The Top 3 FinTech Trends to Watch in 2020

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While many people think of FinTech as just an app on your phone, the reality is that it is more than just payments. In fact, it is a revolution in how our financial system works touching everything from the cash registers at your local supermarket to even the future of money.

Even though it feels like the revolution just started, the reality is that technology and the financial service have gone hand in hand for nearly 70 years. Just think of everything from check readers to credit card processing machines.

However, things have started to speed up in the last few years and here are the top three FinTech trends to watch in 2020. This includes everything from automation such as job scheduling software to the possible end of cash.

1. Automated Processes

While the terminator might not come strolling into your local bank branch, the reality is that most banks and insurance companies are automating as many processes as they can find. As Andrew Yang pointed out this might not be good for long-term employment prospects in finance, but it is certainly good for the bottom line at these companies.

Granted, automation is nothing new, but what is gaining steam is something called Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This technology allows developers to organize automated processes to work seamlessly with their human counterparts. 

What this means for banks and insurance companies is that they can seamlessly integrate their automated processes with those which are still done by humans. The result is reduced processed times and increased efficiency.

But what is truly exciting – at least from a technology point of view – is how these bots are increasingly able to take on more of the work that was traditionally done by humans. This includes completing forms, filing digital documents, and supporting data queries for compliance departments.

2. Crypto is the New King

For those who have been following Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, they know that it is not only a small part of the global monetary system, but it is also extremely volatile. However, this is set to change next year as companies like Facebook and even some governments release their own cryptocurrencies.

While Facebook’s Libra will initially be used as a payment option on the company’s platforms, company representatives have noted that their goal is to have it become a “stablecoin” supported by a reserve of physical assets.

A big part of the challenge will be reducing the cost and process time needed to transmit a cryptocurrency as this is seen by many as an impediment in the broader acceptance of this new payment platform.

While in the case of Facebook is the question as to whether users will trust the company with its money after several high-profile revelations about the company’s sloppy handling of users’ personal information.

Even without Facebook taking the lead, there is strong evidence to support the growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies. So, if cash was king, then cryptocurrencies may be the new king.

3. Meet Your AI Banker

There is no doubting that the technologies which underpin Artificial Intelligence (AI) are rapidly developing. Granted we might not be at the point at which machines become conscious – assuming they’d let us know – the combination of more powerful tools and refined decision trees are making AI-powered customer support a reality.

This can be seen in what is called “conversational banking” which is when a customer interacts with a chatbot to solve a banking issue. According to research by Accenture, nearly 64 percent of consumers would rather type a simple message than call a support number – this is a trend which is expected to only grow going forward.

As such, chatbots which can learn from previous interactions with customers are set to provide an eerily human-like experience by providing fast, courteous, and correct support to customers when they need it. Compare this to calling 800 numbers and dealing with voice-operated menus and it is no surprise that AI-power bankers are tipped to rule the world.

Technology and finance have gone hand-in-hand for years as everything from ticker tape machines to wire transfers had its start in the tech lab of a company or a startup. What has changed in recent years is the pace of innovation as technology has begun to transform the customer experience in financial services.

Front and center in this revolution is FinTech and of the most exciting trends to watch in 2020, are automated processes through RPA, the continued rise of cryptocurrencies, and last, but not least, AI.

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Challenging Complexity: How to Simplify Your Marketing Message in 3 Easy Steps

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By Emma Humphrey, Managing Director of Genius Marketing

In FinTech, you’re only as good as your brand’s brilliance in your particular sector. After all, that’s what investors look at isn’t it?

Emma Humphrey

It’s important how innovative and groundbreaking your idea is. It’s essential that you’ve cemented an unassailable your position based on your development plan and killer team of tech wizards. And this is largely true, but one place it doesn’t work is in your marketing. Why not? It may seem counter intuitive, but the breadth and depth of your knowledge can actually hamper your ability to engage with potential customers. 

If you confuse your customers with tech jargon or explain things at a level that you’re comfortable with but they are not, you stand to alienate them entirely before you even get to the point where they might consider buying or investing in your product. 

Instead of displaying your knowledge using of technical detail, you can leverage it by simplify your message into something that all customers can easily understand and relate to. 

Here’s how:

1. Think like they think

The first step is to see things in the way that your customer sees them. Whoever you’re selling to, your marketing messages have to resonate with their reality and their aspirations, not illustrate your mastery of your technology. 

They’ll already assume that you can produce a better product than they can. That’s not in question. However, what will really get them to trust you is to see that you understand their specific situation and priorities and therefore that your offering can help them in particular.

2. Show them the “what”, not the “how”

You might easily be able to discuss the technical ins and outs of how your product can deliver on an objective in a way that is far superior to that of your competitors, but your customers probably aren’t going to have that same degree of knowledge. All they take from this is a sea of confusing detail that bears little relevance to what they are trying to achieve.

“It may seem counter intuitive, but the breadth and depth of your knowledge can actually hamper your ability to engage with potential customers.”

Keep your marketing messages simple, focused on what your offering is going to achieve for them, not how that’s going to be achieved. 

3. Emotion before logic

Finally, you need to be able to dial into the emotions your customers are feeling. Show you understand what’s going on for them on a personal level. They are all human and as such are ruled by a set of internal emotional drivers that stimulate them to act on or ignore marketing messages. It’s only once their hearts have said yes that their heads will then engage to try and logically justify their impulse to act.

Consider having a look at your marketing marketing messages through that lens. Do they speak to the customer’s world? Do they focus on the end benefit rather than the features that’ll enable that to happen? Do they target the emotion at the core of the decision-making process before they try to lay out the logical reason for choosing your brand? If the answer is yes to these questions, then you’re on the right track. If not, it is time to make some changes to help you reengage with your customer base and investors.

Emma Humphrey is Managing Director of creative agency Genius. She leads a high calibre team of creative heavyweights, specialising in ROI-led brand work and conceptual advertising.

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The Financial Sector Needs to Get Employees Back in the Flow

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By Mark Williams, Senior VP, People First

Despite the great success of financial services in the UK, productivity remains a problem. The sector suffers from the modern British affliction of consistently low productivity. 

On one calculation, the UK financial sector suffered from six consecutive quarters of decline ten years ago and has remained flat ever since. 

Low productivity in financial services is a topic serious enough to warrant a report by the consultancy and services giant PwC, published last year. This makes clear that pressure on cost-income ratios and the striving for greater productivity has led to offshoring, automation and headcount reduction.

After analysing its survey results, PwC identified areas where financial firms are focusing their efforts to boost productivity, which include Better understanding the workforce and Bringing an agile mindset to the mainstream. Some firms also seek an organisational structure “that breaks down traditional silos and consists of multidisciplinary teams with end-to-end responsibility”.

Employees need clear goals, immediate feedback and the right balance between their abilities and tasks.

A far more savvy approach to employee engagement is emerging

It’s clear from this that many financial firms understand that increased productivity requires them to address the workforce in a much more sophisticated way. They grasp there is a limit to what automation and job-rationalisation can achieve. 

Amid all the concerns about structures, however, there is one factor that financial firms share with all other organisations – they are more productive when employees find themselves working easily, swiftly, collaboratively and without distraction, towards goals they fully understand. This is what is meant by being in the flow. Staff feel fully engaged, more productive, more purposeful, happier and lose track of time. 

The productivity gains of employees in the flow

If this sounds too airy-fairy for the financial sector, think again. More engaged employees make for more productive businesses. Gallup’s 2017 State of Global workforce Report , for example, found that engaged teams were 17 per cent more productive and experienced 41 per cent less absenteeism.

One of the difficulties when dealing with human beings is that they are individuals. People experience flow differently. Psychologists have shown that getting successfully into the flow is only achieved when the degree of challenge matches the skills of the employee and they feel they have access to all the support and tools they need. Employees need clear goals, immediate feedback and the right balance between their abilities and tasks. For any organisation this requires real-time information about employees, which includes how they are feeling.  

engaged teams were 17 per cent more productive and experienced 41 per cent less absenteeism.

HR software is moving employees into the flow

It’s here that advanced HR tools offer new transformative capabilities. Software built around the science of flow helps people get into the zone as often as possible and records, monitors and contextualises their engagement. It goes far beyond more efficient time management and supervision and way beyond annual employee engagement surveys. 

Employees, can for example, use a chatbot via their smartphones, to record their current mood, providing managers with critical up-to-date information about their level of engagement. Managers can then see each member of their team plotted against a graphical flow chart, giving them real-time insights into team morale. 

It may seem like a chore, but these types of tools enhance the individual needs of the employee, helping them understand what makes them tick at work, and encourages regular discussions between them and their manager. Ultimately this knowledge feeds collaboration that allows the employee to spend more time in the flow.

If necessary, the software will trigger temporary blocks for non-urgent emails, giving staff the head-space they need to really lose themselves in their work. If an employee falls out of the flow, their manager will know straight away. This represents a huge departure from a time when managers had little idea about employee disengagement until it was too late. This way problems can be identified and resolved far more quickly. 

Scheduled, informed and regular check-ins boost productivity

The scheduling of frequent informal check-ins to discuss the employee’s mindset as well as their performance and future goals is essential in this. It ensures a manager addresses the difficulties and optimises performance.  

It is a question of aligning the employee and the organisation, so they work towards the same desired outcome. Alignment is important because all of us want a challenge to avoid boredom, but none of us want to experience constant stress. Again, the balance between the two will depend on the individual. 

An important element in this is allowing employees to develop their skills. Advanced HR software will provide a range of attractive options for skills upgrades, training and education that are relevant to the individual in real time. Some employees have to be prompted to upgrade their skills, while others are deeply frustrated if they feel they have no opportunities to develop. 

Conclusion

Global competition makes productivity a burning topic in the financial sector. Yet as much as automation and artificial intelligence will shape the future, businesses must now consider how to nurture and optimise their most vital resource through more sophisticated HR technology. 

The productivity gap can only be overcome by getting more employees into the flow more often. To do that, all financial organisations must use all the tools available to them. 

