Persionio launches in UK and Ireland after raising $75M

Persionio launches in UK and Ireland after raising $75M

Hanno Renner, co-founder and CEO of Personio.

Personio, a fintech focused on human resources and payroll operations, has launched in the U.K. and Ireland after raising $75 million in Series C funding, led by Accel.

Lightspeed Venture Partners and Lars Dalgaard, founder and CEO of SuccessFactors, also participated in the round. 

Personio has helped digitize HR and payroll functions at more than 2,000 SMEs in 40 countries around the world and has been working with some high-profile disruptors, including digital savings platform Raisin and U.K.-based data platform Millimetric. 

“Businesses, and SMEs in particular, have a huge amount to consider when it comes to HR, everything from recruitment to onboarding, personnel management, payroll and performance feedback,” Hanno Renner, co-founder and CEO of Personio, told Mobile Payments Today via email. “Our software helps make administration more efficient, giving teams an all encompassing platform where everybody can place, upload and use information in an entirely GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) way.” 

The company has now raised $130 million in five years since its initial launch. 


Topics: Mobile Apps, Mobile Payments, Venture Capital

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Citigroup CEO says many branch jobs are still safe from machines

Citigroup Inc. spends about $8.5 billion a year on technology, but the bank’s boss says that doesn’t mean branch workers will all be replaced by machines anytime soon

Modernizing the bank’s app and digital-banking experience won’t necessarily result in Citigroup needing fewer people in its retail bank, Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat said Tuesday in a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Instead, it will mean “being smarter” about how those employees are used, he said.

Corbat, who said the pace of change is happening slower than most people think, said one goal is for Citigroup’s mobile application to look and feel more like popular ride-sharing or retail apps. Those efforts don’t mean abandoning the branch model because many consumers still want both experiences, he said.

“We have a large cohort of people that want their ‘I want it now’ mentality in terms of their digital banking on their app, and they want to come in our branch and they want to speak to people,” Corbat said. “We are today running an analog and a digital bank. That will change over time.”

The biggest U.S. banks have been consolidating their branch presence — a move that can sometimes result in job cuts. U.S. Bancorp, the country’s largest regional lender, last year cut 2% of its workforce as part of its efforts to reduce branch jobs.

Read more about U.S. banks’ branch-closing strategies

Citigroup has long had a smaller branch presence than many of its larger rivals. But the company has said it’s open to having a larger physical presence in the U.S. as it seeks to offer more products to credit-card customers.

In October, Corbat promoted Jane Fraser to lead the global consumer operation and help engineer the transformation of its retail bank.

Corbat said he would be proud to one day hand over the CEO reins to Fraser, who was also named president in October, but he said that decision would ultimately be made by the board.

“My job and my responsibility is to make sure that we’re preparing people,” Corbat said. “Jane has had a phenomenal career with us, and we continue that role of making sure that if and when the time comes, she’s ready.”

— Jenny Surane (Bloomberg)

A Fintech side-effect: Excessive Corporate Control by the Big Three

The growth of the ETF sector is well documented and the robo-advisory fintech growth merits a piece of this `success`. According to my estimates, last year digital investing from startups and incumbents represented roughly 12% of the entire ETF market. This is of course, is from the point of investors’ point of view. Earlier this month I looked at facts and figures for ETF issuers.

Clearly, incumbents dominate ETF issuance. Very few standalone Fintechs are involved in issuing ETFs and their market share is negligible. Those include Sofi, Salt Financial, Ark funds. The growth of passive investing is not limited to the ETF wrapper. Other indexing investment products have also been growing, with mutual funds dominating. Vanguard is has pushed the industry towards such investment products with low expense ratios. Vanguard boasts an average expense ratio of 19bps compared to an industry average of 108bps. Robinhood has pushed the industry to commission-free trading. Most large asset managers have currently, significant platforms with commission-free trading investment products (from Fidelity, Vanguard, Charles Schwab).

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer – No.3 influencer in the finance sector by Refinitiv Global Social Media 2019.

You get 3 free articles on Daily Fintech. Get all our fresh content and our archives and participate in our forum, by becoming a member for just US$143 a year.

Customers – Investors should be extremely happy with all these developments. However, there is one major concern whose ugly head may not be noticeable. An elephant is in the room, here too. Its name is `The Big Three`. The concentration power of three US-based companies, Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street, and its ramifications has gone largely unnoticed.

Blackrock just passed the $7 trillion AUM. An increase of $1.5trillion from last year.

Vanguard just passed the $6 trillion AUM and State Street the $3trillion AUM.

These three corporates manage $16 trillion AUM. This is a 45% increase from 2017 ($11 trillion AUM)!

Through a visualization produced by Corpnet Research what becomes clear is that `The Big Three` are the largest shareholders in 40% of all publicly traded stocks in the US[i]!

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 10.36.07

The growth of low cost investing, the disruption of the brokerage business model and the digitalization of the investment process, has created this excessive concentration in the Big Three asset managers.

Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street have corporate control over 40% of the US stock market! These giant index fund businesses have too much shareholder voting power. That is one of the reasons that it matters a lot what the Fink says about climate change and ESG. In this case, we like his commitment but let’s be aware of this Corporate Governance entity in the room

The Harvard Law school forum on Corporate Governance is also researching this theme. In their paper The Specter of the Giant Three they look closely into this issue and estimate that the Big Three could well cast as much as 40% of the votes in S&P 500 companies within two decades.

