Personal Capital Helps Investors Worried about the “What If” of Future Recessions

Not that we didn’t see it coming, but the National Bureau of Economic Research officially declared yesterday that the U.S. entered into a recession in February.

With the market volatility over the past few months, many investors have attempted to assess how the changes will impact their retirement plans. Seeing the need to offer peace amid uncertainty, Personal Capital made a move last month to help investors prepare their portfolios for the worst.

The company added a new tool, Recession Simulator, to its dashboard. The feature helps its U.S. users illustrate the effects that historical recessions would have on their portfolio. Currently the Recession Simulator allows users to mimic returns of the DotCom crash of 2000 and the Financial Crisis of 2008.

“With uncertainty around the market’s performance and overall economy, we want to continue to be a catalyst for providing individuals the necessary tools and insights to best position themselves to reach their financial goals under volatile market conditions,” said Personal Capital EVP for Advisory Service, Kyle Ryan.

The retirement dashboard also incorporates expected return and volatility, annual savings, income events, spending goals, retirement spending, social security, and tax rules for taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free investment accounts. My favorite aspect of Personal Capital’s retirement tool is that it allows users to generate different scenarios to simulate retirement income under multiple circumstances. It helps users to easily compare situations such as: What if there is a recession every 10 years? What if I sell my rental property at age 50? What if I pay for a child’s tuition?

The new Recession Simulator tool is the result of a company-wide hackathon, and according to Personal Capital’s recent survey, it comes at a good time. The survey found that around 40% of people indicating they were planning to retire within the next 10 years have decided to delay their retirement. It also uncovered that around 77% of the respondents who are at least 10 years away from retirement expressed some concern about COVID-19’s impact on their retirement goals.

A Finovate alum since 2011, Personal Capital has amassed $12.3 billion in assets under management since it was founded in 2009. The company has 24,000 investment clients across the U.S. and 2.5 million registered users of its free financial planning tools.

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Fintech Halftime Review: Rewinding, Assessing, and Looking Forward

2020 has been quite a year. No one could have predicted the strides the fintech industry has made in digital transformation, the dramatic change in the way consumers use physical bank branches, or the shift in attitudes toward mobile payments.

Because taking in all of the changes over the past six months is a monumental task, we thought we’d help out. The Finovate Fintech Halftime Review, taking place June 22 through June 26, is a free, week-long digital event comprised of webinars, videos, whitepapers, eMagazines, and more. We’ll cover a new topic each day, and all content can be accessed online at a time that suits your schedule.

Topics include LendingTech, PayTech, FraudTech, BankingTech, and WealthTech. Each category will take place on a different day so you can mix and match the sessions you want to attend.

Register now and check out the agenda. You’ll be glad you did!


Thanks to our partners aixigo, Fiserv, Glance, ITSCREDIT, and Appian for providing their support and expertise.

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Going Live: How Some Banks are Dealing with Remote Implementation

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What is the safest way for banks to go live with new tools in the height of a global pandemic? Remotely, of course!

This is the reality that many bank and third party providers have faced over the past few months. Despite the complications that COVID-19 has brought to banks’ operations, many are still moving full speed ahead on projects with third party providers.

Naresh Kurup

Naresh Kurup, Marketing Director at banking financial crime risk management firm Clari5 has experienced this first-hand. After the pandemic hit, Clari5 was forced to quickly move to a work-from-home setting while onboarding two new clients completely remotely, something the team had never done before. We caught up with Kurup to get the details.

In the height of the coronavirus lockdown, you were able to help two new bank clients start projects. Tell us more about this.

We leveraged the coronavirus lockdown situation as an opportunity to excel, for our customers and for us. Amidst the din all around about how the pandemic has been negatively impacting firms and systems worldwide, we had some noteworthy achievements during the lockdown, including three new client wins.

The two projects that we started were both large enterprise fraud management projects for banks (one of them is the Philippines’ second largest bank). Both banks were agreeable to starting their projects during the lockdown – a testimony to the faith in our capability.

We also had another prominent new bank go live with our enterprise fraud management solution, despite the nation-wide lockdown, via a 100% remote implementation.

Our cloud-based project management framework – called Clari5One, has been helping us work seamlessly and virtually. In fact, we have been working at 150% productivity.

So, we actually have been having a silver lining in the Covid cloud.

Were there any hesitations from the banks’ perspectives? If so, how did you deal with their concerns?

