105 million series E funding round.

The round, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) with participation from new and existing investors including BRV and Ventura Capital, gives Upgrade a pre-money valuation of $3.325 billion.

Upgrade offers products that are designed to give consumers more value and a better experience than those offered by traditional banks. Upgrade Card, the digital bank’s flagship product, promotes responsible credit by turning every balance into a fixed-rate installment plan, and by paying rewards to cardholders as they pay down their balance.

The digital bank has delivered more than $7 billion in affordable credit to consumers through cards and loans since inception in 2017, and is on track to deliver $7 billion in 2021. 

Upgrade debuted a rewards checking account earlier this year that offers 2% cashback rewards to consumers on common everyday expenses. The company also entered the bitcoin market in July with a new credit card that pays rewards in the cryptocurrency rather than cash.

‘Rapid innovation in banking’

With the new funding in place and after experiencing “unprecedented” growth and profitability this year, Upgrade intends to further establish Upgrade Card as a mainstream credit card and continue designing new products, according to co-founder and chief executive officer Renaud Laplanche.

Byron Knight, managing director at new investor KDT, an investment arm of Koch Industries, the largest private company in the US, adds: “We are seeing rapid innovation in banking, and believe fintech, and neobanks in particular, will profoundly transform the banking industry to the greater benefit of consumers.”

“Upgrade has proven success in designing products that deliver more value and a better experience to consumers, and we believe they are uniquely suited to be a market leader.”

Citi aims to connect local businesses and banks with new digital platform

Citi aims to connect local businesses and banks with new digital platform

Citi has launched a new digital lending platform designed to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) connect with regional, local and community banks.

Called Bridge built by Citi, SMEs in the US will be able to seek loans of up to $10 million. It will initially include 18 banks and will be available to businesses through a pilot programme across the Southeast and Rockies regions, including Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Citi aims to boost SME access to capital with the new platform, after issuing loans totalling $5 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program during 2020 and 2021.

The bank believes that demand for capital will persist and aims to enable regional, local and community banks, which currently lack the digital tools to reach potential borrowers, to expand outside of their current markets to provide supply.

Dominik Mjartan, president and chief executive officer of Optus Bank, a Citi partner, says: “Bridge built by Citi will enable us to deploy the capital we’ve raised from Citi and others back to more entrepreneurs—jumpstarting the desperately needed revitalisation after this pandemic ravaged many neighborhoods, particularly those in underbanked communities.”

A team led by Rohit Mathur and Harte Thompson developed the platform through the in-house D10X programme, an internal incubation process that helped test the hypothesis, explore the market and develop the solution.

Using the platform, borrowers submit their information via a single, standardised form for all lenders.

The platform uses technology to allow for smart and efficient prospecting, which works better for both lenders and borrowers, according to Citi. They can also track the loan process in real-time.

Vanessa Colella, Citi’s chief innovation officer, says: “Citi prides itself on encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship among its employees to solve financial access issues and improve digital offerings for our clients and community partners. The development and launch of the Bridge built by Citi platform is a great example of the power of innovation that comes from within a global institution like Citi and our ability to build a service that has the potential to change the future of business lending.”

Circle plans to become US commercial bank

Circle plans to become US commercial bank

Circle, the US fintech firm combining with Concord Acquisition Corp with a view to going public, is taking steps to become a federally chartered national commercial bank.

The move means Circle, which provides internet-native, digital currency-powered, transaction and treasury services, would come under the supervision and risk management requirements of several US currency regulators.

Making the announcement in a blog post, Jeremy Allaire, Circle’s co-founder and chief executive officer, says: “We believe that full-reserve banking, built on digital currency technology, can lead to not just a radically more efficient, but also a safer, more resilient financial system.”

The announcement comes as USDC, the digital currency that Circle operates, reached more than $27.5 billion in circulation. The fintech, working in partnership with Coinbase and through the Centre Consortium, designed USDC to conform with stringent US money transmission supervisory and regulatory standards.

By becoming a federally chartered national commercial bank, Circle aims to continue and build on the “long-standing commitment to trust, transparency and accountability in the dollar-denominated reserves backing USDC”.

