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“The ten companies selected for the fifth year of FIS’ Accelerator program bring a wealth of promising ideas and technologies,” FIS Chief Growth Officer Asif Ramji said. “We look forward to working with these firms to bring their ideas to life.”
Joining Stratyfy in the program are:
Seven of the companies in the cohort have headquarters in the United States. Of the others, Sequretek is based in Mumbai, India; Silot in Singapore; and Surfly in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. And after four years in operation, the accelerator, in partnership with The Venture Center, will conduct its fifth program virtually due to the challenges of the global public health crisis.
In addition to being entirely virtual, this year’s program will run for 18 weeks instead of the usual 12 weeks to allow for increased mentoring and training time. The program will culminate with a Demo Day technology presentation on October 14th. Participating startups will also receive a monetary investment; the amount was not disclosed.
Executive Director for The Venture Center, Wayne Miller, pointed to the program’s success in empowering startup companies and helping improve access to financial services and technology. “With our partners at FIS and the State of Arkansas, we’re honored to be a part of bringing cutting-edge technologies to the places and people who need them, particularly in this moment of monumental technological advancement,” Miller said.
The news comes in the wake of Strayfy’s announcement of a new strategic partnership with Innovesta Technologies. The two companies are collaborating on a machine learning solution that will help businesses better measure the risk of and opportunity in non-public companies. The partnership combines Stratyfy’s decision engine and advanced machine learning technology with Innovesta’s comprehensive data assets to deliver real-time insights into the forces that impact business performance.
“Models built from historical data offer little help during an unprecedented health and economic crisis like the current global pandemic,” Stratyfy co-founder and CEO Laura Kornhauser said when the partnership was announced in May. “Achieving an inclusive global financial recovery requires robust risk management strategies, and those strategies necessitate an understanding of the unique challenges being faced by every business. Stratyfy’s decision management solutions will leverage Innovesta’s trustworthy data to directly address this need.”
Founded in 2016, Stratyfy is headquartered in New York City. The company was named one of the world’s 100 most promising startups to watch last year by CNBC.
There are two words that help summarize 2020: unpredictability and volatility. It turns out that both of these attributes are bad for a lot of things and that’s especially true for underwriting consumer loans.
Recognizing this issue, U.K.-based credit assessment services company AirelaunchedPulse, a product to help lenders calculate risk in the post-COVID borrowing landscape.
“Lenders have always played catch up when understanding how existing customers perform on commitments elsewhere, and this challenge is exacerbated by the major CRAs’ Emergency Payment Freeze,” said Aire CEO and Founder Aneesh Varma. “In a rapidly changing economic situation, lenders need new tools that can understand the context of the consumer to help them detect emerging risks. Pulse is a quick, convenient and FCA-regulated way for lenders to spot financial change as it happens, providing lenders with a truly holistic view, gathered from the most up-to-date data source available to them: the consumer themselves.”
At its core, Pulse is a scalable communications tool. It enables lenders to collect current information from customers about their changing financial circumstances while maintaining fair and FCA-compliant account handling. The tool enables lenders to reach out to their existing borrowers via SMS and email to conduct an Interactive Virtual Interview (IVI) to gather information regarding disposable income levels and risk of financial difficulty.
It takes consumers an average of three-to-five minutes to complete the IVI, which asks for information such as employment status, current working hours, income level, household bills and expenses, and levels of savings. In order to ensure the information is correct, Aire cross-checks it against its own database of consumer information. After the assessment, Aire sends the lender insight into the consumer’s financial difficulty, affordability, and engagement.
Because of its proactive approach, Pulse offers lenders information about a consumer’s changing financial situation much faster than the traditional method of waiting for historical information from CRAs who identify changes in customer circumstances.
The underwriting and credit scoring space has always been an area of disruption for fintechs. Given that the new reality across the globe has multiple impacts on the economy and unemployment, we can expect to see more existing companies adapt their services to not only help underwriters understand and assess risk but also help consumers access cashflow when they really need it.
Aire was founded in 2014 and has since raised $24 million. Aneesh Varma is CEO.
