Al Ansari Exchange Taps Pelican for Financial Crime Compliance

UAE-based foreign exchange platform Al Ansari has partnered with financial crime compliance company Pelican. Under the deal, Al Ansari will leverage Pelican’s PelicanSecure, a set of AI-based sanctions screening, anti-money laundering tools, and transaction monitoring solution.

Al Ansari selected PelicanSecure for its compliance accuracy, auditability, processing capacity, and AI-based risk classification approach. Company CEO Mohammad Bitar also noted that, because AI is a core part of Al Ansari’s strategy, Pelican’s use of the enabling technology was a factor in the partnership.

“We selected Pelican as we are convinced they can support us enhancing our anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance frameworks to make them more robust through the use of innovative technology, said Bitar. “This is the start of a long-term partnership with Pelican and we look forward to working closely to streamline our operations around sanction screening, transaction monitoring and AML, both now and in the future.”

Pelican is headquartered in the U.K. and was founded in 1993. Among the company’s clients are ADCB, Standard Chartered Bank, Al Mulla Exchange, Wells Fargo, State Bank of India, and Bank of Barbado.

Al Ansari opened its first branch in 1966 and has since expanded to 190 branches. The company has 2,500 employees that help facilitate 80,000 transfers each day for 2.5 million customers every month. Last year, Al Ansari transferred $11.3 billion (AED 40.5 billion) via its network.

Octopus Ventures’ Nick Sando on Fintech Valuations and Building a Great VC Team

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

One of the best ways to take the temperature of an industry is by talking to those helping fund it. Our conversation at FinovateEurope last month with Nick Sando, a member of the Future of Money team at Octopus Ventures, was a great opportunity to find out what venture capital is focusing on in 2020.

Octopus Ventures is one of the largest VCs in Europe and invests primarily in seed and Series A investments, two to five million. The firm has three principal focus areas: the Future of Health (health and wellness investments), DeepTech (industry 4.0) and fintech (or “Future of Money” of which Sando is a part), including payments, insurtech, credit, lending, and blockchain. “We’re pretty agnostic across the space,” Sando said.

Sando arrived at Octopus Ventures in 2018, after a career in which he founded companies like SaaS beauty and wellness platform Mojo and retail platform SnagTag. He notes that the benefit of co-founding two businesses what that it provided him with a “crash course in company building.” Sando added, “we had successes, failures, raised funding, and exited, all in a short space of time.” He has earned a double major in Finance and Economics from the University of Miami School of Business.

Asked where he and his fellow panelist on our All-Star Venture Capital panel believe the smart money is headed this year, Sando replied with a smile, “Well, there is always the theme ‘Is there correction coming?’ And there a lot of people who think that there is. So the smart money is probably the money that’s still there at the end of it!”

Here are some of the top takeaways from my conversation with Nick Sando this year at FinovateEurope in Berlin.

On valuations in fintech companies and the IPO v.s. acquisition debate

Sando: Investors (should) … look at businesses which are trading at multiples which, if they went public, they would be receiving the same multiples. In fintech, some of them are getting too large to be acquired. So going public is route to go down. I look at some of the challenger banks, for example. Who’s going to acquire them? They are so big now! I think the IPO route should be back on.

On the role of venture capital in helping startups become better businesses

Sando: Having such a large fund gives us the benefit of being able to invest into certain roles across the board. The most commonly helpful role that we can provide outside of money is generally hiring. We have various people, and a whole hiring function in Octopus – and that’s not for our internal hiring, its for our help our portfolio companies hire.

In fintech, these companies are global companies with big ambitions, so traveling for example, from Europe to the States is on nearly all of these company’s roadmaps. Therefore we have set up an office, for example, in the States which is purely just to help those companies make these transitions.

So I think, given there are so many fintech investors in the market, as a fintech founder, I’d ask myself, “I should really be getting a little bit more than cash, these days!” Because they deserve it.

