Ford-Backed Argo AI Spends $15M On Autonomous Vehicle Research

Argo AI announced that it has pledged $15 million over five years to fund the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research.

“It’s an amazing time for those of us in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. We’re starting to see consumer products and services powered by the capabilities that we and our predecessors spent decades developing and testing in labs across the country. And one of the flagship opportunities enabled by these capabilities  —  autonomous vehicles  —  is finally on the horizon with initial commercialization plans in place,” Deva Ramanan, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, wrote in a blog post.

The $15 million will fund a team of five faculty leaders, and support graduate students conducting research on self-driving technology. Argo will provide access to data, infrastructure and platforms for CMU students engaged in autonomous vehicle research.

“This Center builds on Argo’s already-existing collaboration with CMU and Georgia Tech, while introducing a unique model for academic engagement with unprecedented access and openness,” explained Ramanan. “In addition to myself and Simon Lucey serving as the Center’s faculty leaders, it’s a privilege to also have John Dolan, David Held and Jeff Schneider as part of the team. John’s focus is on mechatronics, systems engineering and safety; David’s is machine learning; and Jeff’s is machine learning, computer vision and perception.”

The news comes as Argo AI recently launched Argoverse, a collection of sensor data and HD maps for computer vision and machine learning research, to which researchers and faculty working in the center will have direct access.

“We view this Center as an important step in advancing research addressing the challenges that will enable commercialization of self-driving technology on societal scale, and we look forward to the improvements this Center can help bring to the field of self-driving vehicles,” wrote Ramanan.


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The Payments 2022 Study: Building A High-Performance Payments Team For Fraud Detection, a PYMNTS collaboration with Stripe, examines how digital platforms of all sectors and sizes plan to develop their anti-fraud teams as part of their their broader growth and development strategies. Drawing from an extensive survey from approximately 250 payments heads at digital platforms in the U.S. and abroad, our study analyzes how poor anti-fraud capabilities can harm platforms’ long-term growth strategies, and how they can build high-performing teams to tackle these challenges.

OPAL IS Launches Replatforming Guidance for Banks and Insurers

Fintech solutions developer OPAL IS, part of OPAL Group, has launched guidance for banks and insurers to replatform more efficiently. Based on the group’s 35 years of experience, OPAL IS has highlighted three key themes of which financial providers need to be aware before embarking on a replatforming in order to make it fast, cost effective and secure.

1. Keep innovation outside of the legacy system

Keep the build outside of the legacy system in a ring-fenced development area, don’t mix the two together from the start. At the very least take a hard look at the benefits of migration versus cost and risk. What is required is a step by step development over a period of time with measurable milestones, triggers and reactions to the market. This reduces complexity so the focus is on the immediate needs for new products. There is less customer disruption and lower cost and risk because there’s no change to the existing systems and no data migration initially.

We know that what financial providers want to do is to deliver client solutions digitally and at pace.

2. Understand what problem you’re trying to solve to manage risk

Look through the ‘right end of the telescope’ by being clear what problem are you trying to solve? Do you need a new platform or do you need to launch new, competitively priced, attractive products in the channels that customers want to buy them in? Understand how best to keep distribution channels happy, maintain customer service levels, all while testing, learning and retesting. If the focus is cost and risk management, for example, keep in mind that old, complex books of business with very low customer volumes are not a priority where the risks outweigh the benefits and the key problem is how to deliver new products digitally rather than worrying about migrating old books. In these situations, OPAL suggests a selective approach to replatforming.

3. Assemble a specialist team with a proven track record

In-house teams often struggle with the specialist needs of replatforming projects. Build a team that will focus on the three main drivers in developing digital platform solutions – flexibility, speed and quality of build. Building new digital platforms and replatforming existing data doesn’t have to be fraught with complexity and doomed to failure. It just needs to be fully assessed in advance and then broken down into practical and manageable sections, but doing it efficiently, on time and to budget only comes with experience.

Eoin Lyons, OPAL Group CEO, said: “The last year has seen plenty of headlines about the bad experiences of banks and insurers when building and migrating to new platforms. Despite a huge budget, some of the biggest names failed to deliver, leaving clients locked out of new systems and budgets overrunning.

We know that what financial providers want to do is to deliver client solutions digitally and at pace. However, they are not always clear how best to do that and we believe our three rules should be front of mind when embarking on a replatforming project.“

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Retail Pulse: Luxury Brands Eye Airport Retail; Panera Bread Tests Dinner Menu

Airports are providing luxury brands with access to consumers with extra time on their hands who want to buy unique and unusual items they can’t find near their residences. These hubs for travel retail, which are providing an audience of on-the-go travelers as U.S. shopping malls are on the decline, are also becoming locations where brands are innovating with products.