Eos Venture Partners hires Zach Powell as general partner

Eos Venture Partners hires Zach Powell as general partner
Zach Powell

Eos Venture Partners, the venture capital fund focused exclusively on insurtech, has hired Zach Powell as general partner based in Southern California.

Powell brings deep industry experience to Eos as he has spent the majority of his career as a principal investor in the financial services sector with a focus on insurance.

He has joined EOS from AXIS Capital, where he was managing director of the partnership and venture investing arm.

Prior to AXIS, Powell was a vice president at Swiss Re’s Principal Investments, where he was focused on buyout and growth equity investments in financial services throughout the Americas. He started his career in investment banking advising insurance companies.

Commenting on the appointment, Eos founding general partner Jonathan Kalman says: “Zach is one of the leading investors in the insurtech sector and we are delighted to welcome him to our growing team.”

“The insurance industry is on the cusp of fundamental digital disruption and Zach will play a leading role to identify and invest in the brightest and the best of these new businesses. Eos intends to positively impact the lives of over half a billion people over the next decade. We believe that closing the protection gap is our biggest opportunity, making insurance better, more affordable and accessible.”

Powell adds: “I am excited to join Eos as the company expands the business to continue to capitalise on insurtech investment opportunities around the world.”

“Eos is a unique venture capital fund that combines deep understanding of the insurtech sector with sophisticated knowledge of the insurance value chain. Eos has a strong track record of backing leading insurtech entrepreneurs and supporting them as the businesses scale.”

Launched in 2016, Eos invests in early and growth-stage technology businesses that accelerate innovation and transformation across the insurance industry and value chain. The fund has offices in London and New York, and affiliates in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The fund’s investments include Ticker, CyberSmart and Player’s Health.

FreshBooks secures $130m in funding

FreshBooks secures $130m in funding

FreshBooks, a cloud accounting software provider, has raised US$80.75 million in series E funding.

The Canada-based company secured an additional US$50 million in debt financing, bringing its total valuation to more than US$1 billion.

Longtime FreshBooks investor Accomplice led the series E round, with participation from J.P. Morgan, Gaingels, BMO and Manulife. In addition, Barclays, an established FreshBooks platform partner in the UK, was added as a new investor.

Commenting on the new funding, Don Epperson, chief executive officer at FreshBooks, says: “The funding comes as an injection of confidence in our mission to digitally enable small businesses. We’re going to use this capital to reinforce our competitive differentiators. This includes investing in markets that are becoming more regulated, helping owners manage their finances through simplistic workflows, and prevailing as leaders in best-in-class support.”

“I’m proud to be backed by this longstanding group of investors who believe in what we do and want to advance our next stages of success.”

FreshBooks plans to use the funding for sales and marketing, research and development, and strategic acquisitions, as the company takes advantage of more business owners becoming digitally enabled to meet local tax and invoice compliance systems.

The company says its cloud accounting software will subsequently reach more customers in more countries worldwide with its easy-to-use features and locally relevant integrations.

Kester Keating, head of US principal investments at Barclays, comments: “We’re pleased to support the FreshBooks team with this equity investment as they scale into new markets. Through this investment and Barclaycard Payments’ ongoing commercial partnership with FreshBooks, we are supporting our clients to embrace this change, as software continues to have a profound impact on businesses of every size.”

Jeff Fagnan, founder and managing partner at Accomplice, adds: “As repeat investors, we’re more confident than ever to back FreshBooks once again and lead this round. The need to support self-employed professionals with tools and solutions has never been greater, and no company understands and delivers the way the team at FreshBooks does.”

FreshBooks, which launched in 2003, says it has helped more than 30 million people in over 160 countries as an accounting software provider for small businesses and self-employed professionals.

This funding round serves as the latest milestone for FreshBooks. In September 2020, it acquired Mexican e-invoicing company Facturama to expand its audience in Spanish-speaking markets.