On what makes for a successful and creative venture capital team

Sando: A VC team should be made up of very different thinkers. If you have a VC team with all the same way of thinking, you might as well just have one of those people. What a team needs, therefore, is whatever it lacks.

We generally lean toward people who are intensely curious, have a different opinion than ours, see the world differently – maybe they grew up somewhere else, maybe they were a founder themselves – I think over half our team (are founders) … I think that’s what makes really great investment teams as a whole, when people can argue and talk and debate different ways of thinking.

Watch the full, six-minute interview on Finovate TV.

UnderPinned and Banked Partner to Accelerate Payments to Freelancers

Faster payments for freelance workers? That’s the goal of the new partnership between freelance career platform UnderPinned and payments platform Banked. The two companies are now offering a commission-free service that reduces the amount of time it takes to process a freelancer’s invoice from more than three minutes to less than 30 seconds.

The service works via UnderPinned’s Virtual Office platform, which leverages open banking to retrieve data from invoices and automatically generate bank transfers that can be readily authorized by any U.K. banking provider.

“The number of people choosing freelance work has grown rapidly in recent years, but the infrastructure that supports this type of employment has failed to keep pace with the trend,” said Albert Azis-Clauson, UnderPinned founder and CEO. He highlighted payments as a major pain point. “The traditional process of paying an invoice for a freelancer is extremely clunky and time-consuming,” he said, “and that’s (why) we’ve decided to launch this new service.”

UnderPinned’s Virtual Office provides freelancers and gig economy workers with resources they need to make their jobs easier. The cloud-based hub helps freelancers manage portfolios and projects, invoices, contracts, and more. The Virtual Office also features educational tools and support resources to give freelancers additional assistance with things like finding work spaces to securing insurance. Founded in 2018, and launching its technology earlier this year, UnderPinned already has more than 2,200 users on its platform. The company, which is headquartered in London’s Bethnal Green, is in the final few weeks of its crowdfunding campaign, having raised 93% of its £500,000 ($614,000) target.

In working with Banked, UnderPinned has partnered with a firm that, since its founding in 2017 and launch early last year, has been dedicated to improving the payments process. Banked offers an API platform that fully leverages open banking by connecting to banks to enable payments and authentication of user information with their third party solutions. Based in London, the company includes account top-ups for e-money, trading, and gaming businesses, and payment linking for charities, marketplaces, and crowdfunding platforms among the use cases for its technology.

“We started Banked because we wanted to build a platform that allowed businesses and consumers to do more with their financial lives,” Banked CEO and founder Brad Goodall said. “Our new partnership with Underpinned delivers on this, helping freelancers and businesses save a huge amount of time and ultimately money. It provides a new way of paying invoices that will transform the freelancer experience.”

Kreditech Rebrands as Monedo; Onfido Teams Up with SecureKey Technologies

German online lender Kreditech announced a rebrand this week. Now known as Monedo, the company has completed a major C-suite overhaul – including a new Chairman, CEO, CFO, and CTO, and is gearing up for an expansion into the near-prime lending markets of India, Russia, Poland, and Spain.

“The name change marks the next stage in the fundamental transformation we have been undergoing, as the company moves from a start-up to a scale-up fintech,” Monedo CEO David Chan explained. “Throughout 2019 we have been focused on successfully transitioning the company back to growth by focusing on improving operational efficiency, risk, and cost management capabilities, and strengthening our products and services.”

Chan credited this emphasis – along with the financial support of the company’s investors – for making the company “perfectly positioned” to reach its growth goals.

Monedo says that it plans to reach €1 billion in revenue by 2025, propelled both by growth in current markets as well as expansion into new ones. Founded in 2012, the company has been a Finovate alum since 2014.

A new partnership between two Finovate alums – SecureKey Technologies and Onfido – will combine AI-enabled, physical identity document proofing with real-time authentication and verification.

