Bitcoin Bears vs Bulls

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eagle Home Mortgage, Blend launch mobile app for loan officers

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

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Singapore’s Digital Bank License Space Race Accelerates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

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

Latin America and the Caribbean

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


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

Sub-Saharan Africa

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

Central and Eastern Europe

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

Middle East and Northern Africa

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

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

Top image designed by Freepik

Kasasa Enhances its Take-Back Loan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Min An from Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Wrap: Visa acquires Plaid and retailers embrace fintech

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

View the Weekly Wrap podcast here:

The Weekly Wrap is also available as a video here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover image: iStock

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

Companies: Juniper Research, MasterCard, Apple

David Jones

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

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

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

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

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Loomis to buy Swedish cash-handling firm Nokas Vardehantering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover image: iStock

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

Companies: Citi, Banco Santander, MasterCard

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Canadian fintech Mogo launches digital rewards account with carbon offset

Canadian fintech Mogo launches digital rewards account with carbon offset

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

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

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

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


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

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Travelex CEO issues video apology after cyber attack, says some systems back online

Travelex CEO issues video apology after cyber attack, says some systems back online

Travelex CEO Tony D’Souza issued a video apology to customers and announced an initial recovery from a New Year’s Eve ransomware attack, saying that the first of its customer-facing systems in the U.K. were back up.

D’Souza thanked customers, partners and staff in the video and confirmed that customer data had been protected. He also outlined steps that the London-based currency exchange and money transfer had taken to mitigate the damage. 

“We have made good progress in our recovery and I’m pleased to say our first customer-facing systems are now successfully live,” he said in a written company statement updating the recovery efforts. “We have a clear strategy for the phased restoration of services, prioritizing the UK as this is our single largest market.”

He said Travelex had restarted forex order processing electronically in some of its UK stores and UK partner retail locations, and has started VAT refund service at UK airports. 

The automated order placement used by many of Travelex’s high street banking partners is once again live, however, the company planned to phase in the restoration of services and start processing about 70 currencies, expanding that number over time. 

Travelex said although it was making progress with its UK International money-transfer service, it would not be restored until the end of January. 

As previously reported the Metropolitan Police had been investigating the breach, which was suspected as a criminal ransomware attack. Company officials said customer data had not been exposed, however they were posting regular updates on recovery efforts. 

Cover image: iStock

Topics: Money Transfer / P2P, Region: EMEA, Security

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MUFG taps math expert as CEO to lead digital transformation

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. named Hironori Kamezawa as chief executive officer, turning to a math expert to help Japan’s biggest bank forge a path in the digital era.

Kamezawa, 58, will take the top post on April 1, the Tokyo-based bank said in a statement on Friday, confirming news reports from earlier this week. He succeeds Kanetsugu Mike, 63, who is stepping down after just a year at the helm but will remain chief of the main lending subsidiary.

Currently deputy president and a leader of the lender’s technology overhaul, Kamezawa faces the challenge of reshaping a domestic business that’s being squeezed by low interest rates and costly branches.

“We expect MUFG to accelerate its digital efforts with the promotion of Kamezawa,” Rie Nishihara, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Tokyo, wrote in a note. “Also, speed of management is expected to increase by dividing the roles of the holding company head and the bank head.”

A University of Tokyo mathematics graduate, Kamezawa is a rare breed in an industry where most of the top echelon have either law or economics backgrounds. As chief digital transformation officer, he has been leading efforts including the development of MUFG’s digital coin.

“Large overseas banks have similar anxiety over digitalization,” Kamezawa said at a news briefing after the announcement. “The biggest task is how we strike a balance between ensuring security and convenience.”

Split Roles
Mike’s retention of the banking unit chief role brings MUFG into line with its two main domestic rivals. Both Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. have separate heads of their holding company and lending units, and MUFG had been urged to do the same to better manage operations that have grown and diversified.

Mike told reporters that he was appointed to the two posts to speed up the bank’s overhaul, with the understanding that he would hold them both for a short time. The lender is now ready to split the roles, he said.

In MUFG’s annual report last year, Tsutomu Okuda, an outside director who chairs the nominating and governance committee, defended the bank’s decision to let Mike have a “dual-hat leadership,” while adding that it was “not desirable” from a governance perspective.

MUFG has been cutting branches and revamping others to replace rows of tellers with tablet computers and video booths — a move to help customers migrate to digital platforms.

The bank booked a 94 billion yen ($853 million) writedown last fiscal year after scrapping an information-technology upgrade at its credit card unit that couldn’t keep pace with changes in payments technology. It’s now building a new blockchain-based payments system with Akamai Technologies Inc.

