Capture-as-a-Service Specialist Ephesoft Partners with Malaysia’s Alliance Bank

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Small and medium-sized businesses in Malaysia are the focus of a new partnership between enterprise content capture and data discovery solution provider Ephesoft and Alliance Bank Malaysia Berhad. The pact, announced today, heralds the integration of Ephesoft’s intelligent capture automation technology, Transact, into Alliance Bank’s middle office operations.

Alliance Bank Group CEO Joel Kornreich praised the way Ephesoft’s technology helps it manage the high volume of high-value documents it deals with every day. “Ephesoft is able to meet our requirements and is versatile to scale with us as we continue to transform our business processes to deliver faster, simpler, and more responsive customer experience to our clients,” he said.

Kornreich added that the technology will also enable Alliance Bank to better defend itself and its customers against fraudulent activity. “We also use the information (from customer transactions) to perform financial casting to understand our customers better, and due diligence in assessing customers,” he explained.

Ephesoft Transact enables businesses to accurately and quickly convert unstructured data in documents into actionable information. The technology leverages human-supervised machine learning to examine documents ranging from mortgage applications to insurance claims and to extract required data from them.

Transact improves in efficiency over time, becoming more “intelligent” with every correction, new layout, or new document type. The solution is available as both an on-premise option, running on Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS, and Red Hat servers, as well as via the cloud courtesy of Ephesoft’s Cloud HyperExtender add-in.

“Ephesoft’s machine learning-powered software enables Alliance Bank employees to accelerate tedious processes and use their time to bring value to the organization in strategic ways that provide a competitive advantage,” company founder and CEO Ike Kavas said.

The company’s partnership news comes one month after it announced a collaboration with Thailand-based insurance company, Tokio Marine Asia. The month before, Ephesoft unveiled a pact with automation-driven, IT, BPO, and consulting service provider Hexaware. The company will combine Ephesoft’s intelligent data capture technology with Hexaware’s own robotic process automation-based solutions to enhance a wide variety of business processes.

“Many organizations suffer from having a tremendous amount of untouched, unstructured data that they either don’t use or must manually process,” Kavas said when the Hexaware partnership was announced. “We solve those challenges so that companies can be nimble, efficient, and accurate using modern tactics.”

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Irvine, California, Ephesoft demonstrated its Capture-as-a-Service platform for smart document capture at FinovateSpring 2018. With customers in more than 50 countries, and partnerships with 250+ fintechs, integrators, solution partners, and resellers, the company has raised $15 million in funding from investors including Mercato Partners.

https://finovate.com/capture-as-a-service-specialist-ephesoft-partners-with-malaysias-alliance-bank/

Trust in UK startup banks growing among all age categories, data shows

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/biz-lines/retail/trust-in-uk-startup-banks-growing-among-all-age-categories-data-shows/
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The notion that customers don’t trust non-legacy banking brands is starting to fade, at least in the U.K. A study from consultancy A.T. Kearney released this month entitled “How Convenience, Innovation, and Trust Will Shape Tomorrow’s Banking,” noted that while U.K. customers still overwhelmingly trust incumbent large banks, challengers are slowly gaining ground among all …Read More

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Discover Card adds Alexa skills for account information

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/discover-card-adds-alexa-skills-for-account-information/
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Discover Card adds Alexa skills for account information

Discover Card cardmembers will now be able to access account information using Amazon Alexa, the AI-based voice control technology used in Amazon Echo smart speakers, according to a Disover release. 

Discover said that cardholders will be able to do everything from check account balances to recent transactions and get rewards information. 

“We are committed to providing our customers with valuable solutions that fit their routines, whether through our mobile app, on the web or with their voice,” Shaida Lynch, vice president of e-business at Discover, said in the release. “As more consumers embrace voice assisted technologies like Alexa to help manage various aspects of their lives, we’ll continue to provide solutions that meet our cardmembers’ needs wherever or however they prefer to manage their accounts.”

A spokesperson for Discover said it is testing new ways to let cardholders manage their accounts with Alexa and will explore new commands to help customers conduct additional functions. 

Cover image: iStock.

 


 


Topics: Card Brands, Mobile Payments

Companies: Discover Financial Services, Amazon


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Verizon, Rakuten offer rewards to Yahoo e-commerce shoppers

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Verizon Media launched a program with Rakuten to offer cashback rewards for Yahoo customers using Yahoo Shopping and Yahoo Mail. 

Yahoo users since Nov. 27 have been able to earn cashback rewards on purchases from more than 50 online retailers. Yahoo Mail users will get cashback offers through featured merchants and will also see promotions in their in boxes. Special offers will be included in Yahoo Mail’s new mobile app. 

“At Verizon Media we’re closing the loop between content and commerce and providing engaging journeys to our users to help them discover the things they love,” Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, said in a company release. 

“Joining forces with Yahoo expands our reach to deliver cashback rewards to new audiences,” Amit Patel, CEO of Rakuten Americas and Rakuten Rewards, said in the release. 

Yahoo is a unit of Verizon, while Rakuten is an e-commerce company that offers cashback rewards and other deals through more than 3,500 merchants.

 


Topics: Loyalty Programs, Mobile Payments, Retail

Companies: Verizon Wireless, Rakuten Ready


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First Third Bank recovers from system outage Friday

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First Third Bank recovers from system outage Friday

Photo: iStock

Fifth Third Bank spent the weekend recovering from a network outage that caused banking issues on Friday.