Even though, the Big Three own less shares than 40%, their impact is amplified because they exercise their voting power 100%, whereas smaller asset managers do not. The Big Three currently collectively hold an average stake of more than 20% of S&P 500 companies and each one of them (BlackRock and Vanguard) now hold positions of 5% or more of the shares of almost all of the companies in the S&P 500.

Even more interesting is that this corporate governance problem was identified initially as the “Problem of Twelve”[ii] — the likelihood that in the near future roughly twelve individuals will have practical power over the majority of U.S. public companies.

In just these last two years, the problem has become more acute. If we continue to focus on democratization (access, low cost) of financial products and services with no innovation in corporate governance, we will end up pretty much in the same corner as we have with the Big Tech companies.

We need more fintechs innovating in the shareholder voting process. We need to increase the shareholder voting participation and make it 100% transparent for majority shareholders that are already required to publicly disclose their holdings.

The Big Three references

BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street Own Corporate America

[i] Hidden power of the Big Three? Passive index funds, re-concentration of corporate ownership, and new financial risk

[ii] The Future of Corporate Governance Part I: The Problem of Twelve

Banking licenses an opportunity to create fintech hub in Singapore

Singapore is becoming a haven for e-commerce companies looking to get into banking in Asian markets.

In 2019, the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced it would issue three digital wholesale bank licenses and two digital full bank licenses, challenging Singapore’s legacy financial institutions, CNBC reported. The regulator’s moves have created an opening for super apps to move into banking.

Recent proposed entrants into the banking sector include super app Grab Holdings and leading communications company Singtel, which have announced a partnership to apply for a full digital banking license in the city-state. While a full digital banking license requires both companies to be headquartered in Singapore, wholesale banks can be controlled by foreign entities or Singaporeans.

In the past two years, Grab has launched and scaled a number of financial services, including lending and insurance distribution throughout Southeast Asia, and sees expanding into Singapore as a next step to building additional customer-facing products.

“The natural next step is to build a truly customer-centric digital bank that will deliver a variety of banking and financial services that are accessible, transparent and affordable,” said Reuben Lai, senior managing director at Grab Financial Group, in a statement.

Meanwhile, Singtel sees the partnership as a path to transition from mobile to financial services.

See also: Singapore to speed up its fintech patent-granting process

“The digital banking space is a natural extension of the mobile financial services that we are already offering to our large base of customers,” said Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel International Group, in a statement. “We want to fundamentally change the way consumers and enterprises bank.”

Zhi-Ying Barry, senior analyst at Forrester, explained that some companies have seen the Singapore banking license as a gateway to other countries in the region, including Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. She also noted the Singaporean government wants to use the interest from companies to encourage creativity in its banking space and has also shown openness to the growth of other fintech companies, including blockchain startups.

There’s a push “There’s a push to make Singapore a financial hub, and the Monetary authority of Singapore is coming up with different types of frameworks,” she said. “They have sandboxes to help to encourage fintech, not just for consumers but for corporate institutions as well.”

As of this month, Singapore had received more than 20 applications from several businesses for the five digital bank licenses currently available. Regulators will announce its decision on which companies will be granted banking licenses in June 2020.

Bank Innovation Ignite, which will take place March 2-3 in Seattle, is a must-attend industry event for professionals overseeing financial technologies, product experiences and services. This is an exclusive, invitation-only event for executives eager to learn about the latest innovations. Request your invitation.

Tokenized mobile payment revenue to reach $17B

Annual revenue from tokenized mobile payments will more than double from $17 billion in 2019 to $40 billion by 2024, according to a new report from Juniper Research.

The research shows that more than $30 billion of the total will stem from remote e-commerce transactions rather than mobile payments at the point of sale. 

“This is mainly because of the use case — mobile payment growth as a whole is beginning to plateau, as the use case confines how often people transact over mobile at (the) POS,” lead analyst James Moar told Mobile Payments Today via email. “Contactless payment is also limited both by the transaction size and the overall use case at (the) POS.”

The research shows that the ability to use tokens and multi-factor authentication through Secure Remote Commerce will increase the use of tokenization in browser-based e-commerce, where it has been previously limited to native apps. 

European regulators have been working to upgrade security requirements for SRC, which would require a higher level of multi-factor authentication in order for transactions to be approved. 

Topics: Contactless / NFC, Mobile Apps, Mobile Payments, Retail, Security, Trends / Statistics

Companies: Juniper Research

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“Commodified solution” for AI explainability in the offing

The banking space will see widespread artificial intelligence explainability this year, according to Prema Varadhan, head of AI and chief architect at banking software company Temenos.

The move towards a commodified solution is being driven by increased customer personalisation and a focus on transparency.

“When it comes to personalisation, providing I know as a customer that my bank is able to use my data to deliver value back to me, I’m more than happy to share my data … But for banks to be able to convince their customers that yes, they are using the data in the most appropriate manner and that there is no bias, this is where the explainability comes in,” says Varadhan.

“Even though [banks] have applied AI or machine learning they should be able to show the explanation in such a way that they are able to audit and fix it if there is a problem. I think that is an important factor if banks want to apply that personalisation at scale. These are the fundamental capabilities that they need to have in order to be able to do that, then customers will put their trust in those decisions.”