“Our partnership demonstrates positive market movement towards a more secure digital future for consumers,” SecureKey Technologies CEO Greg Wolfond said. “At SecureKey, we believe strong, privacy-based digital identity requires the collaboration of multiple players and are pleased to continue our track record of developing market-leading digital identity services and offerings alongside like-minded organizations.”

Toronto, Ontario-based SecureKey is a Finovate alum since its FinovateFall debut in 2010. Ondot, which is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, first demoed at Finovate 2014 and most recently presented its latest technology at FinovateSpring in 2018.

The collaboration will enable users to scan physical ID documents and have additional personal information verified in real-time from trusted sources such as financial institutions, credit bureaus, and government agencies. The companies said that this combination of credential and login document validation is key to both expanding digital capabilities worldwide as well as making identity verification a more secure and safe process for consumers.

“At Onfido, our mission is to create a more open world, where identity is the key to access,” company CEO Husayn Kassai said. “SecureKey clearly shares this same drive to build a more secure landscape where customers can have privacy, security, and consent all in one easy-to-use process,.”

Here is our weekly look at the latest news from our Finovate alums.

  • MX CEO Ryan Caldwell named Utah CEO of the Year.
  • Metro Bank to partner with Ezbob to launch small business lending platform.
  • Mambu forges partnership with Australian unsecured credit lender Nimble.
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune spotlights local fintech, ClickSWITCH.
  • BankMobile teams up with Billshark and bartleby to add functionality to its BankMobile Vibe platform for college students.
  • SME lender OnDeck announces its first ever NASCAR sponsorship.
  • Envestnet announces plans to expand operations in Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Wipro to work with SAP Concur to co-develop solutions for retail and fashion.
  • Baker Hill NextGen to power loan origination and risk management for BankSouth lending portfolio.
  • Backbase partners with core-as-a-service platform Finxact to help banks with digital transformation.
  • DXC Technology collaborates with Tradeshift to help enterprises automate procure-to-pay processes.
  • International Banker profiles Poland’s digital banking leader mBank.
  • Nomis Solutions announces Nomis nSight, a tool to optimally price deposits and mortgages in real time.
  • Zopa celebrates 15 years. Happy birthday Zopa!
  • Signifyd launches its Commerce Protection Platform to maximize e-commerce conversion, automate customer experience, and eliminate fraud and customer abuse.
  • Zenoo selects ID R&D for its passive facial liveness digital onboarding solution.
  • Strands revamps its developer portal.
  • Zafin welcomes Venkataraman Balasubramanian as executive vice president and chief technology officer.
  • Neener Analytics partners with Visa to foster financial inclusion via its 1-click financial risk decisioning.
  • Fintech Breakthrough Awards name CUneXus Best Consumer Lending Company.
  • Jack Henry & Associates integrates BusinessManager into the SilverLake System core platform to streamline accounts receivable (A/R) financing.
  • Five Degrees adds Meniga to its open banking.
  • Salt Edge working with PwC to help businesses implement open banking technology.
  • Transportation Alliance Bank brings on Insuritas to design, launch, and manage a digital insurance agency.
  • Revolut launches Revolut Perks, a rewards and discount feature for U.K. customers.
  • Finantix acquires data science company InCube for an undisclosed amount.
  • Forte Payments launches new billpay solution.

Finovate Alumni Features and Profiles

Eigen Technologies Hauls in $42 Million to Bring NLP Tech to Financial Services – The funding comes from ING Ventures and is part of a “broader strategic partnership” that blends Eigen’s NLP technology with ING’s experience in applying machine learning to financial services.

Revolut Users Can Now Diversify with Gold – Digital alternative banking company Revolut announced this week it is helping users diversify their portfolios even further by enabling in-app purchases of gold.

Mastercard and Samsung Make Going Digital More Accessible – “This partnership with Mastercard is our way of making that future available to everyone by helping to close the digital divide, especially in emerging economies and countries,” explained KC Choi, executive vice president of Global Mobile B2B at Samsung.