Andre Salvi, head of technology and innovation banking group at BMO Bank of Montreal, says: “With FreshBooks’ ambition to help small businesses on their digital journey, there is incredible potential for this organisation to capture the market. We look forward to continuing to grow our relationship with the FreshBooks team as they innovate the platform and expand internationally through strategic acquisitions.”

‘Super app’ provider Paysme launches £1m funding round on Globacap

'Super app' provider Paysme launches £1m funding round on Globacap
Derek Stewart, founder and CEO at Paysme

Paysme has launched its £1 million funding round on the private capital platform Globacap to expand what the UK fintech calls Europe’s first-ever B2B super app.

Proceeds from the fundraising will be used to enhance and expand Paysme’s services, which already include mobile payments, ecommerce, digital banking, accounting, lending, and insurance services from providers such as Barclays, Railsbank, TOQIO, Bambora, and Cybersource.

The fintech’s ‘super app’ approach powers multiple revenue streams from embedded financial services with product features tailored to meet small business needs and their transition to a digital economy, creating recurring revenues, high retention, low acquisition costs and granular customer data.

It claims to have 3,000 paying businesses active across 59 towns and cities in the UK and Ireland, helping to generate £47 million in cash flow since launch.

After generating £1.6 million in total revenue to date, Paysme says it is poised to accelerate growth to profitability over 12 months by raising £1 million of equity funding to invest in its fintech services, technology, and hiring programme in preparation for scaling.

The funding round on Globacap can be accessed directly or indirectly via the Paysme website.

‘Bring the high street and local communities back to life’

Derek Stewart, founder and chief executive officer at Paysme, comments: “Paysme is at the core of the circular economy, championing the needs of local businesses and the communities they serve. These companies are the beating heart of our high streets and have been decimated by the pandemic—with almost 30% of all small businesses closing for good.”

“Our mission is to bring the high street and local communities back to life by giving them easy access to embedded digital financial services and reinvesting capital back into small independent operators through a customer ownership business model.”

Stewart continues: “The Paysme platform hosts everything a small business needs to run its business in the digital economy in an integrated, easy, and cost-effective way with one point of personal contact from a team with a deep understanding of their industry. It eliminates the need to use a multitude of different unconnected suppliers for mobile payments, ecommerce, digital banking and administrative tools saving SMEs time, money and stress, and solving sector fragmentation and relationship marketing.”

Square to acquire Australian fintech Afterpay in $29 billion deal

Square to acquire Australian fintech Afterpay in $29 billion deal

Payments company Square is acquiring Australian buy now, pay later (BNPL) fintech Afterpay for approximately US$29 billion (A$39 billion).

California-headquartered Square, led by Twitter’s Jack Doresey, plans to integrate Afterpay’s BNPL capabilities into its payment apps for merchants and consumers, potentially benefiting some 70 million annual transacting active Cash App customers and millions of sellers.

This will enable merchants of all sizes to offer BNPL at checkout, give Afterpay consumers the ability to manage their installment payments directly in the Square Cash App, and give those same users the ability to discover merchants and BNPL offers directly within the app.

Following completion of the deal in Q1 2022, Afterpay’s co-founders and co-chief executive officers, Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar, will join Square and help lead the acquired fintech’s respective merchant and consumer businesses. One of its directors will also join the Square board.

Commenting on the acquisition, Dorsey, who is co-founder and chief executive officer of Square, says: “Square and Afterpay have a shared purpose. We built our business to make the financial system more fair, accessible, and inclusive, and Afterpay has built a trusted brand aligned with those principles.”

“Together, we can better connect our Cash App and seller ecosystems to deliver even more compelling products and services for merchants and consumers, putting the power back in their hands.”

‘Redefining financial wellness and responsible spending’

Founded five years ago in Sydney, Australia, Afterpay serves 16 million consumers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally across Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, where it is called Clearpay, and New Zealand.

The fintech’s unique selling point is the service is completely free to use if repayments are made on time.

Customers who miss a payment are locked out of the service until they are up to date and late payment fees are charged but are fixed, capped and do not accumulate over time.