Explainability has long been a hot topic in AI, entering the banking space more recently as the technology has experienced widespread adoption. “Unlike some other hyped-up technology I think AI is here to stay and it’s going to be a big differentiator,” says Varadhan. According to her, the best use cases for AI include personalisation and fraud prevention.

The search for a widespread, commodified AI explainability solution has also gained traction from bigtech, a sector that has focused on the issue in recent months. In late November, Google launched its “Explainable AI” facility to tackle transparency in the black box, or the inability to explain the outcomes of data input. Despite this step forward, Google does not claim to have solved the black box problem within AI, arguing instead that it can “help data scientists do strong diagnoses of what’s going on,” Google Cloud’s head of AI told the BBC. “But we have not got to the point where there’s a full explanation of what’s happening.”

But according to Varadhan, full explainability is possible. Temenos has a patented explainability solution “as a standard feature” employing a fuzzy logic mechanism, a logical system used to describe inherently vague concepts.

“Any model that we build, we provide explainability by default as part of the platform. And we list things – if there is a credit decisioning model that we build, when the AI model takes a decision we will have all the factors that contributed to that decision as a big list of things that have happened in the model, and then the user can actually interact with that,” says Varadhan.

“Google and others are trying to do a lot on explainability as well, so I think it will become a commodified solution where AI models can be built with full explainability. So you don’t have to worry about that being your major problem to solve.

“This year I think we will see more and more of those because the more articles we see about bias in AI decision making – that there is no transparency etc – the industry is actually responding to that. Very recently there was an article from Google about explainability and we have seen some messages like that from other technology vendors as well, so I think it is going to happen 2020. The important thing is regulators are talking about it, that has forced a decision to come out pretty quickly and something commercial to be available soon. I think this year is a big year for explainability.”


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Tink raises $99.8M to grow open banking platform and jump start Europe expansion

Tink raises $99.8M to grow open banking platform and jump start Europe expansion

Tink co-founders CEO Daniel Kjellen and CTO Fredrik Hedberg

Tink said it raised $99.8 million (90 million euros) in its largest-ever funding round, led by Dawn Capital, HMI Capital and Insight Partners, and will use the funds to develop new products for its open banking platform and continue to expand across Europe. 

The Stockholm-based firm enables thousands of banks, fintechs and startups to develop data-driven financial services through a single API, including initiating payments, developing personal financial management tools and accessing aggregated financial data. 

“We are looking to expand across Europe as quickly as possible, but we are still deciding which countries our next expansion will be to,” Daniel Kjellen, co-founder and CEO of Tink, told Mobile Payments Today via email.

The platform is currently live in 12 countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Austria, the U.K., Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal. Some of the world’s leading banks and fintechs use the platform, including PayPal, digital bank and installment financing platform Klarna, U.K.-based Natwest and Netherlands-based ABN Amro Bank NV. 

London-based Dawn Capital and San Francisco-based HMI joined existing investor Insight for the new funding round. Another new investor in the round is Poste Italiane. Other existing investors participating in the round include Heartcore Capital, ABN Amro Ventures and Opera Tech Ventures, the investment arm of BNP Paribas. 

Tink previously raised $63.5 million (56 million euros) in February 2019.

Cover image: Tink.


Topics: Mobile Banking, Region: EMEA, Venture Capital

Companies: Tink

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Amazon exploring palm biometric technology for retail checkout

Amazon exploring palm biometric technology for retail checkout

Amazon is working on new checkout terminals that would allow shoppers to make payments using biometric data found on their palm prints rather than having to whip out a credit or debit card, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The report follows a September 2019 report in the New York Post that Amazon was testing hand biometrics technology at Whole Foods stores and for use in vending machines.

A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment to Mobile Payments Today.

Topics: Mobile Payments, POS, Retail, Security

Companies: Amazon

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Tink’s $100 Million Monday; Azimo’s C-Suite Shakeup Promotes Experience and Diversity

It is hard to imagine having a better start to your week than Plaid did seven days ago when the innovative fintech (and Finovate alum) announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Visa for $5.3 billion.

But the €90 million ($100 million) raised by Swedish open banking platform Tink on Monday is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, the funding, which is the company’s largest to date and take the firm’s total capital to more than $200 million, is a reminder that investment interest in (and funding for) companies dedicated to developing the infrastructure that connects consumers, banks, and the financial technologies is very much in abundance.

“Our aim is to become the preferred pan-European provider of digital banking services and to offer the technology needed for banks, fintechs, and startups to leverage the opporutnities of open banking and enable them to successfully develop financial services in the future,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement.

Azimo, one of our earliest FinovateEurope alums, announced a pair of big changes at the top to begin the new week.

The London-based money transfer firm, founded in 2012, promoted its COO Richard Ambrose to CEO back in August, as Azimo founder Michael Kent took what TechCrunch referred to as a lateral move to become executive chairman. Today, Fintech Futures, Finovate’s sister publication, reports that the company has appointed Dora Ziambra to the post of COO. Azimo also promoted its head of finance Tatiana Okhotina to the post of Chief Financial Officer.

