Technavio sees demand for OTT content driving direct carrier billing

Technavio sees demand for OTT content driving direct carrier billing

Technavio issued a forecast claiming the direct carrier billing market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.6% between now and 2023 to $20.1 billion, amid rising demand for OTT content and the high use of mobile phones and slow credit card penetration in the developing world. 

The report cited the high rate of mobile phone ownership in the Middle East and Africa, which has led to increased need for digital content. Direct carrier billing allows subscription purchases that are paid directly through the mobile carrier, as many consumers in these markets do not have credit cards, according to Technavio. 

The report also shows direct carrier billing growing at 14% in the U.S. between now and 2023 to a total of $1.82 billion. 

Cover image courtesy of Technavio.

Topics: Direct Carrier Billing, Mobile Payments

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Enterpay raises $1.1M for international expnsion, enters deal with German bank

Enterpay, a Helsinki-based fintech, said it raised $1.1 million (one million euros) to expand is automated invoicing technology internationally, and entered an agreement with German bank Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken. 

Enterpay said the agreement specifically involves automating invoices for the B2B ecommerce market with Volksbanken unit VR Payment, a specialist in cashless payments for the German market. 

“Enterpay is at the core of the exponentially growing B2B segment, and the partnership solidifies our potential,” Jarkko Anttiroiko, CEO at Enterpay, said in a company release. “We are excited to bring our solution to the German merchants and make life easier for every stakeholder in the value chain.”

Enterpay already has been working with Collector Bank and Arvato in Finland. The company did not disclose the names of the specific funders, but said the investment came from national as well as Nordic investors. 

Topics: Mobile Banking, Region: EMEA, Technology Providers

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Pendleton Community Bank Signs Teslar Software for Automation

West Virginia-based Pendleton Community Bank has selected 3E Software’s portfolio management system Teslar to improve efficiency and incorporate automation into its internal operations, focusing on the commercial lending process, reports Alex Hamilton of Fintech Futures, Finovate’s sister publication.

With nine bank branches across West Virginia, Pendleton Community Bank needed to support a 30% growth in asset size spawned by a recently completed merger with Bank of Mount Hope.

“We first watched a Teslar demo at an industry event, and we were immediately impressed with the platform’s sophisticated capabilities and ability to solve for common pain points,” said Bill Loving, CEO of Pendleton Community Bank.

“By partnering with Teslar, we will be able to automate document tracking, exceptions, and many other previously time consuming and inefficient aspects of the commercial lending process.”

According to Teslar, the bank’s time on “tedious manual tasks” will now be minimized, and employee resources will be free to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Joe Ehrhardt, CEO and founder of Teslar, added, “Savvy community institutions like Pendleton Community Bank are realizing that they must employ technology to enhance efficiencies if they want to scale and compete with the large national institutions.”

Teslar offers a lending and credit management SaaS solution that offers banks a holistic tool for managing credit and lending operations. At FinovateSpring 2015, Ehrhardt demoed how Teslar serves as a one-stop shop for lenders. And investors are taking notice. Earlier this year Teslar received a $2 million investment led by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).

IBM launches blockchain supply chain suite

IBM Corp. recently announced a supply chain suite called IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite, which is embedded with Watson AI and IBM Blockchain. Businesses can use this suite to integrate supply chain processes, data and business networks while taking advantage of technology such as internet of things and blockchain, according to a press release.

The suite offers real-time alerts and recommendations, which can also be automated for self-correcting actions on the supply chain. Customers can also integrate third party data into the suite.

“Supply chains are now mission-critical systems for all businesses to drive success and profitability,” Bob Lord, SVP, cognitive applications and developer ecosystems, IBM, said in the release. “Many organizations have risen to the top of their industries by building efficient and agile supply chains. By modernizing supply chains on top of open, hybrid-cloud platforms and infusing Watson AI, IBM Blockchain and IoT into their networks, the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite can help companies across all industries enter a new era of global competitiveness.”

IBM has already secured multiple clients for Sterling including Home Depot Whirlpool Corp. and Adidas.

Topics: Blockchain

Companies: IBM Corporation

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The Final Countdown: 2 Months to Go Until SMCR

By Juan Diego Martin, COO, Fonetic

As the industry’s attention remains on the Halloween Brexit deadline, there’s another frightening date which has been flying under the radar.