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Elavon Partners with Featurespace to Build Fraud Prevention Network

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Elavon, the payments provider, today announces a partnership with Featurespace, to help tackle fraud attacks in real-time and simplify the online payments experience for consumers.

With the use of Featurespace’s innovative ARIC™ Platform, Elavon is developing a fraud network to detect fraudulent activity using adaptive behavioural analytics.

Elavon’s fraud network comes as Europe prepares for the second Payments Services Directive (PSD2) that requires Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) to have affect from September 2019. PSD2 will compel processors, merchants and banks to adopt more effective security checks for online payments in order to reduce card fraud in Europe.

According to a report published by the European Central Bank, Card-Not-Present fraud made up 73% of all card fraud in Europe. Two-factor authentication will be compulsory for all eCommerce transactions above €30, unless an acquirer exempts the payment from additional authentication with the issuer.

Card-Not-Present fraud made up 73% of all card fraud in Europe

Elavon’s network detects instances of fraud to help mitigate the need for additional security checks, which can make the online shopping experience more complicated. Research from Elavon’s report, “Pocket Shoppers: eCommerce on the Move found that two-thirds of consumers will abandon an online purchase if the process is too difficult, leading to a higher rate of cart abandonment.   

Combining the Featurespace ARIC™ platform and Elavon’s 3DS service enables merchants to use an advanced, layered approach to fraud prevention. The ARIC™ platform uses machine learning transaction monitoring to build individual behavioural profiles for cardholders and merchants in real-time. This system works to detect anomalies and prevent fraud across all payment methods and channels.

Hannah Fitzsimons, EVP and General Manager of Elavon Merchant Services commented: “Elavon is delighted to work with Featurespace to bring top fraud prevention solutions to market to protect merchants and consumers. We are committed to developing the most innovative fraud and security solutions in the payments industry.”

Martina King, CEO of Featurespace said: “1.3 million customers worldwide rely on Elavon to safeguard their businesses. Working together means we will be staying one step ahead of criminals at all times. It is an honour to have been selected to protect Elavon and their clients.”

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Contactless Gets a Makeover in the UK

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By Lina Andolf-Orup, Senior Director at Fingerprints

The deadline hanging over Europe is finally here. No, not Brexit, but PSD2’s September 14 mandate for the implementation of SCA (or, to those unfamiliar, Strong Customer Authentication). The European law and its implementation by banks has stirred a lot of discussion across the continent – especially in the UK.

Already leaders in the open banking game, its unsurprising that the British banking world has raced ahead in implementing – and commenting on – enhancements to their authentication methods.

Wait, what is SCA?

SCA outlines that strong authentication (a secure way to validate it’s you making the payment) needs at least two of the following: something you know (eg. your PIN), something you have (eg. your card), something you are (eg. Biometric ID).

As contactless card payments only have one of these elements, the new rules now mean banks are required to request a PIN is entered after every five contactless payments, or once your payments have totalled £135.

With the UK’s successful mobile-only challenger banks already utilising biometrics to authenticate in-app, adding biometrics to payment cards brings authentication harmony 

Contactless Challengers

Challenger banks in the UK, such as Revolut and Starling, have been especially proactive in their communications on SCA. The message of making contactless more secure is an especially pertinent one in the UK. While a nation of contactless lovers, fear of fraud remains high.

Undoubtedly, SCA mandates will improve security if your card “fell into the wrong hands”. But SCA will also increase friction in some cases. For example, with increased PIN entry requests – contactless may be more secure, but it’s also less convenient…

Revolut has already implemented a method to help combat this, sending mobile push notifications just before you’ll need to authenticate again and enabling consumers to reset their payment limit with fingerprint or face ID in-app. But that’s not the only way biometrics can help.

Bridging the gap

Biometric payment cards offer the perfect answer to SCA requirements. By adding strong authentication to the ‘tap’, consumers can benefit from greater security without harming the user experience of contactless. Or slowing throughput time for merchants!

With the UK’s successful mobile-only challenger banks already utilising biometrics to authenticate in-app, adding biometrics to payment cards brings authentication harmony across form factors. And in recent weeks, the biometric payment card has garnered even more traction in the UK market.

The message of making contactless more secure is an especially pertinent one in the UK.

Use case: BBC explores “the biggest change to payment cards for a decade”

Just a few weeks ago, the BBC (or the British Broadcasting Corporation for those not familiar) got its hands on major UK bank NatWest’s biometric payment card, currently being trialled. Journalist Dan Simmons spoke with our partners NatWest, RBS and Gemalto, to learn more about the details.

The segment went some way to dispel some common myths, explore the benefits and explain in simple terms how it all actually works.

“It’s not CSI!”

Georgina Bulkeley, Director of Strategy and Innovation at RBS and NatWest, went about “shattering television dreams” when probed about the spoof-ability of the new payment cards. An imprint, a stolen thumbprint from a glass, a high-res photograph…able to fool a biometric card?  Not quite.

Smart algorithms capture a mathematical representation of your fingerprint – not an image – so high-resolution photographs can’t trick modern sensors. Advanced security features have also reserved cracking biometric systems with sellotape or gummy bear imprints to the realm of sci-fi fiction.

Gemalto’s MD Howard Berg also added that the smart new sensors ‘learn’ when your fingerprint has a slight variation such as a micro-scratch, to minimize false rejection rates.

An imprint, a stolen thumbprint from a glass, a high-res photograph…able to fool a biometric card?  Not quite.

Take it easy

“Consumers want experiences to be simple and easy,” Georgina added. Saying goodbye to the PIN and fear of contactless card fraud at the same time. Biometric payment cards really make sense.  

Another crucial factor, and something demanded by banks and consumers, is the opportunity to remove the payment cap. NatWest and RBS cited lifting the £30 spending limit as a primary motivation for trialing the technology, which aligns with the opinions of a number of banks we spoke to in our research.  

Journalist Dan happily took the card for a spin, now able to spend up to £100 a tap, with this likely to be “limitless” by the time it gets to market. 

Ready to rock and enroll!

Viewers also saw Dan enroll his fingerprint onto the card with a simple self-enrollment device at home. Over 79% of banks think home enrollment essential to success but crucially, the process just needs to be a frictionless user-experience that gets consumers onboard from the get-go.

So, as PSD2 and SCA hit the headlines in the UK and other European markets, its clear banks have worked hard to bring additional security to contactless. But with banks like NatWest and RBS, it’s promising to see some are already taking this a step further: limiting the disruption of increased security with biometric trust.

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Stable Coins: The Next Big Thing?

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Guest Post

Money has always been at the heart of the economy, with the purpose of facilitating commercial trade. Money has taken physical forms such as coins, notes and gold, but also electronic and more recently digital forms.

The common denominator of money is its adoption. In Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (1875), William Stanley Jevons analysed money and gave it four functions: a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a standard of value and a store of value. Ten years after the creation of the first digital currency, bitcoin, we have witnessed the launch of more than 2,000 crypto assets and crypto currencies (bitcoin, ethereum, ripple, litecoin). The marked volatility of crypto currencies since their inception is a hurdle to their development from a consumer perspective but also from a corporate one.

The daily valuation that often changes by more than 20% fuels crypto currencies as a speculative asset. Would you use a crypto currency as your official means of payment if you risked paying twice as much for your pizza in a month’s time?

In this context, stable coins are of major interest to all industries. The increasing investment from venture capitalists in different projects is a clear sign of this.

WHAT IS A STABLE COIN?

A stable coin is easily definable as a stable crypto currency.

It is primarily a response to the problems of volatility and enables money’s function to be fulfilled. To achieve stability, more than 50 stable coins have proliferated using different methodologies:

Fiat currency-collateralised i.e. a crypto currency pegged to a legal tender currency, also called fiat currency in crypto jargon, or a basket of legal tender currencies. Most of the crypto currencies have a stable value of US$1.

The entity that issues the stable coin opens a banking account and mirrors the position. For example, if the entity issues 1 million coins pegged to the USD, they need to credit the banking account with $ 1m. This could be considered as the simplest stable coin model and is very stable (it also mirrors the model long used by the Bank of England for the issuance of Scottish bank notes, whereby each pound issued must be matched by a pound deposited at the Bank of England). This model requires centralisation and therefore a trusted custodian with a need to audit for transparency.

Tether, which is one of the most popular in this category with a market capitalisation of US$2bn, is listed on more than 65 crypto exchanges.

Commodity-collateralised i.e. crypto currency guaranteed by a commodity. The operating model is quite similar to the fiat one. Several initiatives have been launched in this space, especially in gold. It is inspired by the Bretton Woods system.

“A number of crypto exchanges do not accept fiat currency yet, and stable coins can help better manage the risks”.

Crypto currency-collateralised i.e. crypto currency guaranteed by another crypto currency. The whole process is done within the blockchain, contrary to fiat currency and commodities, where a custodian is needed to safeguard the collateral off chain. This model has the benefit of decentralisation, as the collateral is held in a smart contract.

However, crypto currencies, being unstable, require over collateralisation to absorb crypto currency fluctuations.

Non-collateralised. It is supported only by its value thanks to a smart contract that runs automatically.

If the total offer or demand of the stable coin is increasing or decreasing, the smart contract will automatically adapt the number of coins in circulation to keep the price unchanged.

The asset-collateralised stable coin is the dominant model, and represents, in value, 83% of initiatives, which mostly run on an Ethereum protocol.

WHY ARE STABLE COINS SO ATTRACTIVE?

The stability of stable coins reassures the whole industry, retail investors as much as institutional investors.

They are built in such a way that global participation and near real-time transfer are possible, in seconds or minutes instead of days. To secure an exchange, most financial transactions are made delivery versus payment (DVP).

For the time being, the absence of fiat currency in the crypto world prevents efficient DVP exchange in the blockchain.

Until a fiat currency is available, a stable coin pegged to a fiat currency is one of the best answers, bringing efficiency to the value chain. Many blockchain initiatives in the post-trade industry would benefit from this introduction. Moreover, it has the potential to be adopted as a real crypto currency from a macro economy perspective. 