“We’re fortunate to have the depth of talent to fill these top roles internally,” Ambrose said in a statement. “We’re lucky too that Azimo will continue to benefit from the experience and leadership of these two outstanding women.”

Here’s our weekly roundup of the latest news from our Finovate alumni:

  • Union Bank to leverage technology from FIS for core banking.
  • Italy-based CREDEM leveraging Worldline’s Payment and Liquidity Hub software CRISTAL to process Target2 payments
  • POS software Vend partners with Klarna to offer retailers more flexible payment options.
  • U.K. food retailer The Co-operative to deploy ACI Worldwide’s fraud management solution, ReD Shield.
  • A partnership between TransferGo and Currencycloud will enable the money transfer company to enter 14 new markets.
  • YellowDog forges reseller agreement with Annex Pro.
  • Bankable cozies up with Plaid to allow its bank customers to connect with their users’ bank accounts.
  • Ohpen appoints former Tesla marketing leader Corinne Aaron as new head of marketing.
  • Segmint to acquire WAND’s Product and Service Taxonomy division.
  • CuneXus celebrates 2019 success with a 40% year-over-year increase in consumer reach.
  • TransUnion expands partnership with Payfone.
  • PayPal reaches $10 billion in charitable donations processed.
  • California approves Sezzle’s lending license.
  • People’s Bank selects NYMBUS’s SmartMarketing and SmartOnboarding solutions.
  • Ayondo ends its European social trading business.

Alumni Features and Profiles

Three Key Lessons We Learned from Plaid – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Visa is acquiring Plaid for a deal that’s worth $5.3 billion. The fact that they were so widely used at such an early stage is a testament to the quality of their code, but there are also a few key lessons to take away from their success.

ITSCREDIT’s Joao Pinto on the Digital Lending Opportunity –  ITSCREDIT is a spinoff from ITSECTOR and is a fairly new player in the digital lending space. In this interview, Pinto talks to us about the digital lending opportunity, how his company fits into the current state of this fintech subsector, and what we can expect to see next.

Kasasa Enhances its Take-Back Loan – Community bank marketing expert Kasasa announced a partnership with Carleton today in which Kasasa will integrate Carleton’s insurance and debt protection calculations into its Kasasa Loan.

Our latest FinovateEurope Sneak Peeks Are Up! Meet Dorsum, CASHOFF, Tensorflight, Trulioo, W.UP, Horizn, Glia, and BLECKWEN.

Plinqit Brings Rewards-Powered Financial Literacy to First Community Bank – One day in the distant future, children will be educated in basic financial literacy as readily as they are taught algebra. Until then, solutions like Plinqit from HT Mobile Apps will be valuable tools for credit unions and community banks looking for novel ways to engage and educate their members and customers.

Credit, Data, and Cryptocurrencies: Graychain Rebrands as Credmark – The company that is bringing credit data clarity to the cryptocurrency industry is entering 2020 with a new name.

Tradeshift Lands $240 Million as it Inches Toward Profitability – The San Francisco-based company will use the investment to boost expansion efforts and gear toward a “direct path to profitability in the near future.”

Fintech, Financial Services, and the Case for 5G – Calling 5G “something banks aren’t even thinking about,” Celent SVP Dan Latimore said, “we believe the effects of 5G are going to be subtle and profound over time.”

Backbase-as-a-Service Helps Banks Leverage the Cloud to Innovate and Scale – The solution makes the company’s broad portfolio of digital banking offerings available to FIs looking to accelerate their ability to develop and offer new technologies to customers.

Also on

Visa to Acquire Plaid in $5.3 Billion Deal – “Today marks an important milestone for our company and for fintech,” company co-founder and CEO Zach Perret wrote on the Plaid blog earlier today. “What started with two founders building in a cramped conference room has become an incredible network that enables millions of consumers to interact with over 2,500 digital finance products.”

Not Another 2020 Trends Prediction Post (Seriously, It’s Not!) – We’re taking a look at the trends you can expect to see on stage next month at FinovateEurope. To keep things simple this year, we assessed the themes at a very high level and broke them down into three categories: the big, the little, and the trends in-between.

Singapore’s Digital Banking License Space Race Accelerates – Is there anyone out there who is NOT trying to secure a digital banking license in Singapore? The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced last week that has received 21 applications for digital bank licenses

MogoSpend Offers Credit, Cashback, and Help Reducing Your Carbon Footprint – The new digital spending account from Canadian fintech Mogo does more than help Canadians get control of their finances. The solution also offers cardholders generous cashback rewards and a way to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing their carbon footprint.

Getsafe Expands its Insurtech to the U.K. – If your insurance company is offering you drone insurance, you know it’s not your grandmother’s insurance agency. Germany-based insurtech Getsafe does just that– and the company announced today it is expanding its home contents insurance offering (though, sadly, not its drone insurance offering) to users in the U.K.

Raisin’s New Acquisition Gives Company Access to the U.S. Market – European deposit marketplace Raisin announced today it acquired New York-based Choice Financial Solutions. 

French Fintech Lydia Locks in $45 Million – TechCrunch reported this morning that French mobile payment app Lydia has raised $45 million (€40 million) in a round led by Tencent.