The network was back up and running Friday night, but for several hours during the day, thousands of customers were unable to access their accounts online or pay for gas, food and other items using their debit cards due to problems with the bank’s computer systems. 

The issues also caused disruptions for customers trying to use ATMs, according to a report in USA Today. 

At 1:35 p.m. eastern time on Friday, the bank tweeted: “We are experiencing an issue with our network. We are working as quickly as possible to restore service for our affected customers, and we apologize for the inconvenience.” 

In a later tweet, the bank said that the issues were being gradually restored.  

Customers voiced their complaints on Twitter. 

“Car in shop. Need to get to work. Try to get an Uber only to have my card declined. Try to call customer service. Number doesn’t work. Try to call fifth third branch and that doesn’t work either. I can’t afford to miss work,” one customer tweeted Friday.  

“It’s literally my only day off to get things done and I have no gas. I can’t do anything and I work 16 hours tomorrow,” another said in a tweet

Fifth Third Bank is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Topics: ATMs, Mobile Banking, Mobile Payments, Security


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Nets launches facial recognition pilot in Copenhagen office park

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Nets launches facial recognition pilot in Copenhagen office park

Nets, a European digital payments firm, is launching a trial of facial recognition for payments for up to 1,000 office workers in Copenhagen. 

The program will allow up to 1,000 people working at 25 companies at an office community in Vibenshushet to link their face to an employee ID card and pay for their lunch at the Kokkenes Kokkens cafeteria. 

Company officials said that facial recognition provides some unique capabilities to authenticate identity as opposed to other biometric methods. 

“Many biometric modalities require special purpose devices — e.g., fingerprint or eye scanner — whereas facial recognition only requires an off-the-shelf webcam and Internet connection,” Jesper Kildegaard Poulsen, head of creation lab, Nets, told Mobile Payments Today via email. “This of course makes the solution easier to install and less expensive compared to alternative biometric systems.”

Nets launched a finger vein biometric pilot at the Copenhagen Business School in 2018 and so far more than 22,000 transactions have been completed. 

Cover image: Nets.

 

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Topics: Mobile Payments, Region: EMEA, Security, Transaction Processing


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SunTrust, BB&T bank merger completed to form Truist

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SunTrust, BB&T bank merger completed to form Truist

Truist Financial Corp., the new brand of the merged SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T Corp., announced today that the merger was completed as of Dec. 6, creating the nation’s sixth largest commercial bank, serving about 10 million consumer households and a full range of business clients.

“This is a historic moment for Truist — a financial services organization created from two companies with shared values and a deep commitment to building a better future for our clients and communities,” Kelly King, chairman and CEO, said in a company release. “The completion of this merger of equals is a tremendous achievement and a testament to the thousands of Truist teammates who have diligently worked to ensure its timely conclusion.”

Bank officials said that companies for now will continue to be served by the respective BB&T and SunTrust bank branches, mobile apps, banking websites, relationship managers and financial advisers. Customers can use either the BB&T or SunTrust ATMs without incurring out of network fees.

Full integration of the two banks will take two years, however, most customers will not see any bank account or routing number changes and will not need to order new checks. 

Cover image: Truist.

 


 


Topics: Mergers & Acquisitions, Mobile Banking, Mobile Payments


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FlexPay raises $6M led by Impression Ventures

https://www.mobilepaymentstoday.com/news/flexpay-raises-6m-led-by-impression-ventures/
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FlexPay, a Canadian firm that uses machine learning to help merchants recover lost revenue, has raised $6 million in equity funding, led by Impression Ventures. 

Funding will be supported by BMO Capital Partners, Anges Qebec and strategic partners. 

“We believe FlexPay to be the best-in-class solution in a massively underserved market,” Maor Amar, managing partner at FlexPay, said in a press release. “The company’s AI powered systems provide a solution to the large and rapidly growing problem of false credit card declines.”

He said FlexPay’s management team has an “impressive entrepreneurial track record in depth knowledge of this market and energy required to succeed.”  


Topics: Mobile Payments, Venture Capital


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GoCardless to use Accuity ACH solution for US expansion

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Accuity, a provider of financial crime data and know-your-customer solutions, said that GoCardless would be using its ABA routing number technology to help businesses collect payments in the U.S.

GoCardless will use Accuity’s Banker’s Almanac Payments Data solution to deliver an automated clearing house solution for U.S. businesses. 

“We recently announced the world’s first global network for recurring payments, enabling businesses to collect international payments in a variety of currencies with just one bank account,” Paul Foster, head of banking and scheme development at GoCardless, said in a company release. “Many of our customers want to collect from the U.S., so it was necessary to have the most accurate ABA routing number information available — and in a way that can be easily integrated into our payments processes.”


 


Topics: Mobile Payments, Technology Providers


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Banks facing data crisis may need political help, Denmark warns

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First there was the financial crisis of 2008. Then years of negative interest rates. Now, banks face what one financial regulator calls the “real game changer.”

Jesper Berg, the head of the Financial Supervisory Authority in Denmark, says the next big threat for banks is the rapid spread of big tech into financial services. The competitive tool is personal data and the playing field is far from even, he says.

“The banks are constrained in what they can do with data, even using data across business lines, not to mention sharing it,” Berg said in an interview in Copenhagen.

The concern is that banks need to comply with strict regulatory requirements to protect client data. But their industry is being infiltrated by competitors that aren’t necessarily subject to the same rules. Berg suggests that political intervention might be the way forward, if banks are to have a fighting chance.