On the 9th December, the last major aspect of the SMCR falls into place (save for a 12-month transitional period). Given the amount of time banks have had to prepare, one would assume that the SMCR rules are embedded in company culture, but figures suggest otherwise, and banks who fail to prepare risk more than a slap on the wrist. In 2018, there was a 70% rise in FCA lifetime bans compared to 2017. At the same time, the number of FCA investigations into individuals is increasing, as is the number of complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service – suggesting that consumer concerns are far from eradicated.

In 2018, there was a 70% rise in FCA lifetime bans compared to 2017.

It seems that many of the firms theoretically subject to SMCR at this stage are still falling short. And December’s deadline is unlikely to mark a change in focus. As the rules come into full force, we can expect the regulator to double down on any firms dragging their feet with SMCR compliance. It’s no longer only UK senior managers who have to worry about personal accountability. Since the SMCR was announced, the world has started paying attention. Several jurisdictions outside of the UK have used this as an opportunity to examine their own actions, and are starting to realise the importance of holding senior managers accountable for regulatory breaches by anyone under their command.

As a result, we’re seeing ‘copycat’ SMCR regulations spring up globally, from the proposed regulation BI in the US, focusing on protecting client best interest, to Manager in Charge in Hong Kong and Australia’s Banking Executive Accountability Regime. With such extreme consequences at stake, boardroom executives are at significant risk if they fail to take action. 

The key is having the correct systems in place to allow senior managers to trace, monitor and audit their employee’s activities and actions.

Regardless of geographic location, there are some relatively straightforward steps managers can take to ensure they have nothing to fear when the regulator comes knocking. The key is having the correct systems in place to allow senior managers to trace, monitor and audit their employee’s activities and actions, giving them a means to prove active control and supervision of employees. As the regulators gear up to decide who to trick and who to treat, senior managers who can get this right not only avoid compliance headaches, but can also contribute to making the markets a safer and fairer place to operate.

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The Role of Behavioural Biometrics in Driving Down Financial Fraud

By Sam Bakken, Senior Product Marketing Manager at OneSpan

Whether for checking their balance, making payments or transferring money between accounts, the consumer demand for mobile banking is showing no signs of slowing. Indeed, today’s consumers now expect their banks to provide a seamless mobile banking experience and will happily switch banks in search for the best service.

Sam Bakken

This trend is shown by the fact that nearly half of UK adults used mobile banking in 2018 and it is predicted that the popularity of mobile banking will overtake high street bank branches by 2021.

However, banks are facing some significant challenges when it comes to securing their mobile applications. For example, the number of mobile malware attacks nearly doubled in 2018 – from 66.4 million in 2017 to 116.5 million – while mobile account takeovers increased by 79%. As a result, financial institutions are struggling to protect their mobile banking apps and their customers’ sensitive data.

At the same time, fraud losses are mounting. Fraud cost the British banking industry approximately £1.2 billion in 2018, with unauthorised financial fraud losses across payments cards, remote banking and cheques totalling nearly £850 million.

Although banks and financial institutions have tried to counter these threats through the implementation of biometric technology, today’s security landscape highlights a clear need to boost authentication processes. So, what’s the next step for banks to take in the fight against fraud?

the number of mobile malware attacks nearly doubled in 2018 – from 66.4 million in 2017 to 116.5 million

Behavioural biometrics

It’s well known that ‘active’ biometric authentication methods such as fingerprint scanning and facial recognition have quickly become commonplace in recent years as mobile banking has increased in prominence. They have largely been effective in boosting security and are now seen as essential authentication elements.

However, the rise of mobile has also prompted fraudsters to target the mobile channel more aggressively and develop more sophisticated methods of exploiting users. This, in turn, has presented a need for a context-aware approach to authentication that doesn’t impact the customer experience – i.e. the technology should remain invisible to the user.

This is where behavioural biometrics comes into play. Behavioural biometrics takes authentication to the next level by capturing data points that provide insights into how the user naturally interacts with their device. It then generates a score assessing how well the data matches the user’s historical behaviour, or the behaviour of a representative peer group.

Behavioural biometrics takes authentication to the next level by capturing data points that provide insights into how the user naturally interacts with their device.

Instead of only relying on information from the moment of authentication, it continuously works in the background and analyses behavioural data – including metrics such as the angle at which the user holds their phone, swipe patterns and keystroke dynamics – to continuously verify the user’s identity. This provides persistent and transparent authentication throughout the banking session, ensuring that only a legitimate user is able to execute a transaction.