There is great potential for several countries in a situation of hyperinflation or monetary instability (Venezuela, Argentina, etc.) where the stable coin might become an alternative. From a trading perspective, the stable coin will be a good alternative, allowing them to add a new pair. A number of crypto exchanges do not accept fiat currency yet, and stable coins can help better manage the risks.

During her speech, Christine Lagarde, the outgoing Managing Director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) even mentioned the possibility of the IMF taking greater control in this domain, including issuing its own crypto currencies whose exchange rate would be governed by macroeconomic mechanisms. Governments around the world are prototyping and testing their own digital currencies. They have definitely acknowledged the potential of DLT technology with the trust of their national bank currency. This is what we call the Central Bank Digital Currency (CDBC). Different projects are already public, in the UK, Sweden, Singapore and Switzerland.

WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES FOR STABLE COINS? AND LASTLY WHAT ARE THEIR FUTURES?

KYC (know your client) is still the cornerstone of all stable coin projects, especially due to their volume to capitalisation ratio which is substantially higher than traditional crypto assets. Tether’s 30-day volume is similar to that of bitcoin whereas its market capitalisation is on average 30 times less valued.

“A good management of all aspects of KYC elements is crucial to its efficiency”.

A good management of all aspects of KYC elements is crucial to its efficiency. JP Morgan, through JPM Coin, and Facebook, have also launched initiatives in this context. That demonstrates the appeal and potential of stable coins. Despite substantial interest from regulators and the industry as a whole, we are still at the beginning of the journey. There are still clear structural and regulatory concerns to be addressed.

We need to keep in mind the role of money; TRUST will be the answer.

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Travelex Unveils New API-Led B2B Fintech Platform ‘Travelex Business’

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Travelex, a Finablr company and a market leading independent foreign exchange specialist, has unveiled its new B2B fintech platform, Travelex Business.

Travelex Business allows the company’s partners including banks, credit unions, retailers and digital technology companies, to access a broad range of payments and foreign exchange services in one place. The launch of the Travelex Business platform follows a four-year digital transformation project.

The platform is the culmination of a digital transformation project for Travelex under Finablr

Travelex Business leverages the strengths of Finablr’s network and capabilities and combines it with a state-of-the-art cloud-based, API-led platform. The platform provides a seamless way for customers across mature and emerging markets to move money around the world. From cash management to cross border payments and retail currency conversion via APIs, Travelex Business addresses a wide range of enterprise and consumer needs with its omni-channel, multi-currency capabilities. For digital technology companies wanting to offer cross border payments services to their customers, services can be delivered as a white-label offering.

Travelex Business builds on Finablr’s global capabilities and includes three core product suites underpinned by a developer centre which allows customers to explore Travelex services:

  • Travelex Business Cash is a technology driven solution that allows end users to quickly and securely receive cash, by working with large banks, financial institutions and retailers. This solution features Cash Network and Cash Services, comprising a range of related white-label cash products, from travel money to wholesale banknotes.
  • Travelex Business Pay is a cross-border payment platform serving enterprise customers including financial institutions and digital technology companies. It offers two modules, Pay Banking for banks and other financial services providers, and Pay Direct which serves consumers and organisations that need to transfer large amounts of money across borders quickly. Both offer a suite of APIs that enable seamless international money transfer for end customers.
  • Travelex Business Cloud is the ideal solution for any business that offers foreign currency services to international customers. It provides a new way for business to financially benefit from international transactions made through mobile apps, ecommerce websites, Point of Sale terminals or ATMs. It includes advanced and flexible Multi-Currency-Processing, and Dynamic Currency Conversion, underpinned by a market leading Dynamic Exchange Rate Engine.
  • Travelex Business Digital is a developer platform, that provides access to Travelex Business APIs so partners can embed capabilities and processes into their products and services.

Gareth Williams, Chief Product and Innovation Officer at Travelex comments:

“The platform is the culmination of years of hard work by Travelex and collaboration across the Finablr network. By revolutionising how we work, the technology we use, and the partners we work with, we have combined four decades of experience with a new microservices architecture to build a market-leading global fintech platform. Critically, working with Finablr, we have adopted a modern engineering culture with self-organising teams in order to create and iterate on a new and innovative suite of services.

Not only does this allow Travelex to continually innovate and improve its products and services, but it gives our customers the services they need within one solution—and the developer centre means that our customers and prospects can experiment with our capabilities at their own convenience. Travelex Business ensures companies get to market quicker, increase revenues and boost customer value with agile services available at the click of a button.”

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Isle of Man: The Jurisdiction that Refuses to Call a Rat a Rat

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By Matthew Dove

There’s two things Manxes can’t stand; taxes and rats. Corporation rates are set at 0% and those pesky rodents are only ever referred to as longtails or “big fellas.” As TFT’s Matthew Dove set off for Douglas, he wondered if this fledgling tech hub was really just another glorified tax haven. What’s more, could he get anyone on the Isle of Man to call a rat a rat?

Disembarking a Loganair twin-engine propeller plane at Ronaldsway Airport, I was reminded, rather worryingly, of the 1973 British horror classic, The Wicker Man. I found myself fearful of suffering the same fiery fate as Edward Woodward’s stoic policeman at the hands of a murderous island cult. So great was my trepidation that I began to exhibit the same manic affectations as Nicolas Cage in the ill-fated 2006 remake of the aforementioned frightfest (The bees! The bees! – Ed. okay that’s enough). 

It was a great relief then to be greeted, not by an native islander (of whom I’d convinced myself to be terrified) but a Polish taxi driver named Christoph who proved a most convivial tour guide. Christoph spoke of his adopted home warmly and introduced me to the taxonomy of “big fellas” as well as the island’s mythic fairy bridge. As one passes over this innocuous road bridge, it’s considered good luck to greet its fantastical guardians with a wave and a kind word. It’s a rite Christoph felt important enough to insist I observe, which I duly did.

the Isle of Man is brimming with happy campers, particularly those who happen to enjoy camping.

Christoph’s Manx zeal isn’t the exception but rather the rule on an island with a considerable surfeit of cheerleaders. Peppered throughout accounts of fintech innovation and a business-friendly administration were rhapsodies on the myriad delights the place has to offer its inhabitants. Whether it be the world famous TT course, nonexistent crime rate, short commutes or line-to-plate seafood, the Isle of Man is brimming with happy campers, particularly those who happen to enjoy camping.

THE HUBB

Advertised as having superfast wifi and complimentary cookies, “The Hubb” in the centre of Douglas is a near perfect embodiment of the Isle of Man’s digital aspirations. The government-sponsored blockchain and emerging technologies incubator aims to promote the social benefits of relocating to the island as much as the commercial. 

The Hubb’s CEO, Jason Isaacs, is an enthusiastic convert having “fallen in love with the place” after making the leap from Manchester. The 24-year old is also emblematic of the Manx can-do attitude. Boasting a strong background in tech and business (this guy was selling web hosting services when he was twelve!), Isaacs speaks fondly of a jurisdiction which “facilitates an ability to do business.” However, this business-first approach can prove worrisome.

The Hubb in the centre of Douglas is a near perfect embodiment of the Isle of Man’s digital aspirations.

When discussion turned to the island’s unemployment rate, which sits at an astonishing 0.7%, Isaacs offered a slightly jarring analysis. The Hubb’s commander-in-chief would rather up to 4% of the Isle of Man’s 84,200 denizens were jobless. The reason? Because it would be better for business. 

John Hunter, the head of banking and fiduciaries for IoM’s Department for Enterprise, agrees that near total employment “has the potential to limit growth.” In order to remedy this predicament, the government tasks Locate Isle of Man with attracting talent, as Hunter puts it, “to meet the needs of business.” 

To assess the representation of big business on the island I needed look no further than the office I was sitting in. The Manx government set up its very own Blockchain Office and Sandbox in February of this year and it resides in the Hubb under the stewardship of Lyle Wraxall. Key to the operation is regulatory lead, Steve Billinghurst, who has acted (and continues to act) as PwC’s advisory director on the island since 2013. 

Neither is the affable Mr Billinghurst alone, the big four alum has a total contingent somewhere north of 100, including 13 partners/directors. At a low estimate, that’s 1 PricewaterhouseCooper for every 752 islanders!

THE GHOSTS OF ATHOL STREET

My visit to the Hubb led me to ruminate on the potential pitfalls of such a strident state-backed pro-business stance. This by turns, led me, quite literally, to a street synonymous with the darker side of the island’s economic model. Locals joke that Athol Street is shady on both sides and, on inspecting some of its occupants, one can easily see why.

Despite the exotic name, the fallout from 2017’s Paradise Papers leak wasn’t localised in tropical climes but spread the world over. Details of a massive offshore economy, complete with Byzantine tax vehicles, shadowy practices and their elusive benefactors, were made public. 

Those named and shamed included the usual suspects like Vladmir Putin, Facebook and Bono, as well as those you’d hope would know better, like Her Majesty the Queen (say it ain’t so!).

And where did these files originate? The leak sprung from legal services company, Appleby, which has offices in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and – you guessed it – the Isle of Man, 33/37 Athol St, Douglas to be precise. Not that their neighbours at No. 41 got off lightly as they were roundly criticised for advising a Canadian ticket tout (and Appleby client) in his efforts to avoid paying UK taxes. They’re a little consultancy called KPMG, you may have heard of them. Like PwC, they too have more than 100 employees on the island.

The spectre of the Paradise Papers still looms large over Athol Street and does little to enlighten that notorious shade. 

Locals joke that Athol Street is shady on both sides and, on inspecting some of its occupants, one can easily see why.

BLOCKCHAIN ISLE 

Leaving Athol Street behind, as I’m sure my hosts wished the media as a whole would, I set off in search of a fresh vein of Manx innovation. 

My first stop was Solutions Hub, a crypto and blockchain advisory at the pointy end of the sector and clearly relishing the challenge. Along with “supporting the island’s first tokenised blockchain fund” CEO Lee Hills was keen to tell me about Solutions Hub’s other vanguard achievements. The advisor was instrumental in the issuance of a world-first blockchain gambling licence as well as utilising the Isle of Man’s Designated Business Act regulations to launch AML/CFT-compliant ICOs.

