The ‘Amazon One’ Palm Print Biometrics Tool Delivers Contactless Payments

After a a deluge of new announcements during its hardware event last week, Amazon is coming to us with something new again this week.

The company revealed Amazon One, a contactless palm reading device to help users make a transaction in-store, present a loyalty card, or authenticate themselves for entry into a secure location.

Amazon is piloting the new devices in select Amazon Go stores, concept stores that offer consumers a checkout-free shopping experience by using AI to track what they place in their cart. The Amazon One terminals will be offered as an option for consumers to authenticate themselves upon entering the store.

There is a slight bit of friction involved. Upon arriving at the store, the shopper enters their credit card into the Amazon One terminal, hovers their palm over the device, and follows prompts on the screen that associate their card with their unique palm print. Shoppers can enroll with one palm or both.

After enrolling, shoppers can use their palm print to enter Amazon Go stores. In the coming months, Amazon One will be available at additional Amazon stores, as well.

“[W]e believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores, so we also plan to offer the service to third parties like retailers, stadiums, and office buildings so that more people can benefit from this ease and convenience in more places,” said Dilip Kumar, Vice President of Physical Retail and Technology at Amazon.

The tech giant cited a handful of reasons for using a palm print over other biometrics. First, unlike many facial recognition solutions, humans can’t identify a person by simply looking at the palm of their hand. Also, unlike facial recognition, Amazon One requires users to make an intentional gesture by holding their hand up in front of the device. And, of course, the palm reader is contactless, easing fears about virus transmission.

If you’ve been following fintech for any length of time you’re likely aware that Amazon isn’t the first company using contactless palm print biometrics. Both iProov and Redrock Biometrics have been working in the space since 2011 and 2015, respectively.

As biometric authentication methods rise in popularity, we’ll likely see palm prints being the body part of choice for authentication. That’s because, in addition to Amazon’s point regarding the ability to recognize others’ palm prints, it is also much more difficult to spoof someone else’s palm than it is to spoof their fingerprint of face.

ClickSWITCH Secures Strategic Investment from USAA

Digital account switching company ClickSWITCH has locked in an investment of $2 million from a subsidiary of USAA. The funding, which takes the company’s total to more than $21 million, will be used to help the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based firm “build additional momentum around the ClickSWITCH solution and its features,” according to founder and CEO Cale Johnston.

ClickSWITCH offers an automated account management solution that enhances the onboarding process for financial institutions by enabling them to quickly and efficiently switch all direct deposits and recurring payments from old accounts to new ones. The solution helps banks and credit unions gain higher account holder acquisition and activation rates, capture more deposits, and increase profitability.

“The financial investment from USAA is encouraging during these uncertain times and we are excited to support USAA’s mission of supporting the U.S. military community,” Johnston added.

USAA Head of Corporate Development Nathan McKinley praised ClickSWITCH for its “commitment to solving a persistent consumer problem” and put the investment in the context of USAA’s goal of providing military families with “the best value in financial services.” Based in San Antonio, Texas, USAA is a leading financial services provider, offering insurance, banking, and investment solutions to nearly 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans, and their families.

With more than 500 financial institution customers in North America, ClickSWITCH sees this week’s investment as helping drive further innovation on its technology and enabling the six-year old company maintain its status as a leader in the account switching space. This spring, as the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the U.S., ClickSWITCH forged a partnership with fellow Finovate alum Finastra. The company said it would leverage ClickSWITCH for its Fusion Phoenix and Fusion UltraData core clients to help them increase both deposits and customer engagement.

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Gusto Launches Challenger Banking Service

Is there room for another challenger bank aimed at serving the underbanked? Payroll, benefits, and HR solutions firm Gusto thinks so.

The San Francisco-based company announced the launch of Gusto Wallet today. Exclusive to employees of the 100,000+ businesses that use Gusto’s payroll services, the mobile wallet offers direct deposit, banking tools, savings accounts, and access to emergency funds.

Among the benefits of Gusto’s new account are savings goals, a debit card with free ATM withdrawals, and a unique feature called Gusto Cashout. The new tool allows employees to access money in between paydays. The amount borrowed comes with no fees and no interest, and is repaid automatically from the employee’s next paycheck.