This is a guest post written by Shannon Flynn, managing editor at ReHack.com.
Amid the market instability caused by COVID-19, a major shift seems to be taking place in the crypto industry.
After years of false starts and criticism from the banking sector and traditional financial institutions, new partnerships and legislation seem to suggest the industry may be on the verge of a large-scale crypto service adoption.
Here’s the current state of the crypto market, and how financial institutions are beginning to offer it in earnest.
The Current Health of the Crypto Market
Like other asset classes, crypto wasn’t immune to the crash caused by the coronavirus. In mid-March, as assets of all categories fell — even those typically more secure against market shocks, like gold — so too did major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Prices for both dropped sharply, with Bitcoin’s market value nearly halved.
Crypto, however, was remarkably quick to bounce back, with prices recovering to near pre-coronavirus levels over the next two months. So far, crypto seems to have come out as one of the better-performing asset classes, recovering much faster than others.The disruption caused by COVID-19 seems to have been small enough that banks and major financial institutions are continuing with plans to offer crypto services.
JPMorgan Announces Partnership With Crypto Exchanges
One of the biggest announcements of the past few months has been the partnership between JPMorgan Chase and crypto exchanges Gemini and Coinbase. In May, the bank announced it would accept the exchanges as banking customers — making them their first clients from the cryptocurrency industry.
Coinbase is the largest U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange. Gemini is less prominent but is notable in its moves to secure support from major institutions outside of crypto.
The partnership is big news for American cryptocurrency traders and firms, especially in light of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s previous comments on bitcoin. In 2017, Dimon famously bashed the currency as a “fraud” and said he expected that global governments would take action against crypto.The partnership isn’t JPMorgan’s first foray into digital currency, though. In 2019, the bank introduced its own version, JPM Coin. Each coin represented one dollar stored in the bank and could be used to more quickly settle transactions between members.
While the move isn’t JPMorgan’s first experiment with digital currency, it is a sign that traditional financial institutions may be getting more comfortable with the idea of trading in crypto. Large banks have traditionally been fierce critics of cryptocurrency.
Concerns about the inefficiency of blockchain and the potential environmental impact of bitcoin may be enough to dissuade broader adoption. After all, bitcoin miners use up the same amount of energy as 6.8 million average U.S. households.
However, investors seem like they are becoming more interested in crypto. According to the Wall Street Journal, “average daily trading volume this year of CME’s bitcoin futures contract has risen 43%” compared to last year. Other crypto vehicles, like Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, have also seen similar upticks in trading volume.
Even if traditional financial institutions shy away from full crypto adoption, cryptocurrency banks in the U.S. may still become a possibility over the next few years. In June, Former Wall Street trader Caitlin Long secured $5 million in funding for a cryptocurrency bank, Avanti. That gave the institution enough cash to follow through on filing for a charter with the Wyoming Division of Banking. The bank currently plans to open for business in 2021.
Banks Around the World Consider Crypto Service
The trend toward cryptocurrency banking isn’t limited to the U.S. In Germany, more than 40 financial institutions declared their intent to offer crypto services under new legislation. Two of Switzerland’s largest banks have also launched digital asset-based transaction services.
Earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court overturned a Central Bank ruling that prohibited banks from providing services to traders and firms dealing in cryptocurrencies. While it had signaled it would challenge the decision, it instead issued formal guidance giving commercial banks in India the green light on providing banking services.
Following the court’s decision, CoinDCX — India’s largest crypto exchange, which received a major investment from Coinbase in early June — integrated bank account transfers. This allows customers to purchase and trade cryptocurrency using their bank accounts.
However, as in America, trust remains a significant barrier. Even with the prohibition on services for crypto traders lifted, few Indian banks have moved to seriously integrate crypto offerings.
The Future of Cryptocurrency Banks
Despite the major instability caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the cryptocurrency market has managed an impressive rebound and emerged as one of the best-performing asset classes so far.