 — Taiga Uranaka and Yuki Hagiwara (Bloomberg)

This Week in Fintech 17 Jan

week with pics BL.001

This weekly summary from our 5 experts, brings you insights based on their experience as investors, entrepreneurs & executives.

Ilias Hatzis started his first company, an internet search engine, during the dot-com era & now focusses on crypto.

Efi Pylarinou worked for top tier Wall Street firms and is now a top global Fintech influencer.

Jessica Ellerm is CEO of Zuper Superannuation & previously worked for a top Fintech startup, Tyro.

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners.

Bernard Lunn is CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy.

If you want to continue receiving This Week in Fintech, you can either become a paying Member for $143 per year (and receive all our content in addition to this weekly summary) by clicking here.  If you just want to receive This Week in Fintech for free, you will need to fill in this form. Or fill in the same sign up form at the bottom of this post.

Your Editor is Bernard Lunn. He is also the CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy.

Monday Ilias Hatzis @iliashatzis our Greece-based crypto entrepreneur (Founder & CEO at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG and Weekly Columnist at Daily Fintech) wrote What could kill Bitcoin?

Defining what life is has always been a challenge. Scientists and philosophers have come up with many definitions to differentiate the living from the non-living. Are viruses alive? DNA molecules? Computer viruses? The inventor of cryptographic hashing, Ralph Merkle, has made the argument that “Bitcoin is the first example of a new form of life.” If something is alive, then it can be killed. Over the years, Bitcoin has survived technical attacks, internal conflict and outside criticism. Bitcoin has shown a quality that goes beyond resilience, that doesn’t just withstand the shocks, but improves when facing volatility, randomness, disorder and uncertainty. Bitcoin has an “antifragility” quality. But is there Bitcoin kryptonite? Can something kill Bitcoin?

Editor note: Ilias looks at why so many ways people predicted Bitcoin will fail have proved wrong. Takeaway: buy and Hodl. 


Tuesday Efi Pylarinou @efipm our Swiss-based Fintech Adviser,  founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer – No.3 influencer in the finance sector by Refinitiv Global Social Media 2019 wrote Blockchain Thematic ETFs from the West to the East

Listing on exchanges continues to dominate. Whether listing on regulated or unregulated Centralized exchanges (CEX) or Decentralized exchanges (DEX) of any sort; this has not changed at all for assets.

Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, in his New Year medium post, foresees that we will be moving from a predominantly trading & speculation phase of cryptocurrencies and Tokens of all sorts, to a phase of actually Using Tokens.

In the meantime, however, incumbents and startups continue building all the necessary infrastructure to issue, custody, settle and clear, trade and invest of all sorts of digital assets.

Editor note: Efi’s Post is a great resource for anybody who invests in publicly traded Blockchain companies. 


Wednesday Jessica Ellerm @jessicaellerm, our Australia-based Fintech entrepreneur and thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy & CEO/Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia wrote Australia’s Open Banking Dream Drifts Away

It would seem Australia’s hopes of having a quickly implemented open banking regime are fading fast, if not completely transparent already. An already delayed start date of February 2020 has been pushed out to July 2020, causing much consternation in the startup community, as fintechs continue to battle with unpredictability around the regime.

Editor note: Jessica’s post describes startup frustration with the delays in open banking access. 


Thursday Patrick Kelahan @insuranceeleph1, our US based Insurtech expert (a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners who also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’) wrote Addressing some symptoms of insurance issues, and not the underlying causes?

There’s an odd contradiction in some of what the insurance industry does; the industry is built on predicting risk and strategizing risk sharing, yet in many ways it is victim of knowing its own concerns and reacting to and pricing the reaction, and not working to mitigating the effects of the outcomes.  And in at least one case looking to backfill its model to fit corporate strategy and perhaps not customer choice.

Editor note: Pat describes some well funded and executed initiatives in Insurance that did NOT pay off as expected due to applying old thinking to new technology.


Friday  Bernard Lunn, CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy, wrote: The Week ending 17 January 2020 in Security Tokens

Editor note: Security Tokens, the disruptive force in the equities market. This weekly snapshot is the news that matters for busy senior people in this market.


To continue receiving ‘This Week in Fintech’, the weekly recap of our articles, you will need to fill this form to give us consent to send this to you. Please note that Daily Fintech requires your organizational email address (e.g. corporate, educational or government) and your LinkedIn URL. This information is required for subscribers who want ‘This Week in Fintech’ for free. If you prefer to not provide this information, you can still receive all our content by becoming a paying member.