Airwallex Integrates with Xero to Help SMEs Reconcile Cross-Border Payments – Small and medium-sized businesses working with Australian cross-border payments company Airwallex will be getting some help with their books. The company has announced a new partnership with New Zealand-based, cloud accounting company Xero.

Credit Sesame Launches Digital Bank Account – Financial health platform Credit Sesame announced this week it has launched Sesame Cash, a debit card aimed to help consumers reach financial stability while optimizing credit.

Marqeta Partners with Klarna and Doordash for Australia Launch – The company announced today that its arrival in the Asia-Pacific market will also help support fellow Finovate alum Klarna and customer Doordash as they expand in the country.

Enveil and the Challenge of Securing Data In Use – When it comes to defending your data, Enveil’s speciality is helping prevent you from losing it while you’re using it.

SpyCloud Integrates with ThreatConnect to Help Stop Account Takeover Attacks – A new partnership between intelligence-driven security operations platform ThreatConnect and account takeover prevention solution provider SpyCloud will help individuals take action during the critical time between credential exposure and account breach.

Eigen Technologies Hauls in $42 Million to Bring NLP Tech to Financial Services

Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

Natural language processing technology innovator Eigen Technologies has added $5 million (£4 million) to its Series B, taking the round’s total to $42 million and giving the firm more than $60 million in overall capital. The funding comes from ING Ventures and is part of a “broader strategic partnership” that blends Eigen’s NLP technology with ING’s experience in applying machine learning to financial services.

Eigen Technologies co-founder and CEO Dr. Lewis Z. Liu put the investment from ING in the context of the two firms’ years-long relationship. “(We) have found them to have some of the most advanced thinking in the market in the application of machine learning in financial services,” Liu said, “something that comes from their fantastic innovation culture.”

ING currently uses Eigen’s NLP technology in its LIBOR replacement and loan operations. Via the strategic partnership, the companies will accelerate deployment of Eigen’s technology in other areas, including trade finance and small business banking.

Eigen leverages machine learning to extract data from a diverse range of documents, and then integrate that data into the workflows of its customers. The company’s algorithms use pattern recognition to examine words, phrases, and sections of text to help businesses review documents for compliance purposes, automatically extract granular information from asset portfolios, and has applications in fraud identification, contract negotiation, and other activities.

ING Chief Innovation Officer and CEO of ING Ventures Benoît Legrand praised Eigen’s ability to deploy its technology in multiple use cases such as retail and wholesale banking. “This partnership will allow both companies to work closer together when implementing use cases through data and process analysis,” Legrand said, “so as to accelerate Eigen’s advantage in NLP as well as ING’s digital transformation.”

Eigen Technologies demonstrated its technology at FinovateFall 2019. The company has teamed up with more than 25% of the G-SIBs (globally systematically important banks), as well as major asset managers, insurers, hedge funds, and law firms. Eigen was founded in 2014 and has offices in London, U.K. and New York City.

Revolut Users Can Now Diversify with Gold

Digital alternative banking company Revolut announced this week it is helping users diversify their portfolios even further by enabling in-app purchases of gold.

The U.K.-based company, which first started with cryptocurrency holdings, then began offering investment in stocks, will enable customers on its Premium and Metal plans to purchase and transfer gold. Users cannot, however, make purchases with their gold holdings using their Revolut card. If a user attempts to make a purchase when they only have funds in gold, Revolut will convert a portion of their gold into fiat currency and use that.

Revolut makes it clear that since gold is not regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, funds used to purchase gold – and the gold itself – will not be safeguarded under the U.K. Electronic Money Regulations 2011, the Payment Service Regulations 2017, or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

This is good timing on behalf of Revolut. Since the stock market and crypto assets are extremely volatile at the moment, many people are purchasing to gold to grasp onto some stability. And now they don’t even need to leave Revolut’s app to do so.

There is no word on if or when the company will allow trading of other precious metals such as silver or platinum.

The Look at the Role of Cryptocurrencies in India’s Cashless Revolution

We recently shared the news that restrictions on the ability of banks in India to work with cryptocurrency exchanges was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court.