What’s more, the non-intrusive nature of behavioural biometrics doesn’t impact the user experience. As opposed to active authentication methods, the behind-the-scenes approach does not require any additional actions from the user, which improves the banking experience. This is all prompting many financial institutions to turn to the technology in order to reduce friction in their authentication processes and, most importantly, strengthen their ability to detect fraud attacks. 

Ensuring effective integration

Although behavioural biometrics offers several security benefits, there are still some key considerations for banks and financial institutions to keep in mind when incorporating the technology into their authentication mix.

For example, behavioural biometrics is just one option to authenticate users and should be implemented as an additional, invisible layer in the authentication journey. Rather than functioning in isolation, it should be used together with a risk analytics engine and a mobile security solution to establish trust with the mobile device and create an additional layer of protection.

it’s quickly becoming clear that behavioural biometrics is the next frontier in the fight against financial fraud.

This enables the data collected from behavioural biometrics to be leveraged in a broader fraud analysis context, supplemented by other authentication processes such as push messages, biometric parameters and geolocation data. Banks will then be able to more accurately detect anomalies (e.g. a sudden change in typing pattern) as soon as they appear during a banking session.

It’s also important to keep specific use cases in mind. Not only should banks define various low and high-risk use cases and adjust the required scores for the level of risk involved, they should also decide which behavioural actions need to be measured for their use case.

Finally, banks have to remember that no single authentication method is a silver bullet. While the possibility of false positives and negatives can’t be completely eliminated with behavioural biometrics, they do play a significant role in reducing them as they ensure user actions – such as entering a one-time password or authentication via facial recognition – are only required when absolutely necessary. 

Ultimately, behavioural biometrics offers banks and financial institutions an excellent opportunity to enrich their authentication processes and help deter account takeover, while at the same time ensuring a positive banking experience for legitimate users.

While the fact that traditional biometrics like fingerprints and facial recognition have become commonplace is hugely positive for the industry, it’s quickly becoming clear that behavioural biometrics is the next frontier in the fight against financial fraud.

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Digital Tokens: The Building Blocks of Tomorrow’s Financial Markets

By Todd McDonald, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at R3

The financial services industry has experienced its fair share of hype when it comes to blockchain. But as the technology has matured, one particular byproduct has proven itself worthy of the hyperbole for its ability to reshape the way financial markets are organised and operated: the digital token.

Todd McDonald

Unfortunately the initial coin offering (ICO) frenzy of 2017 got tokens off to a shaky start, giving birth to practices and players that created justified caution among regulators and institutions. But, testament to their potential, there remained a widespread recognition that digital tokens could be impactful in an enterprise context. 

In the same way the telecoms bubble of the 1990s laid the fiber beneath the ground for a new generation of interconnected technologies, one positive legacy of the ICO boom is that it built the initial foundations for the creation of a new global capital market, powered by digital tokens.

As a result, 2018 was marked by an increased focus on security tokens, that is, financial securities recorded digitally as tokens. These securities, when recorded on purpose-built enterprise blockchain platforms, offer the promise of a new, lower friction method of asset and capital formation, as well as the more efficient management of these assets during their lifetime.

These ‘enterprise-ready tokens,’ if developed appropriately, can automate or simplify much of the asset origination, issuance, execution, secondary trading and lifecycle processes that currently make up so much of investment banking fees.

Today, as more enterprise tokens emerge, their common attributes are becoming clear – the token needs to be unique while still representing a claim to real-world cash flows or obligations, rather than just being a vehicle for speculative trading or get-rich-quick schemes. In addition, the legal and regulatory construct has to be from a solid foundation, with a clear integration with existing laws and structures, such as the role of a custodian, settlement finality and adherence to securities law.

An early example of this interplay between new technology and established institutions was R3’s collaboration with Bank of Canada, Payments Canada and others in 2016. In this example Bank of Canada issued a digital token called CAD-COIN that represented Canadian dollars held in a collateral account. 

the token needs to be unique while still representing a claim to real-world cash flows or obligations, rather than just being a vehicle for speculative trading or get-rich-quick schemes.

Fast forward to today and the digital asset landscape has matured significantly. The appeal and benefits of raising capital by issuing debt and equity in a blockchain-enabled marketplace has struck a chord throughout the financial services world. Momentum is now building among some of the biggest names in finance. New token-based projects by major institutional players are unveiled almost weekly, such as Wells Fargo’s recent announcement of a US dollar-linked stablecoin that will run on its first blockchain platform.

These properly regulated tokens are fit for real businesses and sovereign entities, and they are on the cusp of becoming a reality in financial markets. This momentum is being fueled by innovation in areas such as custody, settlement and post-trade processing – which remain critical functions in regulated financial markets.  Providers are developing an ecosystem of services that replicate these functions efficiently for digital assets traded in a blockchain environment. 