Edgar Huber, who heads the luxury division of multinational beauty company Coty Inc., said in The Wall Street Journal, “It’s not about discounting now; it’s really about experience.” The report noted that the firm’s pharmacy brands like Clairol and CoverGirl have grappled with declining sales. However, the company’s luxury unit is continually on the uptick — and travel retail is said to be partly responsible. In one case, the company rolled out a Gucci lipstick line at airports that encompassed a Goldie Red — it retails on the web for $38. And consumers at airports do make an attractive customer base as they have extra time that lets them stay in stores longer.

Luxury brands are looking to catch the attention of travelers who might be willing to explore new products. Bacardi Managing Director of Global Travel Retail Vinay Golikeri said, according to the outlet, “Over half of the people, when they travel and browse stores, they’re looking for something they can’t find back home.” Bacardi, for instance, launched an Aultmore Scotch whiskey three-part series at the United Kingdom’s Heathrow Airport and sold the bottles for $400 each. As it turned out, the brand discovered that many customers were actually purchasing all of the bottles for $1,200.

Consumers wait just over an hour — or 72 minutes — passing the time from security to the flight during a so-called “golden hour.” And travelers are working high-end shopping trips into their travels by purportedly gearing their layovers toward luxury shopping. At the same time, research firm Data Circle found that duty-free and other travel-retail channels saw global sales increase by roughly 9.3 percent to attain $76 billion last year. That figure marked a rise from $69 billion two years ago. Travel retail is said to encompass more than only airport shops: it also includes eCommerce orders that consumers pick up at the airport and in-flight purchases, among other categories.

Through product innovation at the airport, luxury brands are aiming to reach on-the-go travelers who have the time — and the desire — to try something new on the way to their destinations.

In Other Brick-and-Mortar News

Lululemon has quietly closed its men’s standalone stores in Toronto and New York City even as the company still intends to more than double its men’s business in the next five years. The retailer found customers respond to the company better “as a dual-gender brand,” spokeswoman Erin Hankinson said per reports. “We continually test and learn at Lululemon — which is what we did with the men’s stores.”

Toronto’s small-format men’s location — called “The Local” — opened in December 2016 and closed last year as revealed by Hankinson. The New York City Soho men’s store, which opened in 2014, was consolidated into a nearby larger format location. For now, the company is focused on expanding its more productive stores, which Hankinson said, “will continue to create space for category expansions and will help to grow our business, specifically in men’s.”

In other news, Domino’s Pizza and robotics company Nuro are working to use a custom unmanned vehicle to bring autonomous pizza delivery to Houston. The company said in an announcement that the fleet from Nuro will serve some customers in Houston who make online orders. Diners can track the vehicle through the app of the company and will get a unique PIN code to unlock a compartment and retrieve their pizzas

“We are always looking for new ways to innovate and evolve the delivery experience for our customers,” Domino’s Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Kevin Vasconi said in the announcement. “Nuro’s vehicles are specially designed to optimize the food delivery experience, which makes them a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey.”

And Panera Bread has been piloting a menu for dinner at a Jacksonville, Florida restaurant in an effort that could bring delivery opportunities. The quick-service restaurant (QSR) is extending the test in July to nine Kentucky locations. Dinner is a popular time for delivery orders, and the chain taps into its own delivery drivers in place of teaming with another company.

Panera Chief Growth and Strategy Officer Dan Wegiel said, according to reports, “We definitely saw for delivery an opportunity with dinner, but it flagged as something we could unlock further for sure.” As many diners view Panera’s salads, soups and sandwiches as items that are too light for a dinner meal, the QSR company added options that would be available following 4:30 p.m. that are heartier like flatbread pizzas and bowls.

To keep tabs on the latest retail trends, check next week’s Retail Pulse.


Latest Insights: 

The Payments 2022 Study: Building A High-Performance Payments Team For Fraud Detection, a PYMNTS collaboration with Stripe, examines how digital platforms of all sectors and sizes plan to develop their anti-fraud teams as part of their their broader growth and development strategies. Drawing from an extensive survey from approximately 250 payments heads at digital platforms in the U.S. and abroad, our study analyzes how poor anti-fraud capabilities can harm platforms’ long-term growth strategies, and how they can build high-performing teams to tackle these challenges.