With this in mind, and given the growing interest in India as a fintech power, we spoke with Neeraj Khandelwal, co-founder of CoinDCX, a cryptocurrency trading platform and liquidity aggregator in India. The company, founded in 2018 and based in Singapore, recently won the Excellence in Finance – Companies award by FiNext. Last month, CoinDCX launched its cryptocurrency derivative trading platform, DCXfutures. Bain Capital Ventures is among the firm’s investors.

Finovate: The biggest news in India in terms of the cryptocurrency market has to be the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Central Bank’s ban on cryptocurrencies. What can you tell us about the impact of the ban and the effect of the ruling striking it down?

Neeraj Khandelwal: The banking ban was related to the suspension of banking relationships with individuals or businesses dealing with cryptocurrencies, but crypto businesses were still free to operate on their own. In response, CoinDCX innovated and offered peer-to-peer services for the buying and selling crypto through INR.

After the verdict, banking relations have resumed once again. CoinDCX became the first cryptocurrency platform in India to integrate bank account transfers, just six hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Today, we are seeing 10x growth in signups on a day-to-day basis. Our product, Insta, which allows customers to buy crypto with INR, has also seen high hits. Overall, the market is in an upswing.

Finovate: What is the potential of the cryptocurrency market in India? How widespread are cryptocurrencies now and what factors are driving growth in adoption in India?

Khandelwal: Less than five million people currently hold cryptocurrencies in India today. However, listing websites like have shown that the highest volumes are coming from India, so there is indeed great potential here. With a population of over one billion, India stands to contribute significantly to a large part of the global crypto volume and the industry as a whole.

In India, there is a growing number of cryptocurrency exchanges and startups that are constantly innovating to strengthen and expand the industry. In addition, India holds many favourable advantages for cryptocurrency adoption—for instance, with an average age of 27 years, India has a huge working population with disposable income on the rise. 

Finovate: Many of us outside of India are fascinated by the country’s cashless experiment. At this time, what has been learned from that experience and what is the future of cashlessness in India?

Khandelwal: The writing on the wall is crystal clear that cashlessness is the way to go. This was first witnessed on an extremely large scale during the time of demonetization in late 2016. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which is the umbrella body for retail payments and settlements in India, revealed that the value of UPI transactions for December 2019 was INR 2.02 Lakh Cr. This figure is expected to grow as cashlessness brings greater convenience and faster transactions.

As cryptocurrencies are entirely digital, it promotes greater benefits for cashlessness in comparison to fiat currencies. I believe that in the coming years, the Indian economy will be built on the foundation of a cashless society, with both digital fiat and cryptocurrencies working in parallel.

Finovate: You are part of the founding team of CoinDCX. Can you tell us a little about the company, the market it serves, and the role it plays in helping pave the way for broader adoption of cashless technologies?

Khandelwal: CoinDCX specializes in crypto-enabled fintech services. Sumit Gupta and I founded CoinDCX in 2018, with a mission to connect billions of people to global financial markets. Today, CoinDCX is reputed to be India’s most trustworthy cryptocurrency trading platform and remains one of the strongest products in our service offerings. CoinDCX has empowered its traders with a bouquet of industry-first crypto-based products to trade better using liquidity from the world’s leading exchanges like Binance, Huobi Global and OKEx.

By bringing all crypto-trading products under a single roof, our products are designed to cater to all types of traders, keeping their experience, risk tolerance, and frequency of trading into consideration.

Our users have found the platform to be simple and effortless. Anyone can trade in 500+ markets with DCXtrade, convert their INR to cryptocurrencies and vice versa on DCXInsta, earn by lending their holdings with DCXlend, and leverage their trades up to 6X in 250+ Altcoins using DCXmargin.

Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.