Ultimately these developments promise to drive major improvements in user experience of both issuers and investors, as well as increased efficiency and cost-reduction. End-to-end trading solutions are being built which combine trading, settlement and custody services into one seamless experience.

The applicability of digital exchanges is broad and extends beyond traditional securities such as bonds and equities to a whole new universe of assets.

Another specific area of innovation is in financial exchanges. Leading Swiss stock exchange SIX recently stated they expected digital exchanges on blockchain platforms would completely replace traditional ones within ten years. SIX is building its own digital exchange, SDX (SIX Digital Exchange), that will be completely overseen and regulated by the Swiss government and FINMA, the securities regulator. SDX will facilitate trading in traditional stocks, bonds and exchange-traded funds while also introducing new types of digital assets, starting with tokens that represent equity in the exchange itself.

The applicability of digital exchanges is broad and extends beyond traditional securities such as bonds and equities to a whole new universe of assets. By providing a digital marketplace that directly connects issuers with investors and enables secondary market trading, the scope for boosting liquidity in a range of markets – many of which may not have even been conceptualised yet – is huge. 

Digital tokens can also act as a catalyst to integrate existing payments network into the new blockchain ecosystem. Payments giant Mastercard is a leader in this field, recently announcing a pilot of a new blockchain-based solution for cross-border payments on R3’s Corda platform. The potential for further token-fueled innovations in this space is huge.

Projects like these are driving an unprecedented period of evolution across capital markets. In five years’ time the financial services landscape is likely to look unrecognisable to its current form, with current assets fully digitised and new types of tokens being traded in markets that don’t even exist today.

Enterprise tokens, with legal underpinnings and support from real-world custodians and asset issuers, will enable 24/7 transactions, settlement with finality and full regulatory compliance, unlocking valuable liquidity and delivering efficiencies for issuers and investors across the globe.

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Cultural Shift Vital for Business Survival in Age of Analytics, Reveals Research

A cultural shift in attitudes to analytics will be essential for businesses to compete in the age of digital transformation, research has revealed. 

A quarter of the 500 professionals surveyed by MHR Analytics said resistance from senior management was preventing their company from adopting analytics, suggesting that many could be left behind as their forward-thinking competitors advance.

A further 23 percent said their company’s traditional reliance on manual spreadsheets was holding them back from taking advantage of widely available technology.

“From better planning and decision making, to smoother operations and automated processes, data analytics fuels business improvements.”

The survey of finance and technology professionals working in large UK organisations was conducted by MHR Analytics and Censuswide to understand the barriers some companies face in progressing their analytics capabilities, and their technological aspirations for the coming decade. 

Internationally acclaimed AI expert Bernard Marr and MHR Analytics have released a guide entitled “Advancing with Analytics: Spreadsheets to AI,” to help break down these barriers.

It includes practical tips and examples from a range of organisations that have managed to move away from error-prone spreadsheets and adopt more sophisticated analytics, and even artificial intelligence (AI).

Marr comments:

Bernard Marr

“For me, the examples in the guide demonstrate how the data maturity journey is about taking manageable steps, rather than huge leaps.

From better planning and decision making, to smoother operations and automated processes, data analytics fuels business improvements. Yet, for the average business, adopting advanced analytics techniques like AI is never going to be an overnight shift.

Adopting more advanced analytics can seem like a mammoth, unachievable task. That’s why I prefer to think of analytics as a journey, with analytics techniques gradually becoming more advanced as you progress further along the road.

A business advances on this journey one stage at a time, gradually meeting more and more business needs through data analytics.”

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Venture Capital in Europe peaks, China falls as investors shun IPOs

KPMG released their pulse report on global venture capital trends for Q3 2019 yesterday. There were some key highlights from the report worth discussing about. The most pleasantly surprising trend is the increase in VC investments in Europe.

Despite Brexit and Germany moving towards a recession, venture and scale up investments in Europe hit a record quarter in Q3 2019. On a global note, Asia has seen sustained slowdown in VC deals, largely dampened by action from China.

Here are my views on where I agree with the report, and where I don’t.

Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on sustainable deep-tech investments

china vc

Image Source

Let us first talk about Asia VC before coming back to Europe.


Over the past few months, I have been closely tracking Venture capital trends in India and China in particular. In Q1 and Q2 2019, India had outperformed China, thanks to a few big deals in India. But most importantly, thanks to a massive fall in VC investments in late stage deals in China.