Aurora Chain Unveils Upgradable Blockchain Network

Public blockchain Aurora Chain has published a new feature – Upgradable Block, which brings more flexibility and utility to the public chain landscape. Developers using Aurora chain will be able to enjoy the latest features that Aurora brings and reduce cases of hard forking.

Hard forking has been a prevalent issue during the blockchain industry’s short history. Bitcoin alone has more than 6 hard forks including Bitcoin Classic and Bitcoin Cash. Furthermore, the already forked Bitcoin Cash forked again last year by it’s two major mining pools, creating BCHABC and BCHSV.

While hard forks can be a good way to gain attention in social media, ultimately it lowered the utility of bitcoins and undermined its mining capability. For more up-to-date and advanced blockchains, this could potentially be catastrophic. As a result, the Aurora tech team developed a solution that can reduce this risk.

The solution requires mining agents or agent candidates to vote for upgrading the blockchain within a 14 day limit. When votes for an upgrade exceeds the total number of voting agents and agent candidates, this upgrade passes and a block height will be chosen for implementing the new upgrade.

An upgrade should include URL of the version released on Github, the version code, description of the update and md5 information of the new upgrade.

When the upgrading program on the network receives an upgrading request, it will automatically retrieve the new release and proceed to verify this version. Once the verification is successful, the test network will be activated.

“This is a major step for us, we’ve been aware of the scalability issues that the industry is facing.”

Users can try this new version on the test network. If any problems or glitches occur before the implementation of the release, the agent that requested the upgrade can put the upgrade to a halt. Until the halt is revoked, the upgrade will not be carried out even if the network reaches the agreed block height.

The solution has two smart contracts and an upgrade control:

Smart contract A manages the upgrade smart contract, which is smart contract B. It can substitute the old version of the blockchain code with the new one

Smart contract B regulates the process of voting and retrieving of an upgrade. It supervises 5 major parts of the solution:

  1. Agents and Agent node candidate votings
  2. Other mining agents or agent candidates participating in the voting process
  3. The upgrade is passed when “Yes” votes exceed 2/3 of the total number of the mining agents and agent candidates
  4. The agent that requests the upgrade can halt the upgrading process in case of emergency
  5. The agent that requests the upgrade can resume the upgrading process

Upgrading control has three purposes:

  1. To oversee the whole network, supervise the initiation, processing, and pausing/abandoning the upgrade.
  2. Monitor the communication between contract A and contract b,
  3. Optimize the concurrence of Testnet and Mainnet.

Aurora chain CEO Aqua Zhao commented:

“This is a major step for us, we’ve been aware of the scalability issues that the industry is facing. Our network is already faster than most public chains, however ‘Upgradable Blockchain’ further boosts our scalability and utility.”

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Brex Propels B2B FinTech Into Investors’ Spotlights

Commercial card startup Brex captured headlines this week when it confirmed a significant funding round that propelled the two-year-old startup’s valuation to $2.6 billion. The investment is a massive show of support for the digitization of corporate payments. Other rounds this week showed investors’ appetites for alternative funding solutions, global payroll, strategic procurement, enterprise digitization and cybersecurity. A rundown of more than $274 million in new funding for B2B tech startups is below.


Former Nasdaq Tallinn CEO Kaidi Ruusalepp announced $4.5 million in Series A funding for Funderbeam, led by U.K.-based Accelerated Digital Ventures, it was reported this week. Funderbeam operates a blockchain-powered funding and trading platform for the private sector in an effort to address the small business venture and capital gap. GK Plug and Play Indonesia, Pandan Ventures and existing backers Draper Associates, Draper Venture Partners, IQ Capital and Mistletoe all participated in the Series A funding, which will be used to strengthen its secondary market offering and expand its presence throughout Asia and, later, Europe.


Cybersecurity remains a hot focus for investors, with Edgewise landing $11 million in Series A funding this week, AmericanInno reports said. Accomplice and .406 Ventures led the round for the company, which provides automated cybersecurity solutions for corporate customers with integrated machine learning. Reports said the firm is currently expanding its team, though exact details on how Edgewise plans to use the capital were not revealed.


Focused on helping companies more strategically source vendors, Scoutbee announced $12 million in fresh funding led by previous backers Toba Capital, Holtzbrinck Ventures and 42CAP, a press release said this week. The Series A funding will be used to further its market presence in the U.S. and Europe, as well as to further innovate on its artificial intelligence-powered applications, which provide visibility and insight for corporate customers looking to procure goods from B2B vendors.


Based in Ireland, Immedis provides payroll and tax services to multinational corporations. Investors at Scottish Equity Partners led a $28.2 million funding round for the company, it announced this week, which will be used to promote international expansion, grow its team by more than 200 and accelerate product research and development. Immedis operates iConnect, a global payroll solution that uses artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to address key points of friction in cross-border employee compensation.


