Blend Launches Insurance Agency

Mortgagetech company Blend is venturing into insurance. The San Francisco-based company launched Blend Insurance Agency, an extension of its digital mortgage platform that offers borrowers a range of options for homeowners insurance.

Homeowners insurance is required to be in place before the borrower closes on their home, and since Blend already has data about the home, borrower, and loan on file, the company is in a unique position to offer a streamlined application process. Blend said that offering insurance felt like a “natural extension” of its mission to bring transparency into the home buying process.

“We see our new insurance agency as an exciting step forward to further remove friction from the home buying process and improve customer satisfaction. We believe it will be better for our lenders, their borrowers, and the insurance providers we work with and will help to make the process of buying a home a little less daunting,” said Greg Isaacs, an insurtech expert Blend hired earlier this year to launch Blend Insurance Agency.

To support this new offering, Blend is building an office in Los Angeles that will be staffed with insurance professionals able to help borrowers find a product that fits their needs. At launch, the company has partnered with six U.S. insurance providers, including MetLife, Stillwater Insurance, and Swyfft, with plans to add more. The insurance option is presented to the borrower early on in the home buying process to offer them plenty of time to shop and to give loan processors time to verify insurance before closing the loan. Having more time on the front-end of the process helps the loan close faster.

Blend demoed its data-driven mortgage at FinovateSpring 2016. Earlier this year, Blend teamed up with Ellie Mae to leverage Ellie Mae’s electronic disclosure delivery. And in June, the company introduced Blend Vision, an advanced OCR solution with built-in quality control. Blend’s most recent round of funding brought its total capital to more than $160 million. Nima Ghamsari is CEO and co-founder.

TransUnion Teams Up with EXL for CECL Compliance

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Credit reporting agency and risk solutions provider TransUnion is taking steps to help lenders to comply with the new Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) accounting rule. The company is partnering with operations management and analytics company EXL to facilitate the change.

The partnership will allow TransUnion to create a CECL Credit Loss Calculator to help lenders forecast losses under CECL, since the new guidelines change the methodology used to calculate loan loss allowances. The tool combines EXL’s analytics capabilities with TransUnion’s de-personalized credit data to create a platform that complies with all CECL reporting guidelines, which alter how banks calculate loan loss.

“Many players in the industry are describing CECL as the biggest change to bank accounting standards in years,” said Jason Laky, SVP and consumer lending business leader at TransUnion. “While large banks have more resources at their disposal to adapt, we believe the majority of small to mid-sized lenders will not have the ability or capacity to comply internally and may face challenges as they prepare for the rollout of this new rule.”

Using the Credit Loss Calculator, lenders can leverage their own portfolio data or automatically import data reported by TransUnion. The tool allows lenders to adjust for macroeconomic scenarios, apply overlays, and adjust the models for different credit products, including mortgages, auto loans, and revolving credit.

Founded in 1968, TransUnion is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois with office locations in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Toronto, Johannesburg, Colombia, and Brazil. At FinovateFall 2016, TransUnion showcased Prama, a suite of analytics tools that helps lenders gain market intelligence and acts on insights to drive growth and build a risk policy. Last month, the company acquired device intelligence firm iovation. TransUnion is a public company with a market capitalization of $13.4 billion, trading on the NYSE under the ticker “TRU.”

Crypterium Releases Crypto-Fiat Solution

Crypterium, a company that turns cryptocurrencies into fiat money, launched an update to its first crypto-fiat solution today with a tool that allows users to top up their mobile phone balance.

The company’s mobile app, which launched in the Apple App and Google Play stores in March, aims to leverage existing in-store payment infrastructure, such as NFC terminals and QR code readers, to allow users to make instant payments in cryptocurrency with their smartphone. The company sees today’s development as a first step in that direction; it allows the nearly 3.5 billion prepaid mobile users across the globe to use their bitcoin balance to instantly top-up the balance on their mobile phone account.

To top up their account, consumers open the Crypterium app, enter their phone number, select the amount, and pay with bitcoin. The payment clears as soon as the bitcoin transaction settles. Users can also top up phone accounts of friends and family across the globe.

Because this is the first Crypterium app feature to implement a crypto-fiat solution, it is also the first to use Crypterium’s CRPT token, a cryptocurrency that is used as a fee payment device for transactions. The company describes CRPT as the “fuel required to power each transaction.” For each crypto-fiat payment, Crypterium’s smart contract technology charges 0.5% of the transaction value in CRPT.