This trend has continued into Q3 2019 – across the money chain, top-down. Limited Partners (LPs) have become cautious about market conditions and have held back capital commitments to VC/PE funds in China. Liquidity has hence dried up, which results in startups moving towards a profitability mode rather than a growth mode. This was a much needed correction for a long time.

Deal Sizes and Volumes

We often talk about deal sizes and volumes when we discuss Venture capital/private equity performance. Deal size refers to the size of the investments and deal volume refers to the number of investments. Both need to be healthy in an innovation ecosystem. A quick look at the global trend below shows a downward trend in both deal sizes and deal volumes.

VC Global Trend

Globally VC-backed companies raised $55.7 Billion across 4154 deals. A breakdown based on investment stage (Early/Venture/Growth) offers key insights into sustaining and developing trends.

I have written earlier on DailyFintech about the rise of Corporate Venture Capital. Especially in Europe, the role of Corporate VC has been very pronounced. What does that do to these stats? Corporate VCs generally get into deals later in the game. Over the past 36 months or so, the rise of CVCs has increased the median sizes of late stage deals.

The other usual suspects to talk about are late stage VCs like the Softbank fund. A $100 Billion fund can move these stats one way or the other pretty significantly. The trend in late stage deals (increased size), has been amplified due to Softbank’s deployments too.

Late Stage deals

But I would be surprised if these trends are not affected in the medium term due to a couple of reasons. Global economic sentiments are poor, and corporates are holding on to capital more and more. This trend is particularly visible in the US, where Q3 2019 saw CVC investments fall below 7%. I expect this trend to continue.

Coming back to the Softbank fund, the Wework saga that has unfolded in the last few weeks has affected Softbank’s plans for their fund 2. If Fund 2 doesn’t happen or gets delayed, it will have its effect on late stage funding too. We will start seeing fewer deals by these players, and there is a good possibility that these deals will get smaller too.


About $10 Billion invested in Europe startups across 777 deals – These are healthy numbers, with both UK and Germany (considering the political drama) leading the way with big deals across Babylon health and N26. However, the worrying sign for me, is the fall in the number of deals in Europe. Generally a fall in the number of deals is caused by a fall in early stage deals – as early stage deals get closed faster. That is certainly the case with Europe.


The above chart shows a massive dip in Angel and Early stage deals. I believe the health of an innovation ecosystem should be measured more by Angel and Early stage deals than late stage deals. Late stage deals that we have seen in Europe are largely due to investors moving away from IPOs and funnelling capital into the private markets in desperation.

However, the real litmus test is if there was capital flowing into early stage VC. I believe Europe is failing that litmus test, although the implication of that will be evident over the next 24 months or so. As early stage funding dries up, we will start seeing less and less late stage deals too.

I have personally seen two trends based on my work at Green Shores Capital. In the last quarter alone, we have seen atleast four series A funding rounds fold due to LPs pulling capital out of VC funds. This is a worrying sign for Europe.

The other trend is that Family offices have become desperate with allocating capital. I have seen some unusually big and overpriced deals where family offices have deployed capital. This is largely because they have wanted to move away from the IPO market, and have chosen to deploy their capital in desperation into bigger VC tickets.

I have been in deal discussions where I have been shocked at the unfortunate enthusiasm from family offices towards bad deals. I fear, they deploy too much capital into too many bad deals as they sometimes lack the ability to identify top startups to invest into. This trend can’t last.

The short and sweet of it is that, I don’t agree with KPMG’s assessment that the “European Venture Ecosystem is definitely thriving”.  I believe, this quarter results are due to a few successful late stage deals going through, and is more of an anomaly. There is a systematic slow down globally, and the trend is obvious in early stage deals in Europe too.

When the slowdown really hits Europe, it may not be as pronounced as it is in China and Asia. However, I believe the headline of this post could perhaps be, “If China is going down, can Europe be far behind !”.

Upgrade Pack Opens Singapore Office, Appoints New COO

Travel upgrades startup Upgrade Pack announced its expansion into Asia Pacific with the launch of a Singapore office and the appointment of a new regional COO.

Toby Berger, Upgrade Pack’s new APAC COO

Toby Berger (pictured) will serve as Upgrade Pack’s new APAC COO. Berger, who has spent the last decade working in the Asia Pacific region, has served in executive roles in Google and Expedia. He will be responsible for overseeing the rollout of customer rewards and loyalty across the Asia Pacific region.