There were a few initial apprehensions around remote project initiation and implementation as this is not the standard practice for large enterprise implementation projects.

We modified and extended our project management framework to the banks for higher real-time synchronicity and shared visibility of the delivery management plan.

In the case of the bank client going live during the lockdown, it was mutually agreed that the entire implementation would be performed remotely. Everything from requirement discussions, to integration strategy and configuration, to implementation rollout for the go-live would be conducted fully remotely.

Also, high operational rigor, advanced tele/videoconferencing tools, real-time communication, and continuous updates assured the banks that our project team were completely in-sync throughout the project journey.

These factors were instrumental in the banks gaining confidence that the projects would proceed exactly as per plan, despite the situation.

What was the biggest challenge of remote implementation?

Given the nature, scope, and scale of these projects, typically large enterprise fraud management solution implementation projects demand large teams from either side working together physically closely.

But, given our project management platform, advanced communication tools, and the heightened diligence because of the situation, instead of working alongside the banks’ fraud risk management department officials, our remote project team dovetailed seamlessly with them. So, we were very much present, but virtually.

In fact, the CIO of the bank that went live on Clari5 EFM said, “We are an execution-oriented organization that sets sight on a goal and achieves it, despite roadblocks. We are pleased that Clari5 imbibed our vision, and went live with the mission-critical, enterprise-level fraud risk management solution, despite COVID-19. We appreciate team Clari5’s efforts to keep our operations running and being supportive at every step. Happy to have Clari5 as our valued partner.”

Also, as with any conventional project management, we had no margin for error and were all set to achieve the targets on time, despite managing the projects remotely.

Lessons learnt include project management hyper-optimization, integration approach, methodology finalization, remote infrastructure setup, SIT/UAT support, and final thrust for go-live.

In fact, if it weren’t for the virus, we wouldn’t have had an opportunity to demonstrate that yes, we indeed can remotely activate and implement.

What technology/ tools have you found useful in implementing projects with clients remotely?

As a young fintech company we are equipped and enabled in processes and technology that support ‘work from anywhere’ for most of our staff. So, transitioning to a ‘complete’ remote working situation for project implementations in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown wasn’t exactly a big leap for us.

Since implementation of the Clari5 suite requires close interactions with client teams as well as tasks and activities that are required to be done on premise, we transitioned them to Clari5One – our cloud-based project management framework that has multiple technologies as components.

Clari5One helped us with –

  • Detailed requirements gathering, demo of use cases, technical specifications interactions
  • Installation / configuration of Clari5 application components
  • System integration tests and support for use acceptance tests
  • Production deployment, go-live, and post go-live support
  • Project governance (reviews, interventions, and decisions)
  • Issue tracking, work allocation, and status tracking

If given the choice between an in-person implementation and a remote one, which would you choose?

Undoubtedly, remote.

Being an enterprise product company, we work very closely with client banks to help them achieve their risk and compliance requirements completely and consistently. Project implementation proficiency and on-time delivery have been the hallmarks of our success, which we have achieved consistently in implementations across geographies. But COVID-19 tested our hypothesis.

The outcome has been a mindset shift in our project implementation approach. We had experimented with remote implementations in the past, but the COVID-19 lockdown provided a live environment to validate our remote implementation hypothesis. The leading bank going live boosted our confidence to manage an entire project remotely.  

We are now honing our remote implementation expertise for other projects on the anvil. We are currently implementing an EFM project for Philippines’ second largest bank using our remote implementation methodology.

Given the clear advantages of people deployment efficiency, cost economies, and much shorter go-live timeframes, we expect a substantial number of future implementations to be managed remotely.

Suffice to say, remote implementation of large banking enterprise solution projects will become the new normal.

6 Things to Consider while Testing Financial Applications

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The following is a guest post by Hemanth Kumar Yamjala, Associate Manager in Digital Marketing at Cigniti Technologies.

Testing financial applications is the need of the hour given the spectre of cybercrime. It should comprise conducting various types of testing such as functional, performance, and security, besides understanding the integrated domains.

Why test?

One of the reasons why mobile-based transactions have become such a rage is their convenience in handling financial payments. Whether it is the paying of utility bills, doing online shopping, booking movie or airline tickets, or paying for the tickets in a concert, app-driven financial transactions are here to stay. At the core of such services are the financial applications. These applications store, manage, process, or analyze financial data and information. Since so much is underpinned on the successful functioning of these applications, financial application testing becomes critical.