Joining Solutions Hub at the forefront of Manx DLT innovation are established locals CoinCorner and Quanta. The former is a Bitcoin brokerage and something of an institution, having operated on the island since 2014 with a workforce that’s 85% Manx. Quanta, on the other hand, is a decidedly global prospect with staff from Nigeria, Japan and Greece to name but a few. Led by Ray Davies (not that one), Quanta is the world’s first fully licensed blockchain lottery and straddles effortlessly the faultline between emerging tech and good ol’ fashioned gambling. 

All three enterprises are uniquely Manx, honing their craft in the island’s commercial microcosm before turning their focus to conquering global markets.

how is the Isle of Man such a nice place to live if no one’s paying any taxes?

DATA AND EXCHANGE

One business already seizing the global initiative is Manx Telecom, which is busily exploiting the island’s geopolitical assets to cement itself as a centre for secure data storage. With the world’s longest continuous parliament, little threat of terrorism or domestic discord, the IoM is a pretty safe bet for organisations with information to protect. It’s these same conditions which make the island a fine place to raise children (at least that’s what another patriotic cab driver told me anyway).

The data centre I visited is one of three and sits 150m above sea level with a power supply which runs at a 2-megawatt capacity. Everything is doubled up; two back-up generators, two air conditioning units, plus 500 tonnes of battery power just in case. Even the temperature and humidity are monitored and optimised to ensure client servers are snug as bugs in rugs. Not that there’s any bugs to be found, no longtails either…

Meanwhile, down at the waterfront, Carolyn Gelling and the International Stock Exchange (TISE) are helping to secure funding for “incubator investments.” 

Despite having welcomed what is thought to be the first regulated listing of notes digitised on a blockchain, TISE sees the island’s future not solely in blockchain and e-gaming. When I asked Gelling about the narrowness of IoM fintech offerings, she answered “I can see more diversification happening naturally.” 

If all this undiluted positivity hadn’t given me cause enough to question what kind of Faustian pact these guys had got themselves into, Gelling offered another reminder that “the Isle of Man is a really nice place to live.”

By this point I was I considering emigrating myself but I still had a few questions that I needed addressed. Top of my list was; how is the Isle of Man such a nice place to live if no one’s paying any taxes?

WHEN IS A RAT NOT A RAT? 

When I caught up with John Hunter for a one-on-one, he first lamented the weather. Next, he lamented the pervasiveness of what he sees as misconceptions about the Isle of Man.   

It was “blowing a hoolie” (or stormy in local parlance) so we’d be unable to take a tour of the island’s more mountainous scenery. Nonetheless, a lowland drive was sufficient to map the terrain. 

As we saloomed through winding lanes on our way to historic Peele, Hunter was eager is dispel one especially bothersome sobriquet; tax haven. Hunter is adamant that the notion of the Isle of Man as a safe harbour for dodgy characters and their opaque interests was “killed off a long time ago.” He insists that IoM is simply “tax neutral” and boasts a “leading AML regime.”

This line of logic does little to convince the likes of Richard Murphy who lectures in international political economy at City University as well as holding a directorship at Tax Research LLP. He argues that whilst “you may claim to be “offshore”; you prefer to be called “an international finance centre”. Best of all is the claim that you are “tax neutral” (which means: “We don’t charge tax, but don’t want to admit it”). But nothing gets round the truth that what tax havens really do is help to abuse the world’s tax systems and in the process mount a challenge to market-based capitalism and even democracy itself.”

Another uncomfortable topic is the common purse agreement which entitles the Isle of Man to a share in the United Kingdom’s customs and excise revenues. To its critics, the arrangement is deeply one-sided and allows the island access to revenue disproportionate to what it collects, effectively making it a subsidy. 

Visiting the island is like being shown around a beautiful house which happens to have a rodent problem.

Alistair Darling reduced the purse post-financial crisis but under Tory governance the island’s take has slowly risen and now sits somewhere in excess of £300 million a year (as estimated in 2017). Using the Manx government’s own records for 2017/18, it follows that the common purse accounts for around one third of total governmental income.

When I asked Hunter if he knew the exact figure for last year’s purse revenue, he said he didn’t but was confident that it’s in “a good place.” A good place indeed, as Manx Radio reported last month;

“Government income for the last financial year has revealed a more than £30 million revenue surplus.”

SLANE LHIAT (FAREWELL)

The charms of the Isle of Man are abundant. The people are warm, the scenery is spectacular and its culture is rich and diverse. The foundations of Royal National Lifeboat Institution were established on the island in the 1800’s. The Manx government gave women the vote as early as 1881. Hell, even pilates was invented there! Unfortunately, that’s not the full picture.

Visiting the island is like being shown around a beautiful house which happens to have a rodent problem. You can raise questions about the rat situation as much as you like, the owner’s response will always be the same; “Those aren’t rats, they’re longtails.” 

A fast follower when it comes to business and regulation, “the Isle of man is really good at learning from the mistakes of others.” However, the question remains whether it’s any good at learning from its own.

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Increased Focus on Payments Performance Set to Boost Sales and Revenue Over Next Two Years

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Performance is set to become the next big battleground within the payments industry, as businesses in all sectors look to enhance customer experience and increase margins in response to market disruption and increased competition.

Research from emerchantpay reveals that as many as 85% of payments leaders predict that a greater focus on payments performance (including tools, analytics, skills and investment) over the next two years will increase their organisation’s revenues by between 1% and 10%. 

Within some sectors, the potential impact of improved payments performance is even greater. 89% of payments leaders in the travel sector and 88% within retail expect to see revenue increases of up to 10% as a result of increased performance.

More than three quarters (78%) of payments leaders believe that deploying AI within payments systems will drive improved performance.

The Performance Pulse white paper identifies the number and variety of steps that payments leaders are looking to take to improve performance across all areas of their payments infrastructures. At the top of the list is minimising the number of steps in the payment user journey across multiple touchpoints, cited by 93% of payments leaders as having a significant impact on performance. This is followed by action to reassure customers around security and encryption on payment pages (92%), consolidating international payment providers (88%), incentivising payments teams around improved efficiency (88%) and optimising Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) to increase authorisation rates (87%).

New technology is also seen as an important catalyst for improved payments performance and, therefore, increased revenue. More than three quarters (78%) of payments leaders believe that deploying AI within payments systems will drive improved performance.

When it comes to measuring and evaluating payments performance, the most widely used metric is growth rates (deployed by 64% of organisations), followed by operational costs (46%), acceptance rates (43%), impact in revenue and profitability (39%) and conversion rates (37%). Other metrics include instances of fraud or impact of fraud and customer satisfaction.

only one in seven payments leaders (14%) has personal and team KPIs that are fully aligned to the KPIs of the wider business and to broader commercial objectives.

However, the research reveals a disconnect between the organisational drive for greater payments performance and the objectives and focus of those individuals responsible for delivering it. Remarkably, only one in seven payments leaders (14%) has personal and team KPIs that are fully aligned to the KPIs of the wider business and to broader commercial objectives.

Owen Tustin, VP Realtionship Management, emerchantpay, said:

“These findings really bring home the size of the opportunity for payments leaders to deliver significant commercial and financial results, through a strategic approach to payments performance. It’s evident that more and more businesses are recognising the importance of instilling a culture of payments performance and ensuring that they have the dedicated resources to ensure that performance is monitored, analysed and optimised on a consistent basis across all aspects of the payments eco-system.

This means having high quality skills within the payments team, or support from external providers, to analyse, interpret and present data back to the business in a coherent and accessible way.”

“These findings really bring home the size of the opportunity for payments leaders to deliver significant commercial and financial results”

The research revealed different priorities in driving payments performance across industries. Within the retail sector, there was a relatively strong emphasis on upskilling payments teams and aligning team objectives and incentives to overall payments performance. Within travel and gaming, the focus was weighted towards minimising steps in the customer journey across multiple touchpoints and, within gambling, there was an inclination towards A/B testing to fine-tune payment page design.

Payments leaders within Forex (foreign exchange) reported the highest expectation levels around the impact of AI on payments performance.

Tustin concluded: “We need to change the narrative around payments, from a tactical focus around ‘keeping the lights on’, to a strategic, business imperative, where performance is clearly aligned to overall strategic goals and KPIs, and payments teams are measured and incentivised around hard commercial metrics. As an industry, if we can get this right, payments performance will create a platform for payments teams to position themselves as more strategic and high-value functions within their organisations.”

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Bring On The Robots, But Bring Us With You, Says UK Workforce

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Research from global analytics and advice firm, Gallup suggests that people feel unprepared for the introduction of new technologies, despite being optimistic about their job prospects.

The Gallup Real Future of Work report of 4,000 employees has found that people around the world are generally upbeat about the impact of technology on their careers, despite some analysts predicting that AI-enabled machines would take over 50% of human jobs within the decade. According to the Wellcome Global Monitor, for which Gallup gathered data in 140-plus countries in 2018, over half (58%) of global citizens feel that science and technology will increase rather than decrease (21%) the number of jobs in their local economy.

When asked how likely they felt that their job would be eliminated within the next five years as a result of new technology, 80% of UK workers said that they felt it was either not at all likely or not too likely. Data from Europe and the U.S. was consistent with this sentiment. 67% of UK employees feel that demand for their work will increase in the next three years due to technological changes.

80% of UK workers don’t expect job to be eliminated by technology

However, while a third of respondents strongly agree employers were ready to implement new technologies, over half (51%) in the UK feel that their employers don’t help them broaden their skill set to make use of new digital technologies. According to the research, the feeling of being unprepared is driven by a lack of training. About one-third (36%) of UK employees, who strongly agree that they need training to build on their skills or learn new ones, say they did not participate in training in 2018. 60% of British employees feel they need to develop their current skills and 57% need to develop new skills.