“Singapore represents the perfect base for our first phase of international expansion,” said Upgrade Pack CEO Craig Unsworth. The city-state has firmly established itself as a global technology and finance leader, and with many of our potential banking and corporate clients here, this new office enables us to demonstrate the value Upgrade Pack delivers as a differentiated customer loyalty and employee benefit offering.”

Upgrade Pack offers a way for banks, credit card companies, or employers to enhance and build loyalty among their clients and employees. The company offers access to discounted upgrades on flight and hotel upgrades that are not available to the general public.

To accomplish this, Upgrade Pack is directly integrated with airlines and hotels to offer exclusive access to purchase unbooked upgrade inventory a discount. During the company’s appearance at FinovateEurope earlier this year, Unsworth demonstrated the process of upgrading to a first class ticket on an upcoming flight for a 30% discount.

Upgrade Pack is available in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland. The company is headquartered in London and has raised $3.61 million (£2.9 million).

Upgrade Pack will demo its technology at FinovateAsia in Singapore next week. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by the Marina Mandarin on October 14 and 15 and check it out. Tickets are still available.

Wirecard sets its sights on global expansion

Wirecard is taking aim at Asia and the Americas. The German financial services provider is advancing these plans through new product offerings, including cashierless checkout technology for retailers, a payments app for U.S. brands and retailers, and efforts to support China UnionPay‘s expansion to new markets. Georg von Waldenfels, executive vice president of group business …Read More

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Wellness platform Branch is now a challenger bank

Against the rising tide of digital-only banks, Minneapolis-based personal finance platform Branch has taken the plunge.

Branch app interface

The four-year-old company offers a suite of personal finance tools, including payday advance, to hourly workers through integrations with employer payroll platforms, which currently include Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Its fee-free checking account is offered in partnership with Evolve Bank & Trust, and the company is considering rolling out other incentives to encourage the use of Branch checking accounts, including increased advance amounts.

CEO Atif Siddiqi told Bank Innovation that underbanked users of Branch’s services finally will be able to put all of their financial needs into one platform. “We saw this as an opportunity to provide [users] with a modern mobile banking experience and, by doing so, we could offer them incentives around other products, like hourly wage access, that we’re pushing out for free,” he said.

Until now, Branch has offered customers the capability to a get instant access to a portion their wages early for a $3.99 fee. Now, customers who choose to bank with Branch can use this service without fees. Reminiscent of other digital-only challenger banks, Branch customers also can access their paychecks two days early and use a network of ATMs without having to pay fees.

See also: Startup Branch wants to build a money services platform for hourly workers

The fee-free, digital-only banking offering is a playbook employed by such startups as Chime, Varo, Revolut, Monzo and others. Other companies that offer employer-based payday advance services and money management tools include Even and Finfit, while Earnin lets users advance a portion of their paychecks without employer integration. Branch generates revenue through subscription fees employers pay to offer its services to employees.

Asked how Branch intends to differentiate, Siddiqi said Branch’s integration with employers and in-app side-hustle marketplace are ways to set itself apart. “One of the big things that differentiates us from others is that relationship with the employer,” he added. “We see employers playing a role in helping employees start their financial journeys.”

Ingenico upgrades payment integration with Alipay, WeChat Pay in China

Ingenico upgrades payment integration with Alipay, WeChat Pay in China

Ingenico Group said it launched a suite of payment methods for international e-commerce firms operating in the Chinese market. 

Ingenico, based in Amsterdam, said that the company is working with Chinese mobile wallet platforms like Alipay, WeChat Pay and UnionPay. 

“Our longtime presence in China means that we are perfectly positioned to partner with merchants wanting to access the truly local consumer market,” Gabriel de Montessus, senior vice president, global online at Ingenico, said in a company release. “Our expertise here, combined with this new set of payment capabilities, will allow international markets to reach Chinese consumers that were previously difficult to access.”

Ingenico said it is one of the first international payments firms integrate with WeChat Official Accounts and Mini-Programs, which allow the 1.1 billion WeChat users to complete purchases in the app without leaving the WeChat environment. 

Ingenico said it offers an upgraded integration with Alipay to offer real-time payments on desktop and mobile. It also supports UnionPay’s SecurePay and ExpressPay.

Cover image courtesy of Ingenico.

Topics: Mobile Apps, Mobile/Digital Wallet, Region: APAC

Companies: WeChat Pay, UnionPay International, Alipay, Ingenico

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HiddenLevers Now Has $500 Billion in Assets on its Platform

Wealthtech company Hidden Levers announced this week it has reached $500 billion in assets on its platform, just in time for its 10th birthday.