  • Alipay to encourage 40 million merchants and service providers to use its mini programs as competition with WeChat intensifies.
  • Hong Kong will soon have a new challenger bank as Standard Chartered’s Mox Bank opens for business later this year.
  • Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm turned super app company Grab to use Wirecard for payment processing.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Visa and Nigeria-based mobile money platform Paga forge strategic partnership to bring more security and convenience to mobile payments.
  • South African cloud platform builder Jini Guru teams up with product engineering firm Azilen Technologies to build fintech solutions for emerging markets.
  • Modern Ghana features WorldRemit Country Manager Gbenga Okejimi on the country’s fintech industry.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Total Croatia News features Microblink in its look at Croatian companies making the Financial Times’ 100 Fastest Growing Companies in Europe roster.
  • International Banker profiles Poland’s digital banking leader mBank.
  • Hamburg, Germany-based lender Kreditech rebrands as Monedo

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) hires payments technology company HPS to provide a QR-based payments system.
  • Orange Money goes live in Morocco after receiving authorization from the Bank Al Maghrib.
  • Business Chief Middle East looks at the top 10 fintech startups in the Middle East and UAE.

Central and Southern Asia

  • FamPay, a Bengaluru, India-based fintech that is building a payments network for teens, picks up $4.7 million in seed funding.
  • Bloomberg Quint looks at the controversy over the Reserve Bank of India’s moratorium on Yes Bank and its impact on fintech companies in the country.
  • My Republica asks whether or not India’s cashless revolution can be extended to Nepal.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Mexican fintech Clip launches new “point of sale in the palm of your hand” solution, Clip Total.
  • Born2Invest look at how fintech platforms are supporting female entrepreneurs in Mexico.
  • Fintech-as-a-service company Rapyd partners with Brazilian payment providers Dock and Banco Rendimento.

Top image designed by Freepik

Gender Diversity & Events Industry Insight

What does it take to create an event with true gender diversity? In this piece, Finovate Content and Strategy Director Adela Knox, who was recently named the Goodwill ambassador for the European Women Payments Network (EWPN), explains how she gets the balance right.

Finance leaders have predicted this year could mark a turning point for gender diversity in the banking and finance sector as pressure is mounting and gender pay gap reporting galvanizes efforts to promote more women.

The financial services industry is making progress on gender balance in the workforce. Mindsets are changing and, as a result of hard work and commitment, progress is starting to be reflected in the numbers. Finovate has always advocated for gender diversity at our events globally to support the overall industry change and market shift happening within the fintech sector. There is still a long way to go to create an environment in which women have equal access to opportunity and positive outcomes but we at Finovate are eager to support the industry change every step of a way.

Our team made a commitment to pledge to only run events with mixed-gender panels. As a result a considerable amount is being done to challenge the prevalent all-male conference panels. We provide women in fintech with an opportunity to bolster their profile and to be taken seriously. The gained visibility and platform become fundamental to getting women into the boardrooms and ultimately build their network and advance their careers.

We focus on an equal female-to-male ratio during our speaker acquisition phase and we also proactively support gender equality at our events while running Women in Fintech forums with the goal to empower women in financial services and technology.

The Women in Fintech forums are compiled of networking evenings, workshops, panel discussions, keynote presentations, and debates offering dialogue-driven sessions and initiatives to promote diversity and gender equality at the workplace and educate on why encouraging it matters. Topics include: What is diversity in the workplace? What are the benefits and challenges of diversity in the workplace? How can we manage diversity in the workplace? What should hiring, policies, & practices look like? How can we promote gender equality at workplace? etc.

We collaborate with various industry bodies and associations who strive to create more opportunities for women and minorities, as well as being a champion for a more diverse and inclusive industry for all. Some of the groups that we collaborate with include the European Women in Payments Network (EWPN), Women in Fintech NY, and Women in Fintech SF.
This is an ongoing effort and we at Finovate are passionate to constantly grow and elevate our initiatives globally.
Recently, i had an opportunity to interview Isil Ugurlu, the German Ambassador of EWPN, while running yet another Women in Fintech forum at the annual FinovateEurope 2020 in Berlin, about what it means for the organisation to collaborate with event organisaers like Finovate. You can watch the interview here:

To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.