Factoring may have a negative connotation with some companies, but for investors of France’s Finexkap, the opportunities in invoice financing technology show promise. Reports in Crowdfund Insider this week said Finexcap announced $44 million in funding this week led by Chenavari Investment Managers. The company plans to use the investment to focus on further growth of its factoring platform and to expand the financing capabilities of its fund managed by Finexkap Asset Management, reports said.


Corporates migrating their systems to the cloud are often faced with technological challenges, a point of friction that California-based SignalFx aims to address with its technology that enables real-time cloud monitoring and troubleshooting services for enterprise apps using data analytics. The company announced this week $75 million in equity funding led by Tiger Global Management, while existing backers also participated in the Series E round. SignalFx plans to use the funding to accelerate product development and propel global expansion.


Commercial card startup Brex confirmed what previous reports detailed only weeks ago: The company raised $100 million in venture funding, landing the firm a $2.6 billion valuation only two years after its launch. Just months ago, the company raised $125 million. This time, investors at Kleiner Perkins Digital Growth Fund led the round. All existing backers, including Y Combinator Continuity, Ribbit Capital, DST Global, Greenoaks Capital and IVP also participated. Brex plans to use the funding to expand its feature set in the corporate payments and expense management space, with an eye on stepping into new verticals as well.


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With an estimated 64 million connected cars on the road by year’s end, QSRs are scrambling to win consumer drive-time dollars via in-dash ordering capabilities, while automakers like Tesla are developing new retail-centric charging stations. The PYMNTS Commerce Connected Playbook explores how the connected car is putting $230 billion worth of connected car spend into overdrive.

Patisserie Valerie Ex-Chairman Claims No Knowledge Of Fraud

The former chairman of U.K. café chain Patisserie Valerie said he had no idea of any fraud occurring within the business, distancing himself from the ongoing financial scandal that has pushed the company into administration.

The Financial Times reported on Sunday (June 9) that former Chairman Luke Johnson published a column in the Sunday Times describing his personal struggles as the fraud saga unfolded, saying he developed “chronic insomnia” following revelations of accounting regularities that emerged last October. Johnson lent the chain about $12.7 million to keep it afloat.

Earlier this year, the company acknowledged “extensive” financial misstatements and “very significant manipulation of the balance sheet and profit and loss accounts,” reports recounted.

“I know I was not dishonest,” Johnson wrote in the column. “I was unaware of fraud.”

But the report noted that as chairman, Johnson holds at least part of the responsibility for any errors and fraud in the company finances, and that his remarks could further highlight the lack of internal controls and governance that may have prevented such a scenario.

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office is now investigating the company. A previous probe by auditor PwC uncovered more than $50 million in suspected fraud, involving fake invoices from a vendor enlisted to help propel the scam, reports said. Two unnamed sources told the publication that Johnson was not implicated in that fraud.

Previous reports in the Financial Times quoted one unnamed source that said there is no evidence that the fraud resulted in personal gain for anyone involved, though one added that “They were just making it sound like a better business than it was. People get caught up in a lie. They got deeper and deeper into it.” The investigation found Patisserie Valerie would issue checks ahead of year-end reporting to artificially inflate the company’s cash position.

More than 70 locations of the chain have closed since revelations of the fraud emerged.


Latest Insights: 

Fraud poses a severe threat to FIs and the trust their customers place in them. While AI, with its ability to find patterns in real-world scenarios (and in real time), is uniquely suited to address these risks, only 12.5 percent of FIs’ fraud departments are actually using it. In the June 2019 AI Innovation Playbook, PYMNTS surveys 200 FI decision-makers to examine the promise of this powerful fraud-fighting tool, and its adoption barriers.

Fintech Alliance Closes Partnership with Delio to Power Funding for Startups Directly Through its Platform

Fintech Alliance, a digital platform launching on 10th June to unite both the UK and the global financial technology sector, has announced a partnership with Welsh startup Delio, a private asset investment infrastructure as a service company, to power its funding feature. The deal will enable startups within the alliance’s community to access important routes to funding directly through the organisation’s website.

Fintech Alliance was announced in late April by the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT), to bring together the strengths of the UK’s Fintech ecosystem in one destination. The platform officially launches on 10th June and is built on providing opportunity and education to those working in the Fintech sector.

One of the core missions of the Fintech Alliance is to enable the FinTech ecosystem to continue to grow across the UK. Funding plays a key role in this, and the partnership with Delio will enable the platform’s community to connect with investors and capital directly.