Crypterium is headquartered in Estonia and first listed its CRPT tokens on the HitBTC exchange in March. In May, the company appointed former CEO of Visa U.K., Marc O’Brien, as CEO. In addition to unveiling its newest offering at FinovateFall next month, Crypterium also plans to release its first IBAN solution, NFC payment solution, and release new crypto-fiat capabilities.

Swych Expands Global Reach

Blockchain-based digital gifting platform Swych has taken one more step to “gifting without borders.” The Texas-based company announced it is leveraging its recent acquisition of GiftCardsIndia to facilitate cross-border gifting.

With the new integration of the recently-purchased platform, U.S. users can now send digital gift cards to friends and family in India in real time. Swych offers gifting options for hundreds of big-name, local retailers including Big Bazaar, Flipkart, and Myntra.

This move is the company’s first foray into the international market and another step toward its goal “to facilitate mobile gifting for users across borders worldwide.” CEO and Founder of Swych, Deepak Jain, said, “By launching GiftCardsIndia.com in the U.S., we are addressing a large market demand from the Indian diaspora here. Now anyone can easily send their favorite gift card from their mobile phone to their loved one’s mobile phone in India.”

Founded in 2016, Swych leverages the blockchain to provide an instant, secure, and scalable way for individuals and corporations to send gifts and incentives in the form of a gift card. When the recipient is notified of the gift, they can use the Swych platform to change the gift card to a merchant of their choosing and in their preferred currency. In some cases, the user even benefits from a discount or reward that a merchant offers for switching their gift card over to a different brand.

“Existing cross-border gifting options are either costly or inefficient,” Jain explained. “When sending cross-border gifts, consumers and businesses need to manage liability, foreign exchange and customs, as well as regulatory and compliance issues which are complex and time consuming. We’re proud to offer our users a convenient, secure, and fee-free alternative to this emerging ecosystem, all while simultaneously working to facilitate ease of accordance with changing regulatory and compliance requirements.”

At FinovateSpring earlier this year, Swych demonstrated how it facilitates cross-border money transfers using its digital gifting platform in a presentation that won the company Best of Show. With 50+ employees, Swych boasts 50,000 registered users in the U.S., 100,000 users in India, and more than 50 corporate customers. Last fall, the company launched a new set of multi-currency, themed gifting options.

NestReady Collaborates with Alterna Savings on Home Buying Solution

NestReady, a startup aiming to simplify the home buying process, announced this week it has teamed up with Alterna Savings to help the credit union’s clients find their new home. The move comes about a year after NestReady finalized a partnership with Alterna Savings’ wholly-owned subsidiary, Alterna Bank.

Through the partnership, the NestReady platform will be available on Alterna Savings’ website, allowing its 158,000 members to find properties that match their search criteria. The integration of NestReady with Alterna Savings offers a holistic platform that lets users scan the real estate market, save their favorites, connect with local agents, and finance the home.

Rob Paterson, Alterna Savings president and CEO said, “Thanks to our partnership with NestReady, we’re empowering today’s homebuyers who use the internet as their primary resource to search for their dream home… Our members can now use NestReady’s new homebuying tool.”

Founded in 2012 as Navut, NestReady pivoted in 2017 to broaden its focus from neighborhood data provider to a more robust property search platform. The company has raised $2 million in funding. NestReady will showcase its newest offering for banks at FinovateFall next month. Register today to save your seat.

Xero Buys Paperless Accounting Firm Hubdoc

Cloud accounting platform Xero claimed today that “business has never been so beautiful.” That’s because the New Zealand-based company made its second acquisition, purchasing Hubdoc, an application that helps accountants and bookkeepers capture and maintain documents online.

Xero, which has always sought to improve the lives of accountants and bookkeepers, said the purchase helps them “focus their efforts on making sense of a small business’ financial data – not collecting it.” Hubdoc will help Xero bolster its machine learning models, serve customers who have no direct data connection, and increase its presence in Canada via Hubdoc’s Toronto roots.

Here’s how the integration of the two technologies works: first, Hubdoc automatically gathers financial documents from 700+ billers, extracts the financial data, and syncs the data into Xero. Then, Xero automatically matches data imported from Hubdoc with bank feed transactions to keep clients’ books up-to-date. All of this data is verified with the source document, which clients and accountants can easily search.

The Hubdoc team, which is located in offices across Australia, the U.K., and Canada, will work independently on a standalone basis until Xero forms an integration plan. The terms of the acquisition were undisclosed.

Xero most recently presented at FinDEVr San Francisco 2014 when the company’s Head of U.S. Partnerships David Pollock spoke about building an API-driven ecosystem for small businesses. At FinovateSpring 2011, CEO Rod Drury debuted the company’s Business Identification solution. Last month, Xero signed a strategic alliance with fellow Finovate alum Gusto, allowing Xero to provide full-service payroll in the U.S. And earlier this spring, Xero launched Connected Accounting, a set of new features designed to automate daily business tasks.

Founded in 2006, Xero listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in 2007 and the Australian Securities Exchange in 2012. The company has raised more than $319 million (NZ$470 million) in funding, including $1.4 million pre-IPO; $10.2 million at its IPO; and follow-on rounds from investors including Peter Thiel, Matrix Capital Management, and Accel Partners. More than 1 million subscribers in 180+ countries use Xero.

Entrust Datacard Acquires SMS Passcode

Identity authentication and secure card issuance company Entrust Datacard announced it purchased SMS Passcode from CensorNet, a cloud security company. Additionally, Entrust Datacard made a strategic investment of an undisclosed amount in CensorNet. Terms of both the investment and the acquisition remain undisclosed.

With the acquisition of Copenhagen-based SMS Passcode, an adaptive multi-factor authentication technology solution, Entrust Datacard hopes to further establish itself in the authentication space while expanding its global footprint throughout DACH/Benelux and The Nordics. The company will integrate the new technology with its IntelliTrust SaaS authentication tool, a solution launched last year that removes friction for users and provides strong protection for data, apps, and networks.

Regarding the purchase, Ed Macnair, CensorNet CEO said, “The acquisition of SMS Passcode will benefit the broader IAM market as well as SMS Passcode customers, and this new relationship will continue serving customers as Entrust Datacard builds upon existing partnerships and enhances our USS offering.”

Collaborating with CensorNet on its USS platform, which offers a cloud access security broker, multi-factor authentication, and web and email security, will help Entrust Datacard bolster new offerings across authentication, PKI and SSL. Specifically, Entrust Datacard will leverage the strategic partnership to enhance its Authentication Insight Engine by providing faster authentication decisioning.

“Identity-centric data analysis is in CensorNet’s DNA, and identity assurance capabilities in ours,” said Todd Wilkinson, president and CEO for Entrust Datacard. “This new relationship and investment in CensorNet presents opportunities for collaboration to enhance both companies’ offerings and re-shape the market together.”

Entrust Datacard was founded in 1969 and presented at FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2016. Jason Soroko, Security Technologies Manager, and Matt Rose, Technical Sales Consultant, spoke to the audience of developers on Safeguarding Your Banking Applications. Earlier this week, Entrust Datacard unveiled TruCredential 7.5, software that enables tablet and mobile-based capture and issuance of ID cards.

With 2,200 employees in 34 locations across the globe, Entrust Datacard is a privately held company headquartered in Shakopee, Minnesota. The company issues 10 million+ identity and payment credentials daily and manages billions of transactions on an annual basis.

Gusto Brings in $140 Million, Doubling Valuation to $2 Billion

Payroll, benefits, and HR platform Gusto broadcast some news today with, well… gusto. The San Francisco-based company closed $140 million in Series C funding.

This brings Gusto’s total amount raised to $310 million and boosts its valuation to almost $2 billion. Joining existing investors in the round are MSD Capital (Michael Dell), portfolios managed by T. Rowe Price Associates, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Y Combinator Continuity Fund.

Josh Reeves, Gusto CEO and co-founder, said that the new investors share the company’s passion for “creating a world where work empowers a better life.” He added, “We chose these investors because they care about enabling small businesses with modern payroll, benefits and HR. There are millions of companies out there to help, and this is a long-term journey for us. We’re just getting started.”

Gusto will use the investment to enhance its payroll, benefits, and HR technology to add more direct-to-employee benefits that allow employees to manage how and when they get paid. The company recently unveiled a development along these lines with the launch of Flexible Pay, a solution that allows workers to choose a payday that works best for their cashflow situation, outside of their employer’s standard payroll schedule.

Henry Ellenbogen, T. Rowe Price New Horizons Fund portfolio manager, noted that Gusto’s expertise isn’t just limited to payroll. “We believe Gusto has an opportunity beyond the payroll category in which they have demonstrated leadership for the last six years,” He said. “The company has a strong and focused management team, and it has the potential to become much larger as it expands its efforts to employees who seek to improve their financial mobility and achieve greater personal prosperity.”

Gusto, which launched in 2012 under the name ZenPayroll and showcased its flagship payroll solution at FinovateSpring 2014, has been busy lately. Not only has the company expanded its client base to serve more than one percent of all employers in the U.S., the company also paired up with Xero earlier this month and in June launched a directory of accounting firms suitable for small and medium-sized businesses.

AlphaPoint to Power DCEX, an XRP-Based Currency Exchange

Digital asset exchange platform AlphaPoint announced today it will power DCEX, a digital currency exchange platform powered by AlphaPoint’s blockchain technology.

DCEX will serve as a digital currency exchange for retail and institutional investors and is using Ripple’s digital currency, XRP, as its base currency. This move makes DCEX the first marketplace to use XRP exclusively. At launch, the exchange allows users to trade in 15 coin pairs, including the most popular currencies, Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum. The exchange plans to add more pairs later this year.

Features of the exchange include:

  • Conduct high-speed transfers between exchanges
  • Designed to facilitate up to one million transactions per second
  • Connect to APIs to facilitate high frequency crypto trading
  • Move XRP between DCEX and other marketplaces at a low cost

In a blog post announcement on Medium, Salil Donde, AlphaPoint CEO said, “We, as founders, have been in the crypto space since its inception… At DCEX we firmly believe that a true industry leader must be unrivaled in every element of the service it offers. We offer the excitement of trading, and provide you with the means to navigate the uncharted waters of cryptocurrency trading.”

The exchange will begin trading in a couple of weeks, but users can sign up for early access.

Founded in 2013, AlphaPoint powers digital asset networks and maintains the AlphaPoint Distributed Ledger Platform (ADLP), the platform on which the asset issuance and custody solution is based. The ADLP interoperates with more than 20 ledger technologies. At FinovateFall 2017, the company showcased the ADLP Reconciliation Platform, which combines blockchain-based asymmetric access controls and machine-enforced domain compliance for order management and other activities. The Reconciliation Platform reduces time and cost associated with manual, post-trade reconciliation processes.

In June of this year, AlphaPoint raised $15 million in funding, bringing its total capital to $16.6 million. Last week, the company appointed Kristin Boggiano as Chief Legal Officer.

CoverHound to Help Intelligent Customers to Shop Around for Renter’s Insurance

Online insurance marketplace CoverHound announced a partnership with Intellirent, a rental marketing and tenant screening platform.

The partnership will enable renters whose landlords use the Intellirent software suite to access instant quotes on renter’s insurance leveraging CoverHound’s insurance marketplace. CoverHound offers renters transparency across policies while Intellirent benefits from the simplicity of a single partnership.

“The majority of real estate professionals using our service require their renters to maintain an insurance policy,” said Corey Eckert, founder of Intellirent. “By partnering with CoverHound, we can eliminate the hassle of insurance shopping for renters while providing these agents with a streamlined process they can share with their new tenants.”

CoverHound VP of Product and Personal Lines, Kelli Broin, explained that the partnership will help renters get insurance to protect what matters to them. She added, “Our streamlined process enables renters to compare quotes online and easily purchase the coverage that’s right for them.”

CoverHound was founded in 2010 to offer an insurance marketplace where consumers can shop around for auto, homeowners, renters, and life insurance. In 2016, the company expanded to offer insurance for small businesses, providing a range of insurance options including worker’s compensation, liability, cyber insurance, and more.

At FinovateFall 2013, CoverHound CEO and founder Basil Enan and CMO Keith Moore demoed the company’s mobile app. Last fall, CoverHound expanded its network of partners and insurance carriers. The company works with top carriers including Chubb, Liberty Mutual, Hiscox, Progressive, biBerk, Safeco, Nationwide, Mercury, and Hartford Steam Boiler.

Headquartered in California, CoverHound has raised a total of $56 million.