Visa’s Tap to Phone Brings Contactless Payments to mPOS – With Visa’s Tap to Phone app arriving pre-installed on the new, enterprise grade smartphone from Samsung, a broad range of merchants will have access to yet another way to accept payments from customers. 

INTL FCStone Acquires International Bank Transfer Firm – Headquartered in Germany, GIROXX offers international bank transfers and currency hedging. INTL FCStone plans to leverage this technology to expand its current client base to small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Impact of 5AMLD

By Dhanum Nursigadoo, Financial Crime Specialist, ComplyAdvantage.

The AML landscape has shifted. The fifth anti-money laundering directive (5AMLD) passed on 10th January and few were ready for it. 

The new legislation is the next step following 2017’s 4AMLD, legislation that many are still trying to comply with, and the objective is to target areas of the financial compliance architecture that are fit for purpose. 5AMLD will bring about a few key changes, which we run through below. 

Prepayment cards

5AMLD’s limitations on prepayment cards look like a direct attack on financial inclusion. 

Prepayment cards are legitimately used by those on low incomes or with limited access to high-street banks, often due to past financial difficulties such as bankruptcy. In response to this, the reduction in use may see an increase in bank accounts with low or no access to credit.  

Certain banks have considered this, with HSBC offering accounts to those with no permanent address. While these solutions may be early and imperfect, they are managing to address part of the issues the unbanked face.


Currently, Asia leads the market in crypto. The requirements of 5AMLD will help create an environment in which EU-based businesses can compete with those in the Asian market by introducing more crypto products.  

In the cryptocurrency industry, there is a huge amount of confusion on what laws, regulations and regulatory agencies crypto service providers of different types were subject to. This has been a massive problem for the last decade. The new legislation is great news for the crypto sector. 

When applied, 5AMLD will create a more stable framework in the EU than either the Asia Pacific and the USA. This is significant as in the Asia Pacific there is an inconsistent approach across various jurisdictions: Singapore, HK (positive) China (very negative). In the US, where there are lots of potentially interested federal agencies plus 50 state governors who also take a view. In short, clarity is always good for business.

In theory, the new regulations will make a significant difference to anonymity. However, cryptocurrency tumblers are an effective workaround to make it near impossible to track who owns what cryptocurrency. Peer-to-peer exchanges also add another layer of anonymity that will be tough to crack given the lack of clarity around the owners of the cryptocurrency being exchanged. Implementation is just the first stage of the journey for tackling AML/CFT issues in crypto. Compliance teams will need to keep an eye on developing criminal MOs.

Homogenisation of Regulation

5AMLD is an attempt at achieving regulatory homogenization. While the new directive brings alignment it is, in reality, a new minimum standard. At present, when you dig into 5AMLD, it becomes clear that key objectives can vary as to how they’re achieved, such as CDD in France requiring a passport, but certified risk in Luxembourg. 

In the future, the EU could move away from issuing minimum standard directives that need to be transposed into national law and turn AML rules into EU regulations. These would have the force of law and can be directly implemented and enforced from Brussels. This would allow the Commission to be more precise about the kind of requirements it wants from states and private companies.

However given that Brexit was, in rhetoric, due to avoiding governance from Brussels, it’s unlikely that the EU will make such a decisive move towards federalization. To avoid further dissolution of the union and perhaps to encourage the UK to align with future EU AMLDs, it’s probable that it will remain as a minimum standard.


It’s difficult to see how 5AMLD will have a significant impact on criminals laundering money through art.

Art tends to be bought at the integration stage of the money laundering process, so the funds have usually been through multiple offshore transactions and mixed up before they end up in the concentration account of the person buying the art. Due diligence on buyers (and sellers) could help, especially if there seems to be a discrepancy between the apparent means and lifestyle of the buyer and the cost of the purchase.

But even the ultimate criminal purchasers can find ways around this, such as finding or grooming apparently rich nominee purchasers who act as a cut out. These nominees can just ‘give’ the item to the criminal at the end of the process without any financial record. 

Unexplained Wealth Orders can help with this, but then law enforcement agencies like the NCA would need to know who owns what piece of art, when. Without a comprehensive global register (which is likely impossible) it would be difficult to justify a piece of art under a UWO.

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Bitcoin Bears vs Bulls,589&ssl=1#

Bulls-vs.-Bears-1000x589.jpgBitcoin started the year with a bang. In the last 24 hours it went up 3%, topping $9,000. The entire week has been exciting week, with one rally after another feeding the bulls. Bitcoin has exploded by over 30% since January 1, and we’re just a couple of weeks into 2020. What a difference from what happened in January 2018. Market watchers are pointing to Bitcoin’s halving as the catalyst for the next big price push. 

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the Founder at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG and a weekly columnist at


There are two major forces we need to consider. On one end we have the Chinese New Year, which has always been bad for cryptocurrencies. On the other, political uncertainty is providing a fertile ground for the value of cryptocurrencies. Both these forces are pulling crypto from opposite ends and will cause major price swings in the moths to come.

For some reason Chinese New Year has always been bad news for Bitcoin. This year, just like the last four years, you can expect, a little dip right before the Chinese New Year. In January 2019, Bitcoin dipped to around $3,300. In 2018, the Chinese New Year, kicked off the bear market, with a huge slide from around $16,000 to $5,000. In 2017 we had a mini dip, dropping from $1,200 to $700. Some people attribute the price drops to the Chinese cashing out and giving gifts to family and friends. Personally, think a lot of market makers take time off, and as a result potential orders don’t get filled, which causes the entire market to drop.