“The biggest issue that needs to be decided at a high level of politics is, do we somehow make rules in relation to sharing and use of data similar, or do we keep a difference?” Berg said. “We need to think about whether, and when, we set rules that are different for different types of companies, where the activity is basically the same.”

Berg oversees a financial industry that has dealt with negative interest rates longer than any other, after Denmark’s central bank first went below zero in 2012. That’s weakened the finance sector, potentially putting it on the back foot as it tries to strengthen its defenses against new competitors. Lars Rohde, the governor of the Danish central bank, has warned that banks will need to rethink their entire business model to adapt to the new world.

The Behemoths
Because of the vast pools of information they collect, tech giants like Google, Amazon and Alibaba already enjoy a competitive advantage over banks, Berg says.

According to a February report by the global Financial Stability Board, the proprietary consumer data that big tech extracts from social media, combined with the industry’s access to cheap funding, mean it “could achieve scale very quickly in financial services.”

Part of the ascent of tech companies within financial services has to do with PSD2, a European directive designed to open up the payments industry to competition. In practical terms, it means banks need to pass on their data for free to non-banks, provided customers agree.

“You could say that we’ve gone to the extreme with PSD2,” Berg said. “Not only can banks not use the data fully internally, but they cannot sell it. They have to give it away.”

China
The FSB’s February report makes the point that reducing entry barriers for big tech might ultimately hurt competition in financial services. As an example, the FSB highlights China, where just two big tech firms account for over 90% of the mobile payments market.

“Big data lives off selling information about you and me, so that other companies can target us more specifically,” Berg said. “The potential real game changer is big data, depending on what they choose to do.” That’s because “they know more about us than anyone else.”

Tech companies that offer loans or take deposits will need to apply for licenses and abide by the same rules as banks, Berg said. But the requirements are far murkier for those that decide to operate as a platform for other financial service providers, and that puts banks at a competitive disadvantage. “The link to customers would essentially be with big tech,” Berg said. “And everyone knows that whoever has the link to the customers” ends up being able to “cream the profit.”

— Frances Schwartzkopff (Bloomberg)

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/operations/comp-reg/banks-facing-data-crisis-may-need-political-help-denmark-warns/

With podcasts and billboard ads, Brex focuses on brand building

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Corporate card and financial product startup Brex is best known as an enabling platform for businesses, with a focus on startups. The three-year-old company, which is reportedly valued at $2.6 billion, initially spread the word about its offerings through word-of-mouth referrals.

But that’s quickly changing. As it grows its customer base, Brex is taking a mass market approach to marketing reminiscent of direct-to-consumer startups like SoFi, TransferWise and N26. Since April, it’s been running a biweekly a podcast called Brex in the Black. It’s opened a lounge co-working space for customers in the Bay Area, and last year, it reportedly spent $300,000 on a set of billboard ads in San Francisco, a campaign that’s since expanded to Boston and New York.

In an interview with Bank Innovation, Elenitsa Staykova, Brex’s vice president of marketing, said billboard ads, podcasts and events complement digital marketing efforts and help maximize reach for the young company.

“We’re a new company on the market and we don’t have brand awareness yet,” she said. “The goal [of the strategy] is to create conversations and reach people throughout the day in different channels, whether that’s online or offline.”

Staykova, who is Brex’s first-ever vice president of marketing, joined the company in February and manages a team of 18 marketers. She wouldn’t comment on the size of Brex’s marketing budget, but said half of the company’s marketing budget is dedicated to brand advertising, both online and offline, as well as events and other field marketing efforts.

Among fintech startups, Brex isn’t the only enabling platform that’s taking steps to promote itself to a wider audience. For example, card issuing and processing startup Marqeta recently hired a chief marketing officer and is throwing its weight behind traditional marketing plays, including billboard ads.

See also: Marqeta adds CMO and new tools to help clients expand

As Brex builds its product suite beyond cards, the Brex podcast is seen as a medium to nurture conversations about bigger-picture business and accounting topics. It evolved from blog posts the company’s chief financial officer Michael Tannenbaum developed in response to queries from clients. The decision to add audio content was based on a desire to reach busy clients who prefer to access the material on the go, Staykova explained.

“Founders and heads of finance who work at startups are busy people, so being able to access that content on the ground when they’re driving or going from one meeting to the next is important,” she said.

The audio programs, hosted by Brex data scientist Chris Read, include interviews with Tannenbaum on such topics as payroll, benefits and taxes. Staykova wouldn’t share how many users have downloaded Brex podcast episodes, but she said the content resonates with the target audience because it’s focused on practical advice instead of theory.

“If you search for finance and and accounting podcasts, there are actually not that many, and they’re not done by practitioners — people that work and know startups,” said Staykova. Brex in the Black has recently added guest interviews, including a recent episode about 401(k)s, IRAs and HSAs with Guideline CEO Kevin Busque. Guests are not paid to participate in the podcasts.

While the podcast initially began as a tool to engage existing customers, Staykova said it has now evolved to become a customer acquisition tool. If interest in the podcast continues to grow, the company plans to add interviews with a wider range of startup practitioners who could offer perspectives on their companies’ growth trajectories, she added.

“The podcast has become a top-of-funnel channel that drives interest in Brex in general, and people find out about it from other founders,” she noted. “I’m a big believer in providing more value [beyond product offerings] – we want to be helpful to founders and make their lives easier.”