“On our tenth anniversary, I’ve never been more proud of our company,” said Raj Udeshi, Founder and chief evangelist. He went on to explain that the company’s success is partly attributed to its focus on solving wealth management pain points. “This dynamic led to breakthroughs with portfolio stress testing and wealth management business intelligence,” Udeshi said, adding, “We call our culture free solo fintech.”

HiddenLevers originally launched in 2010, offering stress testing technology for investment portfolios. Udeshi debuted the technology at FinovateFall 2010 in New York. The company now offers three solutions, investment proposal generation for advisors, business intelligence and risk monitoring for advisory firms, and an asset manager platform for roboadvisory wholesalers.

Last month, Axxcess Wealth Management announced it selected Hidden Levers to power its portfolio management solution for financial advisors. And earlier this year the company teamed up with First Rate to help advisors better manage portfolio risk. HiddenLevers is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and is self-funded.

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OakNorth names ex-Google exec as CEO

On the heels of an international expansion push, digital bank OakNorth‘s platform-as-a-service business has named a new CEO.

Sunil Chandra, who was appointed this week, most recently served as vice president responsible for global talent acquisition at Google. The hire comes at a “critical stage” in the company’s growth journey as it extends its reach to clients in the U.S. and Europe, according to the company. Co-founder Rishi Khosla will remain on OakNorth’s board.

Chandra told Bank Innovation that OakNorth is uniquely positioned for strong growth in its efforts to lend to an expansive market of small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The company, which has a U.K. banking license and lends through its U.K. entity, also licenses its technology platform to banks and lending institutions.

“If you look at the SME market, it’s a massive space,” Chandra said. “There’s credit in the SME market of $7 trillion globally.”

See Also: Aligning with ‘leaders’: OakNorth’s Nooriala on its partnership strategy

Chandra pointed to the diversity of industries from which the OakNorth team is drawn, highlighting some key approaches he learned from big tech. “A lot of those principles are customer centricity, an engineering and product culture and agile [strategies],” he said. “They’re very applicable across industries.”

Under Chandra’s leadership, OakNorth will seek to grow its engineering team, a group that’s doubled over the last three months. “A lot of the thesis at Google was how do you acquire talent, particularly engineering talent, which is incredibly hard to find at scale,” he said. Doubling the size of the engineering team yet again in the coming three months is part of the company’s forward plans, he noted.

Prior to Google, Chandra was chief operating officer at Barclays Capital, director of administration at McKinsey and a consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. OakNorth, which is worth $2.8 billion, has so far has raised $848 million in primary funding since its creation, including $440 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund and the Clermont Group in February.

Branch launches no-fee checking, debit with Evolve Bank and Mastercard

Branch launches no-fee checking, debit with Evolve Bank and Mastercard

Branch, a app-based fintech that offers workers advanced access to their pay, announced a partnership with Evolve Bank & Trust and Mastercard to offer a zero-fee checking account and debit card. 

Branch said the agreement makes it the first early wage fintech to offer customers advanced access to their paychecks at no cost. Users will be able to deposit and receive their funds without any fees and be able to get advanced access to their paychecks through the Branch debit card. 

“We’ve seen that once an hourly employee joins the workforce, their employer is their first entry into the financial system,” Atif Siddiqi, CEO of Branch, said in a company release. “Most traditional financial services actually make it more challenging for hourly workers to balance their finances, whether it’s expensive overdraft fees or minimum balance requirements.”

Branch is working with selected company partners on deployment of the debit card. Customers can apply for the debit card within the app, which is available for download on iOS or Android. 

Cover image courtesy of Branch.

Topics: Mobile Apps, Mobile Banking

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Banks seek ways to create personalized experiences in digital age

Banks are under a lot of pressure these days to go digital and create personalized experiences for customers, but many are still trying to figure out what sort of experience to deliver. And some may be trying a little too hard, according to a few bank execs.

“There are banks spending hundreds of millions of dollars that just are not differentiating themselves all that much from things you can get from a third-party buyers off the shelf,” Shawn O’Brien, consumer banking group executive at Atlantic Union Bank, said on a panel at 2019 Bank Customer Experience Summit in Chicago recently.

Star Trek not the answer

O’Brien believes some banks get carried away in their efforts to appear high tech. As an example, he told the story of one bank branch he visited. Though he didn’t offer the name of the bank, he said the branch design included a comfortable setup with a fireplace in the corner, a couch, newspapers and a concierge desk.