At the same time, major institutions — including JPMorgan and several European banks — are moving ahead with new plans to offer crypto- and digital asset-based transactions. There’s reason to believe that banks may soon provide financial vehicles that make it easier for investors to purchase and trade bitcoin. It’s hard to know what the future of crypto banking will look like right now. For the moment, it’s all good news in spite of current market disruptions.
ShannonFlynn is a technology and culture writer with two+ years of experience writing about consumer trends and tech news.
What a week it was for the first Finovate Fintech Halftime Review; we heard from experts across the fintech spectrum, covering LendingTech, PayTech, FraudTech, BankingTech and WealthTech.
Missed some of the live sessions? Want to dig a little deeper and get the Finovate Analyst view of the first half of 2020? Well look no further, as the Finovate Fintech Halftime Review eMagazine brings all the content from the week together in one place.
Finovate alums raised more than $975 million in equity funding in the second quarter of 2020. The sum represents investments received by 15 companies that have demonstrated their technologies at our conferences, and includes three fundings in which the amount of the investment was not disclosed.
This year’s total is a retreat from the past two years’ totals, both in terms of amount raised and the number of alums reporting equity funding. In some respects, Q2 2020’s fundraising total “fills the gap” from the big jump in funding from Q2 2017 to Q2 2018.
Previous Quarterly Comparisons
Q2 2019: More than $1.8 billion raised by 29 alums
Q2 2018: More than $1.5 billion raised by 25 alums
Q2 2017: More than $726 million raised by 25 alums
Q2 2016: More than $510 million raised by 23 alums
While total investment for Q2 2020 was lower than it was in the previous year’s Q2s, it is notable that seven of the top ten fundings were investments between $150 million and $100 million. In many instances, one sizable investment will be responsible for a significant amount of a quarter’s investment total. Consider the boost Sofi’s $500 million funding provided in Q2 2019. The large sum sent that quarter’s total soaring to a new record Q2 high. By comparison, this year’s high number of low, nine-figure fundings comes across as a welcome shift in the distribution of VC wealth.
Top Ten Equity Investments for Q2 2020
EVO Payments: $150 million
Marqeta: $150 million
BioCatch: $145 million
AvidXchange: $128 million
Stash: $112 million
Onfido: $100 million
Payfone: $100 million
Featurespace: $37.4 million
M1 Finance: $33 million
Meniga: $9.4 million
It must be noted that, while venture capital investment has slowed somewhat in response to the COVID-19 crisis, merger and acquisition activity has been robust, relatively speaking. Among our alums alone, Q2 saw two major fintech acquisitions: Mastercard’spurchase of Finicity – valued as high as 1 $billion – and Personal Capital’s just-announced $825 million acquisition by Empower Retirement.
Here is our detailed alum funding report for Q2 2020.
April 2020: More than $638 million raised by six alums
If you are a Finovate alum that raised money in the second quarter of 2020, and do not see your company listed, please drop us a note at email@example.com. We would love to share the good news! Funding received prior to becoming an alum not included.
Banking customers at ING Belgium will soon have help managing their recurring expenses. That’s because Minna Technologies has partnered with the bank to launch a new subscription management service.
Under the agreement, ING Belgium’s 1.8 million digital banking customers will be able to manage their subscriptions without leaving the digital banking channel. Minna’s solution helps users view all of their recurring subscriptions in a single place, allows them to cancel existing subscriptions, and shows them potential alternatives to some of their subscriptions.
“This is a clear example of impactful Fintech partnerships that we aim to scale within ING,” said Global Head of ING Labs & Fintechs, Olivier Guillaumond. “It will offer a differentiating experience to our customers allowing them to have a better insight into their subscriptions and save millions of euros via cancellation and fully automated switching services.”
The integration is the result of Minna Technologies’ participation in last year’s ING Labs Brussels program. During the program, the two companies completed a proof-of-concept that demonstrated the value of subscription management for users in the Benelux region.
“ING Labs Brussels is a special purpose vehicle concentrating on validating proof of concepts with mature fintechs to bring maximum value for our clients so they can stay a step ahead in their lives,” said Guillaumond, adding that it has “the potential to expand to other countries.”