A multi-tier financial application allows concurrent user sessions. As it is integrated with various APIs of third-party applications, regulatory websites, trading accounts, and payment gateways, there could be complex workflows and value chains that make testing imperative. As a greater number of customers are using financial applications for making transactions on the go, Fintech companies are looking to set up platforms that deliver seamless customer experiences.

Factors to consider while testing financial apps

Financial services testing should follow an end-to-end methodology to test various aspects such as business requirements and banking workflows, functional testing, security testing, data accuracy and integrity, concurrency, performance testing, and user experience.

  • Business involvement
    The test specialists should collaborate with the business analysts and other stakeholders to understand the business requirements of the application. The business requirements and deliverables ought to be analyzed by specialists testing financial applications, development leads, and business analysts to obtain optimal testing results.
  • Domain understanding
    Given the various domain interfaces of a financial application, the test specialists should understand and possess adequate knowledge about them, which could be about the type and scope of testing – UI, security, load, stress, or functionality or aspects like brokerage, working procedures, or banking, among others. The testers, by knowing the respective domains, can write better test cases and simulate user actions to obtain better test results.
  • Impact analysis
    It is about analyzing how the changes made to the application can impact other aspects of the application. This calls for a calibrated regression testing involving automation, which would enable the BFSI testing team to identify the affected areas of the application and get them fixed.
  • Functional testing
    This type of banking application testing exercise requires access to all source codes and architecture to identify and fix glitches and vulnerabilities. The typical test activities comprise preparation and review of test cases and their execution, including application testing, integration testing, regression testing, and user acceptance testing.
  • Security testing
    Usually financial application security testing is conducted at the end of both functional and non-functional testing. Apart from looking at the resident vulnerabilities and glitches, the testing should ensure the application adheres to the industry regulations related to security like PCI.
  • Performance testing
    As more people are using such applications, they need to be tested for load and stress thresholds. It will help make the application robust, scalable, and resilient thereby ensuring better load management.

Conclusion

As financial services are expanding into new territories and gaining new customers, the need to foster efficiency, security, and risk management become apparent. By embarking on a massive testing exercise, financial institutions can ensure the success of such applications and secure customers against any security breach.


Hemanth Kumar Yamjala has 10+ years of experience in IT Services, predominantly Marketing, Branding, specializing in Digital. Currently a part of the marketing for Cigniti Technologies with functions such as leveraging digital marketing channels for lead generation and promotion.

The FinovateSpring Takeover

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Last week would have been the week of FinovateSpring. However, instead of being in to San Francisco to gather in person, the majority of the world remains at home. 

FinovateSpring has been rescheduled and re-named to FinovateWest for 2020 and will take place this coming November. To commemorate our original dates, we curated a week of analysis and insights for our blog readers offering updates and ideas about the future of fintech and conducting business during the coronavirus. All of the content is collated it into this eMagazine. It felt good to connect with leading industry players, pick their brains and hear how businesses are adapting.

We also gave a major sneak peek of the new digital demo format you can expect to see at our all-digital events this year.

Read on and enjoy!

How the Coronavirus Impacts the Appetite for Cryptocurrency

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We’ve heard a lot about how the coronavirus has made an impact across the fintech realm, but what about in the crypto space? With an unstable stock market, why weren’t investors fleeing to alternative, blockchain-based assets?

To get an inside view on these questions and more, Finovate’s Adela Knox spoke with Max Lautenschläger, managing partner and co-founder of Iconic Holding, a Germany-based company that manages and sells crypto asset investment vehicles and invests in blockchain and crypto-focused companies via its in-house accelerator.

How has the coronavirus pandemic disrupted traditional investments?

Max Lautenschläger: Personally, as a supervisory member of the biggest independent financial advisory company in Germany, I am monitoring the German financial market closely. I was surprised how good the day-to-day business is going in this very special time, which is forecasted to be one of the biggest economical depressions in modern history. Moreover, it’s positively surprising how much this pandemic is pushing us towards a more digital financial ecosystem. Consumers are adapting to the “new normal” and are suddenly forced, but also willing to make decisions online. Investment advisors and financial consultants on the other hand are realizing the potential of using online tools for signing documents, online identifications or video calls for customer acquisition and retention. Financial institutions seem to finally understand how important digitization is for the daily operations with millennials, which have a very different expectation of financial services. Even though the whole financial industry is suffering, it will also have a positive impact long-term.