Week ending 17 January 2020 in Security Tokens

Announcing the Daily Fintech weekly news curation on Security Tokens

Here is our pick of the 3 most important Security Tokens news stories during the week:

One. Securitize Opens IRAs to Digital Securities Investors With Partnership

Digital asset issuer Securitize has facilitated what it says is the first direct IRA investment in security token offerings (STOs). A customer of alternative investments gateway AltoIRA purchased an initial investment in security tokens representing CityBlock Capital’s $20 million venture fund, with tokens issued by Securitize.

IRA is a mainstream way for retail investors in America to get exposure to this new asset class.  We can expect other pension friendly initiatives in other jurisdictions soon.

Two. US SEC Seeks $16 Million Penalty from Token Sales Platform Operator.

The United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) is seeking a default judgement against token sale platform ICOBox and its founder Nikolay Evdokimov. Documents filed with the Central District Court of California on Jan. 9 order the defendants to pay over $16 million in disgorgement to the agency within 14 days of the judgement’s entry. 

This again shows why anybody operating in this market must pay close attention to regulation, particularly what the top cop (SEC ) is doing.

Three. Quantum-Resistant QAN IEO Is Officially Starting on Bitbay Exchange.

The first IEO to launch on BitBay exchange is poised to commence its token sale on January 20. QAN, an Estonia-based crypto project that proclaims to be the world’s first quantum-resistant blockchain, went live on the Launchpad on December 16.

This shows where the Security Token market is today – Blockchain centric startups launched by Crypto exchanges as an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO).

We have a self-imposed constraint of 3 news stories each week because we serve busy senior leaders in Fintech who need just enough information to get on with their job.

For context on Security Tokens please read the chapter on Security Tokens in our Blockchain Economy book and read articles tagged Security Tokens in our archives. 

You get 3 free articles on Daily Fintech. After that you will need to become a member for just US$143 a year (= $0.39 per day) and get all our fresh content and our archives and participate in our forum.

How Citi Ventures builds internal fintech startups

Citi Ventures, Citibank’s corporate venture arm, is building startups within the company to incubate new product ideas. D10X, which stands for “Discover 10 Times,” is Citi Ventures’ internal lab to build new solutions for Citi customers.

In this bonus episode of “Fintech Unfiltered,” Executive Editor at Bank Innovation and CEO of Royal Media JJ Hornblass spoke with Rachel Moore, senior vice president of Citi Fintech, and Alex Sion, director and co-head of D10X. Sion oversees the unit while Moore, an internal entrepreneur, leads Out of the Red, an initiative to assist Citi customers with debt management. The discussion was based on an event hosted by Bank Innovation in early January.

Like other startup founders, internal creators must consult with experts and pitch their ideas to internal executives.

“How can we possibly solve [a problem] and help people change the world and have it make sense for Citi?” Moore asked. “You have to convince a growth board, who are senior executives at Citi that there is a need, and you have to pitch just like you would to a VC.”

The event also featured a live Q&A with Sion, who elaborated on how Citi Ventures implements new concepts and ideas and how it sets priorities. “Sometimes I want to build stuff — I don’t want to be a venture investor, but I want to build that thing myself, and that’s where D10X comes in, he said.

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

MUFG Union Bank turns to cloud for speed and agility

MUFG Union Bank is on track to move to a cloud core banking infrastructure system within two years, an initiative that will let the bank build and release new products more quickly, the company told Bank Innovation this week.

“It’s all about cloud, native cloud and the ability to move data quickly, safely, securely in a real time, in a fashion that helps drive that buying experience,” said Chris Higgins, chief information and operations officer at MUFG Union Bank. “The level of automation from an endtoend perspective, from idea generation to working proof of concept to full blown implementation on a minimal viable product basis, is much faster.”

Union Bank is co-creating the core platform, its Modern Banking Platform, with banking technology provider FIS. MUFG Union Bank is the first global financial institution to use the platform. According to FIS, the cloud-based core infrastructure will allow banks to bring products to market faster, with personalization and regulatory compliance capabilities.

Higgins said the cloud transition will allow the bank to develop new products and bring them to market within three to six months, marking a significant improvement over the legacy infrastructure currently in place, in which it takes 18 to 24 months to build and release a product. 

The transition to the cloud also allows the bank to recruit top talent, including senior engineers. Union Bank will be hiring 100 people in the Phoenix area to support this project, Higgins said. 