“How to navigate the changing workforce needs at a time of rapid digital disruption across many industries is a challenge facing employers everywhere,” said Ghassan Khoury, Gallup EMEA Managing Partner. ‘’In an era of technological change, most employees are optimistic about the effects those changes will have on their work lives. This research shows that there is a keen workforce looking to upskill and improve, however, many are not given the opportunity to build on their current skills or to learn new skills due to a lack of training and development by employers.”

36% of British employees surveyed did not take part in training in 2018

The research suggests the issue is one of ownership and clarity. Among employees in Europe who took part in educational opportunities in 2018, 65% say their organisation initiated it while 35% say they themselves did. Additionally, 11% of employees who didn’t participate in training say their organisation hasn’t provided clear guidance about future needs. A similar proportion say the training their organisation offers isn’t relevant to them.

“Trying to fill these education gaps and cultivate the best outcomes for companies and employees requires clarity about who should initiate and pay for training opportunities. This will require HR leaders to be increasingly focused on identifying training and learning opportunities that address organisational needs in a cost-effective way and help employees feel prepared for future changes. Leaders also must focus on creating the right kind of culture to enable employees to adapt to change and embrace new technologies. Creating and sustaining a culture of agility and investing in training and development are key areas companies need to focus on, it’s a win-win for all,” said Khoury.

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Sibos Exclusive Interview: Sean Sarginson, Global Head of Innovation at SWIFT

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Ahead of Sibos 2019 – taking place in London from 23 to 26 September – TFT CEO Katia Lang caught up with Sean Sarginson, Global Head of Innovation at SWIFT, to talk about how technology is changing the financial sector and what’s in store at Sibos.

Katia Lang

Katia: As we look forward to another Sibos, tell us what’s driving change in the industry? 

Sean: It is easy to forget that not that long ago, the payments space was a quiet backwater of the financial industry. In just a few short years, with increased adoption of technologies, such as APIs and cloud-based solutions, as well as rising competition in the sector, it is changing rapidly. 

And there is no sign that the pace is slowing as businesses adapt to new regulatory realities, technological advances, accelerating international commerce, and evolving customer demands for speed, transparency, and traceability. 

“the adoption of APIs is having a big impact on productivity and customer experience in financial services.”

Katia: What technology is having the biggest impact? 

Sean: I would say that the adoption of APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, is having a big impact on productivity and customer experience in financial services. From transport to hospitality, we have witnessed how APIs transform whole industries, and the technology is now seeing widespread adoption across the financial industry. 

SWIFT is taking a leading role by bringing the industry together to deliver common standards for APIs. Throughout our history, we have been at the centre of efforts to avoid fragmentation in financial services, and we are using that expertise to ensure the industry moves forward together when adopting APIs, and to reduce the complexities that threaten to frustrate progress. 

Katia: What’s different about Sibos this year? 

Sean: We will host over a hundred fintech companies at Sibos 2019, providing a unique opportunity to learn more about the new technologies and business models that are driving change.  

Innotribe will take people on a journey into the future with an incredible line up of speakers, from Professor Brian Cox and Kaliya Young, to Brett King and Dave Birch. 

The Discover Stage will be our bridge between the future and the present adding context and making the big ideas tangible. The people and companies living through this change right now will address critical questions on trust and open banking; the dramatic impacts of new technologies in Asia; the future of tokenisation and cryptoassets; and much more.  

Sibos Discover will also be the home for a first-of-its-kind hackathon to explore the potential of APIs in financial services and unleash the creativity of developers.

“We will host over a hundred fintech companies at Sibos 2019, providing a unique opportunity to learn more about the new technologies and business models that are driving change.” 

Katia: What will the Sibos hackathon look like?

Sean: Sibos is hosting the hackathon, and SWIFT is participating alongside a number of other companies. We’re providing access to our developer portal and we’ll be part of a multidisciplinary team working together to come up with some great new ideas. 

Towards the end of each day, the hackathon teams will give an update at the Innotribe stage on their ideas and progress. On Thursday, the last day, the audience will have the opportunity to vote for its favourite project. 

We hope you can join us there!

Take a look at www.sibos.com for more details about the exciting programme that is lined up and information on how to register.

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Why London’s Fintech Scene is Largely Unfazed by Brexit

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As the host of this year’s Sibos conference, London is ready to be in the world’s spotlight. While the UK’s parliament may be in deadlock, the capital’s vibrant fintech scene has all the right ingredients to shine, writes Nils Behling, Co-Founder of Tradeteq.

Nils Behling

From September 23 to 26, London’s ExCel Centre will play host to 9,000 business leaders, 600 speakers, over 200 exhibitors and 100 fintechs, all ready to exchange ideas and opportunities for the future of the financial services sector. 

Sibos was first held in 1978 in Brussels, and in its 41-year history, this will be the very first time it visits the UK’s capital. 

At first glance, the timing may seem strange, given the UK and its financial sector are grappling with the political and economic uncertainty, prompted by the government’s failure to agree the optimal approach for leaving the European Union. 

The irony of the situation is while the UK’s parliament may be in deadlock, its fintech sector is more vibrant and resilient than ever before.

Fintechs employ 76,500 people across the UK, and this number is expected to reach 105,500 by 2030.

Fintech investment reaches new heights

Since 2016, investment in UK fintechs has repeatedly surpassed that of their European peers. It jumped by 153% in 2017, reaching over USD 1.6 billion. In 2018, private equity and venture capital funds poured another USD 3.3 billion into the sector — 56% of the total value invested in Europe.

Fintechs employ 76,500 people across the UK, and this number is expected to reach 105,500 by 2030. This tremendous growth beat the expectations of economists and commentators, and proves that London’s fintech scene is shining brighter than ever before.

So what makes the UK capital so attractive in terms of financial technology? For one, the strength and expertise of its financial sector is hard to surpass. 

With its convenient time zone, access to talent and business-friendly regulations, the UK was the world’s top exporter of financial services, generating an industry trade surplus of about US$88bn, according to a 2018 report by TheCityUK.

Today, the majority of fintech entrepreneurs in London come from the banking or insurance sector, harnessing years of experience and contacts within the world’s top financial firms. 

UK regulators are often considered the most receptive to fintech innovation in the world

Secondly, UK policymakers and regulators are doing everything it can to foster its fintech ecosystem. In August 2014, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne announced the UK’s ambition to become “the global capital of fintech”. True to its word, the government subsequently made policy adjustments to attract both talent and capital. 

UK regulators are often considered the most receptive to fintech innovation in the world, and it’s easy to see why. In 2016, the Financial Conduct Authority launched a fintech sandbox to test innovative financial products and services. 

The EU’s Open Banking initiative, which was introduced in January 2018, was led by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, making it much easier for customers to share their financial information with challenger banks and other fintechs. 

In May 2019, the UK’s Treasury and Department of International Trade produced the UK’s Fintech: State of the Nation report to promote the current state of the sector, inform stakeholders about trade and investment opportunities and demonstrate the UK’s attractiveness as a fintech destination. 

It set out the basis for why global entrepreneurs should set up their next fintech venture in the UK, and why investors should choose a UK-based fintech firm for their next major investment. With 82% of incumbents expected to increase fintech partnerships in the next three to five years, the reasons for participating are compelling.

Finally, the UK population is extremely digital savvy. Driven by its millennial generation, people are hungry for new technologies and very quick to adopt them. This makes London an ideal base for entrepreneurs to set up, test and grow their fintech solutions. 

A centre of trade and commerce 

For all these reasons, the UK’s capital is an obvious choice for fintech entrepreneurs wondering where to set their headquarters. For Tradeteq, the argument was made even stronger by the fact that London also has a long history as a trade hub and is a global centre for trade finance. 

Access to trade finance and banking expertise, a deep and highly diverse talent pool of technologists and data scientists, and continuous innovation coming out of the capital’s fintech sector is exactly what Tradeteq needed to develop a technological solution for trade finance distribution. 

With 82% of incumbents expected to increase fintech partnerships in the next three to five years, the reasons for participating are compelling.

Two years since we set up, the decision to base the company in London has brought many benefits, including the opportunity to partner with the University of Oxford’s Computer Science department, provide regularly consulting to banks and investors, and partake in an industry-wide initiative to standardise the process of distributing trade finance assets and develop it into an asset class of its own. 

Yet, there is another aspect. London has traditionally been a welcoming and open destination for a global talent pool. Maintaining this openness is crucial in securing its position as the fintech destination of the future. 

London’s fintech scene is alive and thriving, and more importantly, given the right environment, it will be here to stay. This month, Sibos will showcase that the UK is still open for business, create new opportunities and highlight the city’s potential to be the global epicentre of fintech.

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Remedying the Pain Points Behind Historic SME Business Account Churn

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Alison Wilkes, FIS’ European Banking & Payments and North American Real Time Payments Lead, uses FIS’ new PACE report to assess how banks and fintechs can stem the flow.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engine room of the UK economy – generating 52% of private sector turnover and responsible for 60% of private-sector employment.

This integral part of our economy is going through a tough time – 2018 was the first year in nearly two decades in which the number of businesses declined and confidence has slid over the past year. For the banking and fintech community, this represents a challenge. How can this community sustain valuable relationships with large businesses while placing new emphasis on the untapped potential of the SME marketplace? 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engine room of the UK economy – generating 52% of private sector turnover and responsible for 60% of private-sector employment.

The business banking landscape in the UK revolves around the so-called ‘Big Four’: Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland – managing more than 85% of business accounts. What is becoming clear is that this market share shouldn’t be taken for granted as fintechs eye the market and, through Open Banking and increasingly sophisticated new technology, are able to deliver tailored services for specific client bases. 

Our annual Performance Against Customer Expectations (PACE) report, based on a survey of 552 businesses ranging from micro to large taps into the issues faced by SMEs, charts the pain points and shifting demand for banking services. 