For both Fintechs looking for funding and for high net-worth investors looking for funding opportunities the process of using the platform is straightforward. Once registered, companies can post a project they seek to be funded, including details and relevant documents. When the project is approved, they are able to track investor engagement via a dashboard and interact directly with investors that are interested. The investment portal gives investors a truly end-to-end solution, from distribution to execution all the way through to portfolio reporting. Delio already provides its technology to companies like ING and Barclays.

One of the core missions of the Fintech Alliance is to enable the FinTech ecosystem to continue to grow across the UK.

Alastair Lukies CBE, Member of the Prime Ministers Business Council and Chair of FinTech Alliance, said: “The Alliance is here for the whole of the UK so we are thrilled to have such a prominent Welsh Fintech, Delio, on board, helping us build a crucial functionality into our platform.”

Gareth Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO, Delio, added: “At Delio, we already work with a wide range of firms to provide effective digital private market solutions. Given the importance of the UK Fintech sector, we are really excited now to provide the Fintech Alliance with our platform. Using it will help companies and investors match the best funding opportunities and, in turn, power the continued growth of UK Fintech.”

Individuals or a company can build a profile on the Fintech Alliance, where users will be able to access and share a wealth of insight and news across the platform, connect with investors, receive updates on the latest policy and regulatory changes, and find the talent they need in order to scale.

Individuals can register for free and businesses have to pay a monthly subscription or annual fee for a presence on the Fintech Alliance’s platform. The profits made by the organisation will be used to drive further initiatives and support pre-existing organisations in the UK Fintech community.

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New Fears Over China’s Regional Banks As EY Quits

China’s community banks are raising new fears over the health of the industry after auditor Ernst & Young resigned from its work with regional bank Bank of Jinzhou.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday (June 3) that EY submitted its resignation letter to the bank after the institution did not provide sufficient documentation over certain loans under review by EY. Reports noted that EY found evidence that proceeds from the loans may not have been used for their stated purpose, and according to a filing from the bank, Bank of Jinzhou could not reach an agreement with EY to resolve the issue.

Reports said the decision for EY to quit is the latest event to raise concerns over China’s community banking sector.

Last month, the government took control of a struggling regional bank, Baoshang Bank, marking the first such event in more than two decades. The publication said the takeover resulted in higher interbank lending rates on mainland China last week.

In the last year, small and mid-sized banks in China have seen increases in nonperforming loan ratios, the result of government rules to classify loans more than 90 days past due as nonperforming.

For Bank of Jinzhou, that means $1.2 billion of loans at risk of default, worth 3.3 percent of its loan portfolio — a significant increase from early 2018, reports said.

Despite concerns, the People’s Bank of China said the takeover of Baoshang Bank was an “isolated incident,” reports said. The central bank urged investors and the public to look at the case “objectively and calmly.”

“Everyone, please don’t worry,” the central bank reportedly said at the time. “At present we don’t yet have this plan” to introduce revised policy that could make government takeovers of struggling banks more common.

As some fears increase over China’s community banking space, the government is allowing more foreign entities to obtain banking licenses, while the central bank is also planning to strengthen regulation over FinTechs.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. TheMay 2019 Payments And The Platform Economy Playbook, aims to help platform payments decision-makers identify and manage the risks and rewards inherent in optimizing their operations and navigating real-time challenges.

Paytm Eyes Insurance Marketplace Coverfox

Paytm, the Indian payments company backed by SoftBank, is reportedly in late-stage discussions to buy Coverfox, the Indian insurance marketplace.

According to a report in the Economic Times, Paytm is in talks to pay $100 million to $120 million in what will be an all-cash deal. The report cited two people aware of the matter for the information. It would mark the biggest acquisition for the Indian digital payments company that has emerged as a leader ever since India’s government took high-denominated currency out of the system and shifted to digital payments. With the resulting cash crunch, Paytm became a household name. The company counts Alibaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant, as a backer as well.

The fact that SoftBank’s Vision Fund is an investor in PolicyBazaar, another insurance marketplace, could raise issues with an acquisition deal closing, sources reportedly said. One source told the paper the Paytm board is finalizing the details of the deal. There’s a chance it could still fall apart.

To date, the news outlet said, Coverfox raised $40 million in venture funding from investors including SAIF Partners, Accel Partners, Catamaran Ventures and International Finance Corp. If a deal is reached, the paper noted, these investors are expected to receive an exit.