The accounts are aimed to promote financial wellness. In addition to the Gusto Cashout feature, Gusto pays a higher-than-average return on savings goals. Users can earn 0.34% APY on up to five goals. And in order to help encourage accountholders to save, Gusto Wallet offers users the ability to automatically route a portion of their paycheck into their savings accounts.

Like most U.S.-based challenger banks, Gusto is partnering with an incumbent to power its accounts. The company has teamed up with Kansas City, Missouri-based nbkc bank to back its accounts. Other fintechs that use nbkc bank to offer challenger banking services include Betterment, Joust, and Truebill.

Unlike most challenger banks, however, Gusto Wallet has direct deposits built into its design. Most banks fight hard to get their users to directly deposit their paycheck into their account by using expensive promotions and incentives. My personal bank once offered me $300 to sign up for direct deposit. Gusto, however, doesn’t need to do this, since payroll deposit is built into its mobile wallet and it is limited to users whose employers pay them via Gusto’s payroll service.

Along with the Gusto Wallet launch, the company also announced today it is helping small businesses set up health reimbursement accounts via a program called QSHERA.

While Gusto’s Cashout feature may be appealing to the lower income, underbanked population, the company may need to add another feature or two to compete with popular challenger banks such as Chime and Dave. For example, Chime offers fee-free overdrafts, and pays 1% APY on savings goals and Dave helps users build their credit score via a partnership with LevelCredit.

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5 Ways Mortgage Lending In 2030 Will Look Nothing Like It Does Today

The following is a guest blog post by mortgagetech veteran Caleb Skinner.

This year’s historically low interest rates are creating rare opportunities for homebuyers and mortgage refinance applicants — and, by extension, for the mortgage industry.

Unprecedented as the present economic situation is, though, it’s not unexpected. Indeed, it’s already old news.

What’s more interesting to real estate professionals, financial professionals, and fintech executives whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant real estate lending industry is how that industry looks two, three, or four business cycles out from the present.

Like It or Not, Big Changes Are Coming

Comforting as it is to imagine that business will continue as usual through the coming decade, all available evidence suggests that won’t happen. We need to gear up now for years of potentially wrenching change and prepare for a mortgage industry that, come 2030, bears little resemblance to today.

Here are five ways that lending will dramatically change in the next 10 years.

  1. (Virtually) touch-free origination

“Disruptive” originators like Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage combine slick marketing with legitimate process improvements to insinuate that the mortgage application process of today is radically different than 15 years ago. Today’s buyers and refinancers shuffle less paper and enjoy a far better digital user experience. Still, the basic, labor-intensive workflow is about the same.

That’s not likely to be the case in 2030. We already see the contours of a (virtually) touch-free origination process that requires little if any person-to-person interaction. For example, platforms like Mortgage Cadence offer consolidated digital lending platforms for lending professionals. Meanwhile, “hybrid close” suites like SimpleNexus and automated borrower support tools like Capacity facilitate borrower self-service and reduce lender workloads.

For lenders, this makes for leaner, more productive origination; for applicants, a dramatic reduction in time, effort, and awkward phone calls.

  1. Appraisal as afterthought

For most lenders in most markets and submarkets, in-person appraisal is already strictly optional. Experts can easily compare comps and take the market’s temperature from afar.

If the early success of AI-powered valuation tools like Clear Capital holds, those experts won’t have much to do by 2030. That might be a good thing. Human appraisers bring their blind spots and built-in biases to their work, potentially putting their employers on the wrong side of borrower protection laws like the Fair Housing Act.

  1. In-person close: strictly optional

This is the year remote closings went mainstream. In the short term, the in-person close is likely to make a comeback as pandemic-era habits fade. But the fact that deals got done this year, and the market held up better than anyone expected in March, is a warning sign for anyone betting on in-person closings over the long term.

  1. Responsive, humane delinquency management

Presently, lenders’ and servicers’ risk management departments accept that a certain proportion of their loans will lapse into delinquency and that foreclosure is inevitable in many of these cases.

The first condition won’t change much by 2030, but the second can and probably will. AI-powered servicing solutions like Brace, which spots troubled loans early and keeps borrowers current, will help servicers identify looming delinquencies, jumpstart the workout process, and stop costly foreclosures before they happen. With widespread implementation, lender foreclosures could become less common by decade’s end.