Mastercard and Samsung Make Going Digital More Accessible

Mastercard announced a partnership with Samsung’s security platform, Samsung Knox today in a move that will serve to foster digital inclusion across emerging markets.

“This partnership with Mastercard is our way of making that future available to everyone by helping to close the digital divide, especially in emerging economies and countries,” explained KC Choi, executive vice president of Global Mobile B2B at Samsung.

The two will use Mastercard’s Pay on Demand platform which offers consumers device financing via a pay-as-you-go model. Built by Mastercard Labs, Pay on Demand brings together banks, equipment manufacturers, and telcos to solve issues limiting device financing in underserved markets. The program consists of four components:

  • A lending marketplace that aggregates lenders who offer affordable device financing
  • Samsung’s Knox security platform that ensure the safety of consumer data and transactions
  • Tools that help consumers analyze and build their credit history from usage data
  • Virtual card numbers that can be used for everyday transactions and to make payments on a device

“At Mastercard, we see a connected world where opportunity and prosperity are possible for everyone, everywhere,” said Jorn Lambert, executive vice president of Digital Solutions at Mastercard. “The Pay on Demand platform enables us to deliver on that vision and foster financial inclusion, giving consumers an opportunity to participate in digital commerce. By combining Samsung’s device management and security expertise with Mastercard’s innovative technology, we are creating an ecosystem that can deliver measurable, positive impact to the communities we serve.”

Pay On Demand will be launched in the Middle East and Africa in early 2020 and will extend to other geographical locations later this year.

Up for the Challenge: Digital Bank NorthOne Raises $21 Million

For all the talk of challenger banks in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the U.K., the movement to bring alternative banking options to consumers and small businesses in the U.S. may deserve more attention than it tends to get. And this week’s news that SME-based challenger bank NorthOne has raised $21 in Series A funding, is a reminder of why.

“We created NorthOne to serve businesses that are often underserved by big banks,” bank CEO Eytan Bensoussan explained. “Having grown up in a family of small business owners myself, I know first-hand what to expect when it comes to small business banking.”

The round was led by Battery Ventures’ Shiran Shalev, and featured participation from Redpoint Ventures and Tom Williams. The investment takes the bank’s total capital to more than $23 million.

“With this funding,” Bensoussan added, “NorthOne will be able to continue to develop solutions that simplify the most painful part of managing a small business, its finances.” The additional capital will also enable the challenger bank to add to its product and engineering teams, as well as spend more on marketing and customer acquisition.

NorthOne offers small and medium-sized businesses a digital, FDIC-insured, business checking account with mobile ACH, wires, check deposits, and access to 300,000 fee-free ATMs across the U.S. NorthOne’s mobile-first, API-enabled platform also offers overseas vendor payments, and software integration with expense management, accounting, and e-commerce systems. The company noted that, in the second half of last year, it has signed up 1% of all small businesses that applied for bank accounts in the U.S.

“Millions of dollars are spent using NorthOne debit cards every month,” Bensoussan wrote on the company’s blog today. “And we expect those numbers to keep rising as we open thousands upon thousands of new NorthOne bank accounts each month.”

Founded in 2016, NorthOne launched its small business banking account last fall, in partnership with Radius Bank.

How Banks Make Digital Transformation Work

One of the more consistently insightful observers of the fintech industry, author Chris Skinner, highlighted the rise of central bank digital currencies as one of the more surprising conversations at FinovateEurope this year.

“China’s about to launch one, there’s going to be a digital dollar from the Fed at some point probably,” Skinner said. “And the implications of that on cross border payments and infrastructure was one of the topics that was a little bit off track to me because it hadn’t come up before. So I enjoyed that immensely.”

That said, the man behind and chair of the Financial Services Club spent the majority of our conversation in Berlin talking the discussions he’s had with leaders in the banking industry who are tackling the challenge of digital transformation head on – and succeeding. These insights are at the core of Skinner’s upcoming book, Doing Digital, to be published in April.