News of a potential deal to acquire Coverfox comes as the company is looking to expand in India. Earlier this month it announced it partnered with Citigroup to launch a credit card in the country. The Paytm First Card will give Indian consumers 1 percent cash back on all transactions. For Paytm, the new card is aimed at helping it stand out from the crowd of digital payment rivals that seems to be growing every day. In an interview with Reuters, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm parent One97 Communications, said the company is completing its offering by launching the credit card with Citibank. “We understood that there is a set of the customer base or customer needs that get fulfilled when you have a credit card or card in the hand,” the executive said.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. TheMay 2019 Payments And The Platform Economy Playbook, aims to help platform payments decision-makers identify and manage the risks and rewards inherent in optimizing their operations and navigating real-time challenges.

TransferMate Gets Payment License In Singapore; Shanghai Commercial Bank Teams With EMQ

Welcome to The Axis, your late look at payments news from around the world. Coverage includes TransferMate’s approval for a payments license in Singapore, Chinese bank Shanghai Commercial Bank (SCB) working with the EMQ to support cross-border money transfers, Woori Bank and Wing Limited Special Bank reportedly inking a memorandum of understanding for money transfers between Cambodia and South Korea, and Safaricom rolling out a bus ticketing product with the help of BuuPass Limited.

Business-to-business (B2B) payment cross-border payment provider TransferMate has earned a payments license in Singapore, according to reports. The move marks the company’s first regulatory approval in Asia and will reportedly offer “inroads into the region’s high-growth markets” to the company’s client base. As it stands, the company has license approval in 49 U.S. states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico in addition to Canada, New Zealand and Australia, among other places. TransferMate co-founder and CFO Sinead Fitzmaurice said, according to reports, “Gaining regulatory approval in Singapore marks a significant step for our business and provides a major boost for customers doing business in and out of Asia.”

In Hong Kong, Chinese bank Shanghai Commercial Bank (SCB) is working with the EMQ to support cross-border money transfers, according to reports. Through the tie-up, the SCB payment platform would integrate with the network of EMQ to reportedly offer cost-effective as well as secure cross-border solutions. The news comes as the bank created the Shacom Pay mobile app for low-value instant transactions. SCB managing director and CEO David Kwok said, according to reports, “We are delighted to partner with EMQ as a part of our digital banking strategy to offer customers a fast, convenient and secure money transfer service through our banking network and mobile app.”

In other payment news from Asia, Woori Bank and Wing Limited Special Bank have reportedly inked a memorandum of understanding for money transfers in real-time between South Korea and Cambodia, The Khmer Times reported. The service could roll out in the middle of 2019, per a statement cited by the report.  As it stands, an estimated 40,000 immigrants from Cambodia live in South Korea, and the firms reportedly forecast that figure to still grow in the years to come. Users will reportedly be able to transfer money via automated machines, a banking application or a bank branch when the service becomes available.

On another note, Safaricom rolled out a bus ticketing product with the help of BuuPass Limited, The Star reported. To access the service, customers can a use website or a phone number. At the same time, it was reported that payments are taken via M-PESA. Users can choose a bus operator along with specific seat numbers and preferred times of travel through the platform. Tickets are then printed at the bus station after a confirmation SMS is shown. Safaricom Chief Enterprise Business Officer Rita Okuthe said, according to the report, “This partnership with BuuPass seeks to extend the convenience of M-PESA by empowering our customers to book a bus ticket wherever they may be and at their luxury.”


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. TheMay 2019 Payments And The Platform Economy Playbook, aims to help platform payments decision-makers identify and manage the risks and rewards inherent in optimizing their operations and navigating real-time challenges.

Global Payments acquires TSYS for $21.5b

The consolidation wave among payments companies got a major boost today with Global Payments’ acquisition of Total Payments Systems (TSYS) for $21.5 billion in stock. It’s the third major payments M&A deal this year, following FIS’ acquisition of Worldpay for $35 billion in March and Fiserv‘s move to buy First Data in January for $22 billion.

Global Payments offers payments technology and software solutions for its clients, while TSYS focuses on payment processing, issuing and merchant services. The combined capabilities, operating under the Global Payments name, will offer integrated payments and software services to 3.5 million mostly small to medium-sized merchants and 1,300 financial institutions across more than 100 countries.

“This transformative partnership accelerates our technology-enabled, software-driven payments strategy and provides exposure into attractive and complementary businesses, while enhancing our financial strength and flexibility,” Global Payments CEO Jeff Sloan said in a statement.

Industry analysts told Bank Innovation the acquisition will let the combined entity scale more quickly and grow its global presence, while staking out a competitive position against other large payments players.

