Customer Experience and Member Engagement in the New Era

Financial services organizations have significant and unique roles to play in the societal responding to COVID-19 – both as we are in the midst of the global pandemic and as we emerge and eventually start to rebuild and recover. In light of this unprecedented challenge, Senior Content Producer at Finovate, Laura Maxwell-Bernier, spoke with Norman Buchanan, First Vice President of Design & Transformation at Alliant Credit Union, to discuss the implications of these unprecedented times for the customer experience and member engagement.

LMB: Thanks for taking the time to join me today. Let’s start with how customer experiences are changing… what does a good customer experience look like in these unprecedented times?

Norman Buchanan: The definitions and fundamentals of member experience stay the same no matter what external forces are at work. Throughout our 85-year history, Alliant has been committed to serving and supporting our members in good times and in bad. 

However, times like these do reinforce the human condition and highlight the importance of a human-centered member experience.  Establishing authentic, empathetic connections in these times is even more appreciated and critical during the crisis.

LMB: So, how can financial services institutions offer support and reliability to customers when they need it most?

Buchanan: It is critical for financial institutions to show support to our members and customers in this crisis. At Alliant Credit Union, our lending, product management and marketing team quickly developed a new unsecured loan product offering for our existing members within the first week of the crisis. In addition to our unsecured loan product, we have also made our Payment Deferral, Modification and Payment Reduction programs more readily available and easily accessible. These offerings are critical to providing a small amount of relief and peace of mind to members who are experiencing a sudden and dramatic change to their financial condition. 

We have been doing scenario planning for the last 10 years and some of the scenarios track closely to what we’re seeing in the market now.  We’ve prepared for times like these and will continue to monitor the situation every day so we can make rate change decisions that are in the best collective interests of our more than 500,000 member-owners nationwide.

LMB: How is Alliant Credit Union responding from the customer and member perspective?

Buchanan: During this uncertain time, we are focused on four priorities: continuing strong service to our members, employee and member safety, helping members impacted by COVID-19 and keeping members and employees informed.

Alliant instituted an initial work from home policy on March 13 and implemented a 100 percent virtual work from home call center within 3 business days to help support our members.  We had never implemented this type of a call center before in Alliant’s history, (and honestly something I never thought we would ever see) but we were able to accomplish it in rapid time thanks to our resilience as an organization.

Our contact center NPS Scores for the first month of being 100 percent remote are 2 points higher than the same period last year.  We mobilized a 100 percent work from home call center and have had slightly improved YOY satisfaction response from our members.  This is something our credit union takes a great deal of pride in having accomplished.

LMB: With social distancing now the norm, how can we harness digital services to best serve customers and engage members?

Buchanan: Digital Transformation has been the lynchpin of Alliant’s strategy over the last five years.  As our CEO, Dave Mooney puts it, “Banking is something you do, not a place you go.”  This strategy has driven the transformation of our Mobile and Online Banking offerings based in research and continual feedback from our members as well as investment in our call center infrastructure and analytics.  This strategy enabled Alliant to be in a position to close the majority of our branch network in 2018 so that we could focus on serving our members needs exclusively through our digital and phone channels. 

LMB: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge COVID-19 presents us in terms of delivering best-in-class customer and member experience?

Buchanan: The COVID-19 situation highlighted that a frictionless member experience needs to be supported by a frictionless employee experience, especially when that employee experience is 100 percent remote! 

Areas of the operation that historically have been underinvested in automation have been highlighted by this historic experience.  Operations like loan deferrals and modifications, which typically handle transaction volumes in the teens per week for us, have been overwhelmed by the current environment.  This allows us the opportunity to re-prioritize our focus to ensure that we can support our members with optimized and automated back office processes.  That will be an immediate legacy of the COVID Member experience challenge. 

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

Photo by Georgie Cobbs on Unsplash

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.

Digital Demo Series: Momentifi

As Finovate events return this fall, dozens of companies are getting ready to showcase their latest financial services technologies this September and November. And not surprisingly, many of these innovations are part of larger stories related to COVID-19.