Minna was founded in 2016 and has since helped users save more than $45 million with its subscription management solutions. The Sweden-based company, which has raised $6.2 million, recently demoed at FinovateEurope 2019. ING Brussels joins SpareBank1, Visa, Swedbank, and Danske Bank as clients.
McLean, Virginia-based digital identity network ID.me has boosted its total equity capital to more than $39 million after locking in an investment of $8.3 million this week. The new funding comes from a $12.5 million equity offering from the company, which featured the participation of 32 different investors.
ID.me has not provided any commentary on the investment, nor disclosed plans for how it will use the additional capital. The company’s previous fundraising was a $19 million Series B round in March 2017, according to Crunchbase.
The global public health crisis has put a spotlight on digital identity companies like ID.me. In March, the company announced the launch of a real-time collaboration workspace on messaging platform, Slack, to help health care providers share information about the coronavirus. In April, ID.me teamed up with DrFirst to make it easier for health care workers to verify their identities when using DrFirst’s mobile e-prescribing app, iPrescribe.
And in May, ID.me partnered with Shoes.com, enabling the company to accurately verify frontline healthcare workers as part of its program to provide them with discounts on footwear.
“As the U.S. enters its third month battling COVID-19, first responders and healthcare workers continue to soldier tremendous burdens and personal risks as they fight day-to-day on the frontlines of the pandemic,” ID.me founder and CEO Blake Hall said. “We are honored to play a role in the Step Up program and proudly support Shoes.com’s efforts to recognize these national heroes.”
A Finovate alum since 2014, ID.me most recently demonstrated its identity verification gateway at FinovateSpring in 2017. The company’s identity verification services – ranging from multi-factor authentication, document verification, and compliance monitoring, in addition to its identity gateway – are used by a wide variety of well-known organizations and institutions including USAA, NASA, Under Armor, and the United States Department of Treasury.
ID.me notes that it onboards 60,000 new users a day and has a total of 24 million users of its technology. Earlier this month, the company announced another partnership, this time working with LensDirect as part of their We See You, Heroes initiative to provide frontline health care workers and first responders with discounts on vision care products.
U.K.-based peer-to-peer lender Zopaannounced this week that it has been awarded a full U.K. banking license and will move forward with its plans to launch a digital bank.
The bank will offer the Zopa Fixed Term Savings Account, which features FSCS protection up to £85,000. Zopa plans to introduce a credit card later this year.
“Now more than ever the banking industry needs innovative, agile providers who work on behalf of customers,” Zopa CEO Jaidev Janardana said. “At a time when people want great value, fair financial services products, and simple, intuitive digital experience(s), Zopa offers consumers a compelling and credible alternative they can trust.”
Founded in 2005, and one of Finovate’s earliest alums, Zopa raised $182 million last December in preparation for bank launch announced this week. The company has secured a total of more than $464 million in funding since inception.
Village Capital is out with its State of Financial Health Startups report which looks at the areas of innovation with the “greatest potential to improve the wellbeing and inclusion of marginalized communities in MENA.”
The State of Financial Health Startups in MENA acknowledges the attention paid to areas of fintech such as digital payments and e-commerce. At the same time, the goal of the report is to focus on those ways that fintech can solve specific problems in the region, specifically the challenge of inequality.
The report highlighted six fields of fintech innovation that are mostly likely to meet this challenge, as well as 12 startups that are active in these areas. The fields were:
The Fund has accelerated 31 portfolio companies that have raised collectively more than $64 million in follow-on fundraising since inception. The Fund awards each of its portfolio companies $100,000 in grant capital, as well as venture-building support for six months, and one-on-one networking with investors and corporate leaders to help them scale their businesses. Of the companies making the cut were a number of fintechs including:
Paymenow (South Africa)
Mango Life (Mexico)
“We believe we are facing a catalytic moment during which there is an opportunity to use technology to help low-income consumers and small businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19 and build greater financial resilience for the future,” Catalyst fund director Maelis Carraro said.
Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.