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

https://bankinnovation.net/allposts/biz-lines/payments/with-podcasts-and-billboard-ads-brex-focuses-on-brand-building/

Judopay Partners With Tide

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Judopay, a leading mobile payments provider has announced it has partnered with business banking fintech, Tide. Starting immediately, the partnership enables all Judopay clients to benefit from a year’s free money transfers when they sign up to a Tide business account through Judopay. 

Judopay seeks to drive greater sales and repeat purchase for its clients and it does this by creating seamless payment experiences that remove friction and reduce shopping cart abandonment – now it can add access to Tide business accounts to its repertoire. This offering will be open to all clients as soon as they are processing with the payments provider. 

Tide’s quick and easy set-up means businesses can create a current account in minutes. Tide offers a range of  business banking services including invoicing, expense management and access to business loans in addition to business current accounts. This latest partnership highlights both Judopay’s and Tide’s continued efforts to make great payment experiences the norm for every business.

Jeremy Nicholds CEO of Judopay said: 

“We’re delighted that we can now give our clients access to Tide’s excellent banking services. It’s important for us to partner with like-minded companies and Tide is a great example of one that shares our same values. Like Judopay, they care about supporting their clients’ growth and simply providing a better service. We hope this exciting partnership will support our clients grow even further as we head into 2020.” 

Millie Hunter Partnerships Lead at Tide said: 

“We know how time consuming running a business can be, so we aim to save our members as much time and money as possible, so they can get back to doing what they love. It’s great to work with Judopay, knowing that they too are focused on SME growth. We cannot wait to help their clients even further through the partnership!”

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6 Ways Payments are Sexier than You Think

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Right, that’s that clickbait-y title out of the way. But in all seriousness, don’t you find that payments are unfairly sidelined as the boring part of running an eCommerce business? It’s so much more exciting to set up your website, design your logo, source your products, interact with customers, etc. But, hate to break it to you, payments are essentially the final frontier. They’re what stands between your customer and a successful transaction.

So, how exactly are payments sexy? There are at least six ways, which Paul Marcantonio, Head of UK/Western Europe at ECOMMPAY, has kindly arranged into a friendly, digestible listicle for you:

1. User experience

Modern consumers are fickle. How do you keep them on your website, not to mention convince them to go through with their intended purchase? You optimise the customer journey, of course! That means an adaptable, streamlined checkout. As consumers ourselves, it’s easy to think of moments where we’ve been put off by a frustrating payment journey. What do you mean, I have to reenter my details three times in a row? I guess I don’t really need that plush cat-unicorn after all. But wait! A good payment service provider (not naming any names here) could definitely sort that out for you. How’s that for sexy?

2. Security

You can’t have conversion without security. Well, you can, but it won’t be quality conversion. You’re bound to end up with lots of fraud and chargebacks, which means you’ll end up paying a lot more in fees, so perhaps you don’t want conversion without security. Essentially, if you want only the good, authentic transactions to get through, you need a great automated risk management system in place, not to mention some experienced experts with excellent expertise (how’s that for an alliteration?) to provide manual monitoring, configure and reconfigure your anti-fraud filters, and advise you on patterns of fraudulent behaviour.

In our hyperconnected world, mobile is a thing. In fact, it’s so much a thing that there are actually people out there who’d prefer to lose their finger than their mobile phone

3. Conversion

So if your security system’s choking your payment acceptance rates, how do you increase the likelihood of those authentic transactions getting through? With clever payments technologies, of course! There are things like one-click payments, which, if we’re being technical, are actually called Credential on File Customer Initiated Transactions, that register your customers’ card details to streamline future purchases. There’s also split payments, recurring payments, delayed payment – anything you, or your customers, could possibly want. See, payments are totally sexy!

4. Mobile

In our hyperconnected world, mobile is a thing. In fact, it’s so much a thing that there are actually people out there who’d prefer to lose their finger than their mobile phone. True story. Unsurprisingly, mCommerce is massive and growing daily. In order to provide that same seamless customer journey on mobile as you’re providing on other devices, your payment service provider needs to be able to adapt their payment pages for mobile apps or mobile browsing. And if they do that, you keep your customers happy and your conversion rates high.

5. Payment methods

There’s a million and one ways to pay. Though that figure’s probably a slight exaggeration, the reality of the situation is that payment preferences vary by all sorts of factors: location, age, type of product being purchased, etc. If you’re looking to grow your business into either new market segments, whether by geographical region or by consumer demographics, you need to offer your perspective customers the option of paying the way they’re used to paying. It would be a blow to your revenues if you invest considerable resources opening an office in China, but don’t offer Alipay or WeChat Pay. That’s essentially your entire market gone. Do the research, reap the rewards.

6. Tailored advice

On that last note, wouldn’t it be great if someone else could already give you those sorts of insights? You can’t be an expert in everything, so why not delegate by establishing a reliable partnership with a payment service provider who’d be able to take a good, hard, external look at the internal intricacies of your business and give you some qualified, actionable advice?

And so, in summary, payments are sexy. If you say otherwise, you probably haven’t found the right payments partner yet.

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Fintech Power 50 Launches Second Edition of Industry Guide

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Industry guide, the Fintech Power 50 has launched the 2020 edition of its exclusive annual programme, shining a spotlight on those who are transforming financial services for the better. 

Showcasing 40 trailblazing companies and 10 of the most trusted industry leaders across the Fintech ecosystem, the guide includes the likes of Jumio, Form3, Galileo, Funding Options, Currency Cloud, Modulr, Tide, and Oak North.  Following an extensive nomination and voting process, the nominated companies celebrate their inclusion at Fintech Connect on 3-4th December this year. 