While grouped together, what is clear from the report is that SMEs are a spectrum – from the very small with revenues of £400k-£4m to mid-size businesses bringing in upwards of £400m – all behaving differently with unique requirements:

  • Bank satisfaction decreased 4% from last year and there was a 41% rise in businesses switching PFI, up from just 21% the same time last year.
  • Trust in traditional banks experienced a significant decline form a year ago – 47% in 2018 vs. 39% 2019
  • There is a significant spread in satisfaction as one in four companies describe themselves as ‘very satisfied’, while one in four also claimed they were ‘somewhat or not satisfied’.  
  • The larger the company, the more pain points there are and the more likely they are to change provider. 

What ties the findings together is that overall pain is a greater driver of churn than satisfaction. An important part of the solution is winning clients’ trust – delivering safe transactions, protecting privacy, protecting from fraud, minimising administration, and, importantly, making the customer feel valued. This requires a combination of policy, technology and process. The question is, what steps can be taken to deliver and win back this trust to turn the tide? 

An important part of the solution is winning clients’ trust – delivering safe transactions, protecting privacy, protecting from fraud, minimising administration, and, importantly, making the customer feel valued.

Turning the churn

Our PACE report shows that SMEs’ emphasis on delivering a smoother customer experience means business account providers must offer excellent technology and customer service to win the trust and retain the custom of their clients. 

Business clients are increasing tech-savvy with more than 66% of respondents handling transactions on a mobile device as customers are used to simplified user experience in their personal accounts and want this translated into their business. 

What is therefore striking is that 56% of companies trust nonbank providers over incumbents for financial apps – a significant increase from a year ago. This is indicative of how nimble fintechs are able to effectively design and execute tailored services to a specific audience. It is also a wakeup call for banks to invest in mobile-app functionality and new technology.

56% of companies trust nonbank providers over incumbents for financial apps – a significant increase from a year ago.

The human factor is the other essential ingredient for both banks and fintechs in retaining the SME clients. Beyond user interfaces, user experience needs to address key business pain points, including: delivering loans quickly, accessing information without calling the bank, making fast bill payments to avoid late fees and access mobile payment functionality. How do we do this? Put simply, it’s through deploying qualified people and an informed strategy, underpinned by effective technology. 

As a diverse group of businesses with complex and ever-changing needs, there is no miracle cure to account turnover. To stop the churn, account providers need to remedy clients’ pain individual points – this means adopting a tailored approach depending on the size of the business but also effectively combining human and technology solutions. 

Overall, it’s time for banks to stop talking digital and start delivering experience and it’s time for fintechs to build on their solid technology grounding to deliver strong and consistent customer service. 

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How to Blockchain the Hunger Games

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By Mihai Ivascu, CEO of Modex

“Do you know how many Marshall Plans have been allocated to Africa?” – our history teacher asked my class one day. Most of us said none, as we were aware the teacher was fond of trick questions. The right answer was too many.

While the Marshall Plan successfully tackled the issue of refugees and famine as large-scale problems in post-World War 2 Europe, the same methods utterly failed to work on the African continent. The same teacher provided the explanation: “Because all funds were mis-managed by the people directly involved”. When people fail to accomplish a task, it is necessary to replace them. This is where the essence of technology steps in, in my view. Tech companies’ ultimate goal is making people’s lives easier, but certain technologies are able to go beyond this purpose, and by way of their very design, are able to make people’s lives better.

State-of-the-art technology can step in, and it should serve as a corrective measure, from the administrative point of view at least, in those instances where people err. And if one considers the issue of famine across the world, or the issue of refugees – two problems that are actually interconnected – we can nowadays assert that there is a technology that can significantly alter the state of things.

“Tech companies’ ultimate goal is making people’s lives easier, but certain technologies are able to go beyond this purpose”

This is where blockchain may work its magic. It should be noted that blockchain no longer is a mere cryptocurrency technology, not by a long shot. Its features, such as immutability, data integrity and data security, can be converted into a real-life instrument for handling some of mankind’s major problems –famine foremost among them, as all clear-headed people would agree.

The natural question is: How can this be achieved? Numerous scenarios have been put forth. Let me briefly discuss a few basic issues that easily come to mind, where blockchain use may act as a handy solution.

Famine is a problem closely linked to refugees or, in other cases, to a lack of identity. In the case of refugees, we are dealing with people who have been left with nothing; a simple Google search for “Syria” will produce ample and convincing evidence. There are large numbers of refugees who no longer have an officially documented identity, whose traces have been lost in the red tape and who generate suspicions when they start over from scratch, with an identity document drawn up in a refugee camp. They can be suspected of terrorism, identity theft or identity swap, to mention a few.

A digital identity, backed by a blockchain database, created under UN supervision, would eliminate suspicions directed at these people – or at the African people who risk their lives to flee, in makeshift vessels bound for Europe, in an attempt to reach societies and countries offering better conditions and to start their lives anew.

WFP has been using blockchain to deliver food assistance to 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Let us return to the topic of famine. How could blockchain, a technology that operates with data, help with the efforts to eradicate a plague that impacts one out of nine people worldwide?

There are numerous scenarios where blockchain could be suitably implemented, too many for the scope of this text. One should consider, for instance, that, according to official reports, at least 1.3 billion metric tons of food are discarded, lost, wasted. The question that arises is how could we efficiently prevent the discarding of that food, or to distribute humanitarian assistance while also improving local economies, so that it could be redirected to the starving.

Blockchain for zero hunger by WFP

Thankfully, we have a very good example used by World Food Programme. WFP has been rolling out blockchain technology —a type of distributed ledger technology— as part of its “Building Blocks” pilot. The scope is to make cash transfers more efficient, secure and transparent. Most notably, WFP has been using blockchain to deliver food assistance to 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

WFP initiated a proof-of-concept project in Sindh province, Pakistan, to test the capabilities of using blockchain for authenticating and registering beneficiary transactions. The blockchain technology allowed secure, and fast transactions between participants and WFP.  

“The Modex team is working hard to promote the widespread adoption of blockchain technology.”

Blockchain, in addition to being invisible, as it operates behind administrative – operative mechanisms, has the quality of being “trustworthy”; this is the very origin of the concept of blockchain. Because in blockchain, no one can modify anything without everyone else’s knowing about it. That’s the end of misconduct!

The versatility of blockchain technology is the differentiating factor when it comes to questions such as: Are there no other solutions that could be used to eradicate famine, even technology-related solutions? Why should blockchain be absolutely necessary? Why does the United Nations’ WEP program use blockchain? It’s a simple answer: because it provides/restores the trust that has been lost during several decades when people failed to feed other people. In addition, my own personal answer would be: because it works.

The Modex team is working hard to promote the widespread adoption of blockchain technology. Our latest product, Modex Blockchain Database is set on an ascending trajectory, garnering the interest of top-level companies from the enterprise sphere with its agnostic approach to database and blockchain engines. Although summer is drawing to its end, the scorching sun still makes its presence felt throughout the day. In order to break the monotony and strengthen team cohesion, Modex organised a one-day team building at the most complex autodrome from Eastern Europe.

A unique blend of fun and interactive activities, the experience changed our perspective on the importance of defensive driving, and how we should react in case of an emergency. Although the impact simulation may have shaken some of us, it was an important lesson which proved that even at low speeds, 15 km/h, our lives are at risk if we don’t take proper safety measures. 

But what is a team building without a healthy dose of competition? Grouped into four teams, we were put in front of the steering wheel to compete at various timed challenges which ranged from controlled drifting, obstacle courses, and probably the most fun one, to complete an obstacle course, where each passenger controlled one command of the car, brake, clutch, acceleration, and direction. We concluded the day by taking a couple of laps on the racetrack, and a short introduction to stunt driving, where a professional driver performed sidewall skiing, with us as passengers.

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Lloyds Banking Group Adds New App Features to Help Customers Connect With Their Cash

https://thefintechtimes.com/lloyds-banking-features/

Lloyds Banking Group has unveiled new features within its mobile banking apps to help customers manage their finances.

Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland customers can now share confirmation of payments made to friends or family through WhatsApp, SMS or email using automatic payment receipts. Whether it’s paying a friend for a pizza or contributing to a taxi fare, the new service allows customers to instantly alert their contacts when a payment has been made.

New search tool features enable customers to review all of their transactions within the mobile banking app to help track down payments, refunds and credits. Transactions can be searched by either description or amount, making it quick and simple to track and review spending.

“The latest features make it easier to search statements, as well as offering new ways to automatically keep track of payments with friends and family.”

Stephen Noakes, Retail Transformation Director, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “We are constantly developing new ways to make mobile banking simple and convenient for our customers. The latest features make it easier to search statements, as well as offering new ways to automatically keep track of payments with friends and family.”

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Culture and Startups in the Land of the Rising Sun

https://thefintechtimes.com/culture-and-startups/

By Ghela Boskovich

I live in Startup Land – no, not a physical place like Silicon Valley or Shoreditch (although my office is in Shoreditch, I certainly don’t live there). Startup Land is more of an industry, a conceptual spot, kind of like ‘online’ is to IRL (in real life, for those who aren’t hip to the current digital acronym heavy lingo).

It’s a world unto itself, focused on innovation, tech, new business models, data, and funding. It is mostly obsessed with funding. I advise, coach, advocate, and spend most of my days talking to entrepreneurs and big corporates about startups and how they’re disrupting business as usual. I live, breathe, sleep, and eat startups, specifically fintech startups. It’s my work, my social life, and my admitted addiction. And I do this across the globe, from London to Paris, New York to Singapore, Tel Aviv to Sydney, Dubai to Bogota.

And most recently, at the invitation of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Access to Tokyo initiative to participate in a Tokyo Familiarization Trip for the Invest Tokyo Program, I visited Startup Land Tokyo for a weeklong parade of startups from med-tech to fintech, and robots to drones. 

Here’s what I’ve observed about Startup Land: nihil sub sole novum. There is nothing new under the sun. Sounds cynical, and rather hard to believe as we’re inundated with assertions of innovation and tech that continues to leap-frog itself beyond what we can fathom into the realms of science fiction. Quantum computing is new, true. So is artificial intelligence. Hardware is new, daily announcements from the likes of Apple, Google, Intel and the like prove it. Markets are new, P2P marketplaces continue to pop up. Yes, all this is new. But at the core of this, what drives all this, is nothing new.