As a sneak peek, we recorded an early digital demo interview with Momentifi, who will also demo at FinovateWest. Along with Finovate VP of Strategy, Greg Palmer, Momentifi explores its CRM and sales system for remote workers. The company’s technology will continue to be pivotal as many regions still face stay-at-home orders and companies will not see offices at full capacity for many months.

To join Momentifi and other companies demoing this fall, visit the FinovateFall and FinovateWest (formerly FinovateSpring) websites. Hope to see you apply!

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.

A Journey to Purposeful Fin(tech)

The following is a guest post written by Theo Lau, Founder of Unconventional Ventures, Public Speaker, Writer, Podcast Host of One Vision.

2020 did not turn out the way we expected. With a tsunami of megadeals being announced in the first few weeks of the year, many predicted that it would yet be another banner year for fintech funding and M&A activities.

Then came the pandemic. And the economy came crashing down like Jenga blocks.

As COVID-19 has destabilized pretty much every aspect of our lives – companies big and small are preparing themselves for the long-term impact of the extended shutdown and economic downturn. With jobless claims hitting unprecedented levels, what do consumers need the most? How will financial services react and what roles do fintechs play?

Does the world need (yet) another metal credit card or another investing app? Do we really want to talk to our virtual assistant to figure out how much money we spent at Starbucks last month?

A new normal – and a different world

The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent this month — a devastation not seen since the Great Depression. According to MarketWatch , “as many as 43 million new jobless claims have been filed since the pandemic began in mid-March, using unadjusted figures. That is one of every four people in the U.S. labor force.”

Goldman Sachs projected that the unemployment rate in the second quarter could hit 25%.

The health crisis has laid bare the structural inequalities that we face in the society, for those who are poor, non-white, women, and gig workers. According to the Washington Post , “20 percent of Hispanic adults and 16 percent of blacks report being laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began, compared with 11 percent of whites and 12 percent of workers of other races.”

Unsurprisingly, 70 percent of the people in line at a food bank had never been in a food line in their lives, according to Feeding America, the largest US hunger relief organization.

With so many who have yet to recover from the Great Recession, the added stress from the current downturn is unthinkable. How do we begin to think about recovery, when so many are in need? How do we build not only financial value, but also economic value? How do we, as an industry, put our focus back on the human experience? It is time to refocus on what matters.

Back to the basics

Give cash – fast

First and foremost, we need to get money in the hands of those who need it the most. Propel, a New York-based fintech startup and maker of Fresh EBT app, widely used by millions of SNAP households, is doing exactly just that. In partnership with non-profit GiveDirectly, the team delivers $1000 direct cash to 100,000 low income families in dire need of assistance amid the
COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Citizens Bank of Edmond, a community bank in Oklahoma, and Chime, a challenger bank, have both offered consumers early access to government relief.

Expand digital offerings

With more than half the world’s population in some form of lockdown, online and mobile banking adoption has increased dramatically for both incumbents and challengers. My favorite story is the one from PayPal, who reported that people over 50 were the company’s fastest growingsegment from March to April.

At a time when consumers are looking for safer and more convenient options to bank – this is the perfect opportunity to double-down and expand digital footprint.

  1. Be where your customers are. Engage with them via digital channels; augment capabilities of conversation interface and leverage online communities to share information and provide assistance.
  2. Create self-help or “how to” guides to walk users through different features of the digital offerings. And keep in mind accessibility needs – ensure that the design is inclusive of the demographics you are serving.
  3. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What information would they be looking for and what services would they need the most? Do they know what bills will be due – and if they would have sufficient funds to cover the expenses?

When deploying new digital solutions, design the experience around the end user – your customer – by having a deep understanding on what they want to be able to do with their money, not by what your legacy processes have dictated.

Improve long term financial security

While COVID has accelerated the move towards digital, financial institutions have the opportunity to become heroes in helping consumers tackle financial challenges and achieve long term financial well-being, beyond managing day-to-day transactions.

According to estimates by TransUnion, nearly 15 million credit card accounts and almost three million auto loans are in “financial hardship” programs. Using insights drawn from consumers’ financial activities, financial institutions can work with them to find best possible solutions to
navigate the outstanding debt. Fintechs such as BillShark can also be employed to help bank consumers trim monthly subscriptions.