On the other end of the spectrum, Bitcoin’s decentralized governance combined with the global uncertainty, because of the relations between the United States and Iran, Trump impeachment and the US and China trade war are pushing people towards crypto and driving prices up. People are trying to find ways to maintain the value of their assets, avoid potential confiscation and limit effects of the possibility of the US government printing money to fund a war.

On May 13th the halving will be important, because it will directly impact the amount of Bitcoin produced per day. Today, 12.5 coins are created every 10 minutes, with a total of 1,800 Bitcoins per day and a value of around $14 million. That number will drop to 6.25 and along with that, inflation will drop. Even though halving event is not a secret, it’s part of Bitcoin’s predictable monetary policy, most of the the general public does not know exactly what the halving means, and this will create most likely create FOMO.

But beyond halving, Bitcoin’s upgrade later this year the could be another important driving force. The soft fork, which will most likely happen int the last quarter fo the year is expected to improve Bitcoin’s privacy and scalability. Schnorr signatures, Taproot schemes and Tapscript language, will bring smart contracts to Bitcoin, eliminate penalties in terms of fees for multisig wallets and improve security with Taproot.

Crypto assets, are here to stay and prices will rise. Governments, central banks and big tech is coming in. Look at China’s central bank, Libra and JP Morgan for example. But thinking that Bitcoin and crypto will go ballistic because of the halving or something else, is just wishful thinking. Volatility is the name of the game, so expect a lot of crazy swings, as bulls and bears duke it out.

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Eagle Home Mortgage, Blend launch mobile app for loan officers

Eagle Home Mortgage is moving its loan application process to a mobile format through a new tool from underwriting company Blend. The app, Blend Loan Officer, was launched this month. It allows Eagle loan officers to work with customers, guiding them through loan applications on smartphones. Eagle Home Mortgage is the financial services arm of …Read More

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Singapore’s Digital Bank License Space Race Accelerates

Is there anyone out there who is NOT trying to secure a digital banking license in Singapore?

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced last week that it has received 21 applications for digital bank licenses. A decision is expected in June, and the fortunate five who receive licenses will be able to launch their businesses by the middle of next year. Applicants have included a wide range of companies, from e-commerce and telecommunications firms, to fintechs, PSPs, and crowdfunding platforms.

Specifically, MAS is making available two different types of license: a digital full bank license and a digital wholesale bank license. There are two digital full bank licenses available, which would enable non-banks to accept deposits from retail customers. There are seven applicants for these licenses, which come with initial, temporary restrictions on deposits and capitalization.

The digital wholesale bank license will permit firms to lend to SMEs. Fourteen companies have applied for the three digital wholesale bank licenses MAS is making available. These new businesses would be required to meet the same regulations as existing wholesale banks, including capitalization of $74 million (S$100 million). Among the more well-known firms competing for these digital wholesale bank licenses are rideshare startup Grab and Ant Financial.

Also in the running for a digital wholesale bank license is Finovate alum and Best of Show winner Arival Bank. The firm announced its application earlier this week, noting that securing the license “will add tremendous value in Arival’s quest to becoming a borderless fintech bank.” The company plans to leverage its ArivalOS digital banking technology, as well as its banking-as-a-service (BaaS) platform to serve the freelancers, micro businesses, and startups that it believes remain underserved within the broader SME market worldwide.

In other international news on the Finovate blog this week, we talked with João Pinto of Portugal’s ITSCREDIT ahead of the company’s Finovate appearance next month in Berlin. We also featured German insurtech Getsafe’s expansion to the U.K., looked at European deposit marketplace Raisin’s acquisition of U.S. fintech Choice Financial Solutions, and profiled French mobile payments app Lydia as it locks in $45 million in new funding.

Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Business Maverick looks at PayU’s decision to merge its consumer lending business, LazyPay, with Indian digital credit platform, PaySense.
  • EpiFi, a Bengalaru, India-based digital banking startup founded by a pair of former Google executives, raises $13.2 million in funding.
  • Entrepreneur India features B2B digital ledger mobile app, KhataBook.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Resuelve tu Deuda, a Mexican fintech that specializes in helping consumer repair their credit, raises $24 million in funding.
  • lists online payments, banking, billpay, proptech, and lending in its feature, 5 Opportunities for Fintech Disruption in Latin America.
  • Brazilian neobank Nubank announces its first acquisition, purchasing local consulting company Plataformatec largely to access the firm’s crew of engineering and developer talent.


  • Digital-only neobank Tonik secures banking license in Philippines ahead of planned launch.
  • Arival Bank is the latest fintech to throw its hat into the Singapore digital banking license ring.
  • CredoLab earns listing from Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority OJK) as an official provider of financial services in the country – the first fintech in Indonesia to be granted this recognition.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • EverSend founder Stone Atwine talks about trends in the African fintech industry with CNBC Africa.
  • Kenyan fintech Alternative Circle earns recognition as “One to Watch” in the first global fintex index ranking 2020 by Findexable.
  • What can we expect from South African fintech in 2020? Ventureburn examines the country’s prospects.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Euromoney takes a look at the complicated relationship between banks and fintechs in the CEE region.
  • The Paypers interviews Valeri Valtchev of the Bulgarian Fintech Association on the evolution of Bulgaria as a fintech hub.
  • Latvian fintech Jeff App locks in €150,000 to help improve financial inclusion for borrowers in Southeast Asia.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Salaam African Bank in Djibouti selects core banking technology from Oracle FSS.
  • A partnership between crypto exchange Huobi and Dubai-based real estate firm fäm Properties will enable investors to pay in a digital assets such as Bitcoin, Ether, and XRP.
  • Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) introduces its Instant Credit Card service via its mobile app.