Eisen and Molnar say in a joint statement: “By combining with Square, we will further accelerate our growth in the US and globally, offer access to a new category of in-person merchants, and provide a broader platform of new and valuable capabilities and services to our merchants and consumers. We are fully aligned with Square’s purpose and, together, we hope to continue redefining financial wellness and responsible spending for our customers.”

“The transaction marks an important recognition of the Australian technology sector as homegrown innovation continues to be shared more broadly throughout the world. It also provides our shareholders with the opportunity to be a part of future growth of an innovative company aligned with our vision.”

Reserve Trust finalises $30.5m series A and executive appointments

Reserve Trust finalises $30.5m series A and executive appointments

Reserve Trust has raised $30.5 million in a series A funding round.

QED Investors led the series A round, with participation from FinTech Collective and Ardent Venture Partners.

The round, including $17.9 million in secondary shares, comes in addition to a prior $5 million seed round raised in October 2019. As part of the investment, QED’s Matt Burton and Ardent’s Phil Bronner have joined the company’s board.

Reserve Trust describes itself as the first fintech trust company with a US Federal Reserve master account.

This grants it direct access to Federal Reserve clearing, payment, and settlement services, positioning the company, which is free of legacy banking systems, as a payment and custody partner for B2B payment companies and fintechs in the US and abroad that have previously only been able to obtain these services from correspondent and sponsor banks.

According to Reserve Trust, its unique trust structure allows customers to store funds in custody accounts that are backed by its Federal Reserve master account, and to transfer funds via ACH, FedWire, SWIFT, and other emerging payment systems.

Alongside the fundraise, the company also appointed Dave Wright as chief executive officer and Dave Cahill as chief operating officer.

Reserve Trust says the appointments reunite two tech entrepreneurs that have collectively been involved in founding, building, and scaling multiple startups with four successful exits between them.

Their appointments come as Reserve Trust embarks on its next phase of growth. They were last together on the executive team at SolidFire, a cloud storage company founded by Wright and then sold to NetApp in 2016.

Reserve Trust says this latest capital infusion will be used to accelerate investments in the team and technology required to deliver innovative new services, APIs, and payment rails that support embedded and real-time payments for any fintech service or software platform globally.

‘No fintech that can offer direct integration with the US payment system’

QED Investors partner Amias Gerety comments: “Despite all the excitement around digital payments and infrastructure, there is still no fintech that can offer direct integration with the US payment system.”

“With Reserve Trust, we are creating foundational infrastructure to hold and move payments globally and at scale. Dave Wright and the team bring a track record of immense value creation and a history of being at the forefront of infrastructure innovation that is essential to unlocking capabilities for innovators in B2B payments.”

Wright adds: “While banks will always have an important role to play in B2B commerce, they have struggled to deliver the technology and services that businesses need to fully digitise domestic and international payments.”

“Reserve Trust’s unique combination of a trust charter with a Federal Reserve master account allows us to create foundational payment and custody services delivered via APIs to enable innovation across the entire fintech ecosystem. The funding announced today, including leading investors across the fintech ecosystem, will go a long way to helping us continue to execute on this vision.”

Klarna acquires APPRL to take advantage of social commerce

Klarna acquires APPRL to take advantage of social commerce

Klarna has expanded its retailer marketing services with the acquisition of Stockholm-based marketing software provider APPRL.

The bank is actively building its suite of tools for 250,000+ retail partners. These include a comparison shopping service, an AI-driven styling engine and content creation platform, and most recently, HERO, a conversational commerce company.

Klarna says its latest acquisition, APPRL, will further enhance its marketing services by allowing retailers to connect directly to relevant content creators to create social shopping content and track campaign results.

Social commerce is becoming big business, according to research collated by Klarna. The Stockholm-headquartered bank, which claims to have 90 million active users across its global payments and shopping service, is keen to capture a share of a market that is expected to account for $84 billion of US retail sales by 2024.

Sebastian Siemiatkowski, chief executive officer of Klarna, comments: “As social shopping becomes a core element of the retail experience, we believe Klarna’s position at the centre of the shopping ecosystem is instrumental in connecting retailers to both consumers and content creators who resonate with their brand audiences.”