Now is the time to help consumers better understand their full financial picture, and offer guidance on next steps forward – beyond offering insights on past behavior. Take into account their life stage, not age – and the financial obligations they have.

Another untapped opportunity is financial caregiving for loved ones. With older adults being physically isolated at homes, adult children need ways to help their parents manage finances. But beyond paying bills, consumers can leverage fintech solutions such as those offered by Eversafe, which can analyze activities across financial institutions and help protect their assets
from financial exploitation.

(You are) Always on my mind

It is as much the title of a song from Pet Shop Boys, as it is what firms should be telling their customers. As the saying goes: Actions speak louder than words. How companies treat their employees and their customers during moments of crisis speak volume – to their true values.

Now is the time for incumbents to partner with fintechs and offer the best-in-class solutions for consumers – as we slowly emerge from the crisis and navigate towards an uncertain future. We must turn our focus back at the core of what financial services is about: It is time for purposeful fintech – one that uses technology to do good – and serve the true needs of the society – beyond a shiny user interface.

Changing Fintech for a Changing World

COVID-19 will forever change the way that people engage with the financial institutions that manage their money. In an effort to figure out what exactly that change will look like, I conducted a series of podcast interviews with fintech experts, strategists, and analysts. While the entire series is worth listening to (you can find it here), conducting all of those interviews has given me a unique take on what to expect for the future of fintech. What follows are some of my own big-picture ideas and predictions for the ecosystem based on these conversations.

For banks: a thinning of the herd

Let’s begin by pointing out what should be obvious to everyone at this point: the bank branch is dead. With massive amounts of the world’s population under some sort of stay-at-home order, for many people, there was no option but to take care of financial matters remotely through digital channels. Some governments are starting to ease restrictions which will make it possible for people to go back to bank branches again, but nobody expects that consumers will be as willing to come to a physical bank as they were just a few short months ago. It’s difficult to use an ATM without wondering whether the last person to use it washed their hands proficiently, let alone stand in a line surrounded by other people to wait to talk to a different person who will hand you some cash, which is likely covered in germs.  

Digital, cashless banking has never looked so enticing, a theory which is validated by the massive upturn in digital banking adoption (or “hockey stick” growth as Dan Latimore described it). This upturn is terrific for the banks (and the fintech that supports them) that have already spent a lot of time and energy updating and optimizing their digital experiences. That group tends to be made up of the larger, national (and multi-national) financial institutions, although it certainly contains some smaller, forward-thinking community banks as well.

Banks that hadn’t already prioritized digital transformation, though, are in serious trouble. Despite the writing that’s been on the wall for the past decade, many financial institutions never really engaged with tech to the degree that they should have. For those banks, COVID-19 marks the beginning of the end. It’s too late now to try to catch up, and we are about to see a dramatic thinning of the banking herd as banks that were unprepared for this get acquired or go out of business.

For fintechs: rising demand and growth, but higher stakes

On the fintech side of the industry, the picture is similar. Existing, successful fintechs are about to experience a period of unprecedented demand and growth. Just like with their banking counterparts, the initial hockey stick growth has proven to be a massive stress test, but for companies who passed that test, the future is looking rosy.

The flip side is harsher – fintech companies that hadn’t been able to get to scale, or who struggled to deal with the increased demand will likely fade into the background, pushed aside by the fintech “winners” who will come to dominate the space. Companies that had received venture capital funding before March will be under intense pressure to justify their positions in the fintech ecosystem, and if they can’t, they are likely to find further capital increasingly difficult to acquire.  

The ideas that I’ve outlined so far aren’t controversial among the experts with whom I spoke. Most of them agree that the number of banks will start to shrink, the number of fintech companies will start to shrink, and both the bank and fintech sides will see smaller pools of winners grow into more dominant positions. But when it comes to the question of what happens to early-stage startups in fintech, the water starts to get muddier.

Fintechs’ future: a shifting startup ecosystem

A strong startup ecosystem is vital for the long-term success of fintech. New, young companies push incumbents, introduce exciting new ideas into the space, and recycle top talent. Without them, the industry will stagnate and settle into complacency. So what can we expect?