Commencing on 1st January 2020 and running for 12 months, the Fintech Power 50 serves not only as a guide but as a hub, providing ample opportunities for profiling on the global Fintech stage. A carefully curated programme offers media partnerships, events and networking, as well as support in areas such as: business development, branding, investment and talent acquisition.

Tide, Form3 and Galileo are among those celebrated as the most innovative and transformative Fintech companies and individuals of 2020

Jason Williams, Co-Founder and Managing Director at the Fintech Power 50, said: “We are very proud of all the companies that have been nominated and have made it on to the next edition of the Fintech Power 50. Our members include some well-known faces in the industry; some individuals and companies that are rising stars, and some that are blazing a trail for fintech. 

“Our first cohort of the Fintech Power 50 saw consistent success for our members, and we are looking forward to supporting the new group with an even more ambitious and exciting programme.”

Mark Walker, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer the Fintech Power 50, said: “I’ve not only been really impressed by our members growth but our own. Since we started back in January 2018 our team has grown in number and geography, with a team of eight here in London and others based in South East Asia, America, Middle East and India. 

“The growth and additional people are accelerating the launch of our regional editions, with the Asian Ones to Watch launching in March 2020 in Singapore. I’m also very happy to announce that Rise, created by Barclays, will renew their official partnership with us, this has already proved to be beneficial to both parties and we look forward to increasing this is 2020.”

To find out more about the Fintech Power 50, visit: https://www.thepower50.com/

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What are the obstacles blocking the mass-adoption of cryptocurrencies?

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It’s been more than ten years since Satoshi Nakamoto published Bitcoin’s white paper. The market capitalization for cryptocurrencies is over $200 billion, but cryptocurrencies haven’t had much success in going mainstream. Over the years, the adoption of cryptocurrencies has been rising and the sudden price hikes in 2013 and 2017 did help raise awareness and encouraged adoption. Bitcoin has faired far better than other cryptocurrencies, with giants like Microsoft, Expedia and a few others accepting Bitcoin payments. Yet, cryptos original goal has not been realized, and cryptocurrency still has few use cases. As another year is coming to a close, cryptocurrencies still need to overcome some major roadblocks.

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

There could be a tipping point for cryptocurrencies in 2020 according to a new report, by Nobl Insurance, that estimates at least 25 million Americans will own cryptocurrencies in 2020, approximately 10% of the population.

At present, there are more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies in the market. All these coins claim to be better than one another and solve some problems in different industries. The sheer number of alternative coins launched in the last 5 years show us, how fluid the market is and the number of experiments happening in the space.

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While digital currencies are on the rise, Bitcoin and other cryptos are yet to gain global mass adoption for several reasons.

There are a few stages for mass adoption to happen. The first was awareness, which was kicked off by the hyper-innovation stage that happened with the ICO craze. The current stage is institutional adoption. Libra is trying to open the way, by enabling institutional, political and regulatory acceptance. The next will be an easy and seamless experience for both users and institutions, where users don’t have to deal with the difficulties that come with today’s crypto technology.

More fiat to crypto on-ramps
The single biggest point of friction in crypto is the on-ramp. Moving from fiat to crypto requires an interaction with a centralized, regulated entity and going through AML and KYC, can lead to a huge drop off. The cryptocurrency prohibition policies aren’t necessarily motivated by an effort to protect consumers from misinformed investment decisions or credit card debt. Banks have been defensive when it comes to cryptocurrencies, as they are trying to build a moat around themselves, by not banking cryptocurrencies. This has made it more difficult for early innovators to bridge fiat and cryptocurrencies and to find trusted custody partners.

Better regulation 
Some have been restrictive and hostile like China that banned ICOs in 2017 and clamped down on all cryptocurrency trading with a ban on foreign exchanges. Chinese regulators have taken steps to deter the use of cryptocurrency in the country, as they get ready to launch their own digital money. Other countries have been friendly and most, that don’t know what to do, have buried their heads in the sand, doing nothing. Western countries have been somewhat reluctant with the regulation of digital currencies. Some regulators do not understand the technology well enough to put in place suitable regulation laws. It has taken the  US almost 10 years to take a stance through the IRS and SEC. Smaller countries like Malta have seen cryptocurrencies as an opportunity and have been leading the way, creating legal frameworks that support the crypto industry.

More Education
Most people do not know how cryptocurrencies work and can’t differentiate between blockchain and cryptocurrency. The learning curve for cryptocurrency is particularly steep. Learning about cryptocurrency and blockchain seem like an abstract concept that is almost impossible to grasp. Fear of not understanding how cryptocurrencies work is a huge deterrent for most people that want to get into the space. I really love Coinbase Earn, a system that provides free cryptocurrency by performing various educational tasks and viewing educational content. Education is a critical layer that must be addressed in order to achieve greater adoption. It would be great to see more initiatives like this, by some of the bigger exchanges.

Ease of use
Managing private keys is going to be a huge factor. The average person does not want to worry about losing their private keys along with their funds. Multisig, scorched earth vaults, uPort-style social account recovery, hardware wallets, are all good, but lots of work. Having to remember a 64 character seed phrase or writing it down on a piece of paper at risk of losing all of your money is a huge barrier to entry in today’s world of easy resettable passwords. IMO, the development of private key management services are without a doubt going to play an increasingly important role. The introduction of new wallets won’t bring adoption until users can buy, spend, and hold cryptocurrencies without having to understand cryptography and blockchain consensus mechanisms.