“By adding APPRL to Klarna’s existing retailer support expertise, we see a huge opportunity to create an enriching and informative shopping experience for consumers everywhere while accelerating retailer growth.”

Martin Landén, chief executive officer of APPRL, says: “We are incredibly excited to join Klarna on its impressive journey and bold mission ahead. As retailers continue to embrace influencer marketing as their growth engine, with an increasing focus on ROI, data and automation, APPRL has been seeing an exponential increase in demand.”

“With APPRL’s platform together with Klarna’s scale, incredible talent and portfolio of marketing services, we will be able to offer retailers an end-to-end influencer and performance marketing solution that they won’t be able to find anywhere else.”

Lloyds Banking Group to acquire Embark for £390m

Lloyds Banking Group to acquire Embark for £390m

Lloyds Banking Group is acquiring Embark Group, one of the largest retirement solutions providers in the UK, for £390 million.

As part of the deal, all of the Embark brands will join Lloyds, the UK financial services organisation that runs Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows, except the Rowanmoor SIPP and SSAS administration business, which is being retained by existing shareholders.

Embark says its sale “presents a significant opportunity” to continue its rapid expansion, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group.

Lloyds intends to invest in and support Embark’s proposition and service innovations for the intermediary sector. The wealthtech operates under the brands Embark, Advance, Horizon, Stocktrade, Vested and The Adviser Centre, and operates a wide portfolio of white label services to several markets, including wealth management, robo-advice, retail banking and workplace pensions.

Embark has grown significantly since its formation in 2013 as a digitally led retirement solutions business, enabled by its strategic partnership with asset servicing and technology provider FNZ and its ability to attract investment.

The Embark Group, including Rowanmoor, has more than £40.8 billion of assets under administration on behalf of more than 425,000 clients.

It achieved this by attracting billions of pounds of inflows and through the acquisitions of the advised and partnership books of Alliance Trust Savings, Zurich’s retail wealth platform and its five risk-rated Horizon multi-asset funds, which remain leading performers in their sectors.

The sale will see Lloyds Banking group acquire some £35 billion of assets under administration on behalf of around 410,000 consumer clients within Embark Group.

Jackie Leiper, managing director of pensions, stockbroking and distribution at Scottish Widows, will become chief executive officer of Embark on completion of the acquisition. Both are subject to regulatory approval.

David Barral, chair of Embark Group, comments: “In eight short years Embark has built one of the most respected and fastest growing digital retirement and savings businesses in the UK. The combination of Lloyd’s Banking Group’s financial strength and distribution reach, combined with the agility, digital capability, and expertise of Embark, will provide the perfect opportunity to create a market leading proposition for consumers, intermediaries, and strategic partners.”

Barral adds: “Rowanmoor, as a leading specialist SIPP, group pension trust, and SSAS administration provider, will become an independent standalone business.  It will have the ongoing support of existing shareholders who remain committed to the business, and will continue to work closely with partners and financial advisers to deliver excellent service and good outcomes for their customers.”

Antonio Lorenzo, chief executive of Scottish Widows and group director of insurance and wealth at Lloyds Banking Group, says: “There’s an ever-growing customer demand for clear, simple and affordable financial planning and retirement products and services. Our acquisition of Embark will not only help us serve all of a customer’s financial needs in one place, but also sit alongside our existing partnerships which meet the more complex financial planning and investment requirements of mass-affluent and high net-worth customers through Schroders Personal Wealth and Cazenove.”

“Through Embark’s technology, we will be able to increase the reach of our investment offerings for customers who are happy to manage their own portfolios, through modern, easy to use technology. We’ll also be able to enhance our intermediary proposition, strengthen our offering in retirement and modernise the way Scottish Widows works with advisers, recognising the continued value of advice.”

Nium raises $200m+ and achieves unicorn status

Nium raises $200m+ and achieves unicorn status

Nium, the global B2B payments provider headquartered in Singapore, has raised more than $200 million in a series D round led by Riverwood Capital.