Malaysian recurring payments platform Curlec announces funding from 500 Startups.
Thai cashless solution provider for businesses SYNQA raises $80 million in Series C investment.
TechWireAsia looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Indonesia’s emerging fintech industry.
Nigerian fintech KiaKia goes live with its app that enables users to invest in the funding of secured personal and business loans.
Centbee, a fintech based in South Africa, adds the ability to purchase prepaid electricity, airtime, and data via a new feature on its BitcoinSF wallet.
GhanaWeb features Ghanaian cross-border, money transfer company FXKudi.
Central and Eastern Europe
Edenred, a French prepaid corporate services provider, launches Apple Pay mobile payments for digital meal vouchers in Romania.
Lithuania-based identity verification firm iDenfy partners with U.K. online banking platform Cashaa to help cryptocurrency investors in India avoid fraud.
Austria gains a new insurtech competitor as Hong Kong-based bolttech partners with local telcom Drei to bring the first non-insurance switch program to the country.
Middle East and Northern Africa
Egypt-based fintech MoneyFellows raises $4 million in Series A funding.
Global tech ecosystem, Hub71, teams up with Mashreq Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank to help startups open bank accounts in the UAE.
Commercial Bank of Dubai and cross-border payment provider Thunes announce partnership, enhancing CBD’s ability to operate in countries such as India, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Central and Southern Asia
India-Based Slice raises $6 million for digital payments.
BharatPe, a QR code-based, merchant payments company based in India, enters the point of sale business with the launch of its Bharat Swipe PoS solution.
Alphabet’s growth equity arm, CapitalG, invests $28 million in India-based SME lender Aye Finance.
Latin America and the Caribbean
BBVA announces that its mobile banking platform GloMo will support Apple Watch users in Uruguay.
Mexican bank Banorte and on-demand delivery firm Rappi partner to launch a financial services company in Mexico.
Central Bank of Brazil suspends WhatsApp payments in the country, citing competitiveness concerns.
If digital transformation is sweeping financial services – and this trend has been accelerated by the global public health crisis, as we are often told – then what’s up with the huge and enduring demand for cash?
“I certainly would have expected, if you’d asked me prior to COVID: would COVID put a big dent in cash? I would have said “absolutely” because not only are people not going out, it has a dirty connotation to it,” Fiserv Senior Vice President David Keenan said during the Q&A portion of his recent webinar presentation, Looking Under the Hood of Today’s Payments Ecosystem.
“And yet if you look at the data,” he added, “that’s not what’s happening.”
This was one of many fascinating takeaways from Keenan’s research on payment trends in the COVID-19 era. That research was presented this week in a webinar that also looked at the rise of digital enablement in financial services and the inevitable transition to real-time payments. Keenan’s presentation is now available for viewing on an on-demand basis.
Toward the end of his discussion, which explained how and why companies need to be able to provide “the right options at the right time to create a winning payment experience,” we asked the Fiserv SVP why he began his presentation, which featured insights on digital enablement and real-time payments, with a discussion on the importance and endurance of cash.
Keenan said the decision to start with cash was deliberate – and given the program’s theme of “safe, fast, convenient payments” it is perhaps easy to understand why. For all of cash’s drawbacks – including the fact that paper money increasingly is seen as “dirty” in an ever-more touchless world – Keenan showed research from the Federal Reserve indicating that cash remains a preferred payment method in the U.S. – only trailing debit. Moreover, for about 85% of those surveyed, cash usage over the past 12 months had remained the same, or increased.
But perhaps most interestingly, this data also revealed that cash’s most passionate champions are under the age of 25. And this preference for paper money does not take away from GenZ’s appreciation of debit, which is on par with 25-to-34 year old, 35-to-44 year old, and 45-to-54 year old cohorts. Nor was credit usage impacted by GenZ’s preference for cash; GenZ credit usage was comparable with both 25-to-34 year old and 35-to-44 year old age groups. The main difference between GenZ and other cohorts was in the use of electronic payments, where its usage was typically half that of other groups surveyed.