“Traditional merchant and bank card processors need greater scale,” said Brendan Miller, former principal payments analyst at Forrester Reasearch and global product marketing lead at Rapyd. “Margins are compressing and, when margins compress, more scale is required.”

According to Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group, the merger will contribute to the growing globalization of payments platforms. “They need to have a global presence if they want to stay competitive with the big guys,” he added.

Mergers of legacy tech companies, however, sometimes have proven to be challenging to implement. For example, a recent report from consulting firm The Strawhecker Group claimed that the integration of First Data and Fiserv could take up to a decade.

Still, Moshe Katri, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, is optimistic on Global Payments’ prospects due to elements the two businesses have in common, notably payments technology and service arms. “If you compare this transaction to the other two [recent payments acquisitions] that are pending, this one has the most overlap in terms of merchant processing capability,” he said. “From my perspective, that will provide for significant cost synergies.” 

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Internet Of Things, A Thing Gone Global

Digital assistants. Smart fridges and thermostats. Security devices, too. The Internet of Things (IoT) has gone global, an ever-expanding ecosystem that touches consumers in every facet of their daily lives. The latest Intelligence of Things Tracker shows some pretty big numbers in terms of the billions of devices already out in the field, and the billions of dollars already being spent on those devices … and it seems like things are just getting started.


$2 trillion: Estimated dollar amount spent on IoT endpoints in 2018.

14 billion: Number of IoT devices expected to be in use by the end of 2019.

30 billion: Number of IoT devices expected to be in use by the end of 2020.

127: New IoT devices connecting to the internet every second.

375,000: Number of IoT devices in use in Ireland.

Target Seeks To Purchase Digital Ad Firm

Target is reportedly in discussions with Triad Retail Media, the retail advertiser owned by WPP PLC, to acquire it.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported the deal is aimed at increasing Target’s digital advertising efforts.  Triad’s main business is selling advertising space on the websites of retailers and helping brands create digital advertising campaigns. The Wall Street Journal reported that talks are in the early stage and could break down. WPP had purchased Triad for about $300 million in 2016 from Rockbridge Growth Equity, the private equity firm.

Target and Walmart are trying to take a page from Amazon, which has morphed into a huge seller of ad space and is now the third largest online seller of ad space in the U.S. It is now only behind Google and Facebook. Citing eMarketer, the paper said Amazon’s ad business is expected to generate $11.3 billion this year.

Target has been trying to crack into the market and held an event at NewsFront, the yearly show in which online publishers usually pitch their offerings to ad buyers. In May Target rebranded its ad buying business — Target Media Network — as Roundel, which offers ads on Target, Pinterest and PopSugar among other digital properties. The Wall Street Journal noted that close to 1,000 marketers, including those from Walt Disney, Mastercard and Unilever, have run ads on Target.

With the purchase of Triad, it will be able to expand those ad-selling efforts.  Walmart is also boosting its efforts on that front. According to The Wall Street Journal, Walmart announced plans to bring digital advertising in-house after ending its relationship with Triad. It is also tapping user data to sell its products across different digital platforms and is reportedly hosting an event in May to lure marketers to its websites.

The potential sale of Triad comes as WPP is in restructuring mode under its chief executive officer Mark Read as the advertising giant looks to make its businesses simpler. In late 2018 it announced plans to sell a majority stake in Kantar Group, a market research firm, and combined several of its agencies.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

BuyerQuest Accelerates Accounts Receivable For B2B Suppliers

Procure-to-pay solutions provider BuyerQuest is strengthening its role on the supplier-side of B2B transactions with a new tool designed to accelerate accounts receivable.

In a press release issued Thursday (May 23), BuyerQuest announced the launch of its “Speed to Payment” solution, a way for vendors to more easily and quickly generate and send invoices that support artificial intelligence (AI)-matching functionality within the platform. Those invoices can be received by their clients using the BuyerQuest platform to accelerate invoice processing, matching, approval and, ultimately, payment.

Vendors can access a “one-click invoice creation” solution that generates invoices within a purchase order email. It adds to the range of methods that vendors can create invoices on the BuyerQuest platform, including paper, PDF and eInvoice.

The feature benefits both buyer and supplier, the company noted, as accounts receivable and accounts payable teams look to focus their efforts on more strategic initiatives within the enterprise.

“With this latest release, our clients’ accounts payables teams are seeing a transition from activities surrounding invoice ingestion to focusing their efforts on more strategic activities, such as taking advantage of supply chain financing,” said BuyerQuest Vice President of Product Kyle Muskoff in a statement. “Suppliers are also seeing improvements by being able to submit their invoices with greater ease and efficiency, and accessing the benefits of early payment.”