By looking at the best performing stocks since corona started, you can also see that more and more money is getting invested into themes like data, remote working, online education, and sustainability. In this pandemic people are realizing the shift the world has already made and want to be exposed to the increasingly important topics.

How has this impacted the appetite for digital currency?

Lautenschläger: It’s very important to understand what was going on when corona hit us out of the sudden. We’re not in an economic crisis yet, but the initial shock led to a so-called liquidity crisis, which makes investors liquidate their holdings -if possible- to cash. All asset classes suffered severely, even “safe havens” like gold decreased by more than 10 percent. Cryptoassets crashed in those extraordinary times, as well, even though they’re said to be non-correlating to other asset classes. Nonetheless, this crisis just confirms what we already know: central banks can print money and are increasing the circulating supply constantly. The beauty about crypto is that code is law, which means that the supply-demand-relationship is predefined. Over the last couple of weeks more and more institutional money has been invested into crypto assets which also led to a new peak in commitments to traditional financial vehicles like the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.

Secondly, the discussion of introducing a blockchain-based Euro or US Dollar is again one of the top priorities for central banks all over the globe.Libra, despite its weaknesses, seems to be a solid backbone infrastructure for those digitized currencies and could help to accelerate this development.

What is the biggest myth about cryptocurrency?

Lautenschläger: Most people I talk to think that crypto assets don’t have any intrinsic value and research from big financial institutions are trying to support this hypothesis. But this is entirely wrong! Let’s take Bitcoin as an example. Digital gold, safe haven, store of value — a lot of phrases have been used to describe Bitcoin, and to a certain extent, I agree with all of them. For me, Bitcoin is a commodity like gold, other rare metals or rare earth, which can be modeled by the stock-to-flow ratio. On the other hand, there are blockchain protocols which are the infrastructure for decentralized applications. The value of those protocols and their native tokens is derived from the number of deployed applications and the level of engagement. Users will use the infrastructure that offers them the applications they need and developers will go where the users are.

How is cryptocurrency performing in the current pandemic climate?

Lautenschläger: First it crashed like all the other asset classes. The reason for this is that corona -at first- didn’t cause an economic crisis, but primarily a liquidity crisis. Studies in behavioral finance suggest that people tend to convert all liquid assets to cash to be prepared for an upcoming crisis. But even though crypto

tanked even more than the stock and commodity markets it is still the best-performing asset class of 2020. With the monetary policy of the ECB, FED, and BoJ you can clearly see the vulnerability of our system, which makes more and more people lose trust in central bank policies and money in its current design. This is why crypto was born in 2009 as a reaction to the financial crisis.

What are the biggest benefits and reward of investing in digital cryptocurrency?

Lautenschläger: First of all, crypto has a low correlation to traditional and alternative asset classes, which makes it a perfect portfolio diversifier. Recently, we conducted a study in collaboration with the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, which clearly shows that an allocation of 1% to 5% of crypto to a traditional portfolio not only generated additional returns, but also increased the sharpe-ratio severely, which is the most well-known risk-to-return measure.

Is the demand for crypto assets limited to professional investors or is it something that everyday investors are looking into as well?

Lautenschläger: Crypto assets were originally completely retail driven by individuals who believed in the potential and the idea of an intermediary-free world, in which everyone is financially included. Nowadays, we see more and more high net worth individuals and family offices investing into the space. The lack of professional, enterprise-grade financial vehicles is still an issue and makes it hard for institutions to enter the space. But recent developments like the European AML directive and the German crypto custody license are first indicators that crypto assets are becoming “bankable.” This is also what we have been working on for years at Iconic Funds: make crypto accessible through traditional, regulated vehicles.

Marqeta Lands $150 Million, Boosts Valuation to $4.3 Billion

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In a world of shrinking valuations and declining VC funding, payments company Marqeta is bucking the norm. The California-based company announced today it raised $150 million. Marqeta has also boosted its valuation to $4.3 billion, more than double the $1.9 billion valuation it earned a little over a year ago.

Today’s funding comes from a single investor, which Marqeta has not disclosed. However, sources have identified the party as L.A., California-based Capital Group. Marqeta’s previous investors include Coatue, Vitruvian Partners, Visa, Goldman Sachs, 83North, Granite Ventures, ICONIQ Capital, and others.