A further note on the enduring preference for cash: while cash usage patterns have returned to trend after a brief, coronavirus-induced drop in March, the amounts of cash being used – which began increasing in March – have remained elevated.
Keenan speculated that what might blunt these accelerating cash trends could be a major response to the coronavirus – such as a vaccine. He said, “as long as we’re living in this one-step-at-a-time, back-to-the-new-normal, we believe cash is going to be an important part (of payments).”
Slice (fka SlicePay), a millennial-focused challenger bank headquartered in India, raised $6 million in a pre-Series B financing round. The investment brings the company’s total funding to $27.7 million in combined debt and equity.
Gunosy led the round. Also participating were EMVC, Kunal Shah, Better Capital, as well as existing investor Das Capital.
According to Slice Co-founder and CEO Rajan Bajaj, the company will use the funds to acquire new users. In fact, Slice hopes to add 500,000 new customers within the next year. This is double the company’s existing active user base of 250,000.
Slice will also use the new $6 million to increase its workforce and explore banking partnerships to release co-branded cards.
Unique to Slice is its underwriting model, which is a key element in a country where customers are burdened with limited or no credit files. To help users build their credit, Slice offers a card that comes with a pre-approved credit line that offers installment loans, enabling users to buy now and pay later.
Slice is one of only a handful of challenger banks in India. Others in the subsector, including PayTM, Google Pay, and Walmart’s PhonePe, are all very large players. However, Slice seems to be fairing well. The company has been profitable since last year. And the simple fact that it raised funds in today’s economic environment where VCs are reluctant to invest speaks volumes of its potential.
“We believe Slice has a sustainable advantage as it has decoded young credit users’ demands and has built a deep understanding of credit risk and low-cost distribution using technology,” said Gunosy Director Yuki Maniwa.
Financial organizations are managing mass amounts of information on a daily basis.
Whether it’s a loan application, credit approval, or new customer records, sharing documents securely is key for effective task completion and departmental collaboration.
With a variety of document formats needed for each of these tasks, professionals must often switch from application to application to complete processes. Standard processes are often outdated and inefficient.
Discover how financial organizations can streamline their workflows and collaborate more effectively within their current applications.
For a year that began with Visa’s headline-making acquisition of Plaid, it seems almost poetic that near 2020’s midway mark, Mastercard would make a major fintech bid of its own.
The company has agreed to acquire Finicity, a real-time financial data and analytics provider and long-time Finovate alum, in a deal valued at nearly $1 billion. This figure represents a combination of the $825 million purchase price of the Salt Lake City, Utah fintech, as well as a potential earn-out for Finicity’s existing shareholders – subject to the company meeting certain performance targets.
“Since our founding, Nick Thomas and I have focused on developing industry-leading technology and building an organization that empowers consumers and organizations to better understand, manage, and use their financial data to improve their financial lives,” Finicity co-founder and CEO Steve Smith said. “Enabling people to access and control their data, while ensuring best practices to protect that data, will continue to drive tremendous innovation that increases financial literacy, inclusion, and health. This partnership with Mastercard helps us accelerate this mission globally.”
Mastercard President Michael Miebach cited open banking as one of the reasons for the company’s interest in Finicity. Referring to open banking as both a “growing global trend” and a “strategically important space,” Miebach praised Finicity’s ability to leverage open banking APIs to enable financial data and insights to streamline lending and mortgage processes, account-based payment initiation, and other PFM services. He also credited the company for its focus on the data rights of the consumer.
“(Finicity) shares our commitment to consumer-centric data practices, ensuring consumers have a say in how and where their information should be used,” Miebach said.
Founded in 2000, Finicity provides financial data APIs, credit decisioning tools, and financial wellness solutions that help financial institutions and fintechs better serve their customers. The company’s technology helps power solutions like ExperianBoost and Rocket Mortgage from Quicken Loans. Named a Best Place to Work in Fintech by American Banker for the last three consecutive years, Finicity began 2020 partnering with SaaS-based marketing automation, CRM, and POS solution provider for banks and mortgage companies, Volly.