  1. Remote work

Many of the office-based jobs that evaporated in the pandemic-induced shift to remote work earlier this year aren’t coming back — to the office, at least.

They still exist, just in dispersed form. In time, they’ll disperse further, as newly location-independent workers seek out lower-cost, higher-quality-of-life alternatives to expensive coastal hub cities threatened by climate change and income inequality. A 2020 study of the best places to work remotely identified clear competitive advantages for small and midsize cities in the Midwest and interior South, mainly due to low living costs and excellent Internet infrastructure. As the knowledge economy gains ground in places like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Des Moines, Iowa, fintechs clustered in major U.S. metros will need to broaden their horizons and cast a wider net for talent.

Final Thoughts

This year taught us that trying to predict too far into the future is risky. We can’t say for certain how the world will look 10 months from now, let alone 10 years.

That said, no one disputes that an ambitious cohort of fintechs are revolutionizing the mortgage industry in real time. By 2030, homebuyers and homeowners will take for granted a host of new capabilities now in their infancy.

In-person appraisals and closings will be strictly optional. The entire origination process will involve few person-to-person conversations and take a matter of days, not weeks, for well-qualified borrowers. And the lender foreclosure process, at least in its current form, could be all but obsolete.

You read it here first.

Caleb Skinner worked in a mortgage lending company for 15 years. He is now a finance consultant.

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Ephesoft and Fortude Partner to Boost Intelligent Document Processing

A new global alliance between Ephesoft and Fortude will make it easier for businesses all over the world to unlock and extract enterprise data in documents and fulfill their digital transformation goals. The partnership, announced today, combines Fortude’s experience as an enterprise and technology solution provider with Ephesoft-powered Infor Document Management (IDM) Capture to help ensure that “customers get the data they need quickly,” Ephesoft founder and CEO Ike Kavas said.

“At Ephesoft, we focus on creating an exceptional customer experience from beginning to end. Partnerships with leading consulting and implementation organizations, like Fortude, enable us to expedite business process around the globe for our joint customers,” Kavas added.

Specifically, the partnership will draw upon Fortude’s experience in helping customers implement and manage Infor’s Cloudsuite and other solutions. Here, customers using IDM Capture will enjoy up to a 4x increase in processed invoices each day, and a faster process time of 36 seconds per invoice. Customers can be up and running with IDM Capture with minimal time and effort, enabling users to automatically capture, classify, and extract data and export it into any Infor solution.

“This strategic partnership with Ephesoft will allow us to accelerate implementations, and in turn provide customers a way to access information to make more insightful decisions and drive productivity,” Fortune Managing Director Arjuna Sirinanda said. “We help our customers optimize their product lifecycle and ensure business continuity. Offering businesses the ability to easily unlock their data with an intelligent document processing solution will help further our goals.”

Most recently demonstrating its technology at FinovateSpring 2018 (this year, FinovateWest Digital), Ephesoft has been an innovator in intelligent document processing since its founding ten years ago. Headquartered in Irvine, California, and maintaining offices throughout the U.S., EMEA, and Asia-Pacific, the company released a new version of its cloud-based document processing solution Transact in July. Shortlisted for the Global 2020 SaaS Award in August, Ephesoft announced that CEO Kavas had similarly made the finals in the Entrepreneur of the Year 2020 Pacific Southwest-Orange County Awards.

Linqto’s Pivot to Wealthtech

While many fintechs were working on digital transformation, Linqto was focused on complete transformation. That’s because the San Francisco-based company recently made a major pivot.

Linqto was founded in 2010 as a digital banking technology company that provided software-as-a-service to fintechs. Perhaps most notable during the company’s first few years of operation was the launch of its Otter API which, along with a partnership with LEVERAGE, powered Linqto’s App Store for Banks, a marketplace where banks could select from new apps to brand them as their own and launch them in app stores for their end customers to download.

“By working with Linqto, credit unions are still able to offer their traditional services, but now they can also pair those services with premium technology from branded apps, enhancing mobile strategies and changing their members’ mobile experience,” said LEVERAGE President and CEO Patrick La Pine when the deal was announced in 2016. “This brings a dramatic shift in the relationship members have with their credit union and their mobile devices.”