Stabilize Volatility
Facebook’s Libra project made it clear that we are moving towards the privatization of money. Stablecoins can open access to the 1.7 billion unbanked and poor. Stablecoins will bring in the masses, which that is the reason that central banks and governments are trying to make sure we never get to use Libra.

Improve Safety
According to Investopedia, $9 million is lost each day in cryptocurrency scams. It is because of this behavior that people and businesses forget about the benefits of blockchain and instead refuse to invest in a currency they see as ideal for criminals, terrorists, and money launderers. People need safety and an authority that can solve their issues when it comes to digital cash. In the decentralized systems, it is hard to track down the defaulters and punish them. Taking responsibility for frauds and reporting them is a tricky role. That’s one of the reasons why national governments do not talk about the regulations openly.

Integration with existing products
Interacting wallets into existing products can help bring crypto into mainstream. While we are seeing companies like Robinhood, Revolut, Square and others adding crypto functionality into their products, it is still very limited. Hopefully we will see companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook, with billions of users worldwide follow suit. If Libra manages to get off the ground, it might just be all that is needed.

Before we can make the jump to mass adoption, two things need to happen. Governments must create an enabling environment for cryptocurrencies. And we need to build better experiences, so less technical people can use cryptocurrencies, just like they use their phones, drive their cars and charge their credit cards, without necessarily understanding how they work.

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What Uber and Lyft drivers need to know about the car

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Uber and Lyft are the most popular car hire services, they are similar to taxis or other traditional car services. The major differences car hire services like Uber and Lyft among others and the traditional car services is that, unlike taxis, a passenger looking for a ride on the street, all they have to do is download the Uber and Lyft app onto their smartphone and arrange for a ride with a driver through the app.

The pricing structure for an Uber or Lyft ride differs, some rides are cheaper than a regular taxi, with some rides could be expensive than a standard taxi. Uber rides could be expensive because of traffic stops or long distances. Uber rides pricing is well known to vary with demand. Lyft, on the other hand, is well known for its prospective passengers not paying for their rides; they receive donations instead of their passengers.

Nonetheless, drivers get involved in car accidents every day, even rides are drivers. And when it comes to auto insurance for car hire services, the most important thing you should take note of as a rideshare driver is that both you and your vehicle is not covered by personal insurance policies if you use your vehicle for any kind of commercial purpose, and driving for Uber or Lyft is an example of a commercial purpose. 

It is advisable for any kind of commercial purpose. Even though it is a requirement for eligibility to have personal insurance for your vehicle to drive for Uber and Lyft. The personal auto insurance policy does not take care of any claims that may come up while you are driving for Uber and Lyft. Since Uber and Lyft makes provision for an insurance policy that covers you, it does not cover everything. To be fully covered as a rideshare driver, it will be nice to try additional coverage options, just to be safe.

During the period when the car hire service app is on and is waiting for a prospective passenger to request a ride is on his way to the pickup, or is driving a passenger to a destination. Between the driver and the company, whose insurance covers what and to what extent? Is there a different response to the case when there is an injury or property damage? Does the state affect the outcome in any way? And who does an injured Uber or Lyft passenger’s claim affect? Read to know more.

When Uber and Lyft services stepped into the limelight, they faced serious problems concerning their drivers’ insurance coverage, mainly because most of the drivers didn’t have any insurance policies that cover commercial purposes. What the rideshare drivers had were garden-variety personal policies, which don’t include coverage when the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes. It makes sense because the company first assesses the risks following an accident or a claim before it sets the premium ( extends coverage) and know that, the higher the risk of a claim, the higher the premium.

The risk following the claim is considered low when the vehicle in question is used for personal use. Nothing other than the number of hours and miles on the road go up when a vehicle is used for commercial purposes. So in cases when someone needs to drive to work, they would need a commercial policy with premiums much higher than those for personal policies. Uber and Lyft drivers settle for a policy with lower premiums so that their drivers can afford them, but if they had bought a commercial policy, their drivers would be covered nicely.

Uber and Lyft services realized that the endorsement added to the insurance policy was not enough to protect their drivers, so they came up with one of their own, and here is how it works.

A rideshare driver’s time is divided into three phases. When a driver’s Uber or Lyft app is closed, he is not in “driver mode.” Insurance coverage varies depending on the phase in which the accident occurred, as explained below.

Phase 0: When the app is closed. The driver’s own personal car insurance policy takes full responsibility when he’s not in “driver mode.” (When the driver is not logged into the Uber or Lyft app). During this time, Uber or Lyft’s insurance coverage takes no responsibility for their drivers’ actions.

Phase 1: When the driver opens the app and is driving around waiting to be requested by a passenger. This is considered third party insurance because it only takes care of the losses sustained by others involved, injured, or had their properties damaged as a result. Uber and Lyft liability coverage kick in for any accident that is the drivers’ fault. It does not take care of the Uber or Lyft driver’s injuries, car, or property damage. 

  • The liability coverage pays $50,000 per person for injury sustained by passenger or third party, $25,000 per person for property damage, or third-party vehicle damage, the most Uber is willing to pay for coverage is $100,000, all of which the rideshare driver is excluded.

Phase 3: The passenger is in the car, and the period ends when the passenger gets out of the vehicle.