As Finovate goes increasingly global, so does our coverage of financial technology. Finovate Global is our weekly look at fintech innovation in developing economies in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Top image designed by Freepik

Kasasa Enhances its Take-Back Loan

Community bank marketing expert Kasasa announced a partnership with Carleton today in which Kasasa will integrate Carleton’s insurance and debt protection calculations into its Kasasa Loan, a move that will allow it to tailor loan limits.

Headquartered in Indiana, Carleton provides financial calculation software, loan origination compliance support, and document generation software. Through the partnership, Kasasa will enable its clients to add debt protection and credit insurance products to their Kasasa Loan offering.

Kasasa will use Carleton’s CarletonCalcs, which will allow it to tailor limits to each client based on their institutional, state, and federal compliance requirements. “By integrating CarletonCalcs throughout the Kasasa service platform, Carleton will ensure compliant loan computations and precise amortization schedules through Kasasa’s dashboard and mobile app,” said Carleton President and COO Matt Ruszkowski.

“We wanted to ensure the Kasasa Loan added a high level of configurability and compliance support to meet our client’s needs, in addition to providing consumers the greatest flexibility when choosing their loans,” said Chris Cohen, EVP, Product Management for Kasasa.

Kasasa debuted its Kasasa Loan in 2017 and showcased it at FinovateSpring 2018. The concept works similar to a regular loan agreement in which the borrower repays according to a regular payment schedule. However, it is unique because every month the consumer has the option to overpay on their loan repayment and at any time in the future if they need to access cash quickly, they have the option to “take-back” any portion of the overpayment.

Kasasa is an Austin-based company with 450 employees. The company counts 900 community financial institutions as clients.

MogoSpend Offers Credit, Cashback, and Help Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Photo by Min An from Pexels

The new digital spending account from Canadian fintech Mogo does more than help Canadians get control of their finances. The solution – which also comes with a Mogo Visa Platinum Prepaid Card – also offers cardholders generous cashback rewards and a way to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing their carbon footprint.

“With MogoSpend,” company founder and CEO David Feller explained, “our goal was to create a product that gives consumers even more control than a debit card and with cashback rewards that rival the best credit cards in Canada, without charging monthly or annual fees, and importantly, we wanted to make this a card that also help make a positive impact on the planet.”

Feller noted that 57 percent of Canadians carry credit card debt, which he connected with the problem of overspending. This, according to Feller, leads to overconsumption which he said was “directly linked to climate change.” He added, “Being more mindful around spending can help us achieve important life goals like buying a home and retirement, and many of us are becoming increasingly aware that being a mindful consumer is key to a healthy planet.”

MogoSpend is accessible via Mogo’s iOS and Android app, and can be set up in less than three minutes. The free service has no monthly or annual fees, works like a checking account, and enables users to instantly transfer funds from their bank account to their MogoSpend account. MogoSpend gives 1.5% cashback on domestic purchases and 3% on international currency purchases. Users can see how much cashback they have earned on the app in real time, and those funds are credited to the users account on a monthly basis, rather than at year’s end.

The only payment card in Canada to offer a carbon offset program, MogoSpend will offset one pound of CO2 for every dollar MogoSpend users spend using the card. The program comes courtesy of a partnership between Mogo and Canadian sustainability and carbon-management solution provider, Offsetters.

Mogo will make the new offering available to members on its waiting list “in the next few months.” Those interested can join the waiting list by downloading the free Mogo app and opening an account.

Weekly Wrap: Visa acquires Plaid and retailers embrace fintech

Welcome to the latest episode of our Weekly Wrap video series, for the week ending Friday, January 17, 2019. In this episode, editors discuss the following news developments:

View the Weekly Wrap podcast here:

The Weekly Wrap is also available as a video here:

Facial recognition hardware may secure the future of mobile commerce
| by David Jones
Facial recognition hardware may secure the future of mobile commerce

As mobile banking security takes on new forms of authentication technology, a report by Juniper Research found that facial recognition will likely become the fastest-growing use of biometric hardware on smartphones. 

The report indicated that facial recognition will reach more than 800 million mobiles by the year 2024, up from an estimated 96 million during 2019.

“We believe that facial recognition is going to pick up to such a large degree on mobile devices because of ease of use,” Juniper Research analyst James Moar, said via email. “While some forms of facial recognition (such as Apple’s Face ID) have dedicated hardware for security, several are able to use software alone, meaning that they can be used on any smartphone with a selfie camera.”

The report also found that software would remain the leading method of biometric technology however, with about 1.3 billion devices using software-based facial recognition by the same year. 