The solution connects into BuyerQuest’s other services for corporate buyers, including the AP Dashboard, which provides visibility for businesses to view invoice status as is progresses, current supplier liabilities and accruals.

BuyerQuest recently announced a partnership with Tradeshift, a tie-up that sees BuyerQuest joining the Tradeshift App platform, allowing users of Tradeshift Pay to use BuyerQuest’s eProcurement solution without toggling between the two separate platforms.

The firm also struck a similar partnership with ConnXus in 2017, an API integration that integrates BuyerQuest technology into ConnXus’s supplier management software.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

Dems Want Bank Execs To Testify Before Congress Each Year

Democrats would like to see bank executives get grilled by Congress on an annual basis.

After Wall Street leaders spent hours answering lawmakers’ questions at a hearing by the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services last month, Maxine Waters surprised them when she revealed plans to bring them all back again next year. Now, a draft legislation that would make that annual meeting mandatory for banks’ CEOs has been added to the agenda for a hearing before the committee.

The legislation has not been formally introduced, and, according to Bloomberg, it will most likely have a difficult time passing through the Republican-controlled Senate. In the meantime, Waters is planning another hearing for regional bank executives.

Last month, the top executives of seven of the biggest banks in the U.S. were grilled at the hearing, titled “Holding Megabanks Accountable: A Review of Global, Systemically Important Banks 10 years after the Financial Crisis.” The full roster included JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, BNY Mellon’s Charles Scharf, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon, Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman, Citigroup’s Michael Corbat and State Street Corporation’s Ronald O’Hanley.

The topics of discussion included everything from the state of the financial system to guns, and from cryptos to executive compensation. Some lawmakers defended the actions of the banks and executives, pointing to job creation, for example, while others criticized pay gaps that represented chasms between what the CEOs and more junior employees made in terms of take-home pay. By the end of the questioning, even Representative Patrick McHenry, the panel’s top Republican, admitted that the meeting had substance.

Waters, the committee’s chairwoman, has already seen many banks implement the changes she’s been calling for in advance, including Bank of America raising its minimum wage and Goldman Sachs setting minority hiring goals.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The 2019 Where Will We Bank Next? Survey, a PYMNTS and Green Dot collaboration, surveyed more than 2,500 American consumers about their relationships with their banks and those with their favorite retailers to determine whether — and why — they would consider banking with non-FIs. Our analysis examines in finer detail why they trust certain FIs and what would motivate them to adopt financial services offered by their favorite merchants.

Ex-Goldman Banker Extradited To US On 1MDB Charges

A former Goldman Sachs banker in Malaysia has been extradited to the U.S. to face charges stemming from the scandal at the 1MDB state fund.

According to a report in Reuters, Malaysia’s Attorney General Roger Ng, who has been in custody since November 1, 2018, has been sent to the U.S. for a period of 10 months. Under the agreement with the U.S., the case against Ng has to proceed quickly so he can face charges in his home country.

Ng had agreed to be sent to the U.S., but the extradition was delayed because Malaysia’s government argued he should first face criminal charges in Malaysia. After talks between the two countries, it was agreed that Ng would be sent to the U.S. for that time frame. He was sent on May 3 and will return to Malaysia to face charges once the case in the U.S. is over, noted the report. The two countries can agree to extend the temporary period if needed.

In the U.S., Ng is facing charges of conspiracy to launder 1MDB money, as well as violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In Malaysia, he is charged with four counts of abetting Goldman Sachs in providing misleading statements to potential investors of 1MDB bonds. Tim Leissner, another ex-Goldman Sachs official, and Malaysian Financier Low Taek Jho were hit with U.S. charges over the scandal. Reuters noted that Leissner pled guilty.

Goldman Sachs is the focal point of the 1MDB scandal, in which $6.5 billion was raised via three bond sales. Of that money, the Department of Justice has estimated that $4.5 billion was misappropriated by 1MDB fund heads from 2009 to 2014. Goldman Sachs, which helped to raise money for some of the funds, has denied any wrongdoing, arguing that it was lied to by members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB about how the proceeds from the offerings would be used. Malaysia wants Goldman Sachs to pay as much as $7.5 billion in reparation, the report noted.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The April 2019 Smarter Payments Report, is the go-to resource for staying up to date on the development of a new global payments landscape, in which transmission of the data is as valuable as transmission of the currency it accompanies. The report explores how the smooth flow of payments data can improve existing payment ecosystems, including enabling improved speed, security and insights.