Despite the obvious pain points, there are a few key pieces that suggest we’ll see some strong innovation from early-stage companies. To start, with contractions on the banking side and the fintech side, there will be some strong talent available for people with new ideas. We saw something like this a decade ago in the wake of the Great Recession, where ex-bankers with inside knowledge of the industry (and its inefficiencies) were able to partner with technologists, and create some really interesting innovations.

Another key point is that while overall funding in fintech companies might slow, there remains a good amount of capital that is currently looking for a home. It will probably be more difficult to get the same initial funding amounts that startups were able to get in the past few years, but that’s ok. (You could easily argue that a lot of startups didn’t need all the capital they had been getting anyway, and smaller initial rounds make successful exits easier to visualize.) There is still capital out there, and the VCs and investment bankers that I’ve spoken with expect to see more of that capital going to early-stage companies than mid-stage companies who haven’t already made a move towards unicorn status.

That said, there will likely be more stringent vetting as a part of the funding process, and there’s going to be more pressure on early-stage companies to deliver results sooner. Even before COVID-19 began sweeping the world, some highly publicized failures like WeWork have had the VC community rethinking how high of a valuation startup companies can really claim. Startups should expect to have to do more with less initially, but as long as they can demonstrate success, they will get the funding they need to bring their innovations to market.

A new reality

When you marry all of these factors together, a picture starts to emerge of what the future in fintech looks like. There will be fewer bank and fintech players in the space, an emerging group of “winners” on the fintech side, and a tougher grading rubric for those seeking capital. It’s going to be a harsher world, but that may ultimately be a good thing for the long-term success of the industry.

The rising tide that has been lifting everyone in fintech for the past few years is gone. As the water comes back down, not everyone will survive, but those that do will be in a much stronger place than they were at the end of 2019. And as the herd thins, there will be space for new companies who can succeed in a more challenging reality. There’s really only one thing that’s certain right now: the future will bring with it many challenges that will need to be met, which means that opportunity will be there for those prepared to take it.

Coinbase to Buy Tagomi to Appeal to Sophisticated Investors

Photo by Mohamed Masaau on Unsplash

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.

Digital Demo Series: WealthConductor

As Finovate events return this fall, dozens of companies are getting ready to showcase their latest financial services technologies this September and November. And not surprisingly, many of these innovations are part of larger stories related to COVID-19.

As a sneak peek, we recorded an early digital demo interview with WealthConductor, who will also demo at FinovateWest. Along with Finovate VP of Strategy, Greg Palmer, WealthConductor explores the retirement income crisis, now more dire than ever when unemployment is at an all-time high.

To join WealthConductor and other companies demoing this fall, visit the FinovateFall and FinovateWest (formerly FinovateSpring) websites. Hope to see you apply!

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

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

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.

NYMBUS Helps Launch Neobank; An Investment Banker Talks Fintech

Cloud banking platform provider NYMBUS, which demonstrated its SmartLaunch banking-as-a-service solution at FinovateFall last year, has partnered with Pacific National Bank (PNB) to help the Florida-based company launch a digital-only bank, FACILE.

“We knew we had to act fast to meet the rising consumer demand for digital banking services,” Pacific National Bank CEO Carlos Fernandez-Guzman said. “Only NYMBUS could immediately offer us a proven, unified solution that delivers on-demand access to their wide-range of digital-first technology products combined with a 24/7/365 live call center and remote business process management support.”

The new offering from Pacific National Bank, an institution with more than $656 million in assets, is designed to provide on the kind of online and mobile banking services that young professionals increasingly demand. FACILE will offer both digital checking and savings accounts on a fee-free basis. Accountholders can make mobile transfers and payments, take advantage of personal financial management tools and resources, and access a network of fee-free ATMs. The account also comes with a debit card that features card controls for both better security and keeping spending at a manageable level.

Headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida and founded in 2015 by Scott Killoh, NYMBUS has raised more than $33 million in funding. The company began the year teaming up with PeoplesBank, a Massachusetts-based financial institution with assets of more than $2.9 billion, that deployed both NYMBUS’ SmartMarketing and SmartOnboarding solutions. “NYMBUS will integrate key aspects of our marketing, onboarding, and CRM ecosystems,” PeoplesBank president and CEO Tom Senecal said. “Together with instant end-to-end reporting that crosses business lines, we will ultimately be setup to strategically course correct future spending for even greater outcomes.”

Finovate Podcast Interviews Steve McLaughlin of FT Partners

In the latest edition of the Finovate Podcast, host Greg Palmer catches up with Steve McLaughlin, founder, CEO, and managing partner at Financial Technology Partners. Launched in 2001, FT Partners, as it is known, is the only investment banking firm dedicated solely to fintech. The company has been recognized by the M&A Advisor as “Dealmaker of the Year” and “Investment Banking Firm of the Year.”

Greg and Steve talk about the fintech industry from the perspective of an investment banker. They discuss the issue of capital availability, company valuation, and the idea of a harsher grading rubric for fintech.

Here is the latest news from our Finovate alums:

  • ThetaRay launches FAST START to help banks fight cybercrime during Covid-19.
  • Capita Consulting leverages low-code technology from Outsystems.
  • Minna Technologies launches pilot with Tatra banka in Slovakia.
  • SaltEdge’s new solution helps banks get exempted by the regulator from providing a fallback channel.
  •’s payments API to power open banking payment services for Upco’s Mobile Messenger.
  • DriveWealth to integrate with Access Softek’s new investing app, EasyVest.
  • ACI Worldwide to provide e-commerce payment processing for retail payments platform, Wundr.
  • Payment processor Trustly teams up with Ecommpay to offer three months of free processing.
  • Finastra launches its Fusion Credit Connect solution on Salesforce AppExchange, FusionFabric.Cloud.
  • Boku powers direct carrier billing and e-wallet payment services for Korean game developer Pearl Abyss Corporation.
  • MX launches Audiences, a new segment builder tool to help banks improve marketing efforts.
  • ID R&D releases IDFraud Contact Center to address subscription fraud in the contact center.
  • DriveWealth to bring U.S. stock investing to India-based INDmoney clients.
  • Coinbase plans to be a “remote-first” company after COVID-19.
  • Fiserv to power P2P payments for Redstone FCU.
  • Ethoca and Mastercard partner to help retailers deal with chargebacks and fraud during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Kabbage receives SBA approval to fund PPP applications totaling more than $3.5 billion.
  • FIS launches iQ Now, a mobile app for SMEs that enables owners to monitor real-time business performance.
  • WorldRemit teams up with Onfido to enhance the identity verification component of its onboarding processes.
  • iProov to bring its biometric authentication technology to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS).
  • Xero partners with online small business bank Relay to offer real-time visibility of cash flow.

Finovate Alum Features and Profiles

Visa Backs GoodData in New Strategic Partnership and Investment – The collaboration includes an investment in the global analytics company and is designed to enable Visa to offer its customers and partners better access to aggregated data and analytics.

Plaid Exchange Offers Open Banking in a Box – The new tool, Plaid Exchange, offers banks a way to provide open banking connectivity to their clients while keeping their clients’ data safe and giving them control of their data.

Counter-intuitive Brilliance: Zafin’s Strategy for Success in Trying Times – How is Zafin helping banks and other financial institutions cope with the current environment?

Alums Assemble! A Look at Finovate Merger and Acquisition Activity in H1 2020 – Here is our quick rundown of some of the biggest M&A action from our Finovate alums so far in 2020.

FinovateSpring Takes Over the Blog

Photo by Jose Rago on Unsplash

This would have been the week of FinovateSpring. However, instead of flying out to San Francisco to gather in person, we are all at home this week thanks to the global pandemic.

While we’ve rescheduled FinovateSpring (and re-named it FinovateWest), we didn’t want this week to go by unnoticed. For this reason, we’ve curated a week of content for blog readers that will offer updates and ideas about doing business in fintech during the coronavirus.

We’ll also be giving a major sneak peek of the new demo format you can expect to see at our all-digital events this year. The content begins Wednesday, May 27 and we can’t wait to unveil what we have in store.

For now, stay tuned and stay safe.