Skinner also shared some insights on banks and their role in digital identity management. He noted Head of OP Lab for Finland’s OP Financial Group Kristian Luoma who pointed out that even in a future in which banks aren’t involved in payments or authentication due to intermediaries like Square and Apple ID, for example, there is still a critical role for banks to play. But banks must be ready to share the ball.

“It’s one of the few times I’ve heard a bank actually stating that in such a clear way, because most banks still think they have to own and control everything,” Skinner observed. “The idea of being just a player in a system – that’s the way we have to think for the future.”

Here are some of the top takeaways from our conversation with Chris Skinner this year at FinovateEurope in Berlin.

On why a “bare-knuckle approach” to the challenge of successful digital transformation is appropriate – if not required

Skinner: Digital transformation is not easy, it’s really hard, it takes years, it involves balancing business-as-usual with business-as-unusual, and it’s something that had to be led by the chief executive and chairperson and cannot be delegated. I find too many banks think that digital (transformation) is a project or a function or a budget that can be delegated. But that’s absconding the reality. The reality is that you have to own it.

On the swim-or-sink approach companies that succeed in digital transformation have adopted to ensure a digital-positive culture

Skinner: The most difficult thing in any transformational project is getting the middle management to buy into the project and participate. And commit. Because often the middle management are the most worried about what’s happening. They think they are going to lose their job or they might lose their part of the organization or they might lose their power. They might lose their people. They might lose their promotion. So they fear change rather than embrace it. And it’s really a case of: how do you bring those people with you?

On the progress some innovative banks are making toward digital transformation.

Skinner: One of (the banks I interviewed for Doing Digital) had a head of ecosystems. It’s the first time I ever met anybody at a bank who’s called the “head of ecosystems.” His pure role was to go out and find appropriate partnerships – in the world of APIs and apps and analytics – on open platforms and bring them in to work with the bank. At the time, they had about ten partnerships, and I think today they’ve more than doubled that number. So there are some banks taking it very seriously.

Watch the full, 10-minute interview on Finovate TV.

Celebrating #WomenInFintech

Celebrating #WomenInFintech

At the beginning of this week, Greg Palmer wrote,

In order for fintech to be for everyone, it needs to be from everyone.

It’s a line that will strike a chord with anyone, across industries, who find themselves in the minority within teams and businesses, or even the sole representative of a different background or perspective.

Addressing gender-gap challenges in the finance industry is on-going, and a key part of this is providing a platform for women to share their insights and vision for the future of fintech. As part of this endeavor, we brought together some of the leading women from FinovateEurope to share their thoughts not only on issues on diversity in the workplace, but also on the key pain points in their field and their ideas on how to overcome them.

First, here’s a look at an interview with Dr. Louise Beaumont, Tech U.K.’s Co-Chair of the Open Banking & Payments Working Group. Beaumont was the Chair of the Open Banking Industry Stage at FinovateEurope last month and spoke with Finovate Research Analyst David Penn on the future of open finance, why banks need to believe they are trusted, and creating a full data daisy.

Penn also interviewed Ghela Boskovich, Founder of FemTechGlobal and Chair of the Digital Future Industry Stage at FinovateEurope. In this conversation, Boskovich explores why culture is the cornerstone on which financial institutions built looks at and the need for more public education around data.

The next interview was with Theo Lau, Founder at Unconventional Ventures and Chair of FinovateEurope’s Future Tech Industry Stage. Lau explores the challenges AI presents to legacy businesses and gender diversity in fintech.

Finally, here’s a conversation with Simone Vroegop, Head of European Product Management of Financial Technology at Brown Brothers Harriman. Vroegop discusses why it is crucial to have an open mind and look to where value can be added to an asset manager’s operating system, and why she’s surprised that hasn’t been more disruption in the sector.

Watch all our interviews with #WomenInFintech now >>

To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.