Juniper said advances have been made with companies such as Mastercard and iProov to develop facial recognition that was strong enough to be used for payments and other high-end authentication needs. 

Moar said there were limits as to how much crossover there would be between facial recognition hardware in the smartphone, versus using the same technology in the ATM space. 

“Because this technology’s success is reliant on it always being present on the phone, it is unlikely to achieve much success the ATM space, which will always require additional hardware to be installed,” he said. “In addition the ergonomics of using facial recognition at ATMs means that facial recognition would not be able to be smoothly integrated into the ATM experience.”

The report also found that about 4.6 billion smartphones would have some form of fingerprint authentication built into the device by 2024. Despite this widespread availability, their use for payment would be less prevalent, however.

The report said 60% of biometric authenticated payments would be used for remote purchases or ecommerce transactions. 

Cover image: iStock

Topics: Handsets / Devices, Mobile Apps, Mobile Payments, Security, Trends / Statistics

Companies: Juniper Research, MasterCard, Apple

David Jones

David Jones is a veteran business and technology journalist, with three decades of experience writing about business travel, real estate and technology.

Since 2015 he covered a range of technology stories for the ECT News Network, which includes the E-Commerce Times, TechNewsWorld, LinuxInsider and CRM Buyer, writing about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, open source computing and privacy issues among others,. He recently covered FinTech issues for

He worked as a staff writer for Bloomberg Business News and an online reporter for Crain’s New York Business. He has written for numerous media organizations, including Reuters, The New York Times, The Real Deal, Continental, City Limits and The Nation.

He was previously awarded the George Washington Williams Fellowship for Journalists of Color by the Independent Press Association.

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Loomis to buy Swedish cash-handling firm Nokas Vardehantering

Loomis AB, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Loomis Sverige AB, is buying cash-handling firm Nokas Vardehantering AB, subsidiary of Norway’s Nokas Kontandthantering AS, in a deal valued at SEK 80 ($8.4 million) including assumed debt. 

Nokas Vardehantering and Loomis Sverige are both cash-handling firms operating under supervision of the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, and the newly acquired business will be consolidated into Loomis. 

“The acquisition of Nokas’ Swedish cash handling will add opportunities to further develop our service offerings in the Swedish market,”Patrik Andersson, president and CEO of Loomis, said in a company release. “We are convinced we can add value for our new customers, but also for our current customers in Sweden.”

Nokas Vardehantering has a total of 220 employees and annual revenue for the fiscal year ended in September 2019 was SEK 215 million ($22.6 million), however the company has a current operating margin that is negative. 

After including integration costs, the acquisition is expected to have a marginal dilutive effect on earnings but is expected to be profitable afterwards. 

Nokas CMS AB, which deploys ATMs in Sweden, is not part of the acquisition and will remain part of the Nokas Group. 

Topics: ATMs, Mergers & Acquisitions, Mobile Banking, Mobile Payments, Region: EMEA

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Mastercard kicks off massive climate change effort with Citi, IHS Markit, others

Mastercard kicks off massive climate change effort with Citi, IHS Markit, others

Mastercard has launched the Priceless Planet Coalition, a massive effort to combat climate change that will involve a five-year commitment to plant more than 100 million trees. It’s enlisting the help of major corporate partners in its founding coalition, including Citibank, Santander UK, IHS Markit, bunq, Saks Fifth Avenue, L.L. Bean, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Transport for London and American Airlines, according to a company press release.

The partners will work to promote the use of public transportation as a means of reducing carbon emissions, and Mastercard will work with Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions to allow corporate card customers to contribute to reforestation efforts through their card purchases. IHS is the first company to come onboard in that program. 

“No matter who you are or what you do, climate change affects you,” Ajay Banga, president and CEO at Mastercard, said in a company release. “But it has the biggest negative impact on those who are socially and economically vulnerable. The time for just negating our environmental footprint has passed.”

Cover image: iStock

Topics: Card Brands, Mobile Apps, Mobile Banking, Mobile Payments

Companies: Citi, Banco Santander, MasterCard

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Canadian fintech Mogo launches digital rewards account with carbon offset

Canadian fintech Mogo launches digital rewards account with carbon offset

The MogoSpend account includes a prepaid Visa, no fees and cashback rewards.

Mogo Inc., a Vancouver, Canada-based fintech, has launched the MogoSpend digital spending account, a no-fee mobile app that offers customers a prepaid Visa card with loyalty rewards designed to help customers reduce their carbon footprints. 

MogoSpend charges no monthly or annual fees and offers 1.5% back on domestic purchases in Canada and 3% back on foreign currency purchases, with no caps on the rewards cash. In order to reduce the carbon footprint of customers, Mogo said it will offset one pound of CO2 for every dollar spent using the card and is partnering with Offsetters, a Vancouver-based company that helps firms become more sustainable.

“One of the biggest financial challenges consumers face is overspending and 57% of Canadians now carry credit card debt,” David Feller, founder and CEO at Mogo, said in a company release. “With MogoSpend our goal was to create a product that gives consumers even more control than a debit card and with cashback rewards that rival the best credit cards in Canada, without charging monthly or annual fees, and more importantly, we wanted to make this a card that also helps to make a positive impact on the planet.” 


Topics: Card Brands, Loyalty Programs, Mobile Apps, Mobile Payments, Region: Americas

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