Marqeta, which was founded in 2010, positions itself as a modern card-issuing platform. The company offers scalable and configurable payments solutions available via an open API. Its services include ecommerce, incentive and disbusrsement payments, expense management, lending, and digital banking. Among its clients are Square, Uber, Affirm, Instacart, and DoorDash.

“Marqeta continues to move forward from strength to strength in 2020 as our global modern card issuing platform provides essential infrastructure and support to our customers across industries and oceans,” said Marqeta CEO and Founder Jason Gardner. “We’re building a single global platform to define and power the future of money for the world’s leading innovators. This new capital helps us accelerate our mission to empower builders to bring the most innovative products to market, wherever they are in the world.”

The company’s payment services are available in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia and is able to process payments in 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region. Last year, Marqeta marked the issuance of 140+million cards and doubled its revenue from the year prior to exceed $300 million. Jason Gardner is founder and CEO.

Fintech Analysts Speak Out About COVID-19

We’re used to things changing fast in the fintech industry, but in the past few months, we’ve seen even more rapid change. That’s the reason behind the latest series on the Finovate podcast: Fintech in Extraordinary Times.

In this series, host Greg Palmer caught up with nine fintech analysts to get their thoughts on what we can expect to happen in fintech now that the economy and our way of life is turned upside down. Check out the series to get a glimpse of who will be the winners and losers, what strategies will prove beneficial, and what the future of customer service will look like.

Ron Shevlin

Shevlin summed up his projection in three words: “I don’t know.” To be fair, he was the first guest in the series and didn’t have the benefit of seeing government stimulus packages, consumer purchasing changes, and infection curve adjustments. Shevlin explained that making guesses about the economy is the wrong move at the moment, and guided firms to instead focus their attention on strategic planning and helping to stabilize customers’ and employees’ lives.

“None of this advice matters,” he emphasized, “if the bank doesn’t first take a customer-centric approach.” Shevlin concluded that when we emerge from the other side of this crisis, banks will better understand the connection between financial health and physical health and will be better poised to deliver digital services.

Alyson Clarke

During her discussion, Clarke focused on the positive. She made the point that the key to surviving recessions is preparing for the upturn. Banks need to balance cost-cutting efforts with productivity and should reengineer their processes around the customer and not the product. Instead of simply cutting costs by laying off employees, Clarke noted, banks need to consider how they can improve their productivity and focus on higher value tasks.

As for what’s next, Clarke believes that the next wave of innovation will center around risk and back office solutions that drive efficiencies. “We’ve already seen sexy front-end innovation and now there is a demand for efficient solutions to drive more scale,” said Clarke. In addition to back office solutions, she noted that the low-touch commerce movement will spur innovation in digital payments. And, she opined, we may even end up with a mobile payments solution that sticks.

Jacob Jegher

Jegher stated that the crisis will prompt fintechs to be more creative, especially since consumer behavioral change has prompted a move into digital opportunities. The new era of the digital economy will ultimately be a test of a bank’s user experience. He explained that if consumers come running back to the bank branch when this is all over instead of learning to embrace mobile, perhaps there is room for improvement in the mobile experience.

In the future, Jegher predicts that changes to the economic environment and lower unemployment numbers will inspire banks to offer solutions that cater to the gig economy. Up to this point, traditional banks have failed to serve this customer segment.

Dan Latimore

Latimore kicked things off with a disclaimer that in the next few weeks as things progress and as new information comes in each day, his views may change radically. Overall, however, he predicts that COVID-19 will accelerate a lot of existing initiatives and consumer behavior patterns. For example, Latimore noted that we can expect to see hockey stick growth in consumers’ digital adoption and in their move away from cash usage.

On the other (perhaps more negative) side of the spectrum, Latimore said that we will likely see an acceleration of the “thinning of the fintech herd.” In other words, many fintechs will close their doors or become acquired by larger players.

Brett King

In his segment, King opened by saying, “This isn’t a fintech bubble that has collapsed, this is the entire world economy that has collapsed.”

In predicting winners and losers, King anticipates that challenger banks will do well. And though a lack of future funding rounds may slow their growth, these non-traditional banks will be able to acquire new customers organically at a faster pace. He added that, conversely, fintechs working in the credit space may not fare as well. “If you’re in the credit business in fintech right now, that’s going to be tough– you’ve got to de-risk,” King said.