Fast forward two years and Linqto had raised $1.6 million in two funding rounds and transformed itself into an investment service with its Global Investor Platform. Key to this transition, the company acquired investment trading platform PrimaryMarkets for $33 million in December 2018.

“Linqto is acquiring PrimaryMarkets, an established global trading platform, to launch its platform as part of the Global Investor Platform,” said Linqto Founder and CEO Bill Sarris. “The Takeover will allow the establishment of an inclusive trading platform and the capability for the Linqto Platform to broaden our revenue model from a strictly SaaS model to a transaction-based model, whereby Linqto will share in commissions and broker fees realized by the Platform.”

PrimaryMarkets a global online marketplace that enables users to conduct secondary trading of existing securities and investments, manage secondary securities trading on behalf of companies, and assist unlisted companies in raising new funds.

In February of this year, while the world’s attention was consumed with the threat of the then-epidemic-now-pandemic coronavirus, Linqto announced Equity in Unicorns, a new investing platform for private securities. Equity in Unicorns is designed to help accredited investors invest in the private market via a simple, quick, and relatively inexpensive platform.

“Small Accredited Investors now have the opportunity to participate in the growth and superior returns of private markets, as large institutional investors have done over the past 30 years,” said Sarris. “Private investing made simple.”

Since its pivot, Linqto now counts more than 100,000 accredited investors in its global network. Currently, Linqto allows these users to invest in a range of pre-IPO startups, including Upgrade, Uphold, Ripple, SoFi, Blockchain Coinvestors, Kraken, and even in its own company.

Linqto was slated to debut its new platform at FinovateSpring earlier this year. However– thanks to COVID– the conference, along with Linqto’s demo, will be featured at FinovateWest on November 23 through 25.

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Finovate Alums Take Top Honors at Lendit Fintech Awards

Lendit Fintech announced the winners of its fourth annual Lendit Finitech Industry Awards this week. And out of the 500+ entries competing for awards in 13 different categories, Finovate alums left the stage with nearly half of them.

Taking the highest honor as Fintech Innovator of the Year was Stash. The New York-based mobile-first investment platform made its Finovate debut at FinovateFall 2017, demonstrating its Stash Retire solution. This year marks the second year in a row that Stash has picked up Lendit’s top prize in this category. Fellow Finovate alum Marqeta was among the category’s finalists.

Also winning award categories were:

  • Plaid for Innovations in Digital Banking
  • Urjanet and Equifax for Most Promising Partnership
  • Visa for Top Service Provider
  • Blend for Top Technology Service Provider.
  • CircleUp for Top Small Business Lending Platform

“Our purpose at Lendit Fintech is to elevate and celebrate the achievements of others,” co-founder and CEO of Lendit Fintech Bo Brustkern explained in a statement. “This year has been a hard year for many bank and fintechs, and the many enterprises that support them. Now more than ever we need a reason to come together – even if it’s virtually – to recognize and applaud excellence in these circumstances.”

Other companies earning awards were Upstart for Top Consumer Lending Platform, PeerStreet for Top Real Estate Platform, BlockFi for Emerging Lending Platform of the Year, Orrick for Top Law Firm, and Branch for Excellence in Financial Inclusion. Two individuals were also recognized: Colin Walsh, founder and CEO of Varo Money, as Executive of the Year and Nicky Goulimis, COO and co-founder of Nova Credit, as Fintech Woman of the Year.

A number of other Finovate alums earned finalist spots in this year’s competition. Both Lending Club and SoFi competed as finalists in the Consumer Lending Platform category. And BlueVine provided a strong Finovate alum showing in the Small Business Lending Platform group.

Credit is also due to Finovate alum Mambu as a finalist (along with Stash) in the Innovations in Digital Banking category, and to both Finicity and Ocrolus, which competed in the finals of the Top Technology Service Provider category.

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Bitpanda Raises $52 Million in Round Led by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures

Digital asset platform Bitpanda announced a round of venture funding today. The $52 million Series A round marks the largest Series A round in Europe so far this year.

The round was led by Valar Ventures, a VC firm backed by Peter Thiel. Today’s investment, combined with Bitpanda’s $51 million ICO last year and undisclosed venture round last year, brings its total funding to over $103 million.