Yet, when you asked the concierge where the teller was, you were pointed to a small room that looked like something out of a 1970s Star Trek episode. You would go in there and pick up a big black phone and speak to a teller who then appeared on large screen. The irony? The teller was only 15-feet away on the other side of that screen.  

“It was like you were in a drive through inside the branch,” O’Brien said, getting a few chuckles from the crowd. The solution wasn’t high tech at all and really didn’t address the needs of the customer. 

Overcoming fear of risk

Chris Ferris, president and CEO at Fidelity Bank, who also sat on the panel, empathized. He said that the shift to digital can be difficult for banks who have a long tradition of doing things a certain way. Fidelity, for instance, was founded in 1909 in North Carolina.

“We are 111-year old institution, so we wanted 100 years of what works best from an operations standpoint,” he said. 

Initially, Ferris said, his bank was sort of blinded to what the community needed and afraid of stepping into the unknown. 

“Breaking down that wall was difficult,” he said. “The message had to come from the top.” 

Ultimately, he said, the bank realized “we are here to service the community, and we can’t do that without keeping up with technology.” 

Ferris believes banks should put technology to use in creating greater efficiencies for customers. People are more productive than they have ever been, working and getting things done at all hours of the day, he said. Likewise, “financial services has to be in the realm of ‘it is convenient for your client.'”

Keeping your ears open

Another panelists, Andrew Winninger, marketing manager at Capital One, agreed. One the top ten largest banks in the U.S. based on holding assets, Capital One is trying to transform the bank branch into a consumer and millennial friendly hangout. Since 2015, it has opened several branch cafes where it offers free “money coaching.”  

Winninger, who supports the Capital One Cafes and their community engagement efforts in South Florida, Richmond and Philadelphia, said the focus of the cafe is tapping into the hearts and minds of the bank’s clients. 

“It really comes down to listening,” he said. “At the end of the day, what are the customers saying?,”

That is where the money coaches come in. They help clients deal with stress.

“However much money you have, people are stressed about it,” Winninger said. “We want to make sure that we are acknowledging that and that our ambassadors are properly equipped to navigate those conversations, and once they find out the cause of stress in that customer’s life, how can we assess that? How can we get them to a better place?”

Capital One Cafes are so tuned into the customer that the branches don’t even have sales goals. 

“There are no sales goals tied to production in the cafe,” Winninger said. “You can walk in the space any given day and take a yoga class or listen to a musician. We look at experience of what people are having in the cafe.” 

Photo: Networld Media Group

Copper is the First Institutional Custodian to Generate Secure Keys for Gram Investors

Copper, the London-based custodian for digital assets, is the first institutional custodian to integrate the Telegram Open Network (TON) key generator. This allows investors that took part in the $1.7 billion fundraise to receive their Gram tokens from Telegram.

This news follows an email sent on Wednesday, 2nd October from Telegram announcing to investors that the Telegram Open Network is planned to be launched in late October.

With Integration complete Copper enables Gram investors to create Gram private and public keys from within the safety of the Copper Unlimited application, the “cold”section of Copper’s digital ecosystem – which its clients already use for safe storage of up to 78 other digital assets. Copper has won multiple awards for its blockchain innovation and custody services.

Copper’s custody application will also support staking, settlement, and trading of Gram tokens.

Copper already has $600m in soft commitments for Gram storage from existing clients who were early investors in Gram fundraising.

Dmitry Tokarev, Founder & CEO of Copper, has commented:

“Telegram’s project has been eagerly anticipated since its impressive and widely-covered fundraise in 2018. Now TON is set to launch in late October, Copper is happy to offer public and private keys to Gram investors looking for additional security for their investment.

Telegram delivering on its fundraising promises is a big step in terms of showcasing maturity and credibility in the blockchain industry – and we are very proud to support it using our institutional-grade digital ecosystem.”

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Techstars cancels partnership with Alchemist after founder's arrest

Techstars, a blockchain accelerator company, has officially ended its partnership with the firm Alchemist due to the arrest of its founder Steven Nerayoff due to an alleged cryptocurrency extortion scam, according to a report by Yahoo Finance.

Nerayoff’s firm was built to help blockchain entrepreneurs succeeded. However, he was arrested last month for allegedly threatening to destroy another startup that issued cryptocurrency tokens as loyalty rewards.

Techstars plans to continue working with other firms and mentors through other accelerator programs, according to the report.

Topics: Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Mobile Payments, Regulatory Issues

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