As for change that has already occurred in the industry as a result of the coronavirus, King looked to his own company, Moven, as an example. He explained that because the direct-to-consumer version of Moven lost a major round of funding due to concerns around the economic effects of COVID-19, the company had to make some major decisions. Ultimately, Moven closed its direct-to-consumer offering and pivoted to focus all of its efforts on Moven’s enterprise product, which is currently experiencing increased demand because of new digitization requirements.

Adrienne Harris

Harris made that point the fintech has yet to experience a downturn, since much of it was born out of the last financial crisis. That said, many are watching the industry closely to see how it will weather the storm.

She highlighted the hope that fintech tools will help repress some of the negative effects of the economic downturn. Since we have a lot more tools and more data going into the current crisis than we had going into the 2008 financial crisis, perhaps the economic situation won’t be as bad as it would have been in the absence of fintech tools.

Harris predicts that as fintechs are impacted by the economic effects of the crisis, some will fold and others will fall short of meeting customer expectations. Because of this, she noted, we can expect to see more scrutiny from policymakers and regulators.

Louise Beaumont

In her interview, Beaumont made the point that this is a time of forced change, and it’s causing innovators to step up to new challenges. Experian, for example, is offering its Affordability Passport to its customers for free.

As a champion of open banking, Beaumont highlighted that the need for open banking is even greater during this time of crisis. When it comes to lending, she said that leveraging business data using open banking is one of the keys to ensure that the right funding hits the right company at the right time. This will allow all banks to see a business’ entire financial history– even if that company does not do business with the bank that is extending the funding.

Chris Skinner

Skinner explained that large banks are having difficulty with the shifting demands of consumers. He noted that not only have they increased their digital demands, they are also requiring more one-on-one attention in areas such as mortgages. Because of these changes, many banks are receiving 10x their usual call volume but have 10x fewer employees to service the calls. After the pandemic, he concluded, many banks will rush to become purely digital.

Skinner predicts that the fintech industry has another decade until it will fully mature. He explained that once fintech reaches true maturity, it will be built on open banking. Even before this time, however, he anticipates we’ll see banks flock to the open banking model because after the pandemic, banks will be seeking agility. “The ones that are just sitting there like rabbits in the headlights are really going to struggle,” he said.

Coinbase to Buy Tagomi to Appeal to Sophisticated Investors

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The fintech landscape is changing and digital currency wallet and crypto exchange platform Coinbase is ready to change right along with it. This is evident in the San Francisco-based company’s move today to acquire Tagomi, a cryptocurrency brokerage platform. Terms of the deal are undisclosed.

Coinbase anticipates that the new addition will help it appeal to advanced traders and “sophisticated” crypto investors, two groups that have shown increased interest in Coinbase as of late. The company has catered to these investors by launching tiered offerings, Coinbase Pro, which offers advanced features such as margin trading and tools to help segregate trading strategies; and Coinbase Prime, which is a professional trading platform for institutional clients.

“We’ve seen a swell in demand from institutional investors over the past year, driving tremendous growth in our Coinbase Custody offering and increased volumes on our trading platforms,” the company said in a blog post. “The addition of Tagomi will round out our product suite for the fast-growing institutional trading market. It will allow us to offer custody, professional trading features, and prime brokerage services on one platform, giving sophisticated investors the seamless, powerful trading experience they have come to expect in equities and FX markets.”

Chicago-based Tagomi was launched just a year-and-a-half ago and has since raised $28 million. The company caters to advanced traders, hedge funds, and family offices, including well-known names such as Paradigm, Pantera, Bitwise, and Multicoin.

The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is scheduled to close later this year.

Wealthfront’s Biggest Weapon During a Pandemic

Wealthfront has been around the proverbial fintech block a few times. The San Francisco-based wealthtech company launched near the dawn of fintech under the name KaChing in 2008 and demoed its investment platform at the second-ever Finovate conference in 2009.

Given its time in the space, Wealthfront is well-positioned during this pandemic. The legacy fintech benefits from a strong customer base, name recognition, and profitability. So when the pandemic hit and many firms were struggling with customer service or the transition of working from home, Wealthfront didn’t miss a beat.