As part of the agreement, Andrew McCormack and James Fitzgerald from Valar Ventures will join Bitpanda’s board. “With their extensive track record in growing digital champions like PayPal in its early years and supporting Peter Thiel during its IPO and eventual sale to eBay in 2002, we are more than confident in the choice,” Bitpanda CEO and Co-founder Eric Demuth said.

The company will use the funds to promote geographical expansion. Specifically, after its successful launches in France, Spain, and Turkey this year, Bitpanda plans to expand to more European countries before year-end.

The investment will also be used to “bring the Bitpanda platform and all our services to a new level.” The company has already slated new products for launch, including a new stock trading tool which will launch in 2021.

Much of Bitpanda’s focus is on financial empowerment and the democratization of investment. “Bitpanda will become an investment platform for asset classes for everyone,” Demuth said. “We will provide education, empower our users to take their future into their own hands and remove all those barriers that prevent people from taking part.”

Founded in 2014, Bitpanda has seen significant growth this year, boosting its client base to more than 1.3 million. Additionally, the company has brought on more than 70 new employees this year and plans to boost its total workforce to more than 300 by the end of this year.

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Deliver Tailored Experiences Using Automated AI and Cognitive Data

It’s probably a good thing that many of us saw fintech’s Year of the Customer coming a mile (or at least several months) away.

There is no one who anticipated a year ago what the world would look like right now. But I suspect that fintech’s preoccupation with the customer experience going into this year has helped the industry make the necessary adjustments now that 2020 has actually arrived – in all its unpredictable craziness.

One of Europe’s most underrated fintech countries, Portugal, is home to this week’s latest Finovate webinar host: Celfocus, a company that is helping other companies offer a better customer experience. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Lisbon, Celfocus is a system integrator and specialist in digital transformation that works with businesses in a number of verticals to enable them to enhance their operations using automation and AI.

On Wednesday, September 30th, Celfocus’ Henrique Cravo (Digital Lead) and Carlos Domingos (Digital Channels and Integration Lead) will lead an interactive conversation that looks at how cognitive data insights can be the key ingredient – along with automated AI – that enables financial institutions to build and deliver “tailored experiences that trigger new targets, portfolios, and customer lock.” With the demand for greater personalization growing, Cravo and Domingos will show how financial institutions that customize offerings to meet their clients’ needs are likely to develop the deepest and most meaningful engagement. And the key to being able to deliver this high level of customization is being able to effectively manage and interpret customer data.

“From risk takers, tech-savvy, and hungry for innovation customers to tech avoiders that value human touch,” Cravo and Domingos wrote earlier this year, “banks must accommodate different engagement approaches and insights to differentiate customer profiles. This happens,” they wrote, “not because they don’t have the data, but because they can’t mine it.”

Learn more about Celfocus’ approach: Customer Knowledge Augmentation and Activation from their July 2020 guest post. And then join us on Wednesday for an in-depth conversation on how banks and other financial institutions can not only gain new insights into their data, but also leverage that data into actionable knowledge to provide better, more consistent, personalized customer experiences.

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Finicity Launches Open-Banking- Friendly Underwriting Tools

Finicity is unveiling a new tool set this week. The new solution, Finicity Lend, promises to accelerate lenders’ decisioning processes by tapping into the power of open banking.

The tools will help lenders with the credit decisioning process by enabling prospective borrowers to permission their data to be used during underwriting. Ultimately, Finicity anticipates the consumer-provided data will offer lenders data in real-time and lead to more accurate decisions.

“Our new Finicity Lend integrated solution set will complement the current credit rating system while leveraging the tremendous advantages of open banking to create an industry standard for assessing a borrower’s ability to manage a loan going forward,” said Finicity CEO and Co-founder Steve Smith. “Real-time, permissioned data from multiple financial accounts is the lifeblood of our secure open banking platform, and empowers consumers to make better financial decisions, to mitigate risk for lenders and can increase overall financial inclusion.”

Along with the data permissioning aspect of Finicity Lend, the toolset offers a host of other capabilities. Among those are Cash Flow Analytics, CRA Data Services, and Payroll Data, which leverage the data intelligence layer of the company’s open banking platform.