If after reading the above, you believe all your problems are gone, you might want to know that  the coverage will only step up once you have claimed on your policy first, which means that Uber and Lyft benefits will only kick in after you’ve been able to prove that you have your insurance which also means that;

  • Uber insurance will step in only if your insurance company denies the claim, Usually because you failed to purchase a ridesharing endorsement.
  • And if you did purchase an endorsement, your policy covers you leaving any excess you can’t meet to Uber and Lyft’s insurance.

Here’s the crazy part, drivers who didn’t purchase the ridesharing endorsement will violate their policy since they’ve been driving commercially and made claims on a personal policy. And the insurance company will most probably cancel the insurance.

But to be safe and save yourself the hassle, you might want to try other additional coverage options like a Rideshare Car Insurance, which is sure to leave with a smile.

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How You Can Get Your Business Out of Debt

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As an owner, the last thing you want to do is close your retail business down. But, if you keep going further into debt, you might not have a choice. See if you can follow these simple tips and turn your financial situation around. 

Boost Sales

The first thing you should do is make changes to boost more sales. The more sales you make, the more income you will have to tackle that pile of debt weighing down your business. 

Think of low-cost adjustments — you don’t want to spend more money trying to draw in customers, only to have the plan backfire. For instance, paying for online ads can be a money sink that doesn’t bring more customers through your doors. Instead, create social media accounts and advertise without having to spend money. Apps like Instagram and Facebook are free, easy-to-use and give you direct access to your target demographics. 

Here are some other great ways that you can boost sales:

  • Set up sales programs/incentives for loyal customers
  • Advertise special deals and discounts
  • Raise the prices of retail items

Trim Costs

While you’re boosting sales, you will want to see if you can trim the costs in your monthly budget in order to enhance your savings. One of the things you could do is sell store equipment and get gently-used replacements. Sometimes you can even lease equipment instead of paying full-price. 

Here are some other great ways that you can cut costs:

  • Lower utility costs with energy-saving methods (get LED light bulbs, lower the thermostat, install faucet aerators)
  • Ask long-time suppliers for discount rates
  • Pool resources with similar businesses to get supplies and services

What Happens If You’re Too Deep in Debt?

Sometimes, boosting sales and trimming costs isn’t enough. If your adjustments haven’t made a dent into your debt and you’re not sure about what to do, you should see a well-established corporate bankruptcy trustee to find out what’s the best way to get out of this situation. You could file for corporate bankruptcy. Or, if you want to avoid bankruptcy, another option is to apply for a debt proposal — this is a legal agreement between you and creditors that guarantees you’ll pay a lowered amount of debt within 5 years. 

Business Insolvency Rates

You aren’t the only owner to get into financial trouble. Plenty of business owners declare insolvency after they’ve realized that they’re running out of credit and can’t pay back any of their loans. Running your own store is expensive, so it’s easy to slip up when there’s not enough cash flow.

Statistics show that approximately 7000 businesses go bankrupt across the country every single year — and this doesn’t even cover debt proposal filings. Smaller businesses with only a handful of employees will have a harder time making these ends meet and getting extra help from banks. While this problem isn’t ideal, you should know that you’re not alone in this. 

If you think your store is drowning in debt, you need to make some changes and make them fast. Follow these tips to boost your customer sales and cut down monthly costs so that you can tackle the problem faster. You just might be able to pull your business out of the deep-end. 

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Understanding the Factors that Affect the Price of Cryptocurrencies

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If there is one trait that all cryptocurrencies seem to share it is that their price can be very volatile. Not only does it fluctuate on a regular basis, but it also sometimes drops or soars for no apparent reason.

Regardless of whether you’re planning on investing in cryptocurrencies or just want to know more about them – you should start by understanding the factors that affect their price.

Law of Supply and Demand

The main factor that affects the price of any cryptocurrency is the law of supply and demand. To put it simply the higher the demand and the lower the supply, the more the price will be. Conversely if the demand is low and the supply is high, the price will be less.

Unlike conventional currencies, the supply of cryptocurrencies is limited. On top of that the growth of supply starts to slow down over time, which means that the demand is highly likely to exceed the supply.

At the same time the demand for cryptocurrencies can vary significantly as well. It is affected by several other factors that are often specific to the cryptocurrency in question.

Production Cost

The production of cryptocurrency requires for it to be ‘mined’, and that can become more difficult over time. If it is more difficult the cost to produce a single token will be higher, which will invariably affect the price of the cryptocurrency as well.

Although some cryptocurrencies are structured differently, in general the production cost steadily increases as time goes by. That is because the rate of mining becomes lower, and the competition between miners will probably start to become more intense.

Regulations and Oversight

One factor that often has a large influence on the price of cryptocurrencies are new regulations or oversight requirements that are put into place. In some cases that influence is positive, but in others it is not.

At the end of the day it all boils down to the type of regulations that are implemented. If they are too restrictive or take the form of a crackdown, the price of the cryptocurrency could plummet. On the other hand if they are more positive, they could become the catalyst that makes the price rise.

Media Influence

Coverage of cryptocurrencies in the media can definitely sway the sentiment of investors, and affect the demand. If the news is positive it could help the price to rise, whereas if it is not then it will drive it down.

It should be noted that the media can play a positive role indirectly as well by informing and educating viewers regarding cryptocurrencies. The greater the understanding of the general public, the more demand there will probably be.

Current Affairs

Politics and other types of current affairs frequently affect the price of cryptocurrencies. That is especially true of any events that make people lose faith in their government or economy, in which case buying up cryptocurrencies as an alternative may look like a safer option.