Joining the US-based high-growth tech investor in the series D round were Temasek, Visa, Vertex Ventures, Atinum Group of Funds, Beacon Venture Capital, Rocket Capital Investment, and other notable angel investors.

Nium’s valuation is now above $1 billion, making it the first B2B payments unicorn from Southeast Asia, according to the fintech.

The funding will be used to expand Nium’s payments network infrastructure, drive innovative product development, attract top industry talent, and acquire strategic technologies and companies. The fintech has raised nearly $300 million in funding so far.

Prajit Nanu, co-founder and chief executive officer at Nium, says: “We started Nium with the humble goal of taking out regional complexity in cross-border payments. Today, our sights are set higher. We believe we can be a global catalyst to increase global commerce, removing some of the payments friction which has traditionally held businesses back.”

“The Nium platform simplifies the B2B payments experience by enabling critical financial services to be easily embedded—helping today’s local market players become tomorrow’s global giants.”

Through a single API, Nium provides access to the world’s payment infrastructure, including technologies for pay-outs, pay-ins, card issuance, and banking-as-a-service.

Once connected, Nium customers can send funds to more than 100 countries (most in real-time), pay out in more than 60 currencies, accept funds in seven currencies, and issue cards in more than 40 countries.

Nium’s business has significantly scaled in the past year. The fintech processes $8 billion in payments annually, has issued more than 30 million virtual cards to date, and revenues have grown by more than 280% year-over-year.

With revenues split almost equally across Europe, the Middle East and Africa region and the Asia Pacific, Nium will use funds from this round to accelerate growth in the US and Latin America.

Some of this growth will come from acquisitions. Nium has already acquired travel B2B payments provider Ixaris, which brought comprehensive virtual card issuance capabilities, as well as the acquisition of Wirecard Forex India Private Limited, which gives the fintech greater reach into India’s booming payments market.

Nium says the series D funding provides the flexibility to explore additional strategic opportunities.

Francisco Alvarez-Demalde, co-founding partner and managing partner at Riverwood Capital, comments: “Prajit and the incredibly talented team at Nium have redefined payments for the modern era with an infrastructure that finally makes it easy for companies to embed financial services into business and banking applications.”

“We could not be more excited about this partnership and look forward to seeing Nium continue to set the standard for how global payments are delivered.”

Solarisbank raises €190 million and acquires Contis

Solarisbank raises €190 million and acquires Contis
Dr Roland Folz, chief executive officer of Solarisbank

Solarisbank, the European banking-as-a-service provider, has raised €190 million in an oversubscribed series D funding round that values the Germany-based fintech at €1.4 billion.

The round was led by Decisive Capital Management, with support from growth investors, including Pathway Capital Management, CNP (Groupe Frère) and Ilavska Vuillermoz Capital. Existing investors led by yabeo Capital, alongside BBVA, Vulcan Capital and HV Capital, also participated in the round with significant additional investments.

Solarisbank enables global brands and fast-growing fintechs to integrate financial services into their own product offering via APIs.

Since its series C funding in June 2020, Solarisbank has migrated its full tech stack to the Amazon Web Services cloud and moved all partners to its entirely self-developed core banking system.

In doing so, Solarisbank says it has set a new European benchmark in terms of cost efficiency, scalability and service quality. Recently, the company announced its official market entry in France, Italy and Spain, where it will offer local IBANs to its partners.

Dr Roland Folz, chief executive officer of Solarisbank, says: “In the last 12 months, our passionate team has delivered against key milestones on our ambitious expansion journey. The funding is the result of their outstanding work and will further fuel our vision to create a world where financial services seamlessly sync with life.”

Thomas Schlytter-Henrichen, partner at Decisive Capital Management, adds: “We are experiencing a paradigm shift in banking, where customers expect financial services to adapt to their specific needs. Technology is the key to enable this transformation and Solarisbank’s powerful banking-as-a-service platform positions it perfectly for this new banking era. We are both inspired by the team and thrilled to work together on its mission.”

Solarisbank has used a portion of the proceeds from the series D round to acquire Contis, a profitable European payments fintech based in the UK.