Cash Flow Analytics uses an automated process to look at an applicant’s financial account data to glean insights about their cash flow. Finicity has positioned itself as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) to ensure that the consumer-permissioned data meets the legal requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The move also places more control in the hands of the customer by offering them the ability to review, dispute, and correct any inaccurate information. Finally, the company has added ADP as a payroll data source to enhance its ability to verify income and employment details (with the prospective borrower’s permission, of course).

Placing the consumer in control of their data is one of the core principles of the open banking initiative. Finicity has always been a proponent of open banking. The company is a founding member of the Financial Data Exchange (FDX), an organization that helps establish industry standards for open banking in North America.

Earlier this year Finicity agreed to be acquired by Mastercard for $825 million. The deal has yet to be finalized.

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NYMBUS Names New CEO Jeffery Kendall

Big changes at the top continue for banking technology provider NYMBUS. The company announced on Monday that former Kony DBX EVP and General Manager Jeffery Kendall will take the helm as the NYMBUS’ new CEO. Effective October 1, Kendall will succeed Scott Killoh, who founded the company in 2015. Killoh will remain with the company as Executive Chairman of the Board.

In the company’s announcement of the news, Killoh praised Kendall’s “strong domain and go-to-market expertise” which he said comes at a “critical time” when financial institutions and financial services companies are rapidly attempting to digitize their backend and customer-facing operations. During his tenure at Kony DBX, Kendall was credited for growing the firm’s digital banking division by 5x in less than three years. Kony DBX was acquired by Temenos for $520 million a little over a year ago.

As CEO of NYMBUS, Kendall will be tasked with continuing the company’s success in helping financial institutions make their digital transformations. “In record time, NYMBUS has already delivered over 25 successful customer deployments,” Kendall said in a statement. “This is a powerful validation of the efficacy of our robust software and solutions, and the trajectory for continued success and growth by remaining focused on serving our clients, creating significant value for our shareholders, and providing exceptional opportunities for our employees.”

The Kendall hire is the second big C-suite move from NYMBUS in recent months. In June, the company tapped Jim Modak as its new President and Chief Financial Officer. Modak previously served as CFO at Tradex Technologies (sold to Ariba in 2000) and as both Chief Operating Officer and CFO at enterprise software provider DWL (sold to IBM in 2005). He is also a 12-year veteran of KPMG.

NYMBUS demonstrated its full-service, standalone, digital banking alternative, SmartLaunch, last year at FinovateFall in New York. The technology won the 2020 Best Solution for Customer Experience at the FinXTech Awards this spring. In what has been a busy year for the Miami Beach-based company, NYMBUS has inked partnerships with PeoplesBank, Transpecos Banks, fellow Finovate alum NCR, Pacific National Bank, and Payrailz.

Securing $12 million in growth funding in June, NYMBUS has raised a total of $45.4 million from investors including Vensure Enterprises, Insight Partners, and Home Credit Group.

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FIS and The Clearing House Help Bring Real Time Payments to Small Banks

Financial services company FIS announced this week it has partnered with The Clearing House (TCH) in an effort to bring real-time payment processing and settlement to small-to-mid-sized banks and credit unions.

FIS will help its core banking system clients quickly and cheaply connect to TCH’s RTP network, a payments infrastructure that enables instant payments settlement and immediate availability of funds for banks participating in the network.

“As a long-time partner with The Clearing House, we are excited to see the RTP network continue to grow and to be working with banks across the United States to take advantage of the speed, power and scalability of real-time payments,” said FIS EVP, Head of Financial Institutions Payment Solutions Royal Cole. “We’ve designed our new managed service to ease the process of connecting to this emerging platform for small-to-mid-sized banks and credit unions that lack the resources of their larger competitors.”

Among FIS bank clients already participating in TCH’s RTP network are St. Louis, Missouri-based First Bank; and Nano Banc, a relationship-based bank headquartered in Irvine, California.

FIS was founded in 1968 and made major news headlines last year when it acquired Worldpay for $34 billion.

The Clearing House launched its RTP scheme in 2017. Today the RTP network’s real-time payment capabilities are accessible to banks that hold 70% of U.S. demand deposit accounts (DDAs). The network currently reaches over half of all U.S. DDAs.

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