Although some experts have posited that cryptocurrencies may eventually replace physical gold as a ‘safe haven’ asset – it is a long way from that due to how volatile it can be. That being said when current affairs are rocky it is increasingly being viewed as a good alternative.

Final Words

It should be noted that although there are other factors that can affect the price of cryptocurrencies. On top of that at times the price has been known to fluctuate for no specific reason at all – or at least, none that can be identified.

Suffice to say if you’re hoping to predict the price on a crypto exchange – that is a lot easier said than done. At best you will be able to use the factors listed above to try to predict the direction in which the price will trend, and then make decisions based on that.

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Uncertainty Continues to Impact Supply Chain Risk

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The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit is encouraging many manufacturers and retailers to consider other supplier locations in low cost, higher risk countries to avoid possible trade barriers.

The latest analysis in the Global Supply Chain Risk Report, produced quarterly by Cranfield University and Dun & Bradstreet, found marked increases in Supplier Criticality (up 2%) and Global Sourcing Risk (up 4.8%) in Q3 2019.

Dr Heather Skipworth, Associate Professor in Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management at Cranfield University, says that lack of clarity over possible trade tariffs and other non-tariff barriers is leading to companies seeking out alternative countries to source from:

“The manufacturing sector in Europe is facing the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, encouraging many businesses to take more risks with the location of suppliers to avoid the possible trade tariffs and other non-tariff barriers such as quotas, embargoes, sanctions, and levies. This is likely to increase their perceived criticality of, and dependency on, suppliers, as choices become more constrained.”

She added, “China is no longer as attractive as a source of low-cost manufacturing due to rising wages and companies are increasingly looking at alternative, higher risk countries such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Romania.”

Manufacturing experienced significant increases across all four risk areas analysed in the report – Supplier Criticality was up 6.7%, Financial Risk up 2.1%, Global Sourcing Risk up 10.6% and Foreign Exchange Risk up 4.6%.  This shows more companies are sourcing from higher risk countries, whilst being more dependent on suppliers – and these are likely to exhibit higher financial risk and a greater probability of going insolvent.

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SoftBank Showers Latin American Fintechs with Millions in New Capital

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SoftBank Backs Latin America

Last week, the international fintech buzz was all about the booming investment in African startups. As you can see in our sub-Saharan Africa section below, that buzz continues as analysts wonder how African fintechs can best leverage their good financial fortunes of late.

But this week, it’s all about Latin America as fintechs from Mexico to Argentina lock in triple digit investments. What’s especially interesting is that two of the week’s biggest beneficiaries – Konfio and Uala – have the same participating benefactor in SoftBank.

The investment in Argentina’s Uala was the first time the Japanese-based firm had funded a company from Argentina, but not SoftBank’s first funding in the region. The firm invested $1 billion in Colombian delivery app Rappi in April of this year. SoftBank has a deeper history investing in Mexican startups, having funded payments startup Clip and used car buying platform Kavak. SoftBank is also especially active in Brazil; the firm led a $140 million round for the country’s e-commerce solution provider VTEX in November.

FinovateEurope Goes to Berlin!

It’s not too early to start thinking and planning for 2020 – especially with our first conference right around the corner in February.

After six years of basing our annual European fintech conference in London, Finovate is crossing the channel and setting up our stage in Berlin, Germany next year. Our new FinovateEurope location will also feature a new event format designed to ensure attendees maximize their time at the conference. Take a look at our developing agenda to see what we have in store February 11th through the 13th.

Here’s our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Asia-Pacific

  • Singapore’s FinAccel, maker of Kredivo, raises $90 million in round led by Asia Growth Fund and Square Peg.
  • Maybank Group, the fourth largest bank by assets in Southeast Asia, goes livewith Avaloq’s banking suite.
  • South Korea announces plans to launch opening banking system before year’s end.
  • Vymo brings AI-powered sales coaching to insurance giant Sompo.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Can Africa’s fintech startups learn from the experience of M-Pesa? TechCrunch considers the opportunities now available thanks to recent positive funding trends.
  • A partnership between Smartstream and Union Systems will help African FIs digitize their post-trade environments.
  • QuartzAfrica takes a look at the “niche ecosystems” that are developing amid Africa’s rapidly expanding fintech industry.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Berlin, Germany-based SME digital banking platform Penta teams up with SumUp.
  • First Investment Bank (Fibank) goes live with the first, PSD2-compliant, open banking platform in Bulgaria.
  • Tinkoff GDRs will be included in MOEX Russia indices next month.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Sudan’s Nile Bank is the latest FI to choose Oracle’s Flexcube core banking solution.
  • Temenos teams up with Egyptian National Post Organization.
  • Dubai Financial Services Authority inks fintech pact with Luxembourg’s Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier.

Central and Southern Asia

  • DriveWealth helps Indian investors access U.S. stocks via new partnership.
  • Indian banking technology provider TCS Financial Solutions migrates three credit unions to a cloud-version of its TCS Bancs system.
  • Paysend introduces worldwide money transfers to Uzbekistan.
  • Sri Lanka’s central bank examines the possibility of applying blockchain technology to streamline KYC processes for FIs.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Uala, a money management app from Argentina, raises $150 million in Series C round led by Tencent and SoftBank.
  • Mexican SME credit assessment specialist Konfio closes $100 million investment from SoftBank.
  • MercadoLibre picks up $125 million loan from Goldman Sachs.

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

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