“A week in Tokyo’s Startup Land provided a front row seat to some of the challenges, growing pains, and successes that come when a well-established market decides it needs to adopt new habits.”

Peel back all those layers, like an artichoke, and what is at the heart of all this newness is the same, eternal desire to solve a problem, make a task easier, free up time, and improve the quality of life. The core of all this is about humanity, making things better for humans. Even the concept of business is about humans. Everything – from our consumption, our exploitation of the environment, our cities and governments and institutions – is about being human. And humans have behaved in similar ways throughout the ages, with the same obsessions despite the era: money, influence, vanity, sex, entertainment, not to mention the Maslow basics. Nothing fundamental to being human is new under the sun. 

Yet in the land of the rising sun, they’re attempting to build a new innovation ecosystem. A week in Tokyo’s Startup Land provided a front row seat to some of the challenges, growing pains, and successes that come when a well-established market decides it needs to adopt new habits. What struck me then, and even more so now after some time to digest the whirlwind week, is that what makes change and new habits such a struggle, is culture. 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. A simple truth, but culture is so complex, so engrained, and so powerful that it informs every part of how we do business, it answers a lot of the ‘why’ we do business the way we do it. And despite this global economy becoming more enmeshed every day, each market is still shaped by its culture. Changing cultural norms is a Sisyphean challenge. 

Japan is attempting to do just that. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working to pull Japan out of a two-decade long economic malaise, ‘Abenomics’ is one of the central policy tenets of the current government to drive growth, stimulate a little inflation, and encourage consumer spending. Promoting entrepreneurship is key to Abenomics, and it’s going up against culture. Culture is quite the pugilist. 

Abandoning the corporate ladder 

Entrepreneurship is really just a series of failures, lessons, and getting up from the mat after a hard punch. When fear of failure is engrained in a culture, overcoming that failure stigma can be uncomfortable, resulting in few home-grown examples of budding companies. Newness and innovation become the realm of big corporates, who can hide those failed experiments in readily funded R&D. Small startup success stories are few and far between. 

The Japanese government has recognized this, and is working to normalize startups by importing examples. Visits to startup accelerators FINOLAB, LINK-J (Life Science Innovation Network Japan), and Accenture’s Innovation Hub were reminiscent of ‘It’s a small world after all’: the majority of resident startups were foreign, looking to expand into the Japanese market. Most startups acknowledged the challenge of the complexity and homogeneity of the Japanese market, but saw it as a proving ground rather than a hindrance. ‘If you can succeed in Japan, you can succeed in any market’, was a common reply to why these startups chose to be there. 

This move is starting to pay off, spurred on by a change in Japanese big corporates embracing internal innovation as well. More and more of these behemoths are convinced that they can’t survive without innovation, and are setting up intrapreneurship programmes, and scouting for outside innovation from startups and universities. Startups have become more fashionable, more normalized, and the shift in labour supply (corporate Japan is struggling with a labour shortage) towards startups is chipping away at the cultural tradition of working for a large corporate being the only desirable work future. 

Universities are focused on supporting startups. One visit to UTEC (University of Tokyo Edge Capital) showcased several of the startups coming straight out of STEM R&D tracks at the University. UTEC invests in growth stage ideas before incorporation, focusing on research in life science and healthcare, physical science and engineering, and deep tech/tech for tech. Investment happens before a business model has even been identified. It’s a growth factory for startups, encouraging students to take the entrepreneurial path over traditional corporate career ladders. Their network partnerships with Ivy League and Oxbridge universities and research institutes globally help identify and polish innovative ideas and research. Started in 2004, UTEC has invested in 100 startups, 10 of which went public, and 11 exits on acquisition.

Insularity and Homogeneity vs. Openness and Diversity 

Insularity has been associated with Japanese culture since the Commodore Perry first sailed into Tokyo Bay harbour in 1853, reestablishing regular trade between Japan and the western world after 200 years of being estranged. Even post WWII, Japan has retained elements of homogeneity, with one of the lowest immigrant populations in the world. But things are changing, and government policy is tackling cultural insularity from a number of angles. 

“It’s a growth factory for startups, encouraging students to take the entrepreneurial path over traditional corporate career ladders.”

Language in Japan has always been a barrier for outsiders, but the government has taken great pains to increase English education programmes. Big corporates like Rakuten, Uniqlo, and Softbank are also shifting away from being Japanese language centric. In preparation for the 2020 Olympics, myriad efforts are being made to bring effective English education to the country. Tech is playing a vital role, robots in particular, are being touted as a solution. Musio, a robot, uses AI, to communicate through speaking, text, facial expressions and gestures in an aim to provide a natural English-speaking environment for those studying English. I met this Korean startup in Harajuku on a sweltering day in late July, and had a surprisingly cogent conversation with the little robot (surprising that I was cogent, Musio had vast patience with me). 

One of the biggest challenges Japan faces is a declining population, and its negative effects on potential economic growth, the workforce, and solvency of the national pension and healthcare services. Opening borders has been one response to this dilemma. 

Japan has seen net immigration rise to a record high 6.6%, six straight years in a row – resident foreigners constitute 1.76% of the population now, an all time high.  Recent revised immigration legislation has created a new visa status for workers in short-handed industries. Japan is opening its arms wider and wider, as evidenced by the number of foreign-born startups I met sitting in accelerators all across Tokyo. 

This new openness is also evidenced in Japan’s version of Open Banking. Japan’s Banking Act was revised in 2018 to promote competition, with a mandate to have most banks open up APIs by 2020.  The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)’s ‘Fintech Vision’ is doubling down on cracking open financial services.

There has been a proliferation of licensed and regulated companies (both fintech and emoney) acting as AISP and/or PISP (account and payment initiation service providers) with the Japanese Financial Service Agency (FSA) regulator. Sounds about par for the open banking course, and the legislation is still vague on the required technical standards for APIs. But instead of rushing to standardization, the FSA is looking at this as an optimal time for first movers to experiment and learn what works well and what doesn’t. 

The FSA approach to the regulatory sandbox is even more open. Called “Connected Industries”, it is a vision of industries creating new added value and providing solutions to societal challenges by connecting a variety of data, technologies, people and organizations in the midst of the global rise of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. 

In context of the Japanese approach to Open Banking, the role of PISPs is that of identity authenticators – something that has yet to take hold in the European model, and one completely absent in US financial services to date. This example of new business lines focused on value add – with a commercial return to the customer – is not just novel; it is proof that Japan is experimenting with innovating and opening the traditional banking model.

Gender & Economics 

The Japanese concept of WA – harmony – is also slowly starting to shift. Wa dictates that the harmony and needs of society take priority over personal opinions or interest. Coupled with Honne (what you say in private) and Tatamae (what you say in public, which translates to maintaining face, or group harmony), the definition of Wa seems to be shifting. Traditional harmony in terms of gender relations is being challenged, in part due to economic necessity (a retracting economy will do that). And that’s provoking a cultural shift.  

Gender equality rankings in Japan are poor. World Economic Forum ranks Japan 114th out of 144 in gender equality, as of 2017. However Abe’s ‘Womenomics’ initiative (which he has recanted) is slowly changing workforce demographics, with a 4% increase of women in the workforce in the last 4 years. Change has been slow, and the main culprit behind the low ranking is the dearth of female participation in the political arena. 

Traditionally highly conservative when it comes to gender roles, there is evidence that things are changing in politics. After a hotly contested run, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Kioke won the 2018 race after creating a new political party, the first woman governor of the city. A new role model for Japanese women, and one who packs a political and economic punch, she too is making ‘Womenomics’ a top priority by removing ‘institutional impediments’ to gender-pay equality and a better work-life balance, as well as supporting more progressive corporate mindsets, and pushing more women to run for public office. 

“Startup Land in Japan is new, is evolving, and is changing the nature of business in the Land of the Rising Sun.”

Technical KO or another bout? 

There really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to human beings, certainly according to Maslow. But there is newness, freshness, experimentation in culture as we evolve. And the Japanese have proved Darwin right in their ability to adapt to survive, and thrive (mid-20th century Japanese economic growth is a case study in this very thing). They are thumbing their noses at cultural nihil sub sole novum, embracing change and disrupting themselves. Startup Land in Japan is new, is evolving, and is changing the nature of business in the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s a new day for Japan, and its doors are open to Startup Land. 

My weeklong startup adventure in Tokyo reminded me of another thing: Faber est suae quisque fortunae. Every man is the artisan of his own fortune. In Japan, an entire innovation ecosystem has come together to design a work of art, one that it invites the world to share in the resulting fortune. 

To learn more about Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) policies and support:

– More details can be found on TMG‘s website

– Any inquiries, contact Access to Tokyo

TMG provides various support for foreign startups, such as: free consulting services, and an accelerator program. For more information on the next round of support, contact [email protected] 

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Fintech Firms Prepare: EU Increases Regulation to Tackle Financial Crime

https://thefintechtimes.com/fintech-firms-prepare/

LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, the global analytics provider, today recognises that many firms will struggle to implement the new requirements of the upcoming 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) coming into force on 10th January 2020.

Prompted by recent events including the Panama Papers leaks, increased money laundering risks of cryptocurrencies and significant changes to the nature and frequency of terrorist attacks, the EU is cracking down on money laundering and terrorist financing with new legislation.