Founded in 2008 by fintech veteran Peter Cox, Contis has grown to become one of the most comprehensive banking-as-a-service providers for payments in Europe.

Solarisbank says the acquisition will allow for a holistic offering that is second to none in terms of market coverage and product offering.

Cox, executive chairman and founder of Contis Group, comments: “Contis is one of the true fintech trailblazers, with numerous awards to its name and a proven track record of delivering disruptive technology, securely with proven high reliability in the payments space. Having already become one of Europe’s fastest growing companies over the last three years, this coming together brings our joint velocity to the next level. Solarisbank and Contis share the same vision and values and together we will spearhead the global trend of embedded finance.”

Ramin Niroumand, chairman of the supervisory board of Solarisbank, adds: “The alliance of our companies follows a clear strategic rationale as the platforms complement each other perfectly. Together we will build an international powerhouse for banking-as-a-service. We are delighted to have won a group of new elite investors to accompany us on our future growth journey.”

Upon completion of the transaction, the combined entity will be led by Solarisbank’s chief executive officer, Dr Folz. Cox will support the transition in his new role as senior adviser and shareholder.

Inclusive of this Series D round, Solarisbank has raised more than €350 million since its founding in 2016. Both the funding round and the transaction are subject to regulatory approval.

SaaScada appoints Paul Payne as chief technology officer

SaaScada appoints Paul Payne as chief technology officer
Paul Payne

SaaScada, the new core banking platform and services provider, has appointed Paul Payne as its chief technology officer.

Payne will oversee the execution of UK-based SaaScada’s technology roadmap and the implementation of its cloud native core banking platform across a growing number of established institutions and challengers within the retail banking sector.

Educated to MBA level, with 20 years software development experience and a track record building and leading engineering and operations teams, Payne brings strong cloud platform engineering and delivery expertise to the executive team.

Payne joins SaaScada from Iris Software Systems, where he held a combined chief technology and operations officer role responsible for product, engineering, project delivery and support functions.

Prior to Iris, Payne held the position of digital portfolio delivery manager at Direct Line Group, and head of development at LexisNexis.

Nelson Wootton, chief executive officer at SaaScada, comments: “I am delighted to welcome Paul to the team; he brings a wealth of experience gained in the B2B SaaS and PaaS solutions sector to SaaScada. Paul will be instrumental in achieving our plan to expand and bring solutions that anticipate and truly meet the changing needs of customers to the wider retail banking sector.”

Payne says: “I am thrilled to join SaaScada at such an exciting time for the business. Deepening SaaScada’s configuration capabilities to enable rapid deployment of highly sophisticated savings and lending products is key to the next stage of our evolution and I look forward to working with the team to facilitate the level of innovation required by such a rapidly evolving market.”

Corefy opens new office to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific

Corefy launches new office to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific

Payment orchestration platform provider Corefy has opened its first regional office in the Asia Pacific with the aim to expand the company’s global coverage.

Corefy was launched in 2018 with headquarters in London, UK, and R&D offices in Kyiv, Ukraine.

After three years of development, the company has launched the new regional office in Manila, Philippines. The office will serve as the base for a sales executive and a customer success manager, who are a part of Corefy’s business development team.

Den Melnykov, chief business officer at Corefy, says: “This is an important decision for our company and one more step in our global growth strategy. The APAC market is one of the fastest growing in the world and has a favourable environment for the development of ecommerce. Representation in the Philippines allows us to cover more clients and provide qualified services in new time zones.”

Due to the Covid situation in the region, Corefy’s management team decided to postpone opening a physical office. For the time being, new representatives will work remotely.

Once the situation gets back to normal, the company expects to find a comfortable workspace and increase the number of employees in Manila to create a full-fledged unit that will cover business development and support issues in the region.

The new regional office will focus its attention on Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Thailand, and other countries of the region. 

Melnykov adds: “Our aim for the nearest few months is to onboard new colleagues, to help them understand the product and all processes. In the next quarter, we expect to see the first clients from the APAC region onboard.”

Corefy plans to open at least three more offices on different continents by the end of 2022.