See also: FIS to help stand up digital-only banks within 90 days 

The “secret sauce” of the new platform is its ability to be configured easily according to client needs.

 “The new modern architecture allows us to highly configure versus code differentiation into our environment,” Higgins said, adding that the cloud platform allows the bank to seamlessly tend to customer needs, both online and offline. 

Eric Byunn, partner and co-founder of growth equity firm Centana Growth Partners, recently told Bank Innovation that banks are only beginning to shift to cloud infrastructure. 

“The vast majority of banks are not using the cloud for critical loads and are just now really thinking about making some of those transitions, he said. “In financial services, it is still a new and exciting trend, and sometimes in the technology community, we forget that the cloud hasn’t had much penetration yet.” 

Andrew Beatty, senior vice president of next generation banking at FIS, said the core platform is API-enabled “by design,” which allows for digital onboarding, efficient customer service delivery and upgraded payments solutions. It will also generate cost efficiencies, he added. 

The end result of the deployment, noted Higgins, is the ability to deliver on the client experience. 

“It’s a more efficient platform,” he said. “It’s safe, it’s secure and we will be able to really focus on meeting and exceeding our clients’ needs and expectations.” 

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

Expensify targets socially-conscious companies with charitable rewards card

Expense management startup Expensify is including charitable donations as a perk for its corporate cards. The product, which launched in beta in October, became available to the public this week. It allows employees to make donations to different causes for every purchase they make. “Most people who have a rewards card lose more money through …Read More

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Getsafe Expands its Insurtech to the U.K.

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

Starting today, U.K. users will have access to Getsafe’s “neo-insurance” offering via its mobile app. The launch is made partially possible via a partnership with Hiscox, which will serve as the carrier for Getsafe’s U.K. contents product. The fintech’s other insurance partners include Munich Re and AXA.

Getsafe’s selection of the U.K. as its next launch site is a strategic one since U.K. residents are already comfortable with mobile-based services and payments. In fact, the U.K. is one of the leading regions of the globe for challenger banks.

The company has already proven itself as the fastest growing insurance agency for millennials in Germany. “Over the last two years, we have shown that our product meets a core need for the young, tech-savvy generation,” said CEO and founder Christian Wiens. “With our insurance delivered through your smartphone, we are developing a product that fits perfectly with the living and communication habits of this generation.”

Getsafe states that today’s move into the U.K. is “just the beginning.” The company plans to expand its offerings to all of Europe in the next few years.

Getsafe has raised $17 million and was founded in 2015. In addition to its contents and drone insurance products, the company offers ad-hoc insurance for travel, liability, bike theft, legal protection, routine care, dental care, and dental replacement. Getsafe also has plans to launch a digital life insurance company in Germany, its flagship market.

Ant Financial to back $2.6B merger between Global Blue and Far Point

Ant Financial to back $2.6B merger between Global Blue and Far Point

Global Blue, a provider of tax free shopping and payments, has entered a merger deal with Far Point Acquisition Corp., a special purchase company sponsored by asset manager Third Point LLC and former NYSE President Thomas Farley, in a deal backed by Ant Financial Services Group, the operator of China’s leading mobile wallet Alipay. 

Far Point will invest $650 million in cash, while Ant Financial and Third Point have agreed to invest a total of $350 million in the newly combined company, at a valuation of $2.6 billion (2.3 billion euros). The newly combined company will be based in Switzerland and trade under the Global Blue name. 

Global Blue CEO Jacques Stern will continue to lead the combined company, and Farley will become chairman of the firm. Current investors, including Silver Lake, will continue to be significant shareholders in the combined entity. 

“Global Blue is the clear market leader in the attractive and growing tax free shopping ecosystem worldwide,” Farley said in a release from Global Blue. “The company has achieved remarkable progress in digitalization, geographic expansion and strategic value creation under Jacques’ leadership and the stewardship of its existing shareholders, including controlling shareholder Silver Lake, whose principals I have known personally and professionally for years.”

Angel Zhao, president of Ant Financial’s International Business Group, said that Global Blue was an important partner for Ant Financial and the broader Alibaba ecosystem. 

“Alipay and our global wallet partners’ user bases, along with Global Blue’s extensive merchant and airport footprint across more than 50 countries, together creates significant potential to expand the relationship and introduce new technologies and services to the marketplace,” he said.

Cover image: Global Blue.

Topics: Mergers & Acquisitions, Mobile/Digital Wallet, Mobile Payments, Region: EMEA, Retail

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