UK Government recently consulted with industry on the introduction of 5MLD, but has yet to issue a response. However, business leaders should not wait, and must ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to prepare for the impending regulation ahead of the January deadline, or risk facing penalties for regulatory breaches in 2020 and beyond.

criminals have more channels than ever to exploit and abuse, resulting in greater risks to society

To help compliance teams safeguard their business, LexisNexis Risk Solutions has launched a guide on adapting to changes introduced by 5MLD. The guide outlines key areas of the directive that the fintech sector must account for in order to ensure compliance:

  • Obliged entities: 5MLD has extended the scope of sectors classed as ‘obliged entities’ to include virtual assets such as cryptocurrencies, virtual asset service providers such as digital wallets, and high value art traders. These newly regulated sectors will need to implement full AML and counter-terrorist financing controls, to meet their new obligations.
  • Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs): Member states will be required to maintain an up-to-date list of prominent functions that qualify as politically exposed persons in their respective countries. Key to maintaining compliance will be ensuring that the lists used for screening contain the holders of these functions for each state and are accurate, complete, up to date, and conform to Financial Action Task Force guidelines. Firms will also potentially face changes from currently used PEP definitions.
  • Beneficial owners: Member states will be required to maintain registers of beneficial owners of corporate and other legal entities. Ownership information will need to be made public to those with ‘legitimate interest’ and must be accurate and verifiable.
  • Customer due diligence: Where possible, 5MLD mandates that firms should be using electronic verification in their due diligence processes.
  • Enhanced due diligence: To safeguard transactions that involve high risk countries with weak anti-money laundering controls, 5MLD mandates a common interpretation of enhanced due diligence measures which all obliged entities must follow.
  • Prepaid cards: Card holders will need to be identified, and customer due diligence conducted for any prepaid card that has a value of €150 (€50 if the card is purchased remotely), lower than the previous value of €250.
  • Enhanced powers for FIUs: Financial Intelligence Units will have the authority to obtain a firm’s payment transaction registers and electronic data, even when a Suspicious Activity Report has not been filed.

Michael Harris, Director, Financial Crime Compliance and Reputational Risk at LexisNexis® Risk Solutions says:

“Underground financial crime networks are one of the most insidious threats we face today. With such a broad financial landscape, criminals have more channels than ever to exploit and abuse, resulting in greater risks to society. 5MLD seeks to mitigate some of these risks and bring together firms in all EU jurisdictions to work towards a common goal of reducing financial crime. 

Until now, digital currencies have been unchartered waters for regulators. Greater controls are welcome, and organisations need to take all necessary precautions to become compliant ahead of January. Failure to comply will have wide-reaching ramifications, both for organisations and society, so firms must leave no stone unturned when it comes to meeting the obligations of 5MLD. We also fully expect that further regulatory updates will quickly follow – we’re not done yet.”

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Minimum Security Protocols That All Small Businesses Should Be Following

https://thefintechtimes.com/minimum-security-protocols/

Small businesses and at-home enterprises are flooding the commercial markets more every year. New business owners, who are responsible for every aspect of forming their new company, can fall short when it comes to IT security.

In many cases, running an online business or engaging in online commerce is new to many business owners. It comes with many exciting new possibilities and the ability to reach a much broader customer base but, it also comes with many risks.

We have all heard of the breaches in security at large corporations but, it’s not just big businesses that are targets for hackers. Small and medium-sized businesses can easily be targets for cybercriminals as they often do not have the highest standards of security in their systems.

There should be a minimum security protocol for all businesses to help protect them and their customers from any devastating data breaches. Professional IT firms like Eire Systems can help you get your network properly set up and in compliance with these minimum security protocols.

Educate All Staff

Every employee that has access to the business network should be properly trained in online security. From the CEO to the part-time assistant, security protocols need to be consistent to maintain a good first line of defense. Owners may want to consult an IT professional when they are setting up their network to help them train their new staff. 

To ensure compliance and employee accountability you should have each member of your staff sign off on their training. This can help to establish an understanding that they are now responsible for following the protocols that are in place. 

Firewalls

A strong firewall to protect your network is one of the best ways to protect yourself from hackers and damaging malware. Depending on the format of your business you may need to consider internal and external firewalls for the best protection. If you have staff that works off-site, their devices and systems must also be protected by a firewall.

Complex Passwords

Even though it has been stressed over and over, businesses are still the most vulnerable for losses to cybercrime through a weak password and authentication system. It may seem reasonable to make passwords easy for staff to use and remember but it also makes them easier for hackers to predict. 

Two-step authentication is recommended as the most secure form of network entry. A system username, a strong password, and even an additional pin code can be used to keep your network safe. 

Passwords should be changed on a regular schedule not longer than every 90 days. All passwords should be created using both upper and lower case alphabetic letters, numbers, and symbols to be the most effective.

Security Software

Human error continues to be the largest area where business systems become weak. Email phishing scams are among the most popular methods that hackers use to enter a network. You can install anti-malware software in addition to your hardwired security protocols to help weed out unwanted or dangerous spam.

System Backups

It doesn’t matter if you use onsite storage or run your operating system through the Cloud, backups are a necessary protocol for all businesses. Your working files, customer information, spreadsheets, financial information, and accounting should all be backed up regularly.

Conclusion

As cybercrime becomes more prevalent it is your responsibility to keep your network as secure as possible. Start with the system itself, installing tight firewalls and continue with a strict set of security protocols for your staff. 

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Wealthy Millennials are Frustrated with Traditional Private Banks and Instead Looking to Use Fintechs

https://thefintechtimes.com/wealthy-millennials/

A global customer journey study on the banking behaviour of people born between 1981 and 1996 – the millennial generation – shows that private banks aren’t doing enough to attract this lucrative customer base. The study revealed several key success factors that banks can adopt to secure future success.

Are banks ready for the intergenerational wealth transfer? What does the next generation expect, what do they want, and how can banks foster long-term customer relationships with them?

by 2020, millennials will make up 50 percent of the total global workforce

To answer these questions, the pricing strategy specialists Simon-Kucher & Partners has researched high-net-worth millennials worldwide.

The findings are alarming: 60 percent of millennials are not happy with their current wealth management services (in the UK, the figure is 56 percent). This is also reflected in millennials’ lack of loyalty to a single wealth management provider. On average, each millennial has more than three private banking relationships (the average in the UK is three).

Silvio Struebi

“Especially in today’s turbulent market environment, banks need to rethink their offerings to satisfy their future customers,” says Silvio Struebi, Partner and head of banking operations for the APAC region at Simon-Kucher.

“The future survival of private banks will depend on whether they’re able to master the art of winning millennials and keep them as customers,” adds Desi Soetanto, Consultant at Simon-Kucher, who spearheaded this study. The study shows that millennials will only give banks one chance to impress them, and thus “private banks need to get ahold of this next generation before it’s too late,” says Soetanto.

Millennials are the future – but a vast improvement is needed in current private bank offerings

The study finds that a vast improvement in the current private bank offering is required to attract millennials. Otherwise, this group of customers will shift their wealth to alternative solutions.

Three out of five participants are not satisfied with traditional wealth managers, and 80 percent are using or considering using fintechs to manage their money. These millennials are planning to allocate 56 percent of their investable assets into fintechs, meaning private banks can expect to lose a substantial customer group. Asia is engaging in its largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history, which means that by 2046, the baby-boomer generation will have passed on 30 trillion US dollars to millennials.

Moreover, by 2020, millennials will make up 50 percent of the total global workforce, which means they will be driving the new generation of wealth creation.

Millennials value quality and brand, not necessarily the cheapest price

Max Biesenbach

“To capture the attention of this high-net-worth generation, private banks have to significantly upgrade their customer experience,” says Max Biesenbach, partner at Simon-Kucher & Partners and head of UK Banking and Financial Services practice. The study reveals that millennials highly value quality and brand. Banks need to learn from brands that millennials love, such as Apple or Netflix, by adopting certain practices that these innovative companies are providing. According to Soetanto, in order to successfully upsell and retain clients’ loyalty, private banks need to add “WOW” factors to the customer experience.

Soetanto has identified a number of extraordinary WOW factors that private banks can offer to hook millennials, including 24/7 access, the option to select their preferred relationship manager, customised recommendations, fee transparency, and comprehensive and exclusive offerings. Across the board, banks are performing poorly in addressing these factors. Surprisingly, price was consistently ranked as the least important factor by millennials when selecting private banking services.

“To win in the race of attracting and retaining customers, private banks need to revamp their customer experience, which includes changing the relationship managers’ sales approach and accelerate the path towards digitalisation to provide customers with tailor-made offerings,” concludes Struebi, Biesenbach and Soetanto.

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equensWorldline Launches First Ever Browser-Based SCA Solution

https://thefintechtimes.com/equensworldline-sca-solution/

equensWorldline, a subsidiary of Worldline, introduces the first browser-based strong customer authentication solution to the market and is now able to support banks in offering a frictionless universal strong customer authentication solution adapted to each user profile. With this development, banks now also have a strong customer authentication solution for users who are not equipped with a mobile device.

With regard to strong customer authentication, banks have to face multiple challenges:

  • to propose strong customer authentication for cases of remote payment and account access;
  • to replace the current authentication solution based on OTP SMS (One-Time Password sent by SMS to approve 3DSecure payment transactions) because this solution does not meet the two-factor authentication criteria;
  • to propose a solution that can cover the whole user population.

An innovative authentication solution to provide universal coverage

equensWorldline’s solution, named WL Trusted Authentication, is available for mobile applications (smartphones) and web browsers (mobile phones and computers). It is unique in the market due to its universal coverage, and the technical innovation that makes the browser version simple from a deployment point of view.

The solution has a European patent, and was designed several years ago to meet the growing needs of banks in the area of strong customer authentication. It is already deployed in many European banks (more than 120 million transactions per year).

The new, browser-based solution is innovative because it enables banks to provide strong customer authentication without the need for external hardware (tokens, for example), smartphones, or software installed on the user’s computer. The user enrolls his browser in a simple and transparent way, and can then perform strong authentication with the same kinematics as if he/she just entered credentials to access his online bank. In this browser-based solution the same security measures have been applied as on mobile phones.

Integration methods adapted to the bank’s strategy

Several integration modes are available to optimally suit the different digital strategies and calendar constraints of banks. There’s a mobile solution that can be integrated into the bank’s existing mobile application, a mobile white-label solution which can be customized to the bank’s look-and-feel, and a Worldline-labelled mobile solution for rapid deployment. In addition, there’s now thus also a browser solution, accessible simply from any computer, tablet, or phone browser, and requiring no installation, for all business or home users, who do not use smartphones.

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