Its secret weapon? Scalability. As Wealthfront’s client base has grown to almost 400,000 users, the company has relied on automation to ensure a high-quality customer experience. “Automation has been a key product principle at Wealthfront from day one,” said Wealthfront Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Dan Carroll in a blog post. “If we can’t automate a service, we won’t build it. When a client needs to email or call us, we consider that a failure in our product and work to build an automated solution.”

Instead of customer service representatives, Wealthfront refers to its team members as Product Specialists. The 12-person team is comprised of licensed financial advisors who are each responsible for fielding client questions and tracking and relaying customer feedback to the company’s product development team. Using these techniques, Wealthfront has been able to scale to 30,000 clients per specialist.

And while some banks were closing down call centers and struggling with customer hold times ranging from 30 minutes to three hours, Wealthfront’s team of 12 Product Specialists weren’t overburdened. To get ahead of the projected spike in client inquiries, the team moved to individual remote work settings and composed a list of questions they anticipated from customers. With the help of the company’s content team, the specialists deployed in-app pop-ups that offered answers to potential questions and provided advice to help clients navigate volatile markets and the CARES Act.

So what’s next for Wealthfront? “While banks grapple with something as basic as streamlining customer service, we’re working on the future of financial services — something we call Self-Driving Money,” Carroll said. The new product will automate users’ recurring transactions including billpay, savings, and goals. “Our ultimate vision is to optimize your money across spending, savings, and investments, putting it all to work effortlessly.”

Facebook Rebrands Calibra to Novi

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If you’re trying to launch a successful global currency, getting the brand name right is key. That must be what Facebook was thinking this week when it changed the name of the digital wallet for Libra, its new global cryptocurrency payment project.

The new name of the wallet, Novi, was rebranded from Calibra. While Facebook did not say what prompted the name change, TechCrunch speculated in its piece that, ” By rebranding Calibra to Novi, Facebook is trying to make it super clear that the Libra project isn’t a Facebook project per se. Facebook is just a member of the Libra Association with dozens of other members, such as Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase, Iliad, Lyft, Shopify, Spotify, Uber, etc.”

However, the new Novi brand has not completely left Libra out of its new look. The wallet incorporated the three waves of Calibra’s logo into the design of its new logo. The Facebook subsidiary said it did so, “to underscore our commitment to the Libra network.”

The Novi wallet, which was named as a combination of the words “novus via” (Latin for “new way”), will offer a standalone app for instant cryptocurrency transfers. Users will also be able to transfer funds via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

As of now, there is no word on the fee structure. However, Novi said in its announcement that there will be no “hidden” fees for money transfers, indicating that the wallet will be transparent about the pricing. Novi is aiming to launch in a limited number of countries when the Libra network is available.

It’s a good time to launch a digital wallet. With consumers all across the globe eschewing cash for digital payments in order to be more conscious about transfering the coronavirus, there is likely to be higher demand for digital payment technologies. That said, mainstream consumers have been notoriously wary of cryptocurrencies, so they may opt for tap-to-pay or QR code payment methods before they are willing to use a cryptocurrency.

By Miles Raises $18 Million for Pay-By-Mile Auto Insurance

With the coronavirus keeping drivers off the road, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding auto insurance. In fact, many providers have recognized the decreased daily mileage (and the increased need for cash) during this time, and responded by offering rebates and credits to consumers in return.

Because of this, the pay-by-mile insurance model is looking more sensible than ever. This is likely what CommerzVentures was thinking when it led By Mile’s $18.3 million (£15 million) round of funding. Existing investors Octopus Ventures, Insurtech Gateway, and JamJar also participated.

“This crisis has shown U.K. drivers what we’ve known for a while: the way car insurance works now isn’t working for everyone,” said ByMiles CEO and CoFounder James Blackham. “Our pay-by-mile car insurance provides lower mileage drivers with a flexible, lower cost policy that drivers can track in real-time.”

Launched in 2016, By Miles offers U.K. residents a new alternative for car insurance in which drivers only pay for the miles that they drive. The company offers two options, both aimed at users that drive less than 7,000 miles per year. The Standard option uses a Miles Tracker device, a black box that plugs into a car’s dashboard. The telematics device uses mileage data from the user’s car to help price their insurance. The device does not use other data, such as speed, to price the insurance. Newer cars can use By Miles’ Trackerless option that pull mileage data directly from the connected cars’ manufacturer.

ByMiles is already seeing growth thanks to the global pandemic. The company